Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Backwoodsman - or, Life on the Indian Frontier
Author: Various
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 Backwoodsman - or, Life on the Indian Frontier" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



[Illustration: FIGHT WITH THE GRIZZLY BEARS. _p. 290._]



  THE
  BACKWOODSMAN;
  OR,
  =Life on the Indian Frontier.=

[Illustration]

  LONDON:
  WARD, LOOK, AND TYLER,
  WARWICK HOUSE, PATERNOSTER ROW.



  THE
  BACKWOODSMAN
  OR
  =Life on the Indian Frontier.=

  EDITED BY
  SIR C. F. LASCELLES WRAXALL, BART.

[Illustration: WL&T]

  LONDON:
  WARD, LOCK, AND TYLER,
  WARWICK HOUSE, PATERNOSTER ROW.



  LONDON:
  PRINTED BY J. OGDEN AND CO.,
  172, ST. JOHN STREET, E.C.



[Illustration]

CONTENTS.


   CHAP.                                     PAGE

      I. MY SETTLEMENT                          1

     II. THE COMANCHES                          6

    III. A FIGHT WITH THE WEICOS               12

     IV. HUNTING ADVENTURES                    19

      V. THE NATURALIST                        30

     VI. MR. KREGER'S FATE                     41

    VII. A LONELY RIDE                         53

   VIII. THE JOURNEY CONTINUED                 66

     IX. HOMEWARD BOUND                        82

      X. THE BEE HUNTER                        99

     XI. THE WILD HORSE                       114

    XII. THE PRAIRIE FIRE                     126

   XIII. THE DELAWARE INDIAN                  137

    XIV. IN THE MOUNTAINS                     151

     XV. THE WEICOS                           162

    XVI. THE BEAR HOLE                        173

   XVII. THE COMANCHE CHIEF                   185

  XVIII. THE NEW COLONISTS                    208

    XIX. A BOLD TOUR                          224

     XX. THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS                  238

    XXI. LOST IN THE MOUNTAINS                253

   XXII. BEAVER HUNTERS                       267

   XXIII. THE GRIZZLY BEARS                   282

    XXIV. ASCENT OF THE BIGHORN               300

     XXV. ON THE PRAIRIE                      326

    XXVI. THE COMANCHES                       345

   XXVII. HOME AGAIN                          363

  XXVIII. INDIAN BEAUTIES                     381

    XXIX. THE SILVER MINE                     396

     XXX. THE PURSUIT                         412

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

THE BACKWOODSMAN

CHAPTER I.

MY SETTLEMENT.


My blockhouse was built at the foot of the mountain chain of the Rio
Grande, on the precipitous banks of the River Leone. On three sides it
was surrounded by a fourteen feet stockade of split trees standing
perpendicularly. At the two front corners of the palisade were small
turrets of the same material, whence the face of the wall could be held
under fire in the event of an attack from hostile Indians. On the south
side of the river stretched out illimitable rolling prairies, while the
northern side was covered with the densest virgin forest for many miles.
To the north and west I had no civilized neighbours at all, while to the
south and east the nearest settlement was at least 250 miles distant. My
small garrison consisted of three men, who, whenever I was absent,
defended the fort, and at other times looked after the small field and
garden as well as the cattle.

As I had exclusively undertaken to provide my colony with meat, I rarely
stayed at home, except when there was some pressing field work to be
done. Each dawn saw me leave the fort with my faithful dog Trusty, and
turn my horse either toward the boundless prairie or the mountains of
the Rio Grande.

Very often hunting kept me away from home for several days, in which
case I used to bivouac in the tall grass by the side of some prattling
stream. Such oases, though not frequent, are found here and there on the
prairies of the Far West, where the dark, lofty magnolias offer the
wearied traveller refreshment beneath their thick foliage, and the
stream at their base grants a cooling draught. One of these favourite
spots of mine lay near the mountains, about ten miles from my abode. It
was almost the only water far and wide, and here formed two ponds, whose
depths I was never able to sound, although I lowered large stones
fastened to upwards of a hundred yards of lasso. The small space between
the two ponds was overshadowed by the most splendid magnolias, peca-nut
trees, yuccas, evergreen oaks, &c., and begirt by a wall of cactuses,
aloes, and other prickly plants. I often selected this place for
hunting, because it always offered a large quantity of game of every
description, and I was certain at any time of finding near this water
hundreds of wild turkeys, which constitute a great dainty in the bill of
fare of the solitary hunter.

After a very hot spring day I had sought the ponds, as it was too late
to ride home. The night was glorious; the magnolias and large-flowered
cactuses diffused their vanilla perfume over me; myriads of fireflies
continually darted over the plain, and a gallant mocking-bird poured
forth its dulcet melody into the silent night above my head. The whole
of nature seemed to be revelling in the beauty of this night, and
thousands of insects sported round my small camp fire. It was such a
night as the elves select for their gambols, and for a long time I gazed
intently at the dark blue expanse above me. But, though the crystal
springs incessantly bubbled up to the surface, the Lurleis would not
visit me, for they have not yet strayed to America.

My dog and horse also played around me for a long time, until, quite
tired, they lay down by the fire-side, and all three of us slept till
dawn, when the gobbling of the turkeys aroused us. The morning was as
lovely as the night. To the east the flat prairie bordered the horizon
like a sea; the dark sky still glistened with the splendour of all its
jewels, while the skirt of its garment was dipped in brilliant carmine;
the night fled rapidly toward the mountains, and morn pursued it clad in
his festal robes. The sun rose like a mighty ball over the prairie, and
the heavy dew bowed the heads of the tender plants, as if they were
offering their morning thanksgiving for the refreshment which had been
granted them. I too was saturated with dew, and was obliged to hang my
deerskin suit to dry at the fire; fortunately the leather had been
smoked over a wood fire, which prevents it growing hard in drying. I
freshened up the fire, boiled some coffee, roasted the breast of a
turkey, into which I had previously rubbed pepper and salt, and finished
breakfast with Trusty, while Czar, my famous white stallion, was
greedily browzing on the damp grass, and turned his head away when I
went up to him with the bridle. I hung up the rest of the turkey, as
well as another I had shot on the previous evening, and a leg of deer
meat, in the shadow of a magnolia, as I did not know whether I might not
return to the spot that evening, saddled, and we were soon under weigh
for the mountains, where I hoped to find buffalo.

I was riding slowly along a hollow in the prairie, when a rapidly
approaching sound attracted my attention. In a few minutes a very old
buffalo, covered with foam, dashed past me, and almost at the same
moment a Comanche Indian pulled up his horse on the rising ground about
fifty yards from me. As he had his bow ready to shoot the buffalo, the
savage made his declaration of war more quickly than I, and his first
arrow passed through my game bag sling, leather jacket and waistcoat to
my right breast, while two others whizzed past my ear. To pluck out the
arrow, seize a revolver, and dig the spurs into my horse, were but one
operation; and a second later saw me within twenty yards of the Redskin,
who had turned his horse round and was seeking safety in flight. After a
chase of about two miles over awfully rough ground, where the slightest
mistake might have broken my neck, the Indian's horse began to be
winded, while Czar still held his head and tail erect. I rapidly drew
nearer, in spite of the terrible blows the Redskin dealt his horse, and
when about thirty paces behind the foe, I turned slightly to the left,
in order, if I could, to avoid wounding his horse by my shot. I raised
my revolver and fired, but at the same instant the Indian disappeared
from sight, with the exception of his left foot, with which he held on
to the saddle, while the rest of his body was suspended on the side away
from me. With the cessation of the blows, however, the speed of his
horse relaxed, and I was able to ride close up. Suddenly the Indian
regained his seat and urged on his horse with the whip; I fired and
missed again, for I aimed too high in my anxiety to spare the mustang.
We went on thus at full gallop till we reached a very broad ravine, over
which the Indian could not leap. He, therefore, dashed past my left
hand, trying at the same moment to draw an arrow from the quiver over
his left shoulder. I fired for the third time; with the shot the
Comanche sank back on his horse's croup, hung on with his feet, and went
about a hundred yards farther, when he fell motionless in the tall
grass. As he passed me, I had noticed that he was bleeding from the
right chest and mouth, and was probably already gone to the happy
hunting-grounds. I galloped after the mustang, which soon surrendered,
though with much trembling, to the pale face; I fastened its bridle to
my saddle bow, led both horses into a neighbouring thicket, and reloaded
my revolver.

I remained for about half-an-hour in my hiding-place, whence I could
survey the landscape around, but none of the Indian's comrades made
their appearance, and I, therefore, rode up to him to take his weapons.
He was dead. The bullet had passed through his chest. I took his bow,
quiver and buffalo hide, and sought for the arrows he had shot at me as
I rode back. I resolved to pass the night at the ponds, not only to rest
my animals, but also to conceal myself from the Indians who, I felt
sure, were not far off. I was not alarmed about myself, but in the
event of pursuit by superior numbers, I should have Trusty to protect,
and might easily lose the mustang again.

I reached the springs without any impediment, turned my horses out to
grass in the thicket, and rested myself in the cool shade of the trees
hanging over the ponds. A calm, starry night set in, and lighted me on
my ride home, which I reached after midnight. The mustang became one of
my best horses. It grew much stronger, as it was only four years old
when I captured it; and after being fed for awhile on maize, acquired
extraordinary powers of endurance.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER II.

THE COMANCHES.


The summer passed away in hunting, farm-work, building houses, and other
business, and during this period I had frequently visited the ponds. One
evening I rode to them again in order to begin hunting from that point
the next morning. If I shot buffaloes not too far from my house, I used
to ride back, and at evening drove out with a two-wheeled cart, drawn by
mules, to fetch the meat and salt it for the probable event of a siege.
As I always had an ample supply of other articles for my garrison and
cattle, and as I had plenty of water, I could resist an Indian attack
for a long time. Large herds of buffalo always appear in the
neighbourhood, so soon as the vegetation on the Rocky Mountains begins
to die out, and the cold sets in. They spread over the evergreen
prairies in bands of from five to eight hundred head, and I have often
seen at one glance ten thousand of these relics of the primeval world.
For a week past these wanderers had been moving southwards; but, though
their appearance may be so agreeable to the hunter in these parts, it
reminds him at the same time that his perils are greatly increased by
their advent. Numerous tribes of horse Indians always follow these herds
to the better pasturage and traverse the prairie in every direction, as
they depend on the buffalo exclusively for food. The warmer climate
during the winter also suits them better, as they more easily find
forage for their large troops of horses and mules.

At a late hour I reached the ponds, after supplying myself _en route_
with some fat venison. Before I lit my fire, I also shot two turkeys on
the neighbouring trees, because at this season they are a great dainty,
as they feed on the ripe oily peca-nuts. I sat till late over my small
fire, cut every now and then a slice from the meat roasting on a spit,
and bade my dog be quiet, who would not lie down, but constantly sniffed
about with his broad nose to the ground, and growling sullenly. Czar, on
the contrary, felt very jolly, had abundant food in the prairie grass,
and snorted every now and then so lustily, that the old turkeys round us
were startled from their sleep. It grew more and more quiet. Czar had
lain down by my side, and only the unpleasant jeering too-whoot of the
owl echoed through the night, and interrupted the monotonous chorus of
the hunting wolves which never ceases in these parts. Trusty, my
faithful watchman, was still sitting up with raised nose, when I sank
back on my saddle and fell asleep. The morning was breaking when I
awoke, saturated with dew; but I sprang up, shook myself, made up the
fire, put meat on the spit and coffee to boil, and then leapt into the
clear pond whose waters had so often refreshed me. After the bath I
breakfasted, and it was not till I proceeded to saddle my horse that I
noticed Trusty's great anxiety to call my attention to something. On
following him, I found a great quantity of fresh Indian sign, and saw
that a large number of horses had been grazing round the pond on the
previous day. I examined my horse gear and weapons, opened a packet of
cartridges for my double-barrelled rifle, and then rode in the direction
of the Leone. I had scarce crossed the first upland and reached the
prairie when Czar made an attempt to bolt, and looked round with a
snort. I at once noticed a swarm of Comanches about half a mile behind
me, and coming up at full speed. There was not a moment to lose in
forming a resolution--I must either fly or return to my natural fortress
at the springs. I decided on the latter course, as my enemies were
already too near for my dog to reach the thicket or the Leone before
them, for though the brave creature was remarkably powerful and
swift-footed, he could not beat good horses in a long race.

I therefore turned Czar round, and flew back to the ponds. A narrow
path which I had cut on my first visit through a wall of prickly plants
led to the shady spot between the two ponds, which on the opposite side
were joined by a broad swamp, so that I had only this narrow entrance to
defend. The thicket soon received us. Czar was fastened by the bridle to
a wild grape-vine; my long holster-pistols were thrust into the front of
my hunting-shirt; the belt that held my revolvers was unbuckled, and I
was ready for the attack of the savages. Trusty, too, had put up the
stiff hair on his back, and by his growling showed that he was equally
ready to do his part in the fight. The Indians had come within a few
hundred yards, and were now circling round me with their frightful
war-yell, swinging their buffalo-hides over their heads, and trying, by
the strangest sounds and gestures, either to startle my horse or terrify
me. I do not deny that, although used to such scenes, I felt an icy
coldness down my back at the sight of these demons, and involuntarily
thought of the operation of scalping. I remained as quiet as I could,
however, and resolved not to expend a bullet in vain. The distance was
gradually reduced, and the savages came within about a hundred and fifty
yards, some even nearer. The boldest came within a hundred and twenty
yards of me, while the others shot some dozen arrows at me, some of
which wounded the sappy cactuses around me. The savages continually grew
bolder, and it was time to open the ball, for attacking is half the
battle when engaged with Indians.

I therefore aimed at the nearest man--a powerful, stout, rather elderly
savage, mounted on a very fast golden-brown stallion--and at once saw
that the bullet struck him: in his fall he pulled his horse round
towards me, and dashed past within forty yards, which enabled me to see
that the bullet had passed through his body, and he did not need a
second. About one hundred yards farther on he kissed the ground. After
the shot the band dashed off, and their yell was augmented to a roar
more like that of a wounded buffalo than human voices. They assembled
about half a mile distant, held a short consultation, and then returned
like a whirlwind towards me with renewed yells. The attack was now
seriously meant, although the sole peril I incurred was from arrows shot
close to me. I led Czar a few paces in the rear behind a
widely-spreading yucca, ordered Trusty to lie down under the cactuses,
reloaded my gun, and, being a bit of Indian myself, I disappeared among
the huge aloes in front of me, pulling my stout beaver hat over my eyes.
I allowed the tornado to come within a hundred and sixty paces, when I
raised my good rifle between the aloes, pulled the trigger, and saw
through the smoke a Redskin bound in the air, and fall among the horses'
hoofs. A dense dust concealed the band from sight, but a repetition of
the yells reached my ear, and I soon saw the savages going away from me,
whereon I gave them the contents of the second barrel, which had a good
effect in spite of the distance, as I recognised in the fresh yells
raised and the dispersion of the band. The Indians, ere long, halted a
long way off; but after awhile continued their retreat. I understood
these movements perfectly well: they wanted to give me time to leave my
hiding-place, and then ride me down on the plain. Hence I waited till
the Comanches were nearly two miles off, and watched them through my
glass as they halted from time to time, and looked round at me. I was
certain that we now had a sufficient start to reach the forest on the
Leone without risk. My rifle was reloaded, and my pistols were placed in
the holsters. I stepped out of my hiding-place and mounted my horse,
which bore me at a rapid pace towards my home. The enemy scarce noticed
my flight ere they dashed down from the heights after me like a
storm-cloud. I did not hurry, however, for fear of fatiguing Trusty; but
selected the buffalo paths corresponding with my direction, thousands of
which intersect the prairies like a net, and at the end of the first
mile felt convinced that we should reach the forest all right, which now
rose more distinctly out of the sea of grass. So it was: we dashed into
the first bushes only pursued by five Indians, where I rode behind some
dwarf chestnuts, dismounted, and prepared to receive my enemies. They
remained out of range, however, and in a short time retired again.

My readers will naturally ask why some thirty Indians allowed a single
hunter to emerge from his hiding-place, and why they did not compel him
to surrender by a short siege? The Comanches are horse Indians, who can
only effect anything when mounted, and hence never continue a pursuit
into a thicket. They never undertake any martial exploit by night; and,
moreover, the Indian, when he goes into action, has very different ideas
from a white man; for while the latter always thinks he will be the last
to fall, every Redskin believes that he will be the first to be hit. At
the same time, these tribes set a far higher value on the life of one of
their warriors than we white men do, and they often told me that we
pale-faces grew out of the ground like mushrooms, while it took them
eighteen years to produce a warrior. The tribes are not large; they
consist of only one hundred and fifty to three hundred men; they have
their chief and are quite independent of the other clans, although
belonging to the same nations. The Comanches, for instance, reckon
thirty thousand souls, spread over the whole of the Far West. In
consequence of the many sanguinary wars which the different tribes wage
together, it is frequently of great consequence to a clan, whether it
counts ten men more or less, and hence the anxiety felt by the savages
about the life of their warriors. The Northern Indians have assumed many
of the habits of the white men, and are advancing gradually towards
civilization; they nearly all carry fire-arms, wear clothes, till the
ground, and their squaws, children, and old men, live in villages
together. Our Southern Indians are all at the lowest stage of
civilization, are generally cannibals, have no home, follow the buffalo,
on whose flesh they live, and have assumed none of our customs. At times
they may get hold of a horse-cloth or a bit, which they have taken from
a hunter or stolen from a border settlement, but in other respects they
are children of nature; they go about almost naked, and only carry
weapons of their own manufacture. Their long lance is a very dangerous
weapon, owing to the skill with which they use it; and the same is the
case with their bows, from which they discharge arrows at a distance of
fifty yards, with such accuracy and force, as to pierce the largest
buffalo. The lasso (a plaited rope of leather) is another weapon which
they employ with extraordinary skill; they throw the noose at one end
over the head of an enemy, then gallop off in the opposite direction,
and drag their captive to death. There are but very few foot Indians in
the South; they generally live in the mountains, as they are always at
war with the horse savages, and would be at a disadvantage on the
plains; but they are by far the most dangerous denizens of these parts,
as the most of them are supplied with fire-arms, and try to overpower
their enemy treacherously at night. The Weicos form the chief tribe of
these foot Indians, and are pursued both by the mounted Redskins and the
white borderers like the most dangerous of wild beasts: on their account
I have often spent the night without fire, and have been startled from
my sleep by the whoot of the owl, which they imitate admirably, as a
distant signal to one another. In the conduct of the horse Indians there
is something open and chivalrous, and I never hated them for chasing me;
we contended for the possession of the land, which they certainly held
first, but which nature assuredly created for a better object than that
a few wild hordes should use it for their hunting and war forages. It
always seemed to me an honourable contest between civilization and
savageness when I was attacked by these steppe-horsemen, and I never
felt that blood-thirsty hatred which beset me when I noticed the Weicos
and Tonkaways creeping about like vipers. I more than once all but fell
victim to their cunning, and it is always a pleasant memory that I
frequently punished them severely for it.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER III.

A FIGHT WITH THE WEICOS.


As I mentioned, my fort stood on the south side of the Leone river, and
in front of it lay one of the richest and most fertile prairies, which
ran to the bank of Mustang Creek, a small stream running parallel to the
Leone, beneath the shade of lofty peca-nut trees, magnolias, cypresses,
and oaks, to join the Rio Grande. The prairie between the Leone and this
stream was about five miles broad; and often, when I had spent the day
at home, I rode off to pass the night there, in order to shoot at
daybreak as much game as my horse could comfortably carry, and be back
to breakfast. I had found, in a coppice close to the stream, a small
grassy clearing, where Czar was always comfortable. Around it stood
colossal primæval oaks and magnolias, in whose shade many varieties of
evergreen bushes, such as myrtle, laurel, and rhododendron, formed an
impenetrable thicket, as they were intertwined with pendant llianas and
vines the thickness of my body. In this thicket I had built a sort of
hut of buffalo hides, in which I hid away a frying-pan, an old axe, and
a coffee-pot. At this spot I passed many a hot summer night, for I found
there a cool, quiet bed, which the sun never reached, for myself and my
faithful companions, and ran no risk of being betrayed by my camp-fire
and disturbed by the Indians.

After one of these hot days, I rode Czar out of the fort, and Trusty,
released from the chain, sprang joyfully at my horse's head, delighted
at getting into the open country again, and the prospect of fresh deer
or buffalo kidneys. We went slowly toward the thickly-wooded bank of the
creek, which bordered the prairie ahead of us like a purple strip,
through large gay fields of flowers, with which the prairie is adorned.
Blue, yellow, red, and white beds, in the most varied hues, succeeded
each other, and filled the air with the sweetest and most fragrant
perfumes. Wherever the eye turned it fell on herds of deer, that were
sheltering themselves from the burning sun under isolated elms and
mosquito trees, and rose on our approach to be ready for flight. Further
on grazed many herds of migratory buffaloes, from which the prairies at
this season are never quite free, and, here and there, antelopes were
flying over the heaving sea of grass and flowers. As I rode along, my
eye was certainly rejoiced by this abundance of game, but I did not
change my direction on that account, because I was not any great
distance from the thickets in advance of the forest on Mustang Creek,
where I could approach the game with much less trouble. These wooded
intervals, which run for about a mile into the prairie, consist of dwarf
plum-trees, four feet in height, partly separate, partly in clumps,
which are closely interlaced with wild vines, but always leave small
openings between, and here and there are overshadowed by a
densely-foliaged elm. You are obliged to wind between these clumps till
you reach a broad open grassy clearing, which extends between these
thickets and the high woods on Mustang Creek.

I had hardly reached these advance woods, ere I saw a very large stag
standing in the shadow of an old elm-tree, driving away the flies with
its antlers, and feeding on the fine, sweet mosquito grass, which is
much more tender in the shade than when it is exposed to the burning
sunbeams. The beautiful creature was hardly sixty paces from me, and I
seized my rifle, which was lying across the saddle in front of me. In a
moment Czar, who was well acquainted with this movement, halted, buried
his small head in the grass, and began seeking the green young shoots
which are covered by the dry withered stalks. I shot the deer, and as I
saw that it could not go far I allowed Trusty to catch it, which always
afforded him great delight. I rode up, threw the bridle before
dismounting over the end of a long pendant branch, and then dragged the
deer into the shade to break it up, and cut off the meat I intended to
take with me. I had knelt down by the deer and just thrust in my bowie
knife, when Trusty, who was sitting not far from me, began growling, and
on my inquiring what was the matter, growled still more loudly, while
looking in the direction behind me. I knew the faithful creature so well
that I only needed to look in his large eyes to read what he wished to
tell me. They had turned red, a sure sign of his rising anger: but I
believed that wolves were at hand, which were his most deadly enemies,
because he had fared badly from their claws now and then before I could
get up to free him from his tormentors. I ordered Trusty to be quiet, as
I heeded the dangers which had beset me for years much less than I had
done at the beginning of my border-life, and bent down again over the
deer, when Trusty sprang, with furious barks, toward the quarter where
he had been looking. I quickly rose, and on turning round saw two
perfectly naked Indians, armed with guns, leap out of the tall grass
about sixty yards from me, and dash away like antelopes. My first step
was to seize my rifle, which was leaning against the tree, but the
savages took an enormous bound over one of the clumps of plum-trees, and
disappeared from sight. In a few minutes I had unfastened Czar, and
rushed after the Indians through the many windings between the
close-grown bushes. They had gained a great start, and had increased it
by leaping over clumps, which I was compelled to ride round; still I
kept them pretty constantly in sight, and reached the open prairie in
front of the creek, at the moment when the savages had crossed about
half of it. I gave Czar a slight touch of the spur, and urged him on
with the usual pat on his powerful hard neck; he leaped through the
grass as if he hardly touched the ground, and I was obliged to set my
hat tightly on my head for fear of losing it, for the pressure of the
atmosphere was so great that I could hardly breathe. The Indians ran
like deer, but the distance between us was speedily lessened, and I was
only sixty yards behind them, when they were still fifty from the
forest. I stopped my horse, leaped off, aimed with my right-hand barrel
at the savage furthest ahead, and dropped him. In the meanwhile the
other Indian reached the skirt of the wood, and sprang into the shade of
an old oak, at the moment when the bead of my rifle covered him. I fired
and saw him turn head over heels. At this moment Trusty came panting
over the prairie, who had remained behind as I had leapt over some
clumps which he was obliged to skirt; he saw the first Indian leap out
of the grass, like a hare which has been shot through the head, and his
legs seemed too slow for his growing fury; a loud shout urged him on
still more, and in a few seconds he and the savage disappeared in the
tall grass. A frightfully shrill yell, which echoed far and wide through
the forest, proved that the Indian was feeling Trusty's teeth, and the
heaving grass over them showed that it was a struggle for life or death.
Loading my rifle detained me for a few minutes at the spot whence I had
fired; then I ran up to Czar, who had strayed a little distance, and
rode to the battle-field. The contest was over; the savage was dead, and
Trusty's handsome shaggy coat was spotted with blood. He was standing
with his fore paws on his enemy, and tearing out his throat. A dog like
Trusty was invaluable to me, and for my own preservation I dared not
assuage the creature's savageness; besides, the man was dead, and it was
a matter of indifference whether the buzzards devoured his body or
Trusty tore it piece-meal. In the meanwhile I fastened the dead man's
short Mexican _escopeta_, hunting-pouch, and necklace to my saddle; then
I called Trusty off, mounted Czar, and rode back to my deer, as I did
not dare venture into the forest, where a large number of these Weicos
were very probably lying in ambush. The two had come down from the
mountains to the banks of Mustang Creek, whither the great quantity of
game of all descriptions had attracted them; on hearing my shot, they
crept up unnoticed, had got within distance of me, and in a few seconds
would doubtless have settled me, had not my faithful watcher scented
them, or remarked their movements in the grass.

On coming within sight of my deer, I saw that a dozen buzzards had
collected, some on the trees, others circling slowly in the air, and
watching with envious glances three wolves, which had already begun
greedily to share my deer. Although I hardly ever expended a bullet on
these tormentors, I was annoyed at their impudence, for though they saw
me coming, they did not interrupt their banquet. I shot one of them, a
very old red she-wolf, took the loins and legs of the deer, hung them to
my saddle, and rode home to pass the night.

My dogs inside the fort announced to the garrison the arrival of a
stranger, and they were no little surprised to see me return at so
unusual an hour. The gate was opened, and after Czar had been relieved
of his rather heavy burden, I led him once more into the grass to let
him have a good roll; and after he had been put into the stable with a
feed of Indian corn, I described the events of the day at the
supper-table. My news aroused the apprehensions of my men, for they knew
the vengeful spirit of these Weicos, and we therefore resolved to keep
watch during the night. We were still smoking and talking at midnight,
when the dogs, of which I had fourteen, began making a tremendous row.
They all ran out through the small apertures left for the purpose in the
stockade, and stood barking on the river bank at some foe on the other
side, at the spot where my maize field in the forest joined the river.
It was a pitch dark and calm night. We listened attentively, and could
distinctly hear the trampling of dry brushwood in the field. It might be
occasioned by buffalo, which had broken through the fence, and were
regaling on my maize. But these animals rarely move at night, and there
was a much greater probability of Indians being there. We gently opened
the gate. I took my large duck gun, which held sixteen pistol bullets
in each barrel, and crawled down on my stomach to the river bank, where
I lay perfectly quiet. When I arrived there, one of my dogs was yelping,
and I distinctly heard the twang of a bow-string. I noticed the quarter
very carefully; the river was only forty yards across, and the direction
was shown me still more plainly by the crackling of brushwood. I shot
one barrel there, upon which human cries and a hurried flight were
audible; then I sent the second after it, and fresh groans echoed
through the quiet forest and mingled with the roar of my two shots. I
remained lying in the grass, as I might be easily seen against the
starry sky from the other bank, which was thirty feet lower. The leaping
and running through the maize retired farther and farther toward the
wood, and scarce reached my ear, when suddenly a wild war yell resounded
in the forest, which was answered by countless wolf howls on the prairie
behind me. This was the last outbreak of fury on the part of the
Indians, of whom I never saw anything more beyond the various bloody
traces which they left in the field. We found several arrows sticking in
the river bank, whose form led me to conclude that the assailants were
Cato Indians. The damage I received from this nocturnal visit only
consisted in the trampled maize and a harmless wound which one of my
dogs had received from an arrow in the leg. The morning was spent in
following the trail of the savages to the prairie on the other side of
the forest, where a number of horses had awaited these night-wanderers
and borne them away. In the afternoon I rode again to Mustang Creek with
one of my people--to the spot where the second Indian had disappeared on
the previous day. The entrance into the wood and the roots of the old
oak were covered with blood. I sent Trusty on ahead to see whether the
road was clear, and if we could penetrate into the gloom of the forest
without danger. We cautiously followed the dog, who kept the
blood-marked trail and reached the river, on whose bank the Weico was
sleeping the last sleep. He was cold and stiff my bullet had passed
through his brown sides. The wounds were stopped with grass, and his
_escopeta_ lay ready cocked close to him. He was a very young and
handsome man, and death had chosen him a glorious resting-place under
the dark arbour of leaves. The rapid, crystalline, icy stream laved his
small, handsomely-shaped feet, and on a pillow of large ferns reposed
his head, round which his raven silky hair fell, while the mossy bed
beneath him was dyed by his blood, till it resembled the purple velvet
of a lying-in-state.

We stood silently before this painfully-beautiful picture, and even
Trusty seemed to feel that this was no longer an object for wild
passion, for he lay down quietly in the grass. Death had reconciled us:
the dice had fallen in my favour, and if they had been against me, I
should not have found such an exquisite grave: my bones would have been
bleached for years by the sun on the open prairie, and greeted with
shouts of joy by passing Indians. Feelings which are rarely carried into
these solitudes, and still more rarely retained there, gained the
mastery over me. I could not leave this noble creation of nature to the
wolves and buzzards. We therefore fastened a heavy stone round his feet,
and another round his neck, and gently let him down into the clear
water, where he found his last solitary resting-place between two large
rocks. Taking his few traps, more as a reminiscence than as a booty, we
returned to our horses, which we had left in the first thicket. They
greeted us with their friendly neighing and impatient stamping while
still a long distance off, and away we galloped over the open prairie,
up hill and down hill, after a flying herd of buffalo, at one moment
leaping across broad watercourses, at another over aged trees uprooted
by storms, until several of these primæval monsters had kissed the
blood-stained ground. Our melancholy thoughts had been dispersed by the
light prairie breeze, and, merry and independent, like the vultures in
the blue sky overhead, we returned heavily laden to our fort, whose
inhabitants, down to the dogs, gave us a most hearty welcome.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER IV.

HUNTING ADVENTURES.


It is scarce possible to form an idea of the abundance of game with
which the country near me was blessed in those days. It really seemed to
be augmented with every year of my residence, for which I may account by
the fact that the several vagabond hordes of Indians--who prefer the
flesh of deer, antelopes, and turkey to that of buffaloes, whose
enormous mass they cannot devour at once, while the smaller descriptions
of game could be killed in the forests and coppices, without revealing
themselves to the enemy on the wide prairie--that these Indians, I say,
more or less avoided my neighbourhood, while, for my part, I had greatly
reduced the number of wild beasts, especially of the larger sort. I
consumed a great quantity of meat in my household, owing to the number
of dogs I kept, but I really procured it as if only amusing myself.
There were certainly days on which I shot nothing. At times I did not
get sight of a buffalo for a week, or the prairie grass was burnt down
to the roots, which rendered it extremely difficult to stalk the game,
while just at this period, when the first green shoots spring up, the
animals principally visit the open plains, whence they can see their
pursuers for a long distance. For all that, though we had generally a
superabundance of meat, and too often behaved with unpardonable
extravagance, I have frequently killed five or six buffaloes, each
weighing from a thousand to fifteen hundred pounds, in one chase,
lasting perhaps half-an-hour, and then merely carried off their tongues
and marrow-bones. Often, too, I have shot one or two bears, weighing
from five to eight hundred pounds, and only taken home their paws and a
few ribs, because the distance was too great to burden my horse with a
large supply of meat. I could always supply our stock in the vicinity of
my fort, although at times we were compelled to put up with turkeys, or
fish and turtle, with which our river literally swarmed.

Bear-meat formed an important item in our larder--or, more correctly
speaking, bear's-grease--which was of service in a great many ways. We
employed it to fry our food, for which buffalo or deer fat was not so
good; we used it to burn in our lamps, to rub all our leather with, and
keep it supple; we drank it as a medicine--in a word, it answered a
thousand demands in our small household. This is the sole fatty
substance, an immoderate use of which does not turn the stomach or
entail any serious consequences. The transport of this article, though,
was at times rather difficult, especially on a warm day; as this fat
easily becomes liquid, and will even melt in the hunter's hand while he
is paunching a bear. This is chiefly the case with the stomach fat,
which is the finest and best; that on the back and the rest of the body,
which at the fatting season is a good six inches thick, is harder and
requires to be melted over a slow fire before it can be used in lamps.

These animals were very numerous in my neighbourhood. In spring and
summer they visited the woods, where with their cubs they regaled upon
wild plums, grapes, honey, and young game of all sorts, and at times
played the deuce in my maize-field. In autumn the rich crop of
peca-nuts, walnuts, acorns, chestnuts, and similar fruits, kept them in
our forests; and in winter they sought rocky ravines and caves, where
they hybernated. Very many took up their quarters in old hollow trees,
so that at this season I had hardly any difficulty in finding a bear in
my neighbourhood. Trusty was a first-rate hand at this, for he found a
track, and kept to it as long as I pleased; and at the same time
possessed the great advantage that he never required a leash, never went
farther than I ordered him, and never followed game without my
permission. When a bear rose before me it rarely got fifty paces away,
unless it was in thorny bushes, where the dog could not escape its
attack; for, so soon as the bear bolted, Trusty dug his teeth so
furiously into its legs, and slipped away with such agility, that the
bear soon gave up all attempts at flight, and stood at bay. It was
laughable to see the trouble the bear was in when I came up; how it
danced round Trusty, and with the most ridiculous _entrechats_ upbraided
his impudence; while Trusty continually sprang away, lay down before
Bruin, and made the woods ring with his bass voice. Frequently, however,
the honest dog incurred great peril during this sport, and his life more
than once depended on my opportune arrival.

In this way I followed one warm autumn day a remarkably broad bear trail
on the mountains of the Rio Grande. Trusty halting fifty yards ahead of
me, showed me that it stopped at a small torrent, where the bear had
watered on the previous night. I dismounted, examined the trail
carefully, and saw that it was made by a very old fat bear; it was in
the fatting season, when the bear frequently interrupts its sleep and
pays a nocturnal visit to the water. At this season these animals are
very clumsy and slow, and cannot run far, as they soon grow scant of
breath; they soon stop, and can be easily killed by the hunter--always
supposing that he can trust to his dog and horse, for any mistake might
expose the rider to great danger. I ordered Trusty to follow the trail;
it ran for some distance up the ravine, then went up the bare hill-side,
which was covered with loose boulders and large masses of rock, into the
valley on the opposite side, in the middle of which was a broad but very
swampy pool, girdled by thick thorny bushes. Trusty halted in front of
this thicket, looked round to me, and then again at the bushes, while
wagging his long tail. I knew the meaning of this signal, and that the
bear was not far off. I ordered the dog on, and drew a revolver from my
belt; feeling assured that the bear would soon leave the underwood and
seek safety in flight. Trusty disappeared in the bushes, and his
powerful bark soon resounded through the narrow valley. It was an
impossibility for me to ride through the thicket, hence I galloped to
the end of the coppice, and saw there the bear going at a rapid pace up
the opposite steep hill, with Trusty close at its heels. I tried to
cross the swamp, but Czar retreated with a snort, as if to show me the
danger of the enterprise. By this time Trusty had caught up to the bear
at the top of the hill, and furiously attacked it in the rear. The bear
darted round with extraordinary agility, and was within an ace of
seizing Trusty, but after making a few springs at the dog, it continued
its hurried flight, and disappeared with Trusty over the hill-top. I had
ridden farther up the water when I heard my dog baying; I drove the
spurs into my horse, and with one immense leap, we were both in the
middle of the swamp up to the girths; then, with an indescribable
effort, Czar gave three tremendous leaps, which sent black mud flying
round us, and reached the opposite firm ground with his fore feet, while
his hind quarters sunk in the quivering morass; with one spring I was
over his head, when I sank in up to the knees, and after several
tremendous exertions, the noble fellow sprang ashore, trembling all
over. Trusty's barking, as if for help, continually reached me as I
galloped up the steep hill-side; I arrived on the summit at the moment
when the bear sprang at Trusty, and buried him beneath its enormous
weight. My alarm for the faithful dog--my best friend in these
solitudes, made me urge Czar on; he bounded like a cat over the
remaining rocks, and I saw Trusty slip out from under the bear in some
miraculous way, and attack it again on the flank. I halted about ten
paces from the scene of action, held my rifle between the little red
fiery eyes of the bright black monster, and laid it lifeless on the bare
rocks. The greatest peril for dogs is at the moment when the bear is
shot, for they are apt to attack it as it falls, and get crushed in its
last convulsive throes. I leapt off Czar, who was greatly excited by the
sharp ride, went up to Trusty, who was venting his fury on Bruin's
throat, examined him, and found that he had received three very serious
wounds, two on the back and one over the left shoulderblade, which were
bleeding profusely, though in his fury he did not seem to notice them. I
took my case from the holster and sewed up his wounds, during which
operation he lay very patiently before me, and looked at me with his
large eyes, as if asking whether this were necessary. Then I took off my
jacket and set to work on the bear, stripped it, and put the hide as
well as a hundred pounds' weight of the flesh on Czar's back. If my
readers will bear in mind that the sun was shining on my back furiously,
and that I was on a bare blazing rock, they will understand that I was
worn out, and longed for a cool resting-place. The bear weighed at least
800 lbs., and it requires a great effort to turn such an animal over.

I was a good hour's ride from the shade of the Leone, and only half that
distance to the mountain springs I have already described. I therefore
selected the latter, although they took me rather farther from home. I
walked, although I made Czar carry my jacket, weapons, and pouch, and
reached my destination in the afternoon, with my two faithful companions
at my heels. Czar had a hearty meal after I had bathed him in the pond,
and poor Trusty, whose wounds had dried in the sun, and pained him
terribly, felt comfortable in the cool grass, and did not disturb the
linen rag which I moistened every now and then. Nor did I forget myself;
I rested, bathed, and after awhile enjoyed the liver and tongue of the
old vagabond, until the evening breeze had cooled the air, and I reached
home partly on foot, partly on horseback.

Nature seems to have selected the buffalo before all varieties of game
for the purpose of bringing to the door of the man who first dares to
carry civilization into the desert, abundant food for him and his during
the first years, so that he may have time to complete the works
connected with his settlement, and have no trouble in procuring
provisions. When this time is passed, nature withdraws this liberal
support from him; in the course of a few years he must go a long
distance to obtain this food as a dainty, which he grew quite tired of
in the early years, for the buffalo is not frightened by the pioneer's
solitary house and field, but as soon as several appear, the animals
depart and are only seen as stragglers.

The woolly hides of the buffaloes supply the new-comer in the desert
with the most splendid and comfortable beds. When laid over the roof
they protect his unfinished house from rain and storm; he uses their
leather for saddles, boot-soles, making ropes of all sorts, traces, &c.;
its meat, one of the most luxurious sorts that nature offers man, seems
to be given to the borderer as a compensation for the countless
privations and thousand dangers to which he subjects himself. Buffalo's
marrow is a great delicacy, and very strengthening. The fat can be used
in many ways, and the horns converted into drinking cups, powder flasks,
&c.; in a word, the whole of the buffalo is turned to account in the
settler's housekeeping.

These animals are hunted in several ways. With an enduring, well-trained
horse, you ride up to them and shoot them with pistols or a rifle, for a
horse accustomed to this chase always keeps a short distance from the
buffalo, and requires no guidance with the reins; but this mode of
hunting can only be employed on the plains, for in the mountainous
regions the buffalo has a great advantage in its sure footing over a
horse that has to carry a rider. In such regions, and in wooded
districts, you stalk the animals, which is not difficult, and if you
keep yourself concealed you may kill several with ease, as they are not
startled by the mere report of a rifle. On the prairies, too, where the
grass is rather high, you can creep up to them through it, and if it be
not sufficiently tall to hide you, you make use of some large skin, such
as a wolf's, and covered with this, crawl up within range. This, however,
is always a dangerous plan, for if you are noticed by a wounded buffalo,
you run a great risk of being trampled to death by it. On these
crawling hunts, I always had Trusty a short distance behind me, who
moved through the grass quite as cautiously as myself, and when it was
necessary, I set him on, and had time to run to my horse, while Trusty
attacked the buffalo and pinned it to the spot.

I always preferred riding after buffaloes, for this is one of the most
exciting modes of hunting I am acquainted with, as it demands much skill
from the rider and agility and training on the part of the horse. Horses
that have been used to the sport for any time are extremely fond of it,
and at the sight of the buffalo become so excited that there is a
difficulty in holding them in. The revolver is the best weapon to use.
You have the great advantage with it of firing several shots without
reloading. I always carried two in my belt, which gave twelve shots, and
also two spare cylinders. I also had my double rifle with me, which lay
unfastened between me and the saddle cloth. The American revolvers are
admirably made, and carry their bullets very accurately for a hundred
yards; but at longer distances they cannot be depended on, as it is
difficult to take aim with them. It requires considerable practice to
kill a buffalo at a gallop, for you may send a dozen bullets into it,
and yet not prevent it from continuing its clumsy-looking though very
rapid progress. The buffalo's heart lies very deep in the chest behind
the shoulder-blades; it can be easily missed through the eye being
caught by the hump on the back; and besides, it requires very great
practice to hit with a pistol when going at full speed. If you shoot the
buffalo at the right spot, it drops at once, and frequently turns head
over heels. The animal is in the best condition in spring, when it has
changed its coat. At this season its head is adorned with long dark
brown locks, and its hind-quarters are covered with shining black hair.
So long as old tufts bleached by the sun are hanging about it it is not in
prime condition, and the experienced hunter never selects such a
quarry.

On a spring morning--I need not add a fine one, for at this season the
blue sky rarely deserts us for more than a few hours--I rode at daybreak
down the river toward the mountains; a cold, refreshing breeze was
blowing, which had an invigorating effect upon both men and animals.
Czar was full of playfulness. He often pretended to kick at Trusty, his
dearest friend, who was trotting by his side, shook his broad neck, and
could hardly be held in. Trusty ran ahead, every now and then rolled in
the tall grass, kicked up the earth behind him, and then looked up at me
with a loud bark of delight. I too was in an excellent humour; the small
birds-of-paradise, with their long black and white tails and crimson
breasts, fluttered from bush to bush. The humming birds darted past me
like live coals, and suddenly stopped as if spell-bound in front of some
flowers, whence they sucked the honey for a few seconds with their
beaks, and then hummed off to another fragrant blossom. Countless
vultures described their regular circles over my head; above them
gleamed against the ultramarine sky the brilliant white plumage of a
silver heron, or the splendid pink of a flamingo; whilst high up in
ether the royal eagles were bathing in the sunshine. The prairie was
more beautiful this day than I had ever seen it; it was adorned by every
designation of bulbous plants, the prevailing flora in the spring.

Lost in admiration of these natural beauties, which words are powerless
to describe, I reached the hilly ground near the mountain springs; and
first learned from Czar's tugging at the bridle, and his repeated
bounds, that I had come in sight of a herd of about forty buffaloes,
that did not appear to notice me yet. Probably they were engaged with
that portion of the beauties of nature which most interested them; for,
at any rate, they all had their huge shaggy heads buried in the fresh
young grass. I was never better inclined to have a jolly chase than on
this day, and the same was the case with Czar and Trusty. I let loose
the reins, drew a revolver, and dashed among the astounded herd,
looking for a plump bull. Surprised and disturbed, these philosophers
turned their heads towards the mountains, raised their tails erect, and
started in their awkward gallop, with the exception of one old fellow,
the very one I had selected for the attack. He looked after the
fugitives for awhile, as if reproaching them with their cowardice; shook
his wild shaggy mane several times, and then dashed furiously at me with
his head down. I was so surprised at this unexpected attack that I did
not fire, but turned my horse to fly. The buffalo pursued me some
thousand yards, keeping rather close, while his companions halted, and
seemed to be admiring the chivalric deed of their knight. At length he
stopped, as he had convinced himself that he could not catch up to me,
and stamped with his long-haired front legs till the dust flew up in a
cloud around him. I turned my horse and raised my rifle, to make more
sure of hitting the bull, as his determined conduct had imbued me with
some degree of respect. I fired, and wounded him in the side a little
too far back; at the same instant he dashed ahead again, but then
thought better of it, and tried to rejoin the flying herd. I now set
Trusty on him, who soon brought him at bay, and I gave him a bullet from
the revolver. Again he rushed at me, and again fled. In this way,
pursuing and pursued in turn, I had given him five bullets, when he left
the herd in a perfect state of mania, and dashed after me. I made a
short turn with my horse; the bull rushed past; I turned Czar again
towards the buffalo; and as I passed I put a bullet through his heart at
the distance of three yards. The monster fell to the ground in a cloud
of dust, and raised up a heap of loose sand which it stained with its
dark blood.

[Illustration: AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR. _p. 27._]

To my surprise I noticed that Trusty did not come up to the fallen
buffalo, but rushed past it, loudly barking, to the thicket at the
springs, whence I saw an immense panther leap through the prickly
plants. I galloped round the ponds and saw the royal brute making
enormous leaps through the tall prairie grass toward the mountains.
Trusty was not idle either, and was close behind it. I spurred Czar,
and kept rather nearer the mountains, so as to cut off the fugitive's
retreat and drive it farther out on the plains, while my hunting cry
incessantly rang in its ears. It had galloped about a mile, when we got
rather close to it; it altered its course once more, and climbed up an
old evergreen live oak, among whose leafy branches it disappeared. I
called Trusty to heel, stopped about fifty yards from the oak to reload
my right-hand barrel, and then rode slowly round, looking for a gap in
the foliage through which to catch a glimpse of this most dangerous
animal. The leaves were very close, and I had ridden nearly round, when
I suddenly saw its eyes glaring at me from one of the main branches in
the middle of the tree. I must shoot it dead, or else it would be a very
risky enterprise; and Czar's breathing was too violent for me to fire
from his back with any certainty. I cautiously dismounted, keeping my
eye on the panther, held a revolver in my left hand, brought the bead of
my rifle to bear right between the eyes of the king of these
solitudes--and fired. With a heavy bump the panther fell from branch to
branch, and lay motionless on the ground. I kept Trusty back, waited a
few moments to see whether the jaguar was really dead, as I did not wish
to injure the beautiful skin by a second bullet unnecessarily, then
walked up and found that the bullet had passed through the left eye into
the brain. It had one of the handsomest skins I ever took; it is so
large that I can quite wrap myself up in it, and now forms my bed
coverlet. When I had finished skinning it and cut out the tusks with the
small axe I always carried in a leathern case, I rode back to my
buffalo, with the skin proudly hanging down on either side of my horse.
On getting there I led Czar through the narrow entrance into the
thicket, where I came upon a freshly killed, large deer, one of whose
legs was half eaten away. It was the last meal of the savage beast of
prey, and I was surprised it had left its quarry. The noise of the
buffalo and the horse galloping, Trusty's bass voice, and the crack of
the revolver in such close vicinity, must have appeared dangerous to
it, and it had fancied it could slip off unnoticed.

My buffalo was very plump; it supplied me and Trusty with an excellent
dinner, and for dessert I had the marrow-bones, roasted on the fire and
split open with my axe, which, when peppered and salted, are a great
delicacy. A little old brandy from my flask, mixed with the cold spring
water, was a substitute for champagne; my sofa was the body of the deer,
covered with the skin of its assassin.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER V.

THE NATURALIST.


Years had passed since the first establishment of my settlement, but it
was still the greatest rarity to see a strange white face among us; and
though I visited the nearest town more frequently than at the outset, it
led to no settled intercourse. I rode there several times a year, taking
to market on mules my stock of hides, wax, tallow, &c., and brought back
provisions, tools, powder, and lead. On these occasions I received the
letters which had arrived for me in the interval, posted my own, took my
packets of books forwarded from New York, and then my intercourse with
the world was at an end for six months. The mules and horses certainly
left traces during these rides in the clayey soil, but they were soon
destroyed by heavy rains or trampled by herds of passing buffaloes, and
thus hidden from the most acute eyes. Moreover, on these journeys I
never kept the same road, as I always guided myself by the compass, and
altered my course according to the seasons, as I had to pass spots which
were inundated at certain periods, and others where water at times was
very scarce. The first two-thirds of the country was a wretched sandy
region, without grass, on which stunted oaks grew here and there, very
mountainous and dry, where no one would dream of settling or undergoing
the perils of a pioneer for the sake of the land. Nearer to me no one
ventured to come, as many attempts had been made to settle on this
fertile soil, but had all turned out unhappily; the last of them
entailing the destruction of a family of nineteen persons: on my hunting
expeditions I often saw their bones bleaching in the sun. As I said, no
change had occurred in my position, save that my mode of life was safer
and more comfortable; the country alone still remained a solitude, which
no isolated visitor could enter without staking his scalp.

Hence I was greatly surprised one morning when the sentry came into my
house and informed me that a white man was riding alone along the
river, mounted on a mule, which is the most unsuitable of animals in
the Indian country. I ran with a telescope to the turret at the
south-east end of the fort, and not only found the watchman's statement
confirmed, but also that the man had not even a weapon; unless it was
hidden in two enormous packs which dangled on each side of his mule.
The rider drew nearer, at one moment emerging on the ridges, and then
disappearing again in the hollows. At length our growing curiosity was
satisfied, and a white man, a German, saluted us with an innocently
calm smile. On my asking how he had come here alone and unarmed, he
said cheerfully:--"Well, from the settlement. I was able to find your
mule-track quite easily. Mr. Jones accompanied me for a whole day, and
during the last four I have seen nobody." It soon came out that his
name was Kreger, and that he was a botanist who had come to examine the
Flora about us, which had not yet been collected. For this purpose he
brought with him two enormous bundles of blotting-paper, which hung on
his Lizzy--so he called his gallant charger--and, like woolbags in a
battery, might have protected him against Indian arrows, if he had had
any missiles to reply with; but he only had a pistol in his trowsers'
pocket, which would not go off, in spite of all the experiments we made
with it. Everybody had warned him of the danger to which he exposed
himself on his journey to me; and the last pioneer he passed, a Mr.
Jones, had tried to keep him back by force, but he had merely laughed,
and declared that an Indian could not touch him on his Lizzy.

There are men who wantonly rush into perils because danger has something
attractive for them, and who seek them in order to have an opportunity
of expending the energy they feel within them; there are others who
incur danger in order to display themselves to the world as heroes,
though their courage is not very genuine; lastly, there are men who
expose themselves calmly and delightedly to great dangers, because they
are entirely ignorant of them, and cannot be persuaded of their
existence till they are surprised and destroyed by them. Such a man was
our new acquaintance, Mr. Kreger: we all tried to make him understand
how madly he had behaved, and that it was only by a miracle he had
escaped the notice of the Redskins, which must have entailed his
inevitable death, during his long solitary journey to us, and while
sleeping at night by a large fire. He merely smiled at it all, and said
that it could not be quite so bad, while making repeated applications to
his snuff-box. As regarded his intentions of making his excursions from
my house, I told him it was impossible; because when I went out hunting
I did not waste my time over plants, and he, as no sportsman, would be a
nuisance to me; on the other hand, we could not think of letting him
wander about alone, the danger of which I confirmed by telling him
various adventures of mine. For all this, I received him hospitably;
gave him a place to sleep in, and a seat at table; showed him where to
find corn for Lizzy, where he could wash his sheets--in a word, made him
as comfortable as lay in my power.

I had long intended to explore more distant countries than those I had
visited during my sporting excursions, especially the continuation of
our plateaux to the north, and had made my arrangements for this tour,
when Mr. Kreger surprised us by his advent. On the day after his arrival
we took a walk round the fort and the garden, during which he broke off
the conversation every moment, and plucked some rare plant to put in his
herbal, which he called his cannon; and laughed at the revolver in my
belt and the rifle I carried. I told him that I intended to make a
journey, in which, if he liked to accompany me, he would be able to make
his researches, as my hunting on this trip would be restricted to my
meat supply. He was delighted, and agreed to come with me; to which I
consented on condition of his riding one of my horses, and I recommended
the mustang, whose powers of endurance I knew and tried to prove by
telling him how it came into my possession. But it was of no avail, for
none of my cattle possessed the qualities of his Lizzy; and he offered a
bet that no one could catch her. For the sake of the joke, the mustang
and the mule were soon saddled; a mosquito tree on the prairie, about
half a mile from the fort, was selected as the goal; and away we started
through the tall grass. It was really surprising how fast Lizzy went,
cocking up her rat-like tail and long ears; she accepted with pleasure
the shower of blows that fell on her, and reached the goal only twenty
yards behind me. I laughed most heartily at the amusing appearance of
our naturalist, and expressed my admiration at his mule's pace; but
remarked at the same time, that for no consideration in the world would
I ride her in the country I intended visiting, because I was well
acquainted with the obstinacy of mules, and knew that when called on to
show their speed they refuse to do so, and neither fire nor sword could
induce them. All such remarks, however, produced no change in Kreger's
invincible faith in his favourite; and, as if he had assumed a portion
of Lizzy's obstinacy through his long friendly relations with her, he
irrevocably adhered to his resolution of only entrusting his carcass to
her during the impending excursion.

Our preparations, which were very simple, occupied us about a week; they
consisted in removing Czar's shoes, and rubbing his hoofs frequently
with bear's grease, for the Indians follow the track of a shoed horse as
wolves do a deer's bleeding trail; in grinding coffee, and forcing it
into bladders, and in plaiting two new lassos, for which I fetched two
new buffalo hides, in which chase the botanist accompanied me, and felt
a pride in having given me an indubitable proof of his Lizzy's powers,
for she followed close at Czar's tail during the entire hunt. Mr. Kreger
assisted me in making the lassos. The hide is fastened tight on the
ground with wooden pegs, a very sharp knife is thrust into the centre,
and a strip about the breadth of a finger is cut, until the whole hide
is transferred into one very long line, which, though not so long as the
one with which Dido measured the ground to build Carthage on, attained a
very great length. This strip was then fastened between trees, the hair
shaved off with a knife, after which it was cut into five equal lengths,
and these were plaited into a lasso about forty feet long, which was
once more fastened between trees, with heavy weights attached to it, and
thus stretched to its fullest extent. When such a line has been dried in
the open air, it is rubbed with bear's grease, through which it always
remains soft and supple, and will resist a tremendous pull. The one made
by Mr. Kreger, though not plaited so smoothly and regularly, was useful,
and afforded him great pleasure as a perfection of his Lizzy's
equipment. One end of this lasso is fastened round the horse's neck; it
is rolled up, fastened by a loop to the saddle, undone when the animal
is grazing, and bound round a tree or bush.

The day for our start arrived, and the morning was spent in saddling our
horses and arranging our baggage in the most suitable way for both horse
and rider, a most important thing in these hot regions, for the horse's
back is easily galled, and then you are compelled to go on foot, which
is very wearisome and fatiguing in a country where there are no roads.
The naturalist at length completed his equipment of Lizzy, who looked
more like a rhinoceros than a cross between a horse and a donkey. In
front of the saddle hung the two bales of blotting paper over the large
bearskin holsters, which, in addition to two pistols I had supplied,
were crammed with biscuit, coffee, pepper and salt, snuff, &c. Over the
saddle hung two leathern bags, fastened together by a strap, on which
the rider had his seat. Behind the saddle, a frying-pan, coffee-pot, and
tin mug, produced a far from pleasing harmony at every movement of the
animal. Over the whole of this a gigantic buffalo hide was stretched,
and fastened with a surcingle round Lizzy's stout body, so that, like a
tortoise, she only displayed her head and tail, and caused a spectator
the greatest doubt as to what genus of quadruped she belonged. In order
to complete the picture, Lizzy had two enormous bushes of a summer
plant, which we call "Spanish mulberry," stuck behind her ears, as a
first-rate specific to keep the flies off. I had repeatedly told Kreger
of the absurdity of covering Lizzy with this coat of mail, in which she
would melt away. But he said that I too had a skin over my saddle, and
he wanted his to protect him at night against rain and dew. On the back
of this monster our naturalist mounted, dressed in a long reddish
homespun coat, trowsers of the same material, though rather more faded,
with Mexican spurs on his heels with wheels the size of a dollar, and a
broad-brimmed felt hat, under which his long face with the large
light-blue eyes and eternally-smiling mouth peeped out. Over his right
shoulder hung his huge botanizing case, and over his left a
double-barrelled gun of mine loaded with slugs; his hat Mr. Kreger had
also adorned with a green bush, and sitting erect in his wooden Mexican
stirrups, he swung his whip, and declared his readiness to start. I rode
Czar, and the only difference from my ordinary equipment was that I had
a bag full of provisions hung on the saddle behind me; this and a little
more powder and lead than usual, was all the extra weight Czar had to
carry, and too insignificant for him to feel. With a truly heavy heart I
bade good-bye to Trusty, and most earnestly commended him to the care of
my men. I could not take him with me to an unknown country, where I
might feel certain of getting into situations where I must trust to the
speed of my horse, and Trusty might easily get into trouble. The
firearms I left at the service of my garrison, and consisting of nearly
fifty rifles and fowling pieces, were carefully inspected. We then rode
off, and soon heard the gate of the fort bolted after us.

It was the afternoon when we rode down to the river-side and waded
through the stream. For the stranger this river is most beautiful and
charming, for at its greatest depth it is so clear, that, were it not
for its motion and the leaves, brushwood, &c., floating on it, it would
be doubtful to say whether it contained any water or not. This is
noticed more especially with horses which have to cross such a stream
for the first time; generally they object, and look down at the water,
whose depth they are unable to gauge. You see the stones at the bottom
as clearly as if there were no water, and can distinctly watch the
slightest movements of the countless fish and turtle with which the
streams in my neighbourhood swarm. At the same time the banks are
covered with the most luxurious vegetation, and the gigantic vines cross
it from the tops of the trees, and are in their turn intertwined with
other creepers so as to form a hanging wood over the darting waters.
Most of these creepers adorn the woods with a magnificent show of
flowers, and some trees are so overgrown with them, that none of their
own foliage is visible. The stream in these rivers is so violent that it
is very dangerous to ride through them, especially at spots where the
water is deep enough to reach the horse's girths, and the danger is
heightened by the extremely slippery soap stones which cover the bottom.

I rode first into the river, and Lizzy followed obediently after me,
though it cost some persuasion to make my companion refrain from riding
a few yards lower down in order to pluck some specimens of the beautiful
aquatic plants growing on the surface, for he fancied it was no depth,
while he and his Lizzy, heavily laden as they were, would have sunk, and
never reached the bank again alive. I remember, while hunting, swimming
on horseback through places where the current was extremely violent, and
carried away my dog, which reached the bank eventually, bruised by the
rocks and bleeding terribly. We reached the opposite side without any
difficulty, and followed a deep-trodden buffalo path into the forest;
which runs with a breadth of several miles along the river. After you
have been riding ever so short a time in the sun, you feel the benefit
of the gloomy and impenetrable shade of such a forest in an
extraordinary degree; the air beneath the leafy aisles seems quite
different; it is not only cool and refreshing, but appears to have been
purified in its passage through the leaves, for these forests grow on
elevated ground, where no swamps or standing waters poison the air with
the exhalations of putrified vegetable matter, as is the case on the
banks of the Mississippi and other eastern rivers of America. There is
not a more majestic or imposing sight than such a forest; trees of the
most gigantic size grow in the wildest confusion, strangest shapes, and
most varied hues, so closely together that you cannot understand where
all their roots find room. You see, perhaps, twenty varieties of the
oak, among which the burrel oak is the handsomest and largest; it is
eight feet in diameter, and its stem measures forty feet to the first
branches, while its crown attains a height of one hundred and fifty to
two hundred feet. On the river banks cypresses stand side by side for
miles, so close together that there is hardly room for a man to pass
between them. The black walnut, the tulip tree, the peca-nut, several
sorts of elms, the mulberry, maples, ashes, planes, poplars, &c., press
against each other, and wherever death makes a gap and restores one of
these giant trees to the earth, young shoots start up from its dust in
the opening through which the blue sky is visible, and soon fill up the
room. Countless varieties of smaller trees flourish in this gloom, and
force their way between the colossi of vegetation, for instance, the
wild cherry, wild plum, a small chestnut, and several species of nut
trees; beneath these the bushes and cactuses spread with an incredible
variety, and relieve the gloom with their magnificently coloured
perfumed flowers, which seem to maintain an eternal rivalry with the
blossoms of the llianas swinging from tree to tree in the airy height.
Finally, the earth itself, beneath the darkest bushes, is covered with a
dense carpet of delicate plants, which, although hidden from every
sunbeam, are not the less worthy of being sought by the fervent admirer
of the masterpieces of nature; they gleam like subterranean fires in the
shade, and diffuse their perfume far around in this palace of foliage.

The queen of the whole virgin forest, however, is the magnolia. It
raises its haughty head one hundred and fifty feet above a silver grey,
smooth trunk, spreads its branches regularly far around, and is so
closely covered with its broad, dark green, smooth and shining leaves,
that its branches are rarely illumined by a sunbeam. Among this dark
mass of foliage, which is unchanged throughout the year, it puts forth
in spring its large snow-white roses, with orange petals, in such
profusion that you can hardly see whether white or green is the
fundamental colour. Far around it spreads a perfume of vanilla which is
so strong that it is dangerous to sleep under the tree unless a breeze
be blowing. The flowers last a long time, and as the pearls fall one by
one on the ground, their place is taken by a bunch of berries, redder
and more fiery than any colour on an artist's palette. They gleam far
and wide through the majestic forest like candelabra in a cathedral.

Our path ran with a hundred windings through the solemn silence; it
seemed as if every living creature that had sought this sanctuary, or
fled from the heated plain, were silently revelling in its beauty and
gratefully reposing in its coolness; not a bird or insect could be
heard, not even the sound of a falling leaf interrupted the
tranquillity, and only the footfalls of our animals and the snorting of
Czar echoed through the forest. Too soon for us, too soon for our
horses, we reached the end of our path, where it entered the prairie on
the other side, after we had walked the greater part of the distance,
because the crossing creepers frequently compelled us to bow our heads
under them, as the makers of the path did, for we saw their brown shaggy
hair floating in all directions. We followed the path into the prairie,
which begins about two miles from the forest. On either side of the path
deer sprang out of the bushes, and flocks of turkeys darted backwards
and forwards with long, quick steps in front of us. The former I left
undisturbed, but I shot one old fat turkey-cock, and hung it on the
saddle behind me.

The sun was rather low when we rode through the wide prairie, and we
could only advance slowly because the grass at many spots came up to my
horse's back; our cattle were very worn, and poor Lizzy panted painfully
under her harness, while the perspiration poured from her in streams.
The sun was setting when we reached a small affluent of the Leone, where
I knew of a good camping place, at which I determined to spend the
night. We unloaded our animals, which I soon completed, as I merely
undid the belly-band, pulled saddle and all over Czar's croupe, removed
the bit, and then gave him a few taps on his damp back, as a sign that
he could go wherever he pleased. My companion was much longer in
removing all the articles of his household from Lizzy's back; and when
he had finished she was a gruesome sight. White foam and dust had matted
her long hair, her ears hung down and almost touched the ground, and her
generally melancholy face was rendered still more so by the bushes
waving over it. I really felt sorry for the poor wretch, and bluntly
told Mr. Kreger that I would not ride a step farther with him unless he
left the buffalo hide here. He was also convinced by his Lizzy's
wretched appearance, that she could not carry this weight for long, and
we agreed, that I should tan the hide of the first deer I shot, and let
him use it. Lizzy was led into the grass and tied to a bush, and we
arranged our bivouac for the night. Kreger fetched dry wood and water. I
lit the fire, set coffee to boil, spitted strips of the turkey breast
and liver, rubbed the meat in with pepper and salt, and put it to roast.
Then I laid my horse-rug on the grass, with the saddle, holsters, and
saddle-bag on it, hung the bridle and lasso on a branch, and took my
seat in front of the fire on my tiger skin, while watching the
naturalist, who was making a thousand arrangements, as if we were going
to remain at least a month here.

It had grown dark. Supper was over. We fetched our animals and took them
to water. Lizzy was hobbled in the grass near our camp, and Czar lay
down behind a bush, but kept his head up for a long time, as if looking
for somebody. It was Trusty, his playmate, that he missed; nor did I
feel altogether comfortable under my rug. I dreamed nearly the whole
night of Indians, and continually woke, when I made up the fire and lay
down again with my rifle on my arm. The botanist, on the contrary, slept
like a top, packed up in his buffalo hide, with his head on an open
bundle of blotting paper; at the same time he snored nearly the whole
night, which did not help to improve my rest. Before daybreak Czar got
up, shook himself, and walked up to Lizzy, who still lay half dead in
the grass, as if to wish her good morning. I roused my companion. We led
the cattle to water, and while I got breakfast I advised Mr. Kreger to
make some botanical researches, which he did. He came back with such an
armful of plants, that I told him I thought he had better not take more
than one specimen of each, as otherwise, by the end of our journey,
Lizzy would be unable to carry the load. He laid the plants in the
blotting-paper, bound his bundles, and ere we started, I rolled up the
buffalo hide with the hair outwards, and thrust it between two branches
of a thickly-leaved tree, where it would remain until our return.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VI.

MR. KREGER'S FATE.


We had a good day's journey to our next bivouac, and I was acquainted
with the country so far. We rode rather sharply in spite of the tall
grass, and at mid-day reached another small affluent of the Leone, where
we granted ourselves and our cattle a few hours' rest. During this time
I went down to the river side and shot a large deer, whose hide I
conveyed to our resting-place, along with some of the meat and the
skull. After scraping the skin quite clean, I split the skull, took out
the brains, made them into a thin paste with water, smeared the skin on
the inside with this, and then rolled it up tight and gave it to Mr.
Kreger to carry, promising to get it ready for use next day. Brains
dress skins famously, and this is the way in which the Indians prepare
them. After lying in this state for four-and-twenty hours, they are
washed clean, hung up in the shade, and, while damp, pulled over the
sharp edge of a plank or the back of a bowie knife till they are quite
dry, which makes the skin as smooth and soft as velvet. In order to
prevent a skin prepared in this way from turning hard when exposed to
the wet, it is spread over a hole in the ground in which rotten wood is
kindled, and it is smoked on both sides till it becomes quite yellow. My
botanist employed the halt in exposing the plants plucked in the morning
to the sun, while he collected fresh ones. The greatest heat was past,
and it was about 3 p.m. when we set out again. The country here became
more broken, the prairies were not so extensive, and here and there were
covered with clumps of trees and bushes. The grass was not so tall as on
the flat prairies, which considerably accelerated the pace of our
cattle. Lizzy especially seemed to feel the difference between yesterday
and to-day, and trotted lightly and cheerfully by the side of Czar, who
on such tours always ambled, a pace which is very pleasant for the
rider, does not tire the horse, and gets over the ground wonderfully
quick. This pace is natural to barbs. I knew my Czar's sire, who was one
of six stallions presented by the Emperor of Morocco to Taylor, the
President of the United States.

At nightfall we reached Turkey Creek, as I had christened it from the
great number of those birds I found here. It was still light enough to
choose a good spot for our bivouac, where we were near water; we were
tolerably hidden, and had very good grass for our cattle. This evening,
however, Czar was hobbled, that is to say, a short line round his neck
was hooked to a padded ring he always wore on his near forefoot, so that
he was obliged to keep his head to the ground or his foot in the air,
and hence could only walk. This was an invention of my own, suggested by
the fear of losing my horse, and when fastened in this way, he could not
be unexpectedly scared and driven off. I prefer it to binding the two
feet, for this often lames a horse, and to tying it up with a lasso,
because the horse can easily entangle its feet in the latter and be
seriously injured. In this manner I could leap from my horse in the most
dangerous neighbourhood, and renders it in an instant incapable of
bolting.

Lizzy was again picketed, and we kept a watchful eye on the animals
during the two hours they were grazing; for I had nearly reached the end
of my _terra cognita_ and the border of regions which had never yet been
visited by Pale-faces. Ere we went to sleep, the logs were covered with
ashes, the cattle fastened to trees close to us, and we lay down to rest
after supper, but I could not sleep so soundly as when I had Trusty by
my side; the slightest sound disturbed me, and it was always a long time
ere I fell asleep again. About midnight I started up and fancied I had
been dreaming about a storm; I looked up and saw that all the stars had
disappeared; at the same moment the surrounding landscape was lit up by
a flash of lightning, and a violent thunder-clap rolled down the valley.
I sprang up, blew the fire into a flame, laid wood on it, and woke the
snoring naturalist, who asked, in great alarm, about the cause of being
disturbed. I advised him to do as I did, then broke off an armfull of
bushes, laid them in a heap, put my pistols and bags on it with the
saddle over them, covered them with the horse-rug, and laid the jaguar
skin over all; after which I helped Kreger to put his traps in safety,
in which he greatly missed the buffalo hide.

While we were occupied with these preparations, the thunder rolled
almost uninterruptedly, and the incessant flashes kept the tall trees
brilliantly illumined. From the north we heard a sound like a distant
waterfall, and the turmoil soon rose to the mournful howling of the
tempest which is only to be heard in these regions. I was well
acquainted with the approaching spirit of the storm, for I had often met
it; hence I went up to Czar, put on his head-gear and threw the bridle
over my shoulder, giving Kreger a hint to do the same with Lizzy. But he
had quite lost his head, and ran first to his heap of traps and then to
the mule, when the storm burst over our heads in all its fury, and made
the primæval trees crack in their very roots. It swept the earth and
carried away with it an avalanche of dust, leaves, and branches; our
fire stretched out long tongues of flame over the ground, and sent its
sparks whirling through the coal-black night into the gloomy wood. The
groans of the hurricane were blended with the deafening peals of
thunder, which at every second made the earth tremble under our feet,
and I had the greatest difficulty in making Kreger understand that he
should come to me. I had selected a young white oak, whose branches were
interlaced with creepers, to shelter myself and Czar, and had got out of
the way of two lofty planes which were singing their death plaint.

The fury of the storm still increased; blast followed blast crash
followed crash; the crowns of the two planes bent more and more, and
with a shock resembling an earthquake, they suddenly fell across our
fire, which scattered in all directions like a bursting shell, and
hurled logs and brands over our heads. Czar started back, and in his
terror would have broken half-a-dozen lassos, had I not been prepared
for this, and followed him with the bridle, while Lizzy dragged my
companion, who would not loose the lasso, for a long distance through
the grass.

The first drops of rain now fell, and I knew that the greatest fury of
the storm had passed. I led Czar back under the oak, held my rifle with
the hammer down under my armpit, shouted to Kreger to follow me, and
stood as erect under my broad-brimmed hat as I could. The rain fell in
torrents, so that in a few minutes we had not a dry thread on us; a
stream flowed between our feet, and the storm chilled us to the marrow.
We stood silent, like herons; and though it was so dark that we could
not see each other, we were contented at being still alive, and having
our horses with us. It rained nearly till morning, which was never more
heartily greeted than by us two; and, ere long, a clear blue sky cheered
us. The greatest difficulty was to light the fire again. My traps had
remained perfectly dry, as they were protected by the bushes underneath,
and the storm had been unable to touch them; I had the means of making
fire, but dry wood was not so easy to procure: still I succeeded in
getting some out of a hollow old oak, and the botanist's blotting-paper
helped to kindle the flame. It was scarce blazing ere we laid arms-full
of dead wood from the fallen trees upon it, and soon produced such a
heat that it dried us in a very short time. Kreger's traps had become
rather wet, but the damage could be easily repaired; and we did not the
less enjoy our breakfast on that account. The sun came out with its
warming, cheering beams, and lit up the ruin which the storm had created
during the night, while a calm glad smile on the face of surrounding
nature seemed to contradict the possibility of it being capable of any
such wild passion.

We were ready to start at a tolerably early hour, but an obstacle
offered itself which threatened to take us far out of our course. The
usually insignificant stream had swollen into such a rapid torrent, and
spread so far over its banks, that we could not hope to cross it. I
could not forgive myself the oversight of not crossing the stream over
night, which is an established rule with travellers and hunters in this
country, for the waters often rise fifteen to twenty feet in a few
hours, and the hunter who incautiously bivouacs on the bank runs the
risk of being so begirt by the swelling tide as to be unable to escape
its fury. Not only men are exposed to this, but also the quadruped
denizens of these parts, and I repeatedly saw drowned buffaloes and
stags being carried away by such swollen rivers. However, as a rule, the
inundation only lasts a few hours, because the small streams have but a
short course, and are only swollen by the mountain torrents.

I had no intention to stop here, and preferred riding up the stream in
order to try and find a ford where we could cross without danger. We
rode for a good two hours along the bank. The trees continually grew
scantier, and the road more difficult through scattered boulders and
rocks. Between these, huge ferns sprang up, and with the fallen trees,
frequently blocked the way, so that we had to make a long circuit to
fetch the river again. At length we reached a spot where the stream was
more contracted, and an old cypress lay across it, which had been
probably levelled by some storm. I went across the trunk, cut a long
bough and sounded the ground on the opposite bank; it rose at a steep
pitch from the water, and was firm, so that I had no doubt but that our
animals could easily clamber up it. I took the packages off Czar,
carried them across, then fastened the lasso to my horse's bridle ring,
and crossed the stream with it, shouting to him to follow me. The bank
on his side was rather steep, which fact he had discovered by feeling
with his fore feet, but he leaped with all four feet into the stream,
bounded up the other bank, and set to work on the grass, which had been
freshened by the last night's rain. Kreger followed my example, but
Lizzy would not venture the leap; I therefore went across, suddenly
seized her hind quarters, and pushed her into the stream, which she
entered headforemost, but soon reached the other side uninjured.

We loaded again, and rode down the stream opposite the spot where we had
spent the night. It was mid-day by this time, and though the heat was
not oppressive, our animals required a rest. We dined, and mounted again
at about two o'clock. From this point the country was quite strange to
me, and it was necessary to make sure of the direction in which we
proceeded. I compared the compass let into my rifle-butt with the one I
had in my pocket, and we rode at a quick pace toward the north-west.

All traces of the rain disappeared about four miles from our last
bivouac, and hence the hurricane had been limited to the course of
Turkey Creek. This is often found to be the case. Such storms at times
are not more than a mile in breadth, but dash with equal fury for
thousands of miles over hill and valley, so that nothing remains
standing which does not bow to the ground before them.

The country again became flat, but very pleasant for ourselves and our
horses. The prairies are frequently covered for miles with post oaks,
that is to say, oaks growing so close together, that their foliage is
interlaced, and hardly allows the sun a peep at the ground, covered with
fine short grass. Large and small clumps of trees of this sort are
scattered over these grassy plateaux, and give the country an appearance
as if human hands had been active here years agone, and these are the
remaining and border lines of former grounds and gardens. Riding under
this roof of foliage is extremely pleasant: you are not checked by any
obstacle, or diverted from your course, and the horses move lightly and
quickly over the short grass. It was at the same time a fine day, the
wind blew freshly, and hence we resolved to ride late, as we were in the
moon's first quarter, which promised us light for some time after
sundown. About six in the evening we crossed another small stream,
which probably also flows into the Rio Grande, where we could have spent
the night very comfortably; but we only filled our gourds, let our
steeds take a hearty drink, and rode on, as we could at all events pass
the night now without water. At about nine o'clock we reached, with
pleasant conversation, the end of the post-oaks, through whose middle a
clear stream wound. We greeted it gladly; for it is always disagreeable
to camp without water near at hand. Our animals were soon unpacked, a
small fire was lit in the thickest bushes, and at about eleven o'clock
we lay down, with Czar and Lizzy by our side, hoping for a better night
than the last. We slept gloriously, and awoke the next morning
invigorated and in the best spirits.

The sun had just risen over the horizon when we mounted and rode over
the plain, after taking, with the help of the compass, the nearest
direction to the forest rising in the blue distance above the wide
prairie. According to my calculation, it was about ten miles off. The
prairie was very flat, and only a few mosquito trees grew on it here and
there, which sufficed to estimate distances, for that is a difficult job
without such marks. I told Kreger it would be better for us to push on,
now the road was good, for a feeling of anxiety involuntarily oppressed
me on this broad plain, where we could be so easily observed from the
woods that formed a semicircle round it. I spoke to Czar every now and
then, and we had nearly reached the middle of the prairie when my horse
gave a start, and tried to break into a gallop. I attempted to pacify
him, but he soon began snorting, and could not be held in.

I had examined the prairie on either side of us, and when I looked
behind, to my horror I saw a band of Indians coming after us at full
speed, in front of a cloud of dust. My next glance was at the forest
ahead of us, to calculate how far it still was, and then my eyes fell in
terror on the mule at my side. The band of Indians consisted of at least
a hundred, and hence must belong to a powerful tribe, possessing the
best horses and weapons. I turned deadly cold when I looked at Kreger,
who as yet had no idea of our peril, and was carelessly whistling. I
made the utmost efforts to remain quiet, or at least to appear so, in
order not to terrify my companion, and begged him to urge on his mule,
while I loosed the rein of my snorting steed, and allowed it to make a
few forward bounds. Whether Kreger noticed a change in my countenance or
voice I do not know, but he looked round, and noticing the approaching
savages, with the ejaculation, "Great heavens, Indians!" he drove his
enormous spurs into his mule's flanks, and pulled his bridle so tight,
that the excessively sharp bit lacerated the wretched Lizzy's mouth,
Kreger had turned deadly pale. He looked wildly around him, and showered
blows with his whip on Lizzy's hind-quarters. At his first movements I
foresaw what would happen, and tried to make him understand that if he
let go the reins Lizzy would be sure to follow Czar, and we should be
able to reach the forest, where the Indians could not hurt us. He did
not hear--he did not see. A picture of horror, he stared fixedly before
him, and Lizzy, putting her head between her legs, began kicking out
behind. The danger grew every minute, for the yell of the cannibal
horde, borne on the breeze, was already echoing in our ears. I rode up
to Kreger and tried to drag the reins out of his hand; but it was of no
use; no prayers, no remonstrances, reached his ear. It was almost
impossible for me to hold Czar in any longer, for at one moment he
reared, at another bounded onward.

The Indians during this time had drawn so near that I could hear their
several voices, and distinguish the bright colours with which their
faces were painted. Our life was in the greatest danger. My horse was
terribly excited, and any slip on its part would infallibly entail my
death. Once more I shouted to Kreger to be reasonable, and let go the
reins, but he did not hear me. Minutes pressed. I let Czar go, and flew
like the wind away from the hapless man, who was left to his fate, and
my staying longer would be of no avail. I quieted my horse, and looked
back at my unfortunate companion. The horde was now close behind him; in
a second a dense cloud of dust surrounded him and the savages, while a
yell of triumph, whose cause I could guess only too well, reached my
ears. I pressed closer to Czar, patted his neck, and away we flew like
light. I looked round again; a dense mob of Redskins was after me, and
by their inhuman yells they gave me to understand that I was to be their
victim also.

The distance between us, however, had been increased. I drew a fresh
breath, and my passion soon dispelled my feelings of pity and its sister
fear. The forest rose rapidly before me, and my safety only depended on
this question: Was there a stream on this side the wood? Firmly resolved
even in that event to force Czar in, I clung closer to him with my knees
and gave him a cheery chirrup. Like a swan he flew over the grass
towards the woods, whose single trees I already distinguished. There was
no river on this side, and I soon reached the dense foliage, and led
Czar snorting and champing in, while my pursuers, now few in number,
stopped a long way from me on the prairie. I took out my handkerchief
and waved it at them to annoy them, for I would but too gladly have
avenged my unhappy comrade; but they turned round, and I went along the
buffalo path into the forest, dragging Czar after me.

For about an hour I walked through the gloomy shade, cutting my way
among the numerous creepers, till I reached a stream whose banks were
quite forty feet above the water. The forest on both sides of the path
where it led down to the river was so overgrown with thorns that it was
impossible to go up or down the river side, especially with a horse; nor
would it do to stay here all night with Czar, as there was nothing for
him to eat; and in event of pursuit I could be easily tracked. Hence I
soon made up my mind, mounted Czar, hung my pistol-belt and saddle-bags
over my shoulders, took my rifle in my right hand, and forced him to
follow the path down to the stream. It was so steep that walking was
impossible, but the faithful creature, once on the steep, half slipped,
half fell into the river, as the bank was very smooth and slippery. The
waves, as he fell in, broke over the saddle-bow; but the horse at once
raised the whole of its back above the surface, and snorting and
puffing, passed the crystalline flood.

In spite of the rapid current, we reached the other side, when the path
again ran up the bluff; but had it been a few yards lower down, the
horse would never have been able to climb the steep; the bank, as it
was, was very high and precipitous, but my steed's strength was equal to
the emergency, and burying its delicate feet in the soft loose soil, it
sprang up the bank, forcing me to cling round its neck lest I should
slip off behind. I had noticed from the prairie that the forest grew
lower down the stream and gradually ended, which led me to the
conclusion that further on the banks would not be so steep, though the
river might be broader; hence I rode down the waterside, for the wood
was not so close and impenetrable as at the spot I had recently left,
for about three miles in this direction, and found a spot where the bank
was not so steep, and I could easily lead Czar to water, while at the
same time wild oats three feet in height, grew close by. Hence I
resolved to spend the night here.

I led Czar into the nearest thicket, unsaddled and hobbled him, and lit
a small fire, partly to dry my clothes, partly to make a cup of hot
coffee, for I had turned chill, and felt quite worn out. I had chosen my
bivouac so that I could see for a long distance along the road I had
come, and kept my weapons in readiness, so that I might sell my life as
dearly as possible were I pursued. The scene of horror I had witnessed
so lately, the probably frightful death of the naturalist, rose vividly
before me, and though I had accustomed myself to society again for a
very short time, I now felt very lonely, and reproached myself for
having ever consented to let Kreger ride a mule on this journey, when I
knew the great danger. That he had fallen a victim to this error there
could be no doubt; still I resolved to make certain of his fate.

Night set in; the fire had burnt low; Czar lay close to me, and I threw
myself over his neck, patting him for his pluck and fidelity: he was
very tired, and frequently gave a sigh, nor did he stir the whole night
through. I remained awake till near morning, and although I dozed now
and then, I was soon aroused by the hoot of an owl, the yell of a wolf,
or the mournful cry of a panther, and I then listened to the sound of
every falling leaf and every leaping squirrel. The night was cool too,
the ground under me rather damp, and the dew very heavy, so that I
really awaited daylight with longing. Czar, however, would not get up,
and I let him lie, for I knew that he needed rest, and I might very
possibly be obliged to trust to his powers during the day. I had drunk a
cup of coffee, and eaten a slice of venison by the time my faithful
comrade rose. I led him down to the water, and saw a number of turkeys
taking their morning draught at the river side, but dared not fire for
fear of betraying myself. It was about ten o'clock when I started down
the stream again to find a convenient ford. The forest grew thinner, the
shores flatter, and I soon found a deeply-trampled buffalo path which
conveyed me without difficulty across the river, for though it was very
wide it was quite shallow. Within half an hour I was again on the same
prairie where Czar had saved me yesterday, and where the poor botanist
had probably met his fate. I cautiously examined the whole plain with my
glass, and could not see anything except a few herds of buffalo, and a
number of deer grazing carelessly among them. I rode up the forest side
to the path, where I found my previous trail, which was crossed by later
hoofmarks, and then proceeded cautiously in the direction of the spot
where I had left my companion.

While still a long way off, I saw the fearful sight before me. The sun
lit up his bloody corpse stretched out on the grass. I rode up to him,
and found that he was lying on his back, without his scalp, and covered
all over with lance and arrow wounds. None of his clothing had been left
him; the only things I found were my destroyed pistols and
double-barrelled gun, from which I removed the locks; even the
blotting-paper had been taken, though for what purpose was a mystery. I
would have gladly dragged the body to the wood and buried it, but the
distance was too great to do so without help. I therefore bade him a
silent farewell, and turned my horse to the ford where I had crossed the
river that morning.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VII.

A LONELY RIDE.


My route led me from here through a very fine country, consisting of
undulating plateaux, covered with splendid mosquito grass, and
picturesquely broken up by post oaks; here and there a single conical
mound, whose top was covered with a thicket, rose some hundred feet from
the plain. It was still early in the evening when I neared one of these
mounds, and let my horse refresh itself in a rippling stream at its
base. The stream came straight down from the thicket on the mound, and
the spot pleased me so well, that I resolved to pass the night there. I
rode up the hill to the wood, whose tall trees chiefly consisted of holm
oaks, with a thick undergrowth of rhododendra and azaleas. A creeping
bignonia was remarkably beautiful as it clambered to the tops of the
trees and spread over them its scented blossoms like a shower of fire.
The shady green of this wood was relieved by flowers of the most varied
hues, one of which I can still remember that is rightly called "the
traveller's delight." The flowers of this plant hang in clusters two
feet long, rivalling the purest blue of the sky above them, and greet
the approaching traveller with a perfume which the fabled East could not
surpass. The sources of the stream welled up in the centre of the copse,
and were girdled by beds of flowers which, as regards colour and form,
could not have been better arranged by an artist.

Here I encamped and hobbled Czar, who mercilessly plucked many a
beautiful flower and champed it between his teeth with the tender grass.
I then took my rifle in order to see whether there was any dangerous
animal in the wood, which was about a thousand yards in diameter. I had
crept through it and met nothing except a few old does that had their
fawns hidden here, and when I stepped out on to the prairie I saw a herd
of large male antelopes grazing about a thousand yards from me. This
graceful animal, though frequent in our parts, is rarely killed by the
sportsman, for it is the most shy of animals. Great curiosity alone
brings it at times in the vicinity of the watching gun, and hence I
tried to attract the bucks grazing ahead of me. I chose a spot covered
with rather tall grass, lay down on it with my cocked rifle by my side,
but drew my ramrod out and fastened my handkerchief to it. I then
whistled so loudly that the sound reached the antelopes. All looked
round towards me at once, and I raised one foot in the air and lowered
it again a minute after. I saw that they had noticed it and were leaping
about; I then raised the pocket-handkerchief and lowered it again, upon
which the herd got in motion, led by one of the largest bucks. They came
near me in a large circle, but I continued my telegraphic motions till
the antelopes, urged by their fatal curiosity, came within shot, and
their leader fell bleeding among the flowers, giving the flying herd a
sad parting glance with its large beauteous eyes. I jumped up and fired
my second barrel after the fugitives. Clap! I heard the bullet enter the
mark, and another buck fell on the grass after a few more bounds.

Hunting is the most cruel sport to which a man can devote himself; I
repented of my second shot, for I could make no use of the animal, as a
few pounds of the meat amply satisfied my wants. The charm lay solely in
the query, "Can you hit or not?" If this doubt be removed, it is all
over with the passion, and no one would go out sporting for the
pleasure. I must naturally see where the animals were hit, for that is
the real enjoyment to know how near you have gone to the right spot, and
hence I walked up to the bucks to choose the best of the meat for my
consumption at the same time. The one first shot was the plumpest, and
carried a pair of large beautiful horns which I regretted I could not
take with me. The antelopes do not shed their horns like stags; they are
formed more like goat's horns, and annually grow further out of the
head: they are brown and bent back at the point like chamois horns. The
form of the antelope much resembles that of the deer, but it is rather
lighter on the legs and of a brighter hue; its weight does not exceed
120 lbs. The eye of this graceful creature is certainly one of the
loveliest that nature has given to any of her creatures, and I have
often turned away from the look of a dying antelope because I could not
endure the reproach that it expressed.

I cut off the best lumps of game and went back to the dark shade, in
which Czar greeted me with a whinny of delight, and rested on my
horse-rug, refreshed by the delicious perfumes of hyacinths, jonquils,
daffodils, and narcissuses, that surrounded me. The night was warm, and
I required no fire after I had finished supper. I slept splendidly, with
Czar at my side, and the sun was high when I awoke, to find my horse
browzing on the grass within reach of his tether. I washed Czar clean,
which I never neglected when I had the chance, and rode out of my arbour
down the side of the hill, whence I could survey the country before me
for many miles.

A glorious picture was spread out. The sun was not very high yet, so
that the shadows over the landscape were rather long, and the light mist
gave the distance that reddish-blue tone which renders a landscape with
a rich bold foreground so exquisite. I remained for some time at the
spot, examining the road to the hills whither I was going, but which
were still too far for me to reach them on this day. Up to these blue
mountains the ground appeared to be much the same as I had ridden over
yesterday; rich in arable land, supplied with the most luxuriant
pastures and abundance of wood, and watered by magnificent streams. This
earthly paradise awaited men to raise the unlimited treasures which it
promised to bestow so bountifully. It was a saddening thought, that
these boundless plains were entirely uninhabited, for the nomadic
hordes of savages cannot be called such. From where I stood to the north
pole, with the exception of a few trading ports of the fur companies, no
white man had yet erected his cabin. Westward the enormous regions were
unpopulated almost to the Pacific, and even eastward the distance to the
first settlement was so great that I felt very solitary, and for the
first time was overpowered by a sort of yearning for the social life
which I had left in vexation. Still these feelings took no deep root in
my breast; they were soon driven away by the joys of hunting, which can
only be found in their full extent far away from the civilized world.

For two days I wandered through these gardens of nature without being
checked by any material obstacle. On the third day I reached the
mountains, and at evening found myself at the height where the limestone
leaves off and the red granite begins. To my surprise I saw a splendid
spring flowing from a narrow fissure in the granite, with sufficient
grass growing near it to give Czar his supper and breakfast. I stopped
here for the night, and had a glorious view from this stony height. The
misty blue outlines of the Rocky Mountains were only just visible;
between them and myself I looked down on the most fertile valleys, which
were begirt by lofty mountains. The precipice behind me was overgrown
with splendid cactuses, which were just opening their cups after sunset,
and diffusing their fragrance. The moon had risen; it illumined the
large snow-white clustering flowers of the yucca which grew in the rock
fissures, and spread over the whole scene a silvery light, which, though
inferior to that of the day in brightness, was far superior to it in
pleasantness.

It was a rather cool night, so that from time to time I made up my fire
with the dry wood of old mimosas, the only tree that finds nourishment
on these stony heights. Many of these grew round my fire, which when it
flared up, displayed the beautiful pink flowers with which these trees
are literally covered, so that the delicate pendulous leaves can scarce
be distinguished. Rarely did a sound disturb the surrounding silence;
now and then the yelp of a white wolf reached my ear through the cold
damp fog from the valley below me, or the hoot of an owl was repeated by
the echoes among the rocks.

Day awoke me from a refreshing sleep as the sun was gilding the summits
of the mountains that emerged from the sea of fog at my feet, round
which the large eagles were circling. Greatly invigorated, I bade adieu
to my pleasant resting-place, and led Czar over the rocks to the nearest
valley, which soon received us under its shady trees. I traversed the
valley for about two hours in a northern direction, following the course
of a clear stream which ran through, with a thousand windings, like a
mighty snake, and was framed in on both sides by thick bushes and old
overgrown trees.

About mid-day, as I was following one of these windings, I suddenly
found myself a few paces from a camp of Cato Indians, and a general
"ugh" reached my ear, as the men, about thirty in number, sprang up, and
we gazed at each other in surprise, watching for a signal of peace or
war. My presence of mind did not desert me; and knowing that these
savages, when they have their wives and children with them, prefer a
peaceful understanding, I waved a good morning to them with a pleasant
smile, and rode, holding my rifle and watching every movement of the
men, to the next bend in the river, while the savages looked after me
with open mouth, as if petrified. When I had got round a curve and was
protected by the bushes, my first idea was to give Czar the spur and
gallop away, but this would only have been a challenge to the Indians to
pursue me; hence I made him amble, as well as he could manage it in the
tall grass, and hastened to get out of this unpleasant company. It was
highly probable that the savages would follow me, if only to get hold of
my fine horse; hence I was obliged to calculate my next steps. I had but
the choice of two ways--either to throw out the savages by riding in
the water and on stony ground, where they could not follow my trail, and
then concealing myself at some easily defended spot--or else to ride
quickly away from them so far that they could not follow me on their
wretched horses. The former was difficult and dubious, as the Indian's
eye surpasses the nose of the best pointer, and hence I chose the other,
trusting to my horse's speed.

I cut off a slice of the antelope's leg, which was hanging on my saddle,
about enough for supper, and left the rest behind, not to give my horse
any unnecessary weight; then I set Czar at a sharp trot where the grass
was dry, and when I reached barren ground made him amble--a pace at
which he could do his mile in three minutes when put to it, though he
took eight minutes when not hurried, and could go on for hours without a
rest. I followed the course of the water, and at the end of some hours
reached a gorge where the river ran through perpendicular rocks, and
where my horse had scarce room to pass. I could see the water for nearly
two miles ahead; the current was wilder and swifter here, and on looking
down at its surface I noticed several spots where the water rippled and
foamed as it ran over rocks and stones. On both sides of the pass the
granite walls rose many hundred feet, so that it was impossible to scale
them; and though, farther to the right and left, buffalo paths ran up
them, the Indians must be well aware of this fact, and were probably
lying in ambush for me there, as they must have noticed from my course
that I was quite a stranger to the country. There was only one choice
for me, and I quickly made up my mind. I put my holsters over my
shoulder, placed in them those articles which must not be wetted, and
guided Czar into the river, in which he floated down with me at a
tremendous pace past the rock walls. I was not at all afraid about
swimming him for an hour; the sole danger of the undertaking consisted
in the large masses of rock over which the stream broke, and against
which we ran in less than ten minutes. The river bed was here rather
wider, and hence fortunately the stream not so violent, or else we
should probably both have found a watery grave. Czar raised himself by
his forefeet on the rock, which was not covered by more than a foot of
water, but his hind-quarters sank as he did so, for he found no bottom,
and the waves dashed over my saddle. The current had turned us against
the rock, when I pressed Czar with my thighs, and with a frightful
effort he worked his way along to the end of the rock, where I felt that
he had a footing, though it only consisted of a few boulders. I was
compelled to cross this dam, as I could not go back, and the uncertain
ground threatened every moment to bury us between its rocks. My horse,
first slipping off the smooth stones, and then leaping up again,
struggled in vain to find a footing in the rapid stream, and I saw that
any hesitation would be certain destruction. I therefore dug both spurs
into the flanks of my brave steed; he leaped desperately out of the
foaming waves, sprang on the rocks before us, and scrambled over them
into the river on the other side, where he sank up to the nostrils, and
the waves met over my head. My alarm lest Czar had injured himself was
alleviated by his speedy return to the surface, and as he blew the water
from his nostrils we followed the stream to a wall of rock, where I
noticed that the water was calm at the right hand end. I steered for
this point, and we swam unimpeded through this channel into the deep
water till the valley opened again before us, and my brave horse trod on
the sand. I led him into the grass, examined him carefully, and found
that he was slightly grazed on the near foreleg and the knee, but this
caused me no apprehension. I let him rest in the shade for half an hour,
as he was greatly excited, gave him all the white sugar I had brought
expressly for him, and which was now wet, and then continued my journey
along the river, as the grass, which must have been burnt here late in
winter, and the fresh grown crop had not yet sprung up, did not impede
Czar's speed.

The valley constantly grew wider, and trended to the west. I left it at
about 6 P.M., and followed a stream which ran from the north. Going
along it till nightfall, I reached its source in the mountains, and was
at least forty miles from the Indians, when I unsaddled Czar, and
hobbled him in the soft grass. I felt quite secure here, for I was no
longer frightened about pursuit by the Catos, and it was not probable
that accident would lead other Indians here at so late an hour, when
they never march except for some special reason. My bivouac was in the
only coppice far and wide, in which the springs bubbled up at the foot
of a very tall cypress. All around me was a glorious meadow, and,
further north, rose barren rocks, on which only a mimosa, a yucca, and
varieties of brambles and cactus grew. Czar was tired, and soon came to
me, holding up his hobbled leg, begging me to set him at liberty; and
when I had thrown the lasso over his neck, he stretched his delicate
limbs on the grass. I too fell back on my saddle, and slept so soundly
till morning, that I did not once look after the fire, and on waking did
not find a spark among the ashes. It was soon lighted again and
breakfast prepared, before which I had a bathe in the spring. Then I lit
a pipe, washed Czar all over, and left the well-head, going toward the
mountains in the north.

The road was so steep and fatiguing that I dismounted; still, I seemed
to be on a path at times trodden by buffaloes, which was continued when
I reached the top, where a wide tableland covered with rich vegetation
was expanded before me. This plain, only interrupted by a few hillocks,
was about twenty miles in diameter: it was covered with very high grass
and small patches of mosquito trees, elms, dwarf oaks, and yuccas. The
ground was quite black and very rich, and this earth was in some places
fifteen feet deep, as I could see by the numerous channels cut by rain
storms. I did not see a trace of spring water. This country is entirely
dependent on the rains, which are frequent in these mountains, as well
as the peculiar nature of the soil, which long resists evaporation of
the humidity. On all sides I saw herds of grazing buffalo, but, though
my mouth watered for a slice of hump and a marrow bone, I did not like
to distress my horse, or go too far away from him while stalking. More
antelopes were feeding here together than I had ever seen, and the same
was the case with deer. I rode quietly on through the tall grass,
resolved only to shoot some animal I could ride up to, and succeeded in
doing so toward evening, when I saw something dark moving in the grass,
which I recognised as a black wolf. In a second I was off Czar's back,
as I should be very glad of such a skin, and was just about to fire,
when I saw, on the other side of a ditch I had not observed in the tall
grass, a very large bear running away. Owing to the high plants, I could
not fire, and, forgetting my former resolution, I leapt on Czar's back,
and flew after the fat fellow. His road led through a number of low
mosquito trees, so that I was obliged to bend down over my horse's neck
to escape being caught in the branches. I was close to the bear, but it
coursed so rapidly under the branches, that I could not give it a shot
from my revolver. At length we emerged from the trees, and I flew a few
yards after the bear, when suddenly Czar made such a leap to the right,
that I must have been thrown, had it not been for the heavy holsters
that kept me on. I turned the horse round again, and then noticed that
the bear had disappeared in a gap before me; and on drawing near, I
found a _cañon_, going down a hundred feet sheer, and about twenty feet
wide at this part. It was a gully washed out by the rain, which I had
not observed owing to the tall grass. I dismounted, and walked to the
spot where the bear had disappeared: saw that the bushes had been
uprooted about thirty feet lower down, but could not discover a trace of
the bear. What I had been told by old hunters now appeared to me
probable--that a bear will, in a case of need, put its head between its
legs, and roll like a ball from some height, without hurting itself;
which can be explained by the remarkable elasticity of its bones, and
the thickness of the fat over its body, I owed it solely to the agility
of my horse, that I had not followed the bear down the precipice, and I
willingly resigned the delicate ribs which, in imagination, I had seen
roasting at my camp fire.

I continued my journey over the grassy plateau. The sun poured its last
vertical beams on the dry soil, which was intersected by deep cracks a
foot in breadth. This bursting of the ground during great heat is very
common on plateaux where the earth is very rich, and often endangers the
rider, as the fissures, being covered by the long grass, are difficult
to detect. There was not a breath of air; my horse became very warm, and
looked in vain for water in the deep dry ditches. I also pined for a
fresh draught, for the water in my pouch had become quite warm, and Czar
could not swallow it when I poured some into his mouth. My horse rug was
so hot that I was hardly able to sit on it, and the barrels of my rifle
almost blistered my hand. I stopped several times in the shade of an
isolated tree to draw a little breath, but this did not advance my
journey, and I could not possibly spend the night here without water.
How far I still had to ride to the next stream I did not know, but I was
aware that I might travel for days in these mountains without finding a
spring or a stream. The sun was on my left hand when I reached the end
of this plateau, but, instead of perceiving the longed-for sign of
water, a poplar tree, I saw before me almost impassable hills covered
with loose stones, that rose behind one another like sugar-loaves. I
could only reckon on an hour's daylight, and it was highly probable that
I should have to pass an unpleasant night. So far as I could see
northward, the hills were piled on each other, without offering a
prospect of water, hence I turned my horse westward, on the chance of
reaching the valley which ran along parallel with the plateau. I was
obliged to dismount, for in the hollows between the hills the torrents
had torn deep ravines in which old trees washed down were piled up and
became very dangerous to pass. The rocks over which I wearily climbed
were red hot and burnt my feet, and at the same time I suffered
intolerable thirst. I had shared the last water in my flask with Czar.
My mouth was very dry and my tongue clove to the palate. In vain I
looked from every height I reached for the longed-for sign, and wandered
up hill and down, till the sun sank behind the distant blue mountains,
and the first shadows of night spread over the land. I had passed over
several hills in this manner, when I saw a valley before me in the
twilight which I greeted with renewed hopes, but the darkness set in so
rapidly, that I was unable to continue my journey. Feeling quite knocked
up, I threw myself on the warm rocks, holding Czar by the rein, to wait
for the rising moon. The sky behind me grew more and more red; the
anxiously awaited light rose slowly about the hills, and looked down on
the deadly silence that was spread over the whole landscape.

I had rested about an hour ere it grew light enough to continue my
journey, and I soon reached the plain, where unfortunately the grass
grew very high. I was obliged to mount my horse again, for it was
impossible to walk through the grass; and though I was very sorry to do
it, I urged the poor creature on, while he continually strove, by
hanging his head and shaking his neck, to make me understand it was high
time to go to rest. I had continued my journey for two hours without
stopping, when the grass grew shorter, my horse every now and then
stepped on stones, and I saw a tree or two again. I had probably passed
the lowest part of the valley, and as I had found no water in it, there
was no prospect of doing so at a greater elevation. I was awfully tired
and sleepy, and my horse was quite as bad; I therefore unsaddled under
an elm, fastened Czar to the tree by his long lasso, and in ten minutes
I was dreaming of cool crystalline water; but for all that woke at
daybreak exhausted and feverish, and to my horror missed my horse.

I sprang up, surveyed the wide plain, and who can describe my delight
when I saw Czar's white coat shining a few hundred yards off over a
small mimosa bush, behind which he was enjoying the fresh grass in a
hollow. The knot of the lasso had come undone, and thus Czar had been
able to look about for more agreeable fodder. I led him nearer my
bivouac, and was just going to light my fire, when I saw smoke rising in
the west, about three miles from me. I quickly pocketed my flint and
steel, saddled, and rode toward the highest part of the ridge which
divided the valley in half. When I had nearly reached the top I
dismounted and crawled to the highest point, whence I surveyed the
valley, and observed an Indian camp, round which some three hundred
horses and mules were grazing. I saw through the grass that the various
families were sitting at the fires in front of their leathern tents,
with the exception of a few children that were playing about. The camp
was on the other side of a stream which wound through the valley from
the north. Though I longed so for water, I must avoid the neighbourhood
of these savages, who might prove very dangerous to me in such an
unknown and desolate country. I rode back through the valley in which I
had spent the night, and into the mountains on its eastern side; for, if
I had followed the valley to reach the river, I must have been noticed
by the Indians on my white horse. The road was tiring, as I was
frequently obliged to walk, and the heat on these barren hills soon
rendered my thirst intolerable.

It was midday when I with a firm resolution to ride to the water, cost
what it might, guided my horse down a ravine, and suddenly saw before me
the fresh verdure of plants which only grow at very damp spots, under a
heap of dry piled-up trees, among which a number of turkeys were
running; I forgot the Indians and the risk, shot two old gobblers, and
threw myself between the tall ferns, over the cold springs that welled
up among them, in order to quench my fearful thirst. I lay for nearly
half-an-hour, ate a bit of biscuit, and as I could not fully quench my
thirst, continually applied to the spring. This was one of the most
glorious meals I ever enjoyed, and I believe that I would sooner have
defended myself against a whole tribe of Indians than leave this spot
unsatisfied. The shade here was not sufficient, however, and hence I
went a little lower down the stream with Czar and my two turkeys, where
I found a cooler resting-place under a group of elms and oaks. After
this hunger began to be felt, for, with the exception of a small slice
of antelope and a little biscuit, I had eaten nothing since the
preceding morning. I set to work on one of the turkeys, and spitted such
a quantity of the meat, fat and lean, that I was obliged to laugh at
myself. The exterior of the meat hardly began to get roasted ere I cut
it away. In the meanwhile, the coffee was getting ready and I concluded
my repast; after which I found great difficulty in keeping my eyes open.
I fetched Czar, who had also enjoyed himself, and fastened him to a
tree, took my rifle in my arms, and in a few minutes was fast asleep,
forgetting all the dangers that surrounded me.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VIII.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUED.


At about five o'clock I was awakened by the sun, whose oblique beams
were able to reach me through the trees. I felt refreshed and strong,
made Czar get up, saddled, and followed the stream, which led me to the
river I had seen in the morning. I approached the valley cautiously when
I rode out of the mountain gorge, and carefully surveyed it with my
glass, without finding a trace of the Indians anywhere. It was very
important for me to know whether they had gone up or down the river; the
latter was the more probable, because most of the buffalo herds I had
seen lately were going southward, and the savages, as a rule, follow
these animals. As the banks of the river were not high, I rode into it,
watered my horse, and without any difficulty reached the other side,
when I was soon on the path of the Indians, who had gone south, as I
expected. I rode up this trail northwards, in order, if possible, to
reach before sunset some stream coming from the mountains, as I would
not pass the night where I was, for it appeared to be a pass greatly
used by Indians, so that I ran greater danger here of meeting fresh
hordes than I did among the hills. I rode very quickly, and at sunset
turned into a narrow valley, bordered on either side by very lofty
precipices. For about two miles I followed the torrent which wound
through loose blocks of granite, and frequently could scarce get through
the tall ferns and reedy plants which grew between the wildly scattered
boulders. The gorge gradually became narrower and the granite walls
steeper, and in the twilight I saw the end of it no great distance from
me.

I had dismounted and was going with Czar round a block of granite,
when a large stag dashed past me from the end of the gorge, hardly fifty
yards off, and I distinctly saw another darker-coloured animal bounding
after it through the tall grass. In an instant the flying stag, with its
broad antlers thrown back, was twenty yards from me, and bounded over a
rock close by, while at the same moment a panther of enormous size
covered the track of the deer with its gigantic paws. It had scarce
touched the ground, however, ere the bullet from my rifle crashed
through its shoulder-blade, and the crack, echoing through the gorge,
thundered in its ears. The panther ran its head into the grass, while
its hind quarters flew up in the air, but at the next instant it rose
furiously in the grass, showing its dazzlingly white teeth and
stretching out its claws to leap on me. I held my rifle firmly to my
shoulder, and as the animal rose, fired at the white stripe under the
throat. The bullet passed through its breast, and rising on its hind
legs it turned a somersault and died with a furious kick. It was very
old, and had probably inhabited this tempting spot for many years, to
surprise the game that came here to drink at the spring, and enjoy the
fresh green pasturage. Eight feet long from the snout to the tail, the
prince of the valley lay stretched out before me, and round it the bones
of its victims were bleaching in the grass. I found above a dozen skulls
of deer and antelopes, all of which had a hole an inch wide in the top.
In addition to them, the skeletons of two buffaloes and an elk, and
countless bones of other animals glistened in the grass. I went up to
Czar who, probably recognising his foe, had run some hundred yards down
the valley, and was looking after me with his head up. I led him up to
the slain panther, but it needed much persuasion ere he would draw quite
close to this arch foe of his race. After making Czar stand by the
panther awhile, which I dragged about to remove his natural fear of the
creature, I led him to the end of the ravine where the ground was
covered with young tender grass, unsaddled him, and laid my traps under
the evergreen oaks, in order to prepare my camp.

[Illustration: FACE TO FACE. _p. 67._]

As the darkness had greatly increased I ran back to the panther,
fastened the lasso round its neck, and dragged it to my camping-place,
intending to skin it in the morning. I lit the fire, prepared supper,
and lay down on my horse-rug, every now and then turning the spit or
piling up the sticks round the coffee pot. The fire flared brightly, and
produced a peculiarly beautiful illumination on the thick foliage of the
oaks and the projecting shadow of the high reddish rocks, whose fissures
and crevices appeared all the blacker in consequence. The russet moon
was still low on the very dark sky, it peered into the ravine from the
east, and did not spread sufficient light to overpower my fire.

While I was observing this pretty scene I noticed a light spot under the
rock which was lit up by the fire. I took it at first for a buffalo
skull, but drew a brand from the fire and crept under the low-branched
oaks to make certain what it was. I held the brand over it, and saw a
human skull grinning at me out of the damp dark background, and carried
it to the fire. From its shape it was the skull of a Weico with a low
forehead, and strong thick high back part: judging from the fine,
slightly worn teeth it must have belonged to quite a young man, who
probably fancied he had found a safe resting-place here, and carelessly
yielding to sleep had fallen a victim to the panther, for the marks of
teeth were quite distinct upon it. I kept up the fire during the whole
night, which did not disturb my rest, as I had grown into the habit of
waking up every hour to see all was right and going to sleep again. If
it can be managed, as was the case here, the hunter chooses a large
fallen tree, and makes his fire close against it with small wood, so
that the trunk may catch. This smoulders during the whole of the night,
and the fire can easily be made to blaze at any time by throwing on
brushwood. The night passed without the slightest disturbance, and at
dawn I skinned my panther, which had a great number of scars,
principally arrow and lance wounds, as it seemed. After cleaning the
skin from all fleshy particles, I spread it out to dry at the fire,
while I bathed and swallowed my breakfast. I sought all round the
bivouac for weapons or other articles belonging to the dead man, but
found none, and as the sun was already high I set out on my wanderings
again.

Just as I reached the entrance of the gorge I saw a herd of seven
buffalo bulls grazing. In a second I leaped off Czar and ran from stone
to stone, till I got within ten yards of the shaggy monsters, from which
I was only separated by a large rock. I crept under this on the ground,
till I had the buffaloes before me; the nearest one stood motionless,
with its broad, hairy forehead turned toward me, and I aimed at the
centre of it, although I had often tried in vain to kill a buffalo by a
shot through the head. This time, however, the bullet did its work, and
the other bulls fled round the rock toward the valley. As the fat
buffalo would supply me with food for several days, I fetched my horse,
took the axe hanging from the saddle, and set to work cutting out the
sirloin, while Czar grazed by my side and now and then licked up the
blood. It is very difficult for a novice to cut up a buffalo, for the
hide is remarkably hard and elastic, and sits very close to the flesh,
while any attempt to turn the carcase about is hopeless. We may fairly
say that a novice in these countries, if what the practitioners call a
"greenhorn," would starve with a dead buffalo, if he had not some one to
show him how to cut pieces off it. I thrust my sharp bowie knife between
the ribs close behind the shoulder blade, ran it up along the spine and
down again to the chest, then in the same way separated the two last
ribs from the spine, and made a cut under the belly to the end of the
first cut. I then hacked the ribs with the axe, lifted the entire side
up, which broke the hacked ribs, and thus opened the interior of the
animal, like lifting a trap door. The entrails were removed without much
difficulty, and the two enormous loins under the spine cut out. I
removed a piece of the hide from the hump, in order to secure a part of
the streaky meat; cut out the tongue between the jaws, as I could not
think of opening the mouth, took two marrow bones, and left the
remaining 1400 lbs. of meat for the wolves and buzzards. All these
dainties were hung about my saddle, for the hotter the sun shines on
them the less does the meat putrefy. With a parting glance at the
ravine, I again struck the Indian trail, which I followed northwards up
the river.

At 2 P.M. I crossed the river, as it trended to the west, and followed a
beautiful valley, for some hours, to the north-east, where I did not
notice a single trace of horses or Indians, while the path I had
hitherto been following seemed to be exclusively made by nomadic
savages. The valley I now traversed rose gradually with the stream, and
seemed to form a plateau in the distance. It was covered with splendid
mosquito grass, which is only the case with the richest soil. This grass
never grows very high, but is very fine, and hangs in tresses like hair.
Horses are excessively fond of it, and grow fat on it in a very short
time. So far as I could see, the valley was covered with game of every
description, among which I noticed several moose deer, the first I had
seen on this tour. These animals are only found separately so far south,
while they form herds farther north, especially in the southern Rocky
Mountains. It is a deer of enormous size, reaching the weight of seven
or eight hundred pounds, the antlers spread very wide, and often weigh
as much as forty pounds. The flesh is not very toothsome, being hard and
fibrous, and is not eaten by the hunter when he can get any better. The
animal is not difficult to kill, for it is not very fast, and can be
caught up by a good horse; the Indians throw a lasso over it, and then
kill it with lances. For the time I was amply supplied with meat, and
hence felt no great longing for these animals, but let them graze at
peace. Like the other game here they were very familiar, and allowed me
to ride within shot, which was a further proof that this valley was
rarely visited by Indians. The country was well covered with stately
elms, poplars, mosquito trees, and mimosas (I call the last tree thus to
distinguish it from the mosquito tree, which is also a mimosa). Of
course, such specimens as grew on the Leone were not to be found here.
This valley will certainly in time be visited by settlers, for though
poor in wood, no better ground can be desired by cattle breeders.

At about six in the morning I reached a spot where two streams joined,
and I could not make sure of water further up the valley. Hence I
followed the eastern arm, and reached at sunset the hills bordering the
valley, between which I bivouacked, as I had everything I required. For
several days I continued to follow a northern course. The character of
the soil varied as before; the mountains had the same shape, were bare
at top, and covered with loose stones, between which a few low cactuses,
aloes, and torch weeds grew. I also rode over a good deal of tableland,
but got away from it as soon as I could, for through the entire want of
water the ground here grows very hot, and you are thoroughly roasted.

I found the grass on the prairie not very high, which made it easier
going for my horse, but more difficult for me to approach the game,
which appeared remarkably shy and restless. My stock of meat was
exhausted, and I ate my biscuit and salt tongue as rarely as possible,
so as to have food by me in case of need. I dared not ride down the
buffalo, as my white horse could be easily distinguished from the
uplands, and I must spare his strength. Nor did I care to go far from
Czar afoot, as a single foot Indian might easily be hidden in the grass,
and reach him more quickly than I could. Hence I deferred my chase till
I reached the woods that rose ahead of me.

I rode over the rolling prairie till, on emerging from a hollow, I saw
three very plump old deer grazing not far from me behind a few low
mosquito bushes. I sprang off Czar, hobbled him, and crawled on my
stomach through the grass towards the deer, dragging my rifle after me.
Although I had got within shot, I wished to advance a few more yards in
order to reach a hollow where I should be able to kneel and fire. On
reaching it I pulled my rifle after me, and was just about to fire when
a monstrous rattlesnake glided away from under my hand. I sprang up in
terror, watched it darting through the grass with head erect, and away
fled my deer over the prairie, and I had had all my trouble for nothing.

Though rattlesnakes are so numerous in these regions the sudden
announcement of their vicinity through the movement of the rattles is a
most unpleasant surprise, which never failed to produce a painful
impression on my nerves. The whole south-west of America is troubled
with these and other snakes, but accidents through their poisonous bite
are rare. In spring and autumn, when the heat is not great, the bite of
a rattlesnake rarely kills, and only in cases when a large artery is
injured. If that be not the case, it only produces a soft swelling,
which soon disappears again, only leaving a want of sensitiveness for a
few days. In summer, however, when the heat attains its acmé, such a
bite is more dangerous, and curatives cannot be employed too quickly.
Cutting out to the seat of the wound without a moment's loss of time is
the most certain remedy. Salammoniac, which has so often been
recommended, is not of the slightest use; but sometimes a cure is
effected by rubbing the wound with oil or lard, or by a poultice of the
leaves of the large burr, which is so often entangled in the hair of
domestic animals. The most infallible specific, however, is a bulb known
to all the borderers by the name of "Seneca root." It has a leek-green
leaf a foot long with a few brown spots. It is chewed into a pulp, which
is laid on the wound and a small portion of the juice is swallowed; ere
long the pain is reduced, the fever disappears, and the swelling ceases.
This bulb may be carried about for years without losing its virtue.
Moreover, all these snakes shun man, and it is only when they are
startled by his sudden approach that they dart at the limb nearest to
them. The rattlesnake rarely exceeds eight to ten feet in length, but
the royal variety is somewhat larger, much more poisonous, and marked
with the most brilliant colours. Other poisonous snakes found in our
parts are the brown and black moccassin, which lives both on land and in
the water, and the copperhead, a small but very venomous snake. When I
settled on the Leone, these snakes were so numerous that after sunset I
did not dare let my horse walk along a buffalo path, because they used
to come out and cool themselves there. But as my swine increased in
number, they gradually disappeared, for the former are exceedingly fond
of eating them, and are not hurt by their bite.

I was very much annoyed: sent some strong language after the snake, and
returned to my horse, who had been taking advantage of his rest in the
long grass. I took off his hobble, and rode toward the forest, which
seemed inviting me to enter its friendly shade. It was midday when I
reached the wood, thirsting for a fresh drink. I hung my hat on the
saddle, and greedily inhaled the cool breeze that blew through the
majestic trees, and then followed on foot a buffalo path, which wound
between the bushes. It led me to a clear stream, which poured over loose
masses of stone, between rather high banks. I let Czar glide down, for
the path was very steep; watered him, and made him leap up the other
bank: then I filled my gourd, and quenched my thirst with the cold
water.

I was just going to remount, when I heard the sound of a herd of
peccaries or Mexican swine coming toward me, probably in search of
water. As the undergrowth was not very dense on the side of the stream,
I was able to see them coming for some distance. There were about twenty
old pigs, with a lot of sucklings; they ran very slowly, and I had time
to pick out a fat boar. I shot it; sprang on my horse at once, and, as I
expected, found the whole herd dash furiously after me. I had room
before me, and dashed through them into the forest. They did not follow
me, and I granted them time to bid adieu to their fallen comrade, while
I led Czar into the wild oats which grew luxuriantly here. In a quarter
of an hour I rode back to my game. The herd had retired; and I at once
cut away the musk gland which the boar had on its back, of the size of
an egg: for if I had allowed it to grow cold it would have been
impossible to eat the meat, owing to the powerful musky taste. The boar
weighed about fifty pounds; I cut off the best joints, and took one of
the tusks as a souvenir, on account of its remarkable length. The
peccari is very frequently met in the western mountains of America, and
often in herds of a hundred head. It has a handsome, silver-grey,
long-haired skin, an enormous head for its size with tremendous tusks,
and is remarkable for its extraordinary courage. If disturbed, it will
attack a man as soon as a horse or a tiger, and is very dangerous
through its agility, strength, and tusks five inches long. I have known
a hunter to be attacked by a herd, and forced to take shelter up a tree,
where he remained the whole night till the herd retired.

I rode for about two miles along the skirt of the next forest I came to
without finding a buffalo path; and yet the forest was so densely
overgrown with thorns and brambles that I could not enter it without a
path. At length I found one, which had been probably trodden for
centuries by millions of buffaloes. I followed it into the wood, and
soon reached a small river, whose steep banks were about eight feet
high. Here I refreshed my horse and myself, and followed the path on the
opposite side, where the forest grew clearer, and I soon caught a
glimpse of the prairie. The bushes and a few isolated trees ran for some
distance out into the prairie. I dismounted and led my horse to the last
bushes, in order to survey the plain ere I entrusted myself to it, and
because I was undecided whether I would not bivouac here. I had advanced
to the furthermost bushes, which were brightly illumined by the western
sun, and I found the prairie was populated by a few deer and buffaloes,
whose evident watchfulness and restlessness I could not ascribe to my
appearance. I looked down the wood to the rocks, and to my terror, saw
close under them on the prairie a war-party of about a hundred and fifty
Indians, who were riding towards the forest one behind the other. I
sprang in front of my horse, in order to cover its bright chest, and
hurriedly raised my telescope. They were Lepans. I knew them by their
plumed lances, gaily-decorated shields, and fine horses; for these
Indians are the best mounted and most warlike on the western steppes. I
stood as if petrified, for fear lest they might see a movement on my
part, while I held Czar by the rein. They had not yet seen me, for they
rode past, and drew close to the wood: a few yards farther and they
would have been out of sight, and the danger momentarily passed.
Suddenly, however, the whole party halted, and pointed toward me. I had
been seen, there could be no doubt of the fact; for I noticed through my
glass that they were holding their hands over their eyes to have a
better look at me. There was not a mile between us; my horse had been
travelling all day. The wood was very narrow, and the path leading
through it very broad. I was aware of the courage of these Lepans, and
saw no salvation save in the endurance of my horse. With one leap I was
on his back; threw away the flesh and darted into the wood, with the
whole band of savages after me like a whirlwind. The river made a number
of bends, which I was compelled to follow. The Indians' horses were
extremely swift; this was the first time I had ever known any horses
keep up with mine. But I had not yet called on Czar: I now drove the
spurs into him and let go the reins. I flew round the next corner, and
then round the next, ere the Indians reached the first, which was a good
mile behind. At this moment I saw that the river bank was covered for
the next half mile with loose pebbles. I turned Czar round, and leapt
him down the eight-foot bank into the river, whose bottom, composed, of
soft sand and shallow water, he reached without injury. I then galloped
up the stream in the direction I had just come, covered by the tall
bank, and the wood between it and the prairie, calculating that the
Indians would not miss my track among the loose stones, but would gallop
through them to the next angle of the wood, which would give me a grand
start. I remained at a gallop for about a hundred yards, so that the
water met over my head, until I reached a deeper spot, where Czar was
obliged to swim for a short distance. At this moment I heard the savage
horde dash past, and the war yell of these unchained demons echoing
through the forest! Probably the short extent of deep water saved me,
for at this spot only a few thin bushes grew on the bank, and though the
savages were some distance off, they would infallibly have noticed the
water being dashed up by Czar. I again reached a firm bottom, and
followed the stream as quickly as I could; while the yells of the
Indians were audible a long way behind me.

I was beginning to feel more secure, when my progress was impeded by
large masses of rock, between which the shallow water rippled. I leapt
on one of these blocks, and gave Czar a gentle pull to follow me: he
sprang up, clambered across, and reached without injury a good sandy
bottom on the other side. I hurried down the stream--partly swimming,
partly climbing--till I saw the lofty rocks on my right through the
forest, and hence knew that I was below the spot where the Lepans had
halted when they first sighted me. I still followed the stream, although
the water came up to my horse's girths; but it suddenly made a curve,
and ran close past the rocks, at a spot where they opened like a narrow
gateway, leaving a passage for a rivulet that flowed from the interior.
The entrance through the granite walls was not more than thirty feet
wide, and the gorge about a hundred feet deep, beyond which was a
beautiful little valley enclosed by the rocks, about a mile in length,
through which the stream rippled.

I rode up the rivulet; on both sides of which the most exquisite
flowers grew. Among them I specially noticed a sort of tiger lily, not
only through the brilliancy of its hues, but the masses that covered the
banks, so that the ravine seemed to be strewn with live coals. Sitting
down on a rock at the entrance, I listened, but did not hear a sound of
my pursuers. The rippling of the stream alone interrupted the silence,
and only at intervals did the shrill cry of the white-headed eagle rise
above it. That the Lepans had overridden my trail was certain; but it
was equally certain that they would ride back when they noticed their
error, and find my track; for my horse, in leaping into the stream, had
left distinct marks on the bank, and its track might also be followed in
the sandy bed. Moreover the banks were splashed with water, and that was
sufficient to show an Indian the road I had followed. Hence it was
certain that the savages could follow me, but doubtful whether they
would do it, as they might be sure that I should get under cover, when
my firearms would be very dangerous, and they would be unable to
surprise me. Hence it was far more likely--supposing that they attached
so much value to a white man's scalp or the possession of a fine horse,
as to interrupt the war-trail for some days--that they would guard the
prairies on both sides of the forest, as it was almost impossible for a
horseman to ride through the latter.

While I was thus weighing my situation I inspected my firearms, which
had got slightly wet; put on fresh caps, and was taking a look at my
water-tight powder-flask, when a yell echoed through the wood from the
east. I knew its meaning perfectly well: the Lepans had found my trail,
and were assembling for a consultation. At this sound all prospect of an
amicable arrangement departed, and I was determined, in the event of an
attack, on defending myself here, as in case of need I could always
escape down the stream.

All became silent again; evening spread her veil over the earth; the
silver herons and flamingoes uttered their hoarse cry as they flew
homewards; and the owl announced the setting in of night. The outlines
of the trees and rocks continually grew more indistinct, and it was time
to fetch up Czar, who was nibbling the tender grass along the stream. I
secured him with the lasso to a very large stone behind the rock on
which I was sitting, and threw before him an armful of grass and weeds,
which I picked. In the event of an attack from the river, he was
tolerably protected behind this rock, and he was close at hand if I
wanted to mount in a hurry. Though I regretted having to leave him
saddled through, the night, I only took the pistols out of the holsters
and laid by them by my side.

Suddenly a loud, long, lasting yell was raised, which, however, seemed
much farther off, and to come from the prairie on the south side of the
forest. Probably, the Lepans had found my trail through the prairie, but
it was a satisfactory sign to me that they had not attempted to follow
me along the river bed. In all other directions my hiding-place was
unassailable, unless there was a second entrance into the valley in my
rear, as was probable. It had already grown so dark, that I could not
distinguish my white horse from the rocks, although the stars shone
brilliantly above me. Before it was quite dark I sat down by the side of
Czar, to prevent him lying down. I grew very sleepy, but the yell of the
Indians still sounded too loudly in my ears for me to indulge in repose.
I tried to keep awake by smoking, which helped for a while; but smoking
in perfect darkness is no enjoyment; hence I soon grew tired of it, and
tried to keep awake by walking up and down. Czar, too, was tired of
standing; he stamped impatiently with his fore-feet, and tried the
strength of the lasso by tugging at it. At length, nature claimed her
dues, and I could not possibly keep awake any longer: I took off Czar's
load, laid it in the darkness against the stone to which he was secured,
spread out my rug, and lay down on it with my rifle on my arm. Czar was
not long in following my example, and tried as usual to have a roll
before going to sleep, which might have injured me or the saddle in the
darkness; hence I pressed his head to the ground, and we were both, ere
long, as soundly asleep as the rocks around us.

Day was scarce breaking when I started up and looked around me with a
disagreeable feeling of self-reproach: for how easily could an Indian
have crept up and done to me while asleep what all the whole tribe could
not effect while I was awake! Czar lay motionless, and I did not disturb
him, for it might easily happen that his strength alone could bear me
away in safety. I went out of the gorge and brought in some dry wood,
lit a fire and made coffee, being obliged to breakfast on my biscuits
and salt tongue, for the dainty lumps of pork I had cut yesterday had
probably served a wolf for supper. While I was breakfasting, my faithful
steed raised his head and rested it on my knee, that I might remove the
bridle which I had left on during the night. I did so; hobbled him out
in the grass, and then sat down again at my small fire, where I could
see along the river and up the valley behind me, whose steep granite
walls were just beginning to be illumined by the rising sun. In the
valley itself the fog still lay like a white veil, and only a few tall
trees raised their crowns above it. The stream by which I was sitting
was all aglow with its tiger lilies, with which the dazzling white of my
horse grazing among them formed a beautiful contrast. The mist in the
valley was dissipated, and revealed the rich vegetation which grew there
apart from the world. I remembered the fairy tales of childhood,--the
enchanted Princes and sleeping Princesses, the Palace of Glass, and the
Magic Valley,--and had they not been narrated before this continent was
known to Europeans, I should have believed that the fables had their
origin in this valley. I was very curious to learn whether there was
another entrance besides the one I commanded; for if not, it was very
possible that my hiding-place was unknown to the Indians, as the steep
hills around did not reveal that they concealed such a fairylike kingdom
in their interior.

[Illustration: AFTER A DAY'S SPORT. _p. 81._]

It was about nine o'clock when, after washing and saddling Czar, I rode
off to examine the secrets of the wonderful valley. I looked around at
the lofty walls of granite, but could not notice any other connexion
with the external world but the one through which I had come. The
valley, about a mile in diameter, was covered with a most luxuriant crop
of young grass and a number of clumps of trees and bushes, through which
the rivulet wound. It struck me as curious that I saw no game on such
rich pasturage, for, excepting a flock of turkeys, I had put up nothing,
although I had reached the centre. The turkeys were very shy, and ran
off when I dismounted to shoot one; but just as I was going to mount
again, an old cock came running up, and my bullet put a speedy end to
his existence. The report had hardly begun to echo through the rocks,
ere a swarm of aquatic birds of all sizes rose right in front of me like
flies in the sunshine; but, as I remained quietly seated on the grass,
reloading my rifle, they soon settled down again. I walked through the
bushes, and noticed a large pond with flat banks covered with all sorts
of gaily plumaged birds, among which herons and flamingoes occupied a
prominent place. The banks were literally covered with these birds, some
of which were standing sentry on one leg, while others were up to their
knees in the water and engaged in catching frogs. When I stepped out of
the bushes all the birds rose again, a portion seated themselves with
loud croaks on the nearest trees, while the rest rose in the air, and
proceeded in various directions to less disturbed regions. It now
appeared as if all the inhabitants of the valley had left it, and I was
not sorry at having secured a good meal, for my stomach was beginning to
complain about neglect. I hung the turkey on my saddle and rode to the
pond, whose banks were so trampled by the birds that not a single blade
of grass grew on them, but I noticed a great number of jaguar tracks,
some old, others quite recent. The animals to which these tracks
belonged must consequently live in the valley, as they would not
climb over the rocks and had not passed my night quarters. It was now
clear to me why this splendid pasture was so deserted and only visited
by birds, while hundreds of buffaloes and deer would have found abundant
food. I rode nearly round the valley, with a revolver in my hand, as I
expected at any moment to meet the landlord; but I did not see him, and
not a living creature remained in the valley but the few turkeys which
had probably strayed thither. I rode back to my bivouac, as it was
midday, and both myself and Czar felt hungry, and prepared a part of the
turkey for dinner, while Czar had a hearty feed of grass. When we had
finished our meal, I tied him up close to me under the overhanging rocks
where the sun did not fall on us. I threw wood on the fire, and lay down
to sleep to make up for the last night's lost rest. The sun was hardly
illumining the tops of the eastern mountains of the valley when I awoke
invigorated, and led my horse out into the grass again.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER IX.

HOMEWARD BOUND.


I had already made up my mind to spend the night here, so I got about my
supper at an early hour, and soon carried a good stock of wood to my
camp with which to keep up my fire during the night. I slept undisturbed
till daybreak, took a refreshing bath in the cold stream while my
breakfast was getting ready; then rode Czar into a deep spot, washed him
thoroughly, and was soon ready to leave this mysterious but so pleasant
spot, with the resolution to visit it again sooner or later.

My road led into the river again, on whose rippled surface the night
mist rolled along with the current. But on further reflection I saw how
many obstacles now stood in my way. The current was very powerful, and
the waves broke against my horse's strong chest; the bottom, covered
with loose boulders, rendered its footsteps unsteady, and constantly put
it in danger of falling. At length I reached the bed of rocks which
blocked the entire breadth of the river, over which Czar had clambered
with such agility: it now seemed to me purely impossible that a horse
could achieve such a feat, although the marks of his shoes proved to me
the contrary, I would not venture, however, to make my horse leap it
again, but took my axe out of its sheath, entered the water, which was
shallow here, and cut away the creepers and bushes hanging over the
bank, and thus formed a much better path beneath them over a very few
large but flat stones. I led Czar across, and then slowly walked on,
constantly thrusting on one side the vines hanging with a length of
fifty feet over the water, in order to force myself through them.

After great exertions I at length reached the buffalo path by which I
had crossed the river on the previous day but one, and followed it again
to the skirt of the wood, but this time with greater caution. I left
Czar behind in the thick bushes and crept out alone to the edge of the
prairie, and examined the latter carefully with my glass. The grassy
expanse before me, far as I could see, was covered with countless
buffaloes and numerous deer, which were grazing quietly and carelessly,
and I recognised at a great distance a large troop of wild horses, which
must consist of several hundred. These were the surest signs that no
Indian had shown himself on this day upon the plain, so I returned to my
horse, and pursued my journey northward through this prairie.

In about an hour I drew near the horses, which were giving vent to their
playfulness by rearing, kicking, and galloping about. I rode along a
hollow under the hill, in order to get as near them as I could, in which
I perfectly succeeded as the wind was favourable. I rode to within a
short distance of them under the hill on which they were standing, when
Czar scented them, suddenly raised his head, and expressed his delight
at the friendly meeting by a loud snort. In an instant the troop dashed
up to greet the stranger. It was led by a coal black very powerful
stallion, whose mane, some five feet in length, flew wildly round his
broad neck. The thunder of their hoofs rolled along like a tempest
toward me, till we faced each other at a distance of about twenty paces.
The black stallion fell as if struck by lightning, and the nearest
horses fell upon him in the wildest confusion, while Czar gave them to
understand by a friendly whinny, that there was really no reason for
such fear. It was a wondrously beautiful sight, when these noble
powerful animals rose again and flew over the grassy sea, like smoke
before the blast, the black with wildly flying mane, flashing eyes, and
scarlet nostrils at their head. I looked after them for a long time, and
regretted that I could not risk leading a captured horse home, as I
could have easily thrown my lasso over the stallion. It is undoubtedly
one of the most exquisite sights to watch closely a troop of perfectly
wild horses in a state of excitement, especially on the western steppes,
where every breed is represented. These horses are originally descended
from those of the old Spaniards, who established a great number of
military colonies in these parts, each consisting of several hundred
men. These settlements, whose remains may still be found here and there,
were established in the richest districts, and, when necessary, strongly
fortified; maize was planted there, and silver, copper, and lead mines
opened.

I found in this country numerous relics of the old Spanish times; more
especially well-preserved dams in the rivers and water-courses, led
through large plantations which are now overgrown with grass. These were
employed to irrigate the country during a protracted drought, and thus
always secure an abundant harvest, which was a matter of great
importance to the settlers, as they were many hundred miles from
civilized Mexico, and thus it was impossible to obtain provisions
thence. The people were entirely left to themselves, produced their own
food, had a great quantity of cattle, and bred many horses and mules.
Even at that day, when these colonies were flourishing, it might now and
then occur that some of their horses bolted, and lived and propagated in
the glorious climate and on the rich prairies without the aid of man. At
a later date, however, more warlike Indian hordes poured from the north
over the south, which was inhabited by tribes held in subjection by the
invaders, and destroyed these remote Spanish outposts whose garrisons
they cut down and scalped. From this date, in all probability, came the
numerous troops of wild horses, now spread over the whole of Western
America; for the numerous horses of the military colonists were set at
liberty, and even at the present day the old Spanish horse, with its
long fine mane, small head, long neck, and hanging long tail can be
recognised. Since, however, eastern civilization has been advancing
toward the west, these troops have become crossed with all possible
breeds and not of the worst sort, for the men who risked their lives on
the border always spend their last farthing in taking a good horse with
them, in whose speed and bottom they could trust when they came in
contact with the savage Indian hordes.

From these border settlements, where the horses are necessarily turned
out to graze on the prairie, some frequently escaped, as they are
constantly surrounded by the wild horses. And every horse that has once
got among such a troop, bids an eternal farewell to captivity. Hence we
find among these animals the pure Arab blood, we recognise the clumsy
English cart horse, the pony, the thorough-bred, and the racer. In
short, there is such a display of every breed as no horse-fair in the
world is able to show. I especially noticed an enormous number of greys,
piebalds, and black horses among the troops; and that the differences of
colour are far more frequent among them than with trained horses. They
possess great speed for a short distance; for, on a lengthened race,
owing to their grass feeding, they cannot keep up with a horse fed on
corn, and hence they are often hunted down and captured by men mounted
on the latter. For this purpose, the lasso is employed, whose noose is
thrown over the horse's neck. So soon as the wild horse's neck is
squeezed it falls quivering on the ground, and the captor finds time to
place a halter or leathern thong round its neck. The noose is then
slightly loosened, and a trial is made whether it will follow the rider
by the halter. If it resists, the operation is repeated as often as is
necessary to make the animal understand that it must yield to captivity.
As a rule it follows soon; and can be easily tamed, especially when it
is not too old. If these horses are fed on maize for awhile, they grow
very strong and enduring. The fillies are the easiest to capture and
tame. You need only chase a manada for some miles, and the fillies fall
exhausted and do not rise again, and if they are raised on their legs
after recovery, they will immediately follow the ridden horse, as their
mares have disappeared with the troop.

These animals become as tame as dogs, and are of great value to the
borderer, as it costs nothing to rear them, and they can be put to any
work. For all that the wild horse is greatly detested in the vicinity of
a settlement, and many a noble brute has died there with a bullet in its
heart. The borderer cannot shut up his horses and mules in stables. They
must seek the food which nature offers them in such profusion, and hence
they have the gate of liberty always open; but they do not fly, because
they do not know what liberty is. But scarce do they see a troop of
their wild comrades dash past, ere they dart off too, never again to bow
their neck to the plough or the bit. They in such cases become the
wildest of the troop, and can always be recognised at its head. My black
stallion, whose wildly flowing mane I followed for a long distance over
the prairie, had, however, never yet bent his neck beneath the yoke of
man, for it displayed too fully the pride and strength which nature
imparts to liberty alone on its black curly forehead: these animals had
never seen the low roof, the simple palisade of a frontier house, and no
fugitive thence had ever complained to them about the fate he had
endured.

Czar was beside himself that he was not allowed to join in the race, and
tried for a long time to check the speed of the fugitives by his snorts;
he danced, threw his croupe from one side to the other, and furiously
tore at the bit, but it was all of no use, and serfdom still lay on his
broad neck, even though with rosy bonds.

The sun was rather low on the horizon when I found myself about five
miles from what seemed to be a very large forest, behind which rose the
mountains which I had noticed a few days previously in the azure
distance when I took my first glance at this valley. I leapt from my
horse, hobbled it, and crawled through the grass after two very old
stags, one of which was quietly grazing behind a fallen mosquito tree,
while the other, as if it had noticed something, thrust its thick neck
over the stump in my direction. I had left my hat with Czar in order to
attract less attention, and the sun shone hotly on my head; but what
will not a hunter readily endure if it enables him to draw nearer the
game? At length there were about one hundred yards between us, and I had
reached a small patch of flowering jalap trees which covered me. I
raised myself on one arm, and fired, aiming at the head. I saw that the
deer was hit close to the heart: it ran about fifty paces with its
comrade, and then fell dead.

After reloading, I rode up to the deer and laid in some days' supply of
meat, hung it on the saddle, and continued my journey to the forest,
which I entered about sunset by a very broad open buffalo path. I was
sure that the forest was traversed by a stream, and resolved to seek the
latter ere I selected my night quarters. I followed the path with my
rifle on the saddle-bow, when suddenly my horse gave a start, and a very
old bear entered the path hardly twenty yards ahead of me, stopped, and
with its head turned from me, began nibbling at the roots of a few small
bushes. It took scarce a moment to raise my rifle and pull the trigger,
and in the next I pulled Czar round, and rode for the prairie. On
looking round, however, I perceived that the bear had only sprung a few
yards after me, and was now half sitting, half lying on the path and
showing its savage teeth. When I slowly approached it, I noticed that
its fury was heightened with every step I took, and only its inability
to rise prevented it from attacking me. I, therefore, rode close up and
sent a second bullet through its head. It was a very heavy fat bear, and
I was really sorry that I could turn it to so little account.

Not very far from this spot I found the stream, and resolved to pass the
night on its bank, as the forest on the other side seemed very
extensive, and it was doubtful whether I should find there good
provender for my horse. I watered Czar, filled my bottle, and rode back
to the bear, from which I cut a paw, the tongue, and some ribs. I then
camped in the forest at a spot where the most splendid wild oats awaited
my horse. The paw was put to cook in the ashes for the next morning, but
the ribs were to make their appearance on the supper table. A roasted
bear's rib is indubitably one of the greatest dainties which the desert
can offer the hunter, and I enjoyed it the more because I had been
riding all day and had eaten nothing since my very early breakfast. A
man soon grows used to this mode of life, which is necessary in the case
of violent exertion in the hot sun, as it is very easy to bring on a
fever by riding with a full stomach.

The night was dark and rendered the light which my fire cast upon the
dark green roof above my head all the more attractive, while the giant
brightly illumined trunks looked like pillars supporting it. I lay on my
tiger skin and amused myself with counting the blood-red funnel-shaped
flowers of the bignonia, which swung in long drooping festoons from one
tree to the other, and, lit up by my fire, resembled so many red glass
lamps. Around me a number of whip-poor-wills strove to outvie each other
in uninterruptedly uttering their name, and frequently circled round my
fire. At the same time fire-flies and huge glow-worms glistened and
flashed in all the bushes, and the rustling of the adjoining stream
supplied the music for this Italian night. My eyes gradually closed, the
pictures of dreams became more and more blended with those of reality,
until a calm sleep fell on me to strengthen and refresh me.

Day was breaking when I opened my eyes, and the scene which had so
sweetly lulled me to sleep had faded away: the fire was out, and instead
of the glow-worms a grey mist lay over the bushes, the grass around me
was very damp and the bear's black hide was silvered over with dew. From
all sides the loud chuckling of the turkeys reached me, and I felt a
tickling in my forefinger to bend it upon one of these birds: but then
I looked at the mountain of flesh which lay before me and rested my
rifle again against the tree, and went to the fire to pull the paw out
of the ashes. The fire soon burnt brightly, and dispersed the cold damp
air around me; I put coffee on and a bear's rib before the fire, led
Czar to the stream and refreshed myself and him. Then I returned to the
fire, led my horse into the oats, and paid my respects to the bear's paw
and rib. The sun was also darting his rays through the trees, when I was
ready to start and rode through the stream towards the dense forest.

I rode for about three hours in this labyrinth, passing from one buffalo
path to another, until the ground began to grow more uneven, and here
and there large masses of rock rose between the trees. I dismounted, and
was leading my horse up a narrow path by the side of a great boulder,
when I suddenly saw, on raising my head, the entire forest literally
covered with wild cattle. I returned to the rock, as a meeting with
these most dangerous animals on an impracticable path like this was not
desirable, and hanging the bridle over a branch, I again ascended the
height in order to convince myself in what direction the cattle were
going. The herd passed me bound westward, and I am certain I saw over
300 head pass. These denizens of the desert are the most savage and
dangerous animals in Western America. Like the horses of the first
Spanish settlements they are runaways, and have now entirely returned
to a state of nature. You never see a spotted or black head among them:
they are all chestnut with black extremities, and a yellow stripe down
the back, and are more lightly and gracefully built than our cattle, and
as rapid as deer. They shun man, but when startled or excited, they
attack with the most frightful courage and obstinacy, and I would sooner
defend myself on foot with a bowie knife against a black bear than with
a rifle against a furious bull of this description. I remained for about
an hour behind the rock before the last of the herd had disappeared
between the trees, after which I rode across their deeply trampled path,
and soon found myself on the edge of the forest.

From this point gradually rose a bald desolate mountain range that ran
from east to west, and whose base was covered with bad grass and a few
scattered granitic rocks. These mountains, the San Saba, are spurs of
the Rocky Mountains, which I had already noticed from the elevation,
where the granite follows on the limestone. I might calculate on
wandering about there for weeks before again reaching watered valleys.
Hence I resolved to alter my course and go farther east, until I reached
the mountains which were the source of all the streams I had lately
crossed, and return home along their base.

On this side of the forest the soil was too bad to produce good grass,
hence I looked about for a buffalo path by which I could cross it again
in a southern direction. These eternally wandering buffaloes, however,
appeared to avoid the sterile mountains, and though here and there a
lightly trodden path entered the forest, it was not open enough to be
followed by a horseman. It was already noon, and I was still on the
outside of the forest, when I noticed a tolerably beaten path in an
angle where the forest jutted out farther into the mountains. I was very
glad of it. Indescribable was the feeling of comfort when I reached the
dense shade of the first trees: I threw my leathern jacket over the
saddle, hung my hat by its side, and followed the path which ran between
the rocks that rose among the trees and led deeper into the forest.

Suddenly a sound reached my ear resembling the fall of distant water,
and the nearer I drew the more distinct it became. It was possible that
the river here took a wide curve to the foot of the mountains, and I
greeted it with delight. I soon saw that I was not mistaken, for on
turning a large rock I stood close in front of a waterfall, which
aroused my admiration both through the peculiarity of its shape and the
refreshing coolness that it spread far and wide beneath the shady trees.
A powerful mountain torrent, about thirty yards wide, fell over an
immense rock twenty feet high, down upon another rock which had been
hollowed to a depth of about three feet by the water, which had fallen
on it for centuries and formed a basin, over whose front the agitated
foaming stream dashed at a height of about forty feet over widely
scattered masses of rocks and aged trees suspended between them, while
on either side enormously lofty trees laid their thick crowns together
over the roaring cataract and repulsed the inquisitive sunbeams. I soon
stripped Czar, and hobbled him, lit a small fire, put the coffee-pot on
it, and lay down on my blanket close to the fall in order to make a
sketch of it.

When I was sufficiently rested, I went up to the basin, undressed and
leapt into the foaming water. Never in my life have I found so glorious
a bathing-place as this, which nature appeared to have made for the
express purpose. The very cold waves dashed up to an immense height, and
it was hardly possible to stand under the cataract, while behind it I
was entirely shut off from the outer world as if I were in a palace of
crystal. I remained till about five o'clock at this Diana's bath, as I
christened it, and it is known by that name to all the hunters who have
since visited it. It was too early, however, for me to camp; hence I
mounted my horse and rode up once more to bid adieu to the cataract.

Far through the forest I was followed by the roaring of the fall, till
the rustling of the river I was approaching overpowered it. At about one
hour before sunset I reached the prairie at the southern end of the
forest, and until nightfall followed its skirt in an easterly direction
till I reached a spot where the stream emerged from it. I camped here
quite concealed, and on the next day rode eastward towards the
mountains. From this point I altered my course to the south, and rode
there for several days. One afternoon, when greatly troubled by thirst,
I reached a pleasant grass valley on which several mosquito trees grew;
a fresh stream wound through the verdant bottom, and a few deer were
grazing on either bank. I dismounted to refresh myself with the eagerly
desired draught and grant my horse a little rest. A very large deer was
standing over two hundred yards off, and staring intently at me. I was
well stocked with meat, but the query whether I could hit it led me away
as it had so often done, and while sitting on the bank I fired at it.
The deer bled, ran a short distance in a circle, and then fell lifeless
on the ground. After reloading I went up to it to fetch the fillet, and
while engaged in fastening it to my saddle I noticed two foot Indians,
one armed with a rifle, the other with bow and arrows, come out from
behind some bushes and advance some twenty yards before they caught
sight of me. I saw their terror and amazement, and that one of them
crossed his arms on his breast, and laid his arms on his shoulders,
which among them is a sign of friendship. I made them a signal to be
off, and assured them of my friendly sentiments in the same way. Upon
which they described a large circle round me, and escaped from sight a
long way down the stream. I felt convinced that several of their tribe
were hunting in the vicinity, as they must have heard my shot, and would
assuredly not have emerged so carelessly from behind the bushes had they
not believed it was fired by one of their comrades. I put Czar at a
sharp amble, as the grass was not high, and hurried down into the
valley, while carefully looking round in order to escape this menacing
place.

About sunset I reached another small stream, where I halted, lit a fire,
and prepared my supper, while Czar was enjoying his. Here I rested till
night had set in; then saddled again, filled my gourd, and rode on for
about five miles. Here I led my horse into a thicket which ran between
two steep hillocks, and remained in it during the night. It was very
probable that the Indians had informed their comrades of the presence of
a paleface, and that they had followed me to my camp-fire, but had been
unable to strike my trail in the darkness.

From this point my journey was for several days a most fatiguing and far
from pleasant one. I constantly went up and down barren, stony hills,
and found scarce grass enough to feed my horse; we also both suffered
from the want of water, which was the more perceptible on the bare,
heated rocks. I could only proceed short distances, as through the
constant marching on very hard stones Czar's feet were beginning to
swell, and though he was not lame, he put them down very gingerly. There
was certainly no lack of game, as I always met turkeys and deer in the
neighbourhood of water, and on such uneven ground it is very easy to
stalk the game. Although it may offend the feelings of the true
sportsman, I will confess that on this ride I shot several fawns for the
sake of their tender flesh: I also killed a very large jaguar, which I
attracted by imitating the cry of a complaining fawn. It leaped within
twenty yards of me ere it noticed me, but then stopped, and looked round
for its victim, swinging its long tail high up in the air. The bullet
went through its head and laid it dead. The Indians make a sort of
wooden pipe, which so admirably imitates the moan of a fawn, that every
old animal within a distance of a mile round comes dashing up, and is
startled neither by a horse nor its rider. I have seen instances where
old animals continued to advance after being missed two, three or four
times, till they lamentably fall victims to their maternal love. I
always carried such an instrument about me, as all the larger beasts of
prey can be easily attracted by it, such as bears, tigers, panthers,
wolves, lynxes, &c., and the beautifully-striped leopard cats, which are
very numerous about us, and are easily deceived by it.

I at length again reached the limestone region; but I must have been a
great deal too far east; for the mountain chain was much lower than at
the spot where I had crossed it. This view was soon confirmed when I
went down into the valley and found all the streams I crossed small and
insignificant. The country continually became more pleasant and rich,
the valleys grew broader, and the vegetation was more luxuriant than in
the desolate melancholy ravines I had been lately riding along. I daily
expected to see well-known mountains, and looked about more especially
for a very high point on a mountain chain which runs southward from
Turkey Creek to the Rio Grande, on which the Indians have built a
pyramid of large stones, either put up as a finger-post for the
wandering tribes, or as a border mark between the different
hunting-grounds.

One morning I had just left camp and was riding through an extensive
prairie, when I fancied I could recognise this landmark, and convinced
myself by the aid of my glass that I was not mistaken. I felt myself at
home again, although this point was a good day's journey from my house:
still, I knew in which direction my road lay, and eagerly went along it.
About noon I reached one of those most troublesome cactus woods, which
frequently run across the prairies. The present one ran like a wall for
miles across my path. There is no chance of riding through these
thickets, as the prickly plants grow closely together. Though they are
most disagreeable to the hunter, their appearance is most attractive to
the naturalist, through the brilliant colour of the cactus flowers, and
the peculiar shape of the plants. This obstacle led me a long way from
my route, as I was obliged to ride round it for several miles.

While I was riding close along this wall, still hoping to find a free
passage, I suddenly noticed a deer, about twenty yards off, poking its
head out of the prickles, and staring at me in surprise. I raised my
rifle--Czar stopped instantly--and fired at the head, as I could not see
any more of the deer. I could distinctly see through the smoke that the
bullet smashed the right side of the deer's head, and heard it dash away
a few yards, and then fall; but it was impossible to penetrate the
prickly wall for this short distance, and reach the deer. The cactuses
were here from sixteen to seventeen feet high, and so close together
that I could not go a foot into them. Hence I was obliged to give up the
deer, and was very glad on at length reaching a narrow glade which ran
through the wood.

Late at night I rode along the bank of a river, which I took for one of
the western arms of Turkey Creek, and was forced to halt and pass the
night here by the numerous rocks that rose from the tall grass and
ferns. The next morning I passed the spot where I crossed the river with
the unfortunate Kreger by means of the trunk of the tree, and at noon
reached the camp where the storm had treated us so ill. The revived
memory of the unhappy man was very painful to me, and I hurried from the
spot, in order to get rid of the blood-stained picture of the scalped
naturalist. I now came again into my own hunting-grounds, where nearly
every tree and shrub reminded me of a fine chase, and my desire for home
and my faithful Trusty urged me on. I rode late into the night, till I
reached at ten o'clock a camping-place, where I and Czar had often
stopped before. It was evident that the sensible creature recognised his
home, and again sought the same spot to rest where he had before
stretched his beautiful limbs.

When day broke, I rose from my blanket with a feeling resembling that I
felt on my birthday when a child: but soon wretched doubts forced
themselves on me, whether I should find my little colony all right.
Czar, on this day, was washed extra clean; all the beards of the turkeys
I had shot on the tour were fastened on the bridle: the beautiful skin
of the tiger shot on the mountains was laid over the panther skin to
display it in the best way, and I then continued my ride toward the
Fort, which I hoped to reach at noon, with a joyously beating heart. The
grass, however, was so high and rendered going so fatiguing for my
horse, that I advanced but slowly, and did not reach our first
resting-place at the commencement of the tour till noon. Czar was very
hot and tired, so I did not ride on, as I had intended, but unsaddled
and boiled coffee, while the horse was reposing in the shady grass. When
the greatest heat was passed, and I had washed Czar down in the stream,
I started again homewards, and saw, as the sun was setting, my beloved
virgin forest appear above the prairie, and the two immense poplars
indicating the spot where the buffalo path that led to my settlement,
entered the forest. It was about ten miles off, so that I could
calculate on reaching home by nightfall without any great effort.

I had ridden through a small wood and had advanced into the prairie some
hundred yards, when I noticed on my left at about a mile distance, five
horse Indians emerge from a clump of oaks. Their horses were going at
what is called a dog trot, although it seemed to be increased or
diminished according to Czar's pace. I looked at them through my glass,
and saw that only two of them had bows and the other three were unarmed.
As their appearance did not cause me any apprehension, I quietly
followed my road at a gentle walk. We constantly came nearer, and I soon
saw that the Indians designed to meet me on the path. I therefore held
my horse in so that they reached the path when I was about one hundred
yards distant from them. They stopped, and when they saw that I did the
same, one of the armed men turned his horse toward me and rode a few
paces nearer. I made signs to them to go their way, and when I saw they
had no result, I leapt from my horse and raised my rifle, again
intimating to them to ride on. They now shouted to me, "Kitchi, Kitchi,
Delaware, Delaware!" the names of friendly tribes, and at the same time
made the signals of amity. I, however, signalled to them again, and
raised my rifle to my shoulder, upon which they spoke together and went
up the hill very slowly, one behind the other, till I lost sight of
them.

The suspicions which I entertained of all Indians induced me also to
ride up the hill to see what had become of them. To my great surprise I
saw them a long distance ahead galloping across the prairie. This sudden
haste could not be explained through fear of me. It must have another
cause which I could only find in the fact that their camp was no great
distance off, and that they wished to inform their tribe of my presence,
so as to cut me off on the prairie, and lay wait for me in the woods on
the Leone. From the direction they followed, if the tribe were encamped
no great distance from the path that led into the wood, they could get
there before me, whence I soon made up my mind and galloped off to
another ford of the Leone, about twenty miles higher up. Czar galloped
nearly the whole distance, and I reached the forest before sunset. I was
now safe, for no one could pass through the wood on horseback, and the
narrow buffalo path could be easily defended. I reached the Leone,
welcomed it with heartfelt joy, and hurried down the opposite bank
toward my home. About three miles from it I had to cross a hill, whence
I could see my fort. I approached its crest with a loudly beating heart,
because I must here obtain certainty as to the fate of my settlement.

I looked across the valley, and on the other side I saw the fort
glistening through the gloom. A heavy load fell from my heart; I took my
glass, everything was quiet, the smoke rose straight from the kitchen,
and suddenly two of my dogs ran up from the river, and disappeared
through the palisades into the interior of the fort. Czar, too, knew
perfectly well that he was going home, for though I had ridden him
unusually hard, he kept up his amble, while usually when he was tired he
had a habit of stopping and biting the grass.

It had grown very dark when I rode up the last hill to my fort, and was
received by the loud barking of my dogs which dashed through the holes
in the palisades. But all their voices were overpowered by Trusty's bass
from the interior of the building. The dogs soon recognised me, and
springing up to Czar expressed their delight at my return by loud
whining. I now raised my hunting cry, which was responded to by Trusty
tugging furiously at his chain, and a hearty welcome from my garrison.
The chain of the gate fell, and Trusty flew out and up at me, so that I
was hardly able to keep my feet under his demonstrations of delight. My
three comrades received me most heartily, and strove to show how much
they were attached to me. My horses and mules raised their voices from
the interior of the fort, and Czar answered them by his friendly
whinnies.

When the first greeting was over, my three men asked almost
simultaneously, "but where is Mr. Kreger?" I pointed to heaven and
intimated by a short "by-and-bye," that I would tell them all about it
presently. Czar was soon liberated from his burden, rolled himself
heartily at his old place in the grass, and consoled himself with his
long absent maize-leaves, while I doffed my travelling accoutrements
indoors, and made myself comfortable by a wash and change of dress. We
were soon seated round the old table at supper, at which I refreshed
myself with a draught of fresh milk, and then I described the unhappy
fate of my companion Kreger. An almost unanimous "did I not foretell
it?" burst at the end of my narrative from the lips of my comrades, who
all felt great sympathy in the unhappy man's fate.

In spite of my weariness it had grown rather late. Hence I rose, went
out once more to Czar, who had heartily enjoyed his husked corn, and
then proceeded indoors with my faithful Trusty, who resumed his old post
on a thick bearskin with delight. But I felt so confined in my room that
I was obliged to open all the doors and windows, and lie down on a
buffalo hide on the floor, instead of resting in my bed. It is
remarkable how soon a man forgets rooms when he has been living for any
length of time in the open air, and how he feels like a fish out of
water when he returns to them.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER X.

THE BEE HUNTER.


I was the first to rise from my bed when day broke, and went forth to
enjoy the cooling breeze. Czar was not yet awake, and merely raised his
head a little from the ground, gazing at me with his glorious eyes as if
he wished to say that it was too soon to rise, and then laid his head
down on the ground again and accepted my patting without stirring. The
cream-colour whinnied and turned about till it came up to me, when it
took from my hand a piece of biscuit: the dogs leapt about me, but kept
at a respectful distance, because Trusty was by my side and none dared
venture near him. I aroused my garrison and then proceeded to the river,
whence I could survey my maize field, which glistened like a dark pine
forest, and in which a horseman would have been completely hidden; then
I went into the garden, which I found in admirable order, and in which
the most magnificent melons were ripening. When I returned to the fort
the milch cows were leaving the enclosure, and shone in the morning sun
as if they had been curry-combed. My favourite cock, Whip, called his
numerous harem out to breakfast on the prairie; and two pigs hurried
with their farrows towards the river, for the purpose of going to the
wood.

After breakfast I saddled the cream-colour, for which the saddle girths
had grown much too tight, and rode with one of my men and Trusty to the
other side of the river, towards the old buffalo path that led to the
prairie; we reached the skirt of the wood, and had not ridden far
through it when Trusty, who was ahead, stopped and looked up at me. I
dismounted and perceived a number of footsteps made by mocassins. A
little farther on the grass was trampled down by a great number of
horses' hoofs. My foreboding was then confirmed. The entire Indian tribe
had laid wait for me in the woods, and I should certainly have fallen a
victim to their treachery if my good star had not warned me of their
design. I silently thanked my guardian angel, who had already led me
through so many dangers, and rode back to the fort, which I reached
shortly before noon, with a very fat deer I had shot on passing through
the wood, and which hung across my comrade's saddle.

A few days' rest at home did me a wonderful deal of good; and I felt
remarkably comfortable. In the afternoon I swung in a hammock in the
verandah before my house, smoking a cigar; and in the evening I sat till
a late hour in a rocking chair in my neatly furnished room, and sang to
the guitar songs from the past days of youth and passion. My house
consisted of but one large room, whose walls and ceiling were covered
with the finest dark-haired buffalo hides, while a carpet of smooth
summer deer hides enlivened the floor. Over my bed was the skin of a
splendid spotted jaguar, and in front of it was spread a coal-black bear
skin, on which Trusty slept. The walls were adorned with excellent
oil-paintings; among them being a very fine specimen of Murillo; and
from the ceiling hung a lamp, which, throwing its faint light on the
dark walls, produced a weak but pleasant illumination. On the table in
front of the glass stood two large orange-hued gourds filled with water,
in which stood splendid bouquets of magnolias, which spread their
vanilla perfume through the whole room; close by was a glass case
containing my firearms; and on all the walls were displayed the most
splendid antlers of our common deer, the giant deer, elks, moose, and
antelopes. A collection of good engravings, a small library, and my
drawing apparatus, completed the furniture of this asylum, to which I
frequently retired when I returned home from a long tour, covered with
dust and blood, and was beginning to grow tired of this rough, savage
mode of life. At such times I looked out the clothes of
civilization--the tail coat and polished boots; and Trusty in his
amazement would not take his eyes off me, as if he were afraid that I
should at last become quite another man. Although this metamorphosis may
appear so ridiculous, it had something about it most soothing and
pleasant for me. I then occupied myself for some days with reading,
answering my letters, drawing, and music; after which I again donned my
deer-hide suit, and threw myself into the arms of nature with my
faithful companions.

I had been at home for about a week, had only hunted close to the fort,
and in addition to domestic arrangements, occupied myself principally
with fishing, for which purpose I fastened a strong cord across the
stream, on which were a number of lines and hooks hanging baited in the
water. A small bell in the middle of the cord informed us when a fish or
turtle was tugging at it, and we fetched them ashore with the canoe. We
only cared for large fish, and it was no rarity for us to pull up
cat-fish and buffalo-fish weighing thirty pounds, trout of twelve, and
turtles of forty pounds.

Early one morning I was engaged in shoeing Czar's forefeet, as I always
kept a stock of shoes and nails by me, after which I returned to my room
to write letters, as I intended to send one of my men in a few days with
commissions to the nearest settlement. I had been writing about half an
hour, with Trusty lying under the table in the middle of the room, when
the door opened, and I of course expected it was one of my own people.
Trusty, however, sprang up barking, from under the table, and pulled me
down as I tried to hold him back by the tail. In an instant the furious
animal leaped at the throat of a stranger dressed in leather, who came
into the room with a long Kentucky rifle, pulled him down, and would
certainly have killed him in a few minutes, if I had not thrust my hands
between the dog's jaws and forced them open, though his teeth were
buried deep in my fingers.

With all my strength I lay on the desperate dog, and my men dragged the
stranger out of the door, while I was scarce able to hold back the
animal, which leaped up madly at the closed door. I hurried out to the
stranger, in whom I recognised a bee-hunter, who had paid me a visit
about a year previously. He was seriously hurt, though not mortally, as
it seemed. I at once took him into the house, continually applied cold
bandages and nursed him as well as I could during the four days he
remained with me. Then I discharged him, after stocking him amply with
powder and ball, coffee and salt, needles, thread, and other articles,
and begging him, when he next visited me, to knock at my door first. I
was very anxious not to have these bee-hunters against me, as they might
prove even more dangerous than savages. They are generally scape-gallows
from the States, and live in the desert with their horse and rifle by
hunting, and collecting honey and wax, the former of which they pack in
fresh-sewn deer hides, and carry it with the wax and peltry to the
Indian settlements for the purpose of selling or swapping. He left me
perfectly contented, and with assurances of gratitude and friendship,
and I was very glad to get rid of this unbidden guest.

One evening, as the sun was setting, I felt a necessity of hearing the
crack of my rifle. Czar had fattened up again, and Trusty was anxiously
awaiting the day when I should recover from my indolence. I rode down
the river to a small pond on the prairie, which was filled with rain
water in the winter and retained it till far into the summer. Strangely
enough, all animals prefer this water to any other, and will go a long
distance to drink it. I led Czar into the bushes, threw his bridle over
a branch, and sat down on the edge of the forest upon the roots of an
old oak, waiting for the game that might come to water.

It was growing dark when a herd of deer came across the prairie and
posted themselves on a hill behind the pond. They were all rather large,
but one of them had antlers far larger than the rest. After a short halt
they advanced up to the water hole, with the big deer at their head. It
had drunk, and was raising its head with the mighty antlers, when I
pulled the trigger, and the bullet struck behind the shoulder blade. He
ran away from the other deer to a broad, rather deep ravine, formed by
the torrents, and which gradually grew narrower. I mounted Czar after
reloading, and rode after the deer, which suddenly rose before me and
leaped up the steep wall of the ravine. It was already very dark, and I
was afraid of losing the deer, hence I called Trusty to follow it.
Nothing could please him better; he ran after it up the wall, and
pursued it into the prairie with loud barking. As the spot was too steep
for me, I ran back, and when I reached the prairie lower down I saw the
deer proceeding towards the woods, and two dogs instead of one following
it. I gave Czar the reins, in order to cut the deer off; but Trusty
caught it at the moment, and the supposed second dog, an enormous white
wolf, attacked my dog. All three lay atop of each other, when I leaped
from my horse within shot, and hurried to the scene of action. The wolf
noticed me and tried to bolt, but Trusty held it tightly, and I ran
within ten paces of them. The two animals were leaping up savagely at
each other, when my bullet passed through the wolf's side, and Trusty
settled it. The deer, which had thirty tines, had got up again, but soon
fell on a leap from Trusty, and I killed it. I then rode home, fetched a
two-wheeled cart drawn by a mule, drove out with one of my men, and
brought back the deer and the wolf, whose skin, though not so fine as in
winter, still made an excellent carpet under our dining-table.

There was nothing to do now in the fields, whence we seldom went there,
and our visits were limited to one of us crossing the river at daybreak
in a canoe hollowed out of a monstrous poplar, and walking round the
field with a fowling piece, in order to put a check to the countless
squirrels which sprang over the fence to reach the forest at daybreak,
partly because they did great damage to the young maize, partly because
they supplied an excellent dish for breakfast. Another animal which we
killed in these walks was the racoon, which also injured the maize, and
inhabited our forests in incredible numbers. We merely shot it because
it injured the maize, for its flesh is uneatable. Its skin, though
highly valued in Europe, fetches no price among us. It visits the fields
at night, clambers up the maize stalks, nibbles a few seeds out of a
cob, and then runs to another plant. The result is that the gnawed cobs
rot and die.

I was taking this walk one morning round the field, when I saw on the
railings at the hinder end several whole stalks hanging, and found one
on the ground in the forest. I went into the field and found large
spaces where all the stalks had been pulled up and carried off, but
could not recognise a trail on the soil, which was thickly overgrown
with weeds and grass. I followed the trail into the forest, and found at
no great distance from the first maize stalk a footprint on the ground,
which seemed made only with the heel, and which I took for a mocassin.
The maize, however, was not ripe yet, and not even large enough for
boiling, and hence it seemed to me improbable that Indians had carried
off the plants. I sought farther, and soon found a quite distinct
enormous bear's footprint, which indicated the thief more clearly. When
evening came, I and one of my men seated ourselves in the maize with
Trusty on a couple of chairs we carried there. I had my large
double-barrel loaded with pistol bullets, and my comrade a double rifle.
We sat for a long time, as the moon shone now and then; but at length we
grew tired of waiting, and I got up to go home, but at the same moment
fancied I could hear the crackling of drift wood. I fell back on my
chair; at the same moment the railing in front of me grew dark, and
almost immediately Bruin appeared with his broad chest, and peered about
in all directions. Piff! paff! I let fly both barrels at him; he
disappeared behind the railing, and we could hear him dashing through
the wood. We went home, and on the next morning at daybreak we followed
the trail along which Trusty led us to the dead bear, which had only run
a mile. Its fat and meat fully compensated for the damage it had
effected in the field.

It was the summer season, and the heat was growing very oppressive.
Hence I carefully avoided hunting buffalo, for fear of tiring my horse
too much, and restricted myself to supplying our wants with deer,
turkeys, and antelopes in the vicinity; but our supply of salted and
smoked meat was at an end, and I resolved to go after buffalo on a day
which was not quite so hot. Trusty had run himself lame in following
deer recently, as his feet had grown soft through doing nothing, so I
left him at home and rode down the river on Czar early one morning.

About ten miles from home I saw from the wood whose skirt I was
following, a small herd of about twenty buffalo bulls grazing on an
elevation on the prairie. I hid my rifle in a bush that I might ride
more easily, took a revolver from my belt, and went cautiously under the
hill as near as I could to the animals. Suddenly they saw me, broke into
a gallop, and tried to escape; I went after them, and though I had to
ride over many stony broken places in the bottom on the other side, I
soon caught them up, and fired a bullet behind the shoulder blade of a
fat old bull; it at once went slower, remained behind the herd, and bled
profusely from the mouth and nostrils, but still galloped on, as I did
by its side a short distance off.

At a spot where a valley entered the prairie, I shot ahead, and, as I
expected, it turned aside into the bottom. It was in a very bad state,
and I awaited it to turn at bay any moment, when I would kill it with
another shot; still it kept up its speed, and I, tired of the chase,
rode up behind to kill it with a shot from a short distance. I had
hardly risen in the right stirrup, however, and leant over to fire, when
the bull turned with lightning speed, drove his horn under the stirrup,
and hurled me such a height in the air, that, on looking down from
above, I could see Czar dash off frantically and fall in the tall grass.

In an instant I sprang on my legs again, and three paces from me stood
the monster with its head on the ground, braying furiously, and stamping
its fore feet. It was nearly all over, but still I held my revolver
pointed between the bull's little blood-red eyes, and waited like a
statue for the moment when it charged, to send a bullet through its
shaggy forehead. But it was in too bad a state, and hence turned away a
few minutes after and went round me; the mortal spot was now exposed, I
fired, and the bull fell dead; I then ran up the nearest hillock,
through the tall grass, where I arrived greatly fatigued, and looked
about for Czar, whom I saw in the distance flying over the prairie with
his snow-white tail fluttering in the breeze.

I felt terribly frightened at this sight, for this region was rarely
free from wild horses, and I was well aware that if Czar once got among
them he would be eternally lost to me. I was looking after him in
desperation, when I noticed in front of him a long black line apparently
coming towards me; I looked through my telescope, and recognised a herd
of buffalo which, aroused by some cause, were galloping towards my horse
in a long line; Czar stopped, raising his head high in the air, then
turned and came straight towards me with flying mane; I collected all my
strength to reach one of the highest spots around that lay in the course
of my terrified horse. He dashed through the last bottom over the
trailing grass, dragging the tiger skin after him which hung down on one
side of the saddle.

On hearing my cry he stopped and recognised me, ran to me, and stood
trembling all over by my side, while timidly looking round at the
pursuing column. With one bound I was on his back, and felt myself once
more lord of the desert. The buffaloes halted on the nearest elevation,
looked at me for some minutes, and then dashed into the bottom on the
right. I then rode back to my buffalo, broke it up, hung its tongue and
fillet on the saddle, and started home, fetching my rifle as I passed. I
reached the fort at noon, saddled the cream-colour after we had drunk
coffee, and then went out with the cart, to fetch the very fat meat of
my vanquished foe. It was then cut into long thin strips, and packed
into a cask with alternate layers of salt; after it had lain thus for a
few days it was put up on long sticks, and hung over a very smoky fire
in the burning sun, when in a few hours it became dry enough to be
carried into the smoke-house, where it kept good for a very long time.

One morning my men were busily engaged in hanging up the dried meat in
the smoke-house, when one of them came running up to me and informed me
that a herd of buffaloes was coming up close to the garden on the river.
I seized my rifle and darted out, shouting to my men to keep back the
dogs, but to let them all loose when I waved my handkerchief. I ran out
of the fort, and in a stooping posture along a prairie hollow, in order
to get before the buffaloes, which were marching two and two in a long
row up from the river to the prairie, and lay down in the long grass
under an elevation for which they were steering. I had been lying there
but a few minutes when the first bulls appeared on the heights, and I
shot one of them, though without showing myself. The buffalo stopped,
sank on its knees, and fell over, while the others gathered round it,
looked at it for a long time, and then tried to make it get up by
pushing it with their horns. If you do not show yourself, you can in
this way kill a great number of these animals, as they are not
frightened by the sound of a rifle.

After reloading I rose on one knee and shot a second, which I hit in the
knee, however, instead of behind the shoulder. I saw that it had noticed
me, for it turned round, and, with its head down, dashed upon me from
the heights. I sprung up and waved my handkerchief, and then threw
myself full length in a narrow gully, while the hunting cry of my people
in the fort reached my ear, and I recognised Trusty's voice among my
dogs.

I heard the thunder of the savage bull approaching me, as it made the
ground shake under me, and I looked up, expecting every minute to see
the monster leap over me; but when it was within about twenty yards of
me it stopped with a terrible roar, as it had lost me, and now saw my
dogs dashing up the valley like unchained furies. Prince Albert, one of
my young bloodhounds, was the foremost, and behind him came Lady Elsler,
his bitch, both equally fast and courageous. They dashed past me. I
rose, and now came Trusty with his mouth wide open, furious that another
dog should dare to assault the enemy before him. My hunting-cry echoed
far over the prairie, where the two bloodhounds hung by the thick hide
of the infuriated buffalo on its wounded side, while Trusty pinned its
monstrous muzzle, in which he buried his fangs, which never loosed their
hold.

The buffalo fell back a few paces, and then rose, with Trusty still
hanging to its snout, on its colossal hind legs, snorting furiously. I
could not shoot on account of the dog, and the raging brute dashed over
the prairie, holding Trusty in the air, who only every now and then was
able to touch the ground with his feet. Ere long, however, the whole
pack had caught up the fugitives, and the brave dogs hung like leeches
from the buffalo's shaggy coat. Still it dashed on with them toward the
river, at a spot where the bank was forty feet high.

I looked after them with terror, for there was no doubt but that the
buffalo would dash over, and in that case most of my dogs, and Trusty
more especially, would be buried beneath it. A few more leaps, and they
would have reached the precipice, but at this moment the monster rose in
the air and turned over, covered by my dogs. It roared and raged, till
the sound echoed through the forest, but was unable to get on its
forelegs again, because Trusty kept its head pinned down to the ground.
I could hardly breathe when I reached the buffalo: I held my rifle to
its broad forehead, and sent a bullet through its hard skull. The fight
was at an end, and Trusty came up to me, panting and wagging his tail,
while he looked up to me as much as to say that it had been a tough job.
He limped a little, and Leo, a very brave dog, had a considerable wound
between the ribs, but none of the others were hurt.

We returned to the fort, and were preparing to fetch the meat in the
cart, when we saw a horseman coming down the river, who soon dismounted
at the gate, and walked up to me with a pleasant good morning, and shook
my hand. He was indubitably the handsomest man I had ever seen, and the
beauty of his form was heightened by his tight-fitting and neatly-made
leathern dress. He was scarce twenty years of age, above six feet high,
with a small head, long neck, broad retreating shoulders, a full chest,
a very small waist, and muscular though handsomely-shaped legs, which
were supported by very delicate ankles and feet, almost too small for
his height. His lofty forehead was surrounded by black shining silky
locks, and beneath his sharply-cut black eyebrows his blue eyes shone
with a calmness and decision, but also with a kindliness, that it was
impossible to offer him an unfavourable reception. His black silky beard
passed under his straight nobly-formed nose round his smiling,
partly-opened mouth, between whose cherry lips two rows of transparent
white teeth were visible, and heightened the white complexion of his
oval face and the fresh ruddiness of his cheeks. Thus this god of the
desert stood before me with a grace and propriety such as are rarely met
with in the gouty circles of high society; and I thought to myself that
his appearance would attract attention and respect, in spite of the
leathern garb, among the nobility of the Old World.

Without asking him who he was, I gave him the hearty welcome which his
amiability claimed, led him to the dining-room, had his luggage brought
into the fort, and his horse put in a stall and supplied with maize
leaves. Then a breakfast was set before my guest, and after begging him,
in the old Spanish fashion, to make my house his home, I apologized for
being obliged to leave him a little while, as I had shot some buffaloes
close by, which I wanted to get home.

"Will you allow me to assist you? I am a good hand at it," was his
reply. He had soon finished his breakfast, and went with me out of the
fort to the river bank where the buffalo lay. Although I had introduced
Trusty to the stranger, the dog still pressed between him and me, which
he noticed and remarked.

"You have a fine hound there, who has grown up in the desert. I have
heard of him before. He is no friend of bee-hunters, and yet he does not
seem savage with me."

I begged him not to touch Trusty, as he might misunderstand it, and we
soon reached my quarry. The stranger, whose name was Warden, as he told
me, laid aside his leathern jacket, which was tastily ornamented with
fringe, turned up his shirt-sleeves, displaying thus his finely formed
muscular and white arms, and drew a splendid hunting-knife from its
sheath. We set to work together in skinning the buffalo, in which
operation Warden displayed a remarkable skill, then broke it up, and
while my people carried the meat to the fort we proceeded to the other
buffalo higher up the prairie, and prepared it in the same way for
removal.

While we were engaged in skinning this animal, Warden remarked he was
surprised at my using rifles of so large a bore, as it was a settled
fact that the long Kentucky rifles, one of which he carried, produced
much greater effect with small bullets. I contradicted this assertion,
and an argument ensued, as neither would give up his opinion. Warden
offered a wager, and staked his rifle against one of mine, which I
accepted. We cut off the buffalo's head with the skin attached to it,
and had it carried to the fort with the meat, in order to try our rifles
on it. It was noon when we got back. We cleaned ourselves and enjoyed
our dinner, a buffalo fillet roasted on the spit, and some of the
marrow-bones.

After drinking coffee and smoking a cigar, we carried the buffalo head
outside the fort, put it in front of an oak, pressed a piece of white
paper on the forehead, and then walked eighty paces back, I shot first,
and my bullet passed through the paper into the head, and an inch deep
into the oak. Warden fired next, and also sent his bullet into the piece
of paper, but there was no trace of the bullet on the tree behind the
head. We removed the skin from the skull and found Warden's bullet
lodged under it, close to the hole which mine had made. Warden at once
allowed the bet lost, but at the same time requested me to sell him a
gun, as he could not exist without one. I naturally laughed, as my only
object in the matter was conviction, and the bet had only been a joke.
Warden, however, shot with surprising accuracy at one hundred yards with
his rifle, which was four feet and a half long, the whole weight resting
on the left hand in front; but his ball rarely passed through a deer,
except when he was close to it.

After supper, while we were lying on the grass on the river bank, my
guest told me that he was a native of Missouri, the son of a farmer, but
had been compelled by unfortunate circumstances to quit home, and had
been living for five years as a desert hunter. At first he remained on
the frontiers of his own State, but the cold winters had continually
driven him to the south, until he at last got so far down to a country
whose climate agreed better with him. He remained a whole week with me,
and made himself useful during the day through his skill in making all
sorts of trifles; for instance, carvings in poplar and cypress wood,
plaiting strong tight lines of different coloured horsehair, tanning
skins, making neatly ornamental powder flasks out of buffalo horns, and
charge measures of the fangs of bears and jaguars, while in the evening
he described in a most lively manner the numerous dangers he had
fortunately escaped, and the many fights he had had with the Redskins
during the five years.

The unchanging calmness which usually covered his noble face often
deserted him when describing these scenes; his eyes flashed like daggers
in the moonlight, his brow contracted, and we could read on his
forehead that he must be a terrible foe when aroused. But these
outbursts of passion soon passed away, and the ordinary gentleness
spread once more over his features. Among the feelings reflected on
various occasions in his face, there was an unmistakeable melancholy,
which must be produced by events of his life before the period when he
bade farewell to human society, and this was proved by the fact that he
spoke reluctantly about that time, and always became silent when the
conversation was accidentally turned to it. Hence I carefully avoided
alluding to the period, for if a heavy crime lay hid in his bosom, I was
ready to excuse it; while if he was suffering undeservedly, I pitied
him, and would not augment his sorrow by unnecessarily evoking his
reminiscences.

I would have gladly kept him with me, as he was a pleasant, attractive
companion in my solitude; but he would go, and it seemed to me as if the
tranquillity he enjoyed at my house did not permanently satisfy him, and
as if he wished to deaden memory by the wild, perilous life he led on
his hunting expeditions. I equipped him as far as lay in my power with
everything that could soothe his fatiguing life, and took a hearty leave
of him in front of the fort. He parted regretfully, and was greatly
excited when he shook my hand in farewell and mounted his powerful
horse, which he had trained like a dog. He promised to pay me another
visit soon, and galloped at such a pace over the prairie, as if he
wished thus to dispel the thoughts which had mastered him. I watched him
for a long distance, till he disappeared in a cloud of dust on the edge
of the prairie.

Some time after I learned from the bee-hunter whom Trusty received so
savagely the history of this amiable but unfortunate man, whom the
former had known as a lad in Missouri. Warden's father was the son of
one of the first families in Virginia; was educated at a first-rate
school and studied medicine. He got into bad company, turned gambler and
then highwayman, and was for some years the terror of post travellers
in North Carolina and Virginia. About this time he fell in love with a
very beautiful, fashionably educated young lady in Virginia, and ran
away with her to Missouri, which was just beginning to be colonized. He
altered his mode of life, was greatly respected by his fellow-citizens,
and in a few years sent to Congress as deputy for Missouri. Thus he
lived most creditably till his son was twelve years of age, and his
daughter was married at the age of seventeen to a farmer. One day,
however, he rode to the nearest town where a court was being held, and
for the first time during many years tasted spirits. He had scarce done
so, ere his old wicked foe seized on him again with all its might, and
he rode daily, in spite of all the prayers and representations of his
family, to the town, and returned at night in a most frightful state of
intoxication.

On the next court day he was about to ride again to town, when his wife
begged her son-in-law to accompany him. Warden had been drinking
already, and said he had a feeling he should be killed during the day.
He made his young son take a solemn oath to follow his murderer to the
end of the world and take his life. Then he rode off to the town, soon
became intoxicated, began quarrelling, at length began wrangling with
his son-in-law, who tried to hold him back, and drew his knife on him;
the latter defended himself, and Warden ran on his knife, and was
carried home in a dying state. Warden once again reminded his son of the
oath he had taken, and expired. The law was put in work against his
son-in-law, who fled to Indiana and lived there in concealment. Warden's
son grew up, and in his sixteenth year was the favourite of the whole
countryside, but then he took his rifle and his horse, bade good-bye to
his mother and sister, rode to Indiana, and shot his brother-in-law in
his own house. He escaped from the police with great difficulty, and
fled to the desert, where he had been living five years when he visited
me.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XI.

THE WILD HORSE.


The departure of the unfortunate Warden, who had fallen a victim to
passions which had not been held in restraint at an early age, was very
painful to me, and the evenings, which I generally spent alone, grew
very long, as I had before gossiped half the night away with him. Hence
I went to bed early, and followed my old habit of rising before
daybreak, I generally took my rifle, went with Trusty across the river
to the forest and watched for game. At that hour the wood was most
beautiful; the coming day drove the darkness before it through the
mighty masses of foliage, the birds aroused one another from their
sleep, owls, blinded by the morning light, darted like the last shadows
of night into the densest thickets, and deer returned home from their
nocturnal excursions through the dewy grass; the bear, startled by the
rapidly-increasing light, trotted with hoarse growls towards its secret
hiding-place, while the herons, bearing the first golden sunbeams on
their silver plumage, rose from the tall trees and passed with flapping
wing through the refreshing morning breeze.

I was cautiously walking one morning along this my favourite spot, and
inhaling the thousand perfumes which had filled the recesses of the
forest during the tranquil night, avoiding every dry branch for fear of
startling its denizens, while Trusty followed at a short distance all my
windings round the bushes and fallen trees. It had become tolerably
light, when I fancied I heard a rustling at an open spot, in the centre
of which stood several very large pecan-nut trees. I stood still for a
moment and listened, holding my breath, for a repetition of the noise.
I heard it again, like the breaking of twigs ahead of me, but in spite
of my utmost efforts could not perceive that even a leaf was moving.

Once again the same breaking and rustling reached me, and on looking up
accidentally I saw a thick black lump shining among the foliage of the
pecan-trees. I soon distinguished a young bear busily engaged in drawing
to it with its long paws the thin branches of the nut-tree, and putting
the unripe nuts in its mouth, I quickly sprang under the tree, so as to
make sure of the bear, which was about the size of a sheep; but I
remembered its mamma, who might be in the neighbourhood, and easily come
up to fetch her pet home. I stationed myself under the tree on which the
cub was, and made Trusty lie down by my side, as he was beginning to
growl, and pressing his nose against the tree.

The bear saw me, and became greatly alarmed; sprang from one branch to
the other, and looked timidly down to me. I did not move, but listened
carefully to every sound in the vicinity, while my neighbour came down
to the first floor, above my head; and, sitting among the lowest
branches, produced a cry like that of little children. It soon repeated
its wail, and I heard far away in the forest a hob, hob, hob, hob,
coming towards me. I sprang up, and placed myself behind the trees,
after again forcing Trusty's head into the grass. I distinctly
distinguished by the leaps that it was an old bear hastening to the help
of her cub. I pointed my rifle in the direction whence it was coming,
and suddenly it parted the foliage in front of me with its broad
shoulders, whereupon I gave a loud "pst." In a second the bear sat up on
its hind-quarters, and as the fire flashed from my barrel it made a
couple of leaps towards me, but was rolled over by a second bullet
through the head, while I shouted a "Down, sir!" to Trusty, who was on
the point of springing up. I drew a revolver, ran up to the old bear,
and sent a bullet through her brain, as she was still furiously hitting
out with her terrible paws.

I next reloaded my rifle, and looked up at my neighbour, who had fled to
the top of the tree, and was swinging with the branches. I called Trusty
away from under the tree, bade him lie down in the grass behind me, and
gave the cub something which brought it down like a ball, crashing
through the foliage to the ground, when I put the other barrel to its
forehead, and stopped its young bearish existence. After reloading, I
broke it up, to give Trusty his share of the spoil--the kidneys, the
only bear-meat he ever touched, unless he was very hungry. I then
hastened home, and after breakfast I went back to the forest with one of
my men and three mules, when we broke up the old bear, and carried the
meat home on two of the animals, and the cub entire on the third.

Thus several weeks passed, during which I went little beyond the
immediate vicinity of my house, in order to lay in our stock of meat
either in the morning or evening, when the heat was less oppressive.
During the day we were cutting steps in the perpendicular river-bank,
out of which a very strong spring gushed about ten feet from the top,
and in building a small dairy over it. We led the spring through wooden
troughs, in which we kept the milk and butter sweet; while we hung up on
the walls meat which remained fresh for several days. The dairy was on
the north side, so that it was very slightly exposed to the sun, whose
effects we also neutralized by a thick layer of overhanging reeds. This
spot was most agreeable in the midday heat, at which time the atmosphere
in the houses was most oppressive, while here it always remained cool
and refreshing through the ice-cold water. The spring, however, was not
so pleasant for drinking as the one I had on the side of the prairie
near the garden, from which we fetched our drinking water.

After finishing my job, most of my stores were nearly expended, and I
required a number of new tools. Hence I went myself to the nearest
settlement, sold there my stock of hides, honey, wax, and tallow, and
took home the articles I needed on my pack animals. While at the
settlement I met, at the store-keeper's with whom I was bargaining, a
Mexican lad, sixteen years of age, who had accompanied a brace of mules
brought here from Mexico for sale, and had remained as waiter at the
hotel. His name was Antonio, and he offered to go with me and stop. He
was recommended to me by an acquaintance as a first-rate horseman and
lassoer, and as he pleased me in other respects, I accepted his offer,
and he rode with me home.

Antonio's skill in riding was extraordinary; it was all the same to him
whether he had a bridle or not--whether he sat in a saddle or
bare-backed; once on the animal's back, no rearing or kicking could
throw him. I have often seen him go up to mules grazing on the prairie,
and approach them quietly, lounging round them as if seeking something
in the grass, till he was near enough to them, when with a spring he was
on the back of one of them, and the terrified creature made all sorts of
bounds and leaps to get rid of him. But it was all in vain. Antonio
responded to the mule's efforts with his monstrous spurs, which he dug
into its flanks at every volley, till he grew tired of riding, and
sprang off again with the same lightness.

He also threw the lasso with a master hand. I have frequently seen him
at full gallop catch a mule by the foot which I indicated. One day he
lassoed by the fore leg a wild cow which had joined my milch kine on the
prairie, hurled it to the ground, and so bound its four feet together
that we dragged it along to the enclosure where my cows passed the
night. Then we fastened it up to an old tree, and on the next morning
Antonio leaped on its back, cut away the rope round its head, and
galloped off into the prairie, where the cow leapt about as if mad. At
last, after a lengthened contest, she threw herself on the ground; but
Antonio stood by her side, gave her laughingly a cut with his whip, and
the awfully terrified creature galloped away to the forest.

Between the fort and the mountain spring there were always a great
number of wild horses, especially in the vicinity of a considerable
elevation on the prairie, whose highest point was covered with a small
very thick wood, where a white stallion resided with his harem. Owing to
his beauty and noble blood, the Indians revered this animal with
superstitious fear. The hunters had tried for years in vain to capture
him, and the bards of America had raised him to immortality in their
ballads and narrations. Very numerous are the wondrous tales which
spread at that day about the noble animal over the continent of America,
and even distant Europe. He was described in them as "the star of the
prairie," as "the light of the steppe," or "the white spirit of the
desert." While his titles varied so, the statements as to the position
of his kingdom varied equally. But all these were merely traditions of
the hunters of the Far West, the existence of the horse was still half
fabulous, and I believe that I am the only man capable of saying
anything on the subject from personal observation.

I have seen and admired this horse a countless number of times, as my
hunts so frequently passed in his region, and quite as often I have
yearned to possess, and revolved the means to get, him into my power.
This was one of the reasons why I took Antonio into my service, as
through him alone I had a prospect of attaining my wish. I have
frequently crawled up to the animal for miles through the tall grass
with the utmost exertions, and lain down on a small mound near him, with
the resolution of creasing him, as the hunters call it--that is to say,
sending a ball through the skin of a horse's neck, upon which it falls
as if struck dead, and you have time to hobble it before it recovers.
But when I raised the rifle on the noble creature, and had my finger on
the trigger, it seemed to me to be murder, and I could never make up my
mind to fire. I have often ridden up to him, and, so soon as he noticed
me, he came toward me, proudly raising his graceful head in the air,
with his white silky tail erect, and with a coat as white and tender as
the finest alabaster or the plumage of the silver heron, with whose
flight I have often seen him compete. He frequently came within fifty
yards of me, looking round pretty often at his flying harem, then
stopped and snorted through his dilated purple nostrils; then he trotted
round me, and would fly like an arrow over the grass to his friends, at
such a pace that no rider in the world would have made the attempt to
catch him up.

In the past winter I went to his domain with the intention of capturing
one of his children, and gave one of my men who accompanied me my rifle
and revolver, in order to make myself as light as possible. I had got no
great distance from the troop, ere the stallion noticed me, and when the
others fled, he as usual trotted toward me. I gave Czar his head, and
galloped towards him. The wild stallion reared, then turned, and dashed
after his troop and past it, in order to assume the leadership. At the
end of five miles I caught up the troop again, which consisted of about
fifty head, and selected an iron-grey mare with black mane and tail,
which appeared to be between a two and three-year old.

Had I possessed any great skill in using the lasso, I was near enough to
the mare to noose her; but as it was I could only take advantage of my
horse's greater endurance, and remained close behind the troop, up hill
and down dale, while the stallion flew from one side to the other, as if
encouraging his relatives to persevere, and this race was merely play to
him. The animals became covered with foam, their breathing grew
gradually shorter, and several left the ranks on either side, in order
to seek safety in an altered direction.

At last only four old mares and the iron-grey followed the stallion, who
as yet displayed no signs of fatigue; when suddenly the grey turned off
into a hollow, fell into a walk, and at last stopped; so that I could
ride up and throw the lasso over her head. She was so exhausted that she
could hardly breathe, and stood motionless, while the perspiration ran
down her in torrents. It was nearly a quarter of an hour ere she so far
recovered as to be able to struggle against the fetters laid on her. The
noose round her neck tightened; she fell to the ground, trembling all
over; and I leapt from my horse to open the noose, before she was quite
throttled. My companion now came up, hobbled his own horse and Czar, and
helped me to convince the mare by repeated strangulation, that she must
yield to her captivity: we made a halter out of a second lasso, while
still keeping the noose round her neck, and I dragged her after my
horse, while my companion urged her on. We thus reached home in the
evening; and in a few weeks the mare was so tame that she could be
treated precisely like my other horses: she was handsomely built,
displayed all the signs of Arab blood, and became one of my best horses.

As I said, the possibility of capturing this stallion--the pride of the
western deserts--was the reason of my engaging Antonio; and we at once
set about our preparations to carry out the task. I owned a
thorough-bred mare, Fancy, who belonged to the best blood that ever ran
on American soil. Her sire was the renowned Waggoner, who was never
beaten in speed either north or south, and for fourteen years won all
the great stakes at American races. Her dam, Blossom, was an English
thoroughbred, and had been imported to the United States from England:
she won all the stakes she was entered for in the Southern States, and
was purchased by one of the first breeders for a very large sum, that he
might become owner of her noble progeny. Fancy, then, as regards breed,
was as fine and noble as any horse that ever trod an American course,
and defeated all her rivals until I purchased her. I bought her as a
four-year old when I bade farewell to civilization, and took her with me
into the desert, where I frequently rode her, when I went out into the
prairie with greyhounds to hunt deer or kill wolves. On my ordinary
hunting trips, however, she could not take the place of Czar or the
cream-colour, as she was not so attached to me by constant riding or so
trained and familiar with a thousand dangers as they were.

The mare was now treated with very great attention, both as regards
food, and cleanliness, and exercise; she had no more grass, and the corn
given her was previously sifted. She was ridden every morning by
Antonio, and the distance she had to gallop was daily increased. Then
she was led about for half an hour, and when brought back to her stall
rubbed down till she was quite dry and cool. Toward evening she was
taken out again for half an hour's walk, and before she went to rest had
a douche or a swim in the river. In a fortnight she hardly turned a hair
after galloping several miles; she had grown thinner, but her flesh was
firmer, and her golden-brown hair so fine that every vein could be
traced under the skin. In the meanwhile, Antonio had been practising
with the lasso, and had horribly tormented my mules with this
disagreeable instrument.

The preparations lasted three weeks; after which, on a cool morning, we
left the fort: Antonio riding a mule and leading Fancy, one of my
colonists on the cream-colour, and I on Czar--in order to seek the
stallion, and, if possible, deprive him of liberty. It was one of those
days--not rare in our country--when the sky is covered with a thin
stratum of clouds, which deprive it of its glorious azure, and which,
though it does not conceal the sun, breaks the power of its beams. At
the same time there was a breeze, so that the day was more like autumn
than summer. We rode down the river, and soon saw the height emerge from
the prairie, in whose vicinity the stallion usually had his
head-quarters. Our horses were very active; Czar coquetted by the side
of his lady friend, Fancy, in his most elegant prancing movements; shook
his bit, and snorted through his moist nostrils; while turning his dark
large eyes toward the lady, Fancy, conscious of her noble breed, walked
delicately along, and carefully selected the footpaths.

While still some distance off, I noticed to the side of the wood on the
knoll a dark patch, which I recognised through my glass as horses, but
could not make certain whether it was our stallion's family. We
approached slowly, and from every new height distinguished more clearly
the shape of the animals. I had no doubt about it being the troop we
were in search of, although I could not yet notice the stallion. A broad
valley still lay between us, when we halted, and I saw through my glass
the snow-white creature rise from the grass and look across at us, while
many horses of the troop still lay on the ground around him. We rode
down into the valley, the stallion stood motionless, and gazed at us;
but when we reached the bottom, he suddenly trotted about among his
troop. All the horses lying on the grass leapt up, looked at us, formed
into a body, and dashed at a gallop over the heights.

Antonio now sprang into Fancy's saddle, gave his mule to our companion,
took the lasso in his right hand, and only waited for my signal to give
his horse her head. The stallion came toward us at a swinging trot,
while we moved forward at a fast pace and bent low over our horses'
necks. A finer picture could not be painted. He carried his small head
high, long white locks floated over his broad forehead, and his long
mane danced up and down at every step, while he raised his tail straight
out, and its long curling milk-white hairs fluttered in the breeze. His
broad back glistened as if carved out of Carrara marble, and his
powerful shoulders and thighs were supported on graceful little feet.

I rode behind Antonio. The stallion was not fifty yards from us when I
shouted to the Mexican "Forward!" and Fancy flew at such a pace toward
the stallion that she came within five yards of him ere he recovered
from his terror. The moment for his fate to be decided had arrived. He
turned round and made an enormous leap ahead, that showed me the flat of
his hind hoofs, while he held his head aside and looked back after his
pursuer. The lasso flew through the air, the noose fell over the
stallion's head, but it hung on one side of his muzzle, and the next
instant the lasso was trailing on the ground behind Fancy. The stallion
seemed to know that it was a fetter which had touched him, for he shot
away from the man like lightning. Antonio coiled up the lasso again,
and followed him over hill and vale, over grass and boulders, at full
gallop, just as the tornado darts from the mountain into the plain. Czar
was beside himself at the idea of being last, but I purposely held him
back, partly not to excite the mare, partly to save his strength. There
was still a hope that the stallion, living as he did on grass, would not
keep his wind so long as our horses, and though he was now several
hundred yards ahead, we might be able to catch him up. Up to this point,
however, we had not gained an inch upon him, and our horses were covered
with foam, though both still in good wind.

We had been following the stallion for about two hours, when he turned
off to the mountains, and flew up them with undiminished speed. The
ground now became very stony and unsafe, but he seemed to be as much at
home on it as on the soft grass-land he had just left. He reached the
summit between two steep mountains, and disappeared from our sight
behind them. We dashed past the spot where we had seen him last, but the
noble creature had reached the steep wall on the other side of the
valley when we dashed down into it.

I saw plainly that he had a difficulty in keeping at a gallop on this
steep incline. We gained a deal of ground down hill and through the
grassy valley, and reached the wall before the stallion was at the top
of it. Full of hope I could no longer remain in the background. Digging
both spurs into Czar I flew on, past Fancy, and reached the summit to
find the stallion trotting scarce fifty yards ahead of me. Fancy was
close behind me, and I shouted to Antonio to follow me. But my cry
seemed to have poured fresh strength through the brave fugitive's veins,
for he dashed down into the valley, leaving behind the white foam with
which he was covered at every bound he made on the rocky ground. Once
again I drew nearer, and was only forty yards from him, when I saw ahead
of us a yawning _cañon_, out of which the gigantic dry arms of dead
cypresses emerged. Here the stallion must turn back and fall our prey
while ascending the hill again.

But he went straight towards the abyss--it was not possible, he could
not leap it. I remained behind him, and in my terror for the noble
creature's life, held my breath. One more bound, and he reached the
_cañon_, and with the strength of a lion, and that desperation which
only the threatened loss of liberty can arouse, he drew himself together
and leapt high in the air across the gap which was more than forty feet
wide.

I turned Czar round toward the hill, and kept my eyes away from the
fearful sight, so that I might not see the end of the tragedy; but
Antonio uttered a cry, and I heard the word "over." I looked round and
saw the stallion rising on his hind legs upon the opposite deeper bank,
and after a glance at us he trotted off quite sound down the ravine, and
disappeared behind the nearest rock.

We stopped, leapt from our horses, and looked at each other for a long
time in silence; then I solemnly vowed never to make another attempt to
deprive this princely animal of liberty. Our horses were in a very
excited condition; the water poured down them in streams, and the play
of their lungs was so violent that they tottered on their legs. We let
them draw breath a little, and then led them slowly back to the mountain
springs, where we intended to give them a rest ere we returned home. In
the afternoon we reached the spot, excessively fatigued, and found there
our comrade, who greeted us with a regretful--"that was a pity;" and had
already spread our dinner on a horse-cloth.

We stopped here till the evening, and then started for the fort, which
we reached late at night. For several days after this chase I could not
shake off the excitement which had overpowered me, and even now I feel a
cold shudder when I think of the chasm, and see the noble stallion, the
pride of the prairie, hovering over it. I had now given up once for all
all thoughts of capturing him, but I should have felt sorry had he at
once left my dangerous neighbourhood, because his presence always caused
me great pleasure, and I might have an opportunity of getting hold of
some of his offspring. I sought him in vain during my hunting
excursions the whole of the summer, and it was not till autumn, when the
vegetation probably began to fail in the mountains, that he returned, to
my great delight, to his old station; but whenever I approached him he
did not trot towards me, but always took to flight as soon as he noticed
my horse.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XII.

THE PRAIRIE FIRE.


The summer passed away amid sporting pleasures which, though they always
consist of very monotonous events and results, still do not lose their
charm for the man who feels a true passion for the chase. Otherwise how
could a veteran sportsman, who in his time has shot so many thousand
partridges, still feel a pleasure whenever he brings one down, and
always find something new, something peculiar in the fact? How much
greater and more permanent is this attraction in sports, where a
thousand dangers offer themselves to the hunter, as is the case in
hunting the larger animals of prey! I gratefully saluted every new day
as the offerer of fresh joys: disregarding difficulties and fatigue, I
constantly seized my good rifle again, and merrily followed the same
routes.

The summer was at an end, and colder nights set in. On an autumn morning
I was riding through the prairie about five miles from the fort; the
grass was very high, and had been perfectly dried up by the burning
summer sun, while the newly springing up grass grew splendidly in the
shadow of the old. I had reached a bottom which was covered with a
forest of sunflowers, which raised their golden disks high above my
head, and whose long stems were girdled with bright varied creepers. I
had not left this gleaming forest of flowers far behind when a very
large deer got up from the grass just before me, arched its back, and
then lay down again as if it had not seen me; while I noticed several
old deer lying about in the grass.

Czar at once drooped his head as I raised the rifle to my shoulder. I
shot the deer, but a little too far behind. It darted ahead, and Trusty
looked up at me so imploringly, while showing the tip of his blood-red
tongue, that I could not refuse him leave to follow the deer. I gave him
a sign, and he shot through the grass along the blood-stained track. I
loaded my rifle, while keeping my eye on the deer, which disappeared no
great distance off in a small clump of low elms. I had just put on the
cap when I heard Trusty's deep bass. I felt certain it was not the deer
he was barking at, for he would have made but slight ceremony in that
case, so I gave Czar his head, and in a few minutes reached the thicket.

I leapt down, ran in a stooping posture under the pendant elms, and saw
Trusty lying on the ground defending himself with widely opened jaws
against a tremendous panther, which was leaping over him, and every time
it came down lacerated the dog's back with its tremendous hind claws.
Trusty recognised the superiority of this savage foe, but defended
himself as well as he could. But he hardly saw me arrive ere he leapt up
with one bound, pinned the panther by the throat, and wrestled with it,
while the latter dug its terrible fore claws into either side of his
collar.

At the first moment I could not fire for fear of hitting the dog. The
panther saw me, and tried to get away, but Trusty clung to it like a
burr. The animal now turned, and my bullet passed through its heart and
laid it lifeless. Trusty was terribly maltreated, and the wounds on his
back were of the width of a finger, and I believe that his strong collar
had alone saved his life. I sewed up his wounds, washed them with water,
and then broke up the deer. Then I stripped the panther, and packed the
game on both sides of my saddle, laid the skin over it, and placed
Trusty on the top of all. I told him that he must lie quiet, and started
homewards, leading Czar by the bridle. Trusty cut the most absurd face,
but for all that did not stir, and after he had ridden a few hundred
yards he helped me with his hind legs, when he slipped a little on one
side, and I believe he would not have fallen off at a gallop. It was a
week ere I could draw the threads out of the wound, and during that
period Leo had to accompany me when hunting. At the end of a fortnight
my faithful comrade had so far recovered that he was able to accompany
me on short trips.

About this time I was riding, when the sun was rather low, up the river
to the bank of a small stream, which joined the Leone a few miles above
the fort, and slowly wound between its level banks through the prairie.
It was here and there covered with bushes and groups of trees, while
every now and then its bed widened and formed small pools. On this
stream there were always a great many turkeys, and indeed the banks were
visited by game of every description at all seasons. I rode down the
quiet bright stream, and on coming out of a thicket on to a small
clearing bordered at the other end by tall pecan-trees, I saw a flock of
turkeys stealing away from me among the bushes on the bank. I ordered
Trusty on, who had his nose already to the ground sniffing; he was among
the fugitives like the wind; they ran, noisily and loudly pursued by
Trusty, and settled on the trees. I rode close up to the wood, for so
long as the turkeys see the dog springing about under them they are
terrified, and look timidly at their pursuer, stretching out their long
neck in all directions instead of flying away. I dismounted, shot an old
cock on a tree growing close to the water, and saw it flutter down. I
then turned with the other barrel to a second, which was standing on an
oak farther in the thicket, and fetched it down also. I now looked round
and missed Trusty. I had no reply to my shout, and the agitation in the
pond aroused a fear that he had leapt in, and that an alligator, for
such are always concealed in the deeper water of these streams, had
seized and dragged him down.

I waited a good half-hour, it grew dark, and yet no sign of poor Trusty.
Beside myself with grief at this irreparable loss I hung the turkey on
the saddle, and mounted my horse, as longer waiting would be of no use.
At this moment I suddenly saw Trusty at the head of the wood, lying down
to rest by the side of the gigantic cock turkey. My delight knew no
bounds. I galloped up the stream, dashed through it, and found my
favourite on the other bank. I leapt from my horse and took him in my
arms, whereon he gave vent to his joy by a widely echoing howl, and
lashed his tail. I hung the turkey, which weighed over twenty pounds,
and which he had carried Lord knows how far, to my saddle, and the
faithful dog leaped up to my horse and barked in the utmost delight as
we proceeded homeward.

We were busily engaged for a week in making some machinery on the river
by which to employ the water power in turning a mill to grind the maize.
A raft was fastened to the bank. A roller was placed on it, from one end
of which a rather large wheel hung down into the water, while the mill
was fastened to the other, whose hopper we enlarged so that we might not
have to put in maize so frequently. It worked famously, and we all
rejoiced at a successful operation which saved us a fatiguing job.

Owing to this I had not gone out much, and we were all longing for good
fresh meat. As there were a good many buffaloes in the very
neighbourhood, I resolved to hunt them on the morning after our mill was
finished, as one of my men had seen large herds during the day on the
prairie across the river. The morning arrived, but with it sprang up a
very violent westerly wind, and a few light straggling clouds proved
that it would not sink in such a hurry. In doubt whether to ride out or
wait another day, my men persuaded me to the former course, as the chase
would probably be soon over. Hence I rode off, but left Trusty at home,
as on these prairies the dry grass was extraordinarily high and it would
tire him too much to force his way through it, especially if we had to
go quickly. I was soon across in the wood where, though the wind did not
meet me, still it shook the tall trees so terribly that the dry wood
constantly whizzed round my head. I reached the prairie on the other
side of the forest, and saw several herds of buffalo in the distance.

Binding my hat firmly under my chin, I rode through the tall grass in a
northern direction toward them. The storm grew more violent, and laid
the grass so flat on the ground that I could not think of putting my
horse beyond a walk in any other direction than with the wind, as, when
the wind is blowing fiercely all game is usually more cautious than in
calm weather, as it has to make up by the sight for what it loses in
smell. The buffaloes noticed me and my horse, which was brilliantly
illumined with the sun, a long distance off, and took to flight. I
turned toward another herd, but with the same result, and saw at last
that in this way I should not get within shot. After several hours of
useless exertion I turned to the east, toward a spot on which some
scattered oaks grew. Here I fancied it would be easier to approach the
game.

The distance to the first tree-covered hill was about five miles, and I
saw through my glass at the elevations behind a great number of
buffaloes, which, however, seemed to be in a strange state of
excitement. My horse found it hard walking owing to the dry grass, in
which Czar was compelled to part the sharp tangled stalks at every step.
I looked constantly toward the highland, and remarked, while the storm
howled past my ears, that the sky was growing obscured and that the
sunshine was not so bright as it had been a few moments previously. I
looked around me, the heavens appeared to be veiled by a grey mist, and
grew darker behind me, and on the edge of the prairie were perfectly
black. I felt a cold shudder, for I knew the fearful element which had
become allied with the storm, and would roar over the plain scattering
ruin around. The prairie was on fire. It is true that I could not yet
see the fire, but the black smoke clouds rose higher and higher on the
horizon, and the storm soon bore them past me over the last blue patch
of sky. Only one chance of escape remained. I must reach a knoll where
the grass was shorter, and without reflecting I gave Czar the spurs and
his head, and flew in rivalry of the storm-wind over the grassy plains
before me.

I looked round; the whole black expanse behind me was gloomy and obscure
as if night were setting in, and beneath the dark rising smoke-clouds
the deep red glowing flames stretched out their long forks and cast
their fearful light over the outlines of the cloudy columns of smoke.
The whole plain seemed to grow alive. Far as eye could see, it was
covered with flying herds of the denizens of the desert, whose black
forms were surrounded by a fiery halo as they pressed over the plain. It
was like the picture of the last judgment, which my fancy had frequently
depicted.

Czar ran with long leaps through the tall grass, looking neither to the
right nor left. With every moment it grew darker around me, and the
reflection of the spreading sea of flame more and more tinged my horse's
snow-white neck. It was not his ordinary strength that urged the horse
to reach the knoll, but the force which desperation imparts to men and
animals, but soon wears them out and ends in utter exhaustion. The sharp
spurs and the thunder behind him urged my horse constantly on at a mad
speed, but I felt his bound gradually lose its lightness and force.

I was not far from the hill in front of me; once more the spurs and my
shrill hunting-cry, and I flew up the knoll, and hobbled my trembling,
snorting horse on the bare table-land, which was covered with pebbles
and thin patches of grass. I ran back to the tall grass with a lucifer
in my hand, lit it, and in an instant the flames rose, struggling wildly
against the storm, and darted round my hill, till they joined on its
eastern side, and dashed along like an avalanche with the howling storm.
I now looked back for the first time, holding my brave horse by the
bridle, at the fearfully animated plain, and watched the dark living
forms hurrying past on either side of the knoll. The whole animal world
seemed assembled here, and to be exerting their last strength in
escaping a death by fire. On both sides beneath me thundered past in
wild confusion herd after herd--buffaloes, horses, deer, and antelopes
were pressed together, and between them rushed bears, tigers, panthers,
and wolves, one after the other, with their faces averted from the glow,
which the storm blew with a thick black cloud of ashes over the land.
Dark, black night now encompassed me; only a pale reddish glare gleamed
through the dense ashes; while the hurricane developed its highest fury,
and blended its howling with the hollow, earth-shaking thunder of the
flying masses of animals below me.

The sea of fire was scarce half a mile from me, when the ashes passed
over my head, and granted me a full look at it. The flames right and
left, far as eye could see, lay obliquely over the ground and stretched
out their quivering tongues for at least fifty feet over the grass. They
darted forward with frightful rapidity, and caught up countless animals
flying before them, whose wearied limbs could no longer carry them along
quickly enough. Three old buffaloes collected their last strength to
reach my knoll, but at the foot of it the flames closed over them, I saw
them rear, fall back, and disappear. The heat was stifling; I and my
horse,--who, trembling all over, yielded to his fate--turned our backs
to it, and the stream of fire passed us on both sides, crackling and
hissing.

Gradually daylight returned, and the sky became blue over my head.
Thousands of large and small predaceous birds followed the flames, and
fell now and then in them. On all sides lay the black carcases of the
countless victims which this prairie fire had destroyed, and many
animals struggling with death were rolling in their agony on the plain.
Czar and I were completely covered with ashes. I now mounted my horse to
get away as quickly as possible from this scene of destruction and
death, and reach the green forests of the Leone by the straightest line.
I rode down to the three buffaloes, two of which were not dead and
strove to rise, but fell back powerless on the earth. It was a fearful
sight offered by these burned monsters, and their frightened snapping
for air and blind rolling of their heads induced me to put an end to the
pain of the poor tortured creatures. I put a bullet through each of
their flat foreheads, and after reloading, I rode in a southern
direction towards the Leone.

I saw many animals still wrestling with death on both sides of the road,
and might have expended the whole of my ammunition in trying to help
them out of their agony. Most of the burnt animals were buffaloes and
deer, but I also saw a bear and a horse and a number of wolves lying
lifeless on the ground.

My road over the black, bare, burnt fields of desolation was tiring, and
my horse was so worn out that I frequently dismounted and led him:
although the wind was no longer so violent, it brought with it a
quantity of fine ashes, and rendered both seeing and breathing
difficult. I frequently came across birds of prey, whose wings only
displayed the bare quills, the feathers being burnt off: they sate
helpless and wretched on the ground, and tried in vain to rise into the
air when I approached them. These birds regularly follow the prairie
fires in large numbers, in order to eat its countless small four-footed
denizens, after the fire has passed over them, and either rendered them
helpless or killed them. They looked at me in terror with their large
rolling eyes, spread out the quills of their wings, and uttered a
complaining cry. I went past them as I could not help them.

About a mile from the wood on the Leone I saw, to my great surprise, on
my right hand a very large deer and a horse walking together across the
plain to the wood. They tottered along slowly side by side, and seemed
not to notice me at all. I rode up to them: I fancied they had been
blinded by the fire, but it was not so; for they now stopped and gazed
at me with their bright eyes, as if imploring me not to prevent them
from reaching the wood. Both were slightly scorched, though the horse
had lost mane and tail: they appeared to have suffered more from
excessive exertion, and to be yearning for the water of the Leone. I
could easily have killed the deer, but I pitied the creature, and
besides did not care to eat its hunted flesh or put a further load on
Czar. Hence I quitted the poor creatures, and reached the wood, which is
not very broad here; and soon after the river, where Czar refreshed
himself for a long time in the cool waters.

Annually nearly all the western prairies are burnt by the Indians,
towards spring: when they leave the south and go north to hunt they fire
the old grass, so that when they return in autumn they may find on these
extensive plains fresh food for their large troops of horses and mules.
They have, however, I fancy, another motive. If these plains were not
singed with fire, a perfectly different vegetation would arise on them
within a few years. Trees and bushes would rapidly grow up and convert
the prairies into an impenetrable chapparal or forest, which would be
very troublesome to the horse Indians, in their hunts and journeyings.
In this way, however, fire destroys every growth but that of grass. If a
sapling springs up in spring from seed borne thither by the wind or by
animals, it is burnt down in autumn. Prairie fires are generally
dangerous neither to men nor beasts, as the fire, with an ordinary wind,
advances very slowly, and over a limited region. If you arrive at very
tall grass where the fire would kill, you have always time to get away
from it; and when the grass is not unusually high, you can always find a
spot to leap over the flames. If the storm is accompanied by rain the
grass does not burn at all, hence, only a hurricane with a clear sky, as
is not rare among us in autumn, produces in alliance with the fire such
destruction among the occupants of the steppe.

It was evening when I reached home, tired and without booty. My people
had seen, by the smoke which covered the sky over them, that the prairie
was on fire, and they were very anxious about me on account of the
violent storm. I soon sought my bed, and slept till the sun rose. Czar
would not get up when I went into his stall; while my other horses and
mules, with the exception of Fancy and the cream-colour, who stood in
the large enclosure round the fort, had been grazing for some time
outside, fastened to their long lassos. I made Czar rise, led him down
to the river, where I gave him a good swim, and then led him back to the
rich grass, where, however, he soon lay down again in the shade of an
elm.

The day was fine and perfectly calm, and as we had no fresh meat, I
determined to procure some, without tiring myself excessively. The
prairie hens had already collected in large coveys, and I had lately
seen very many of these pretty birds in the neighbourhood of the fort.
Hence I resolved to try my fortune with them; saddled the cream-colour,
took my shot gun, and rode out with Tony, a spaniel.

These hens are very like our heath-powts in size, shape, and manner of
life, save that they have golden red plumage, and the cocks are
ornamented with a yellow and black collar, like the golden pheasant.
They are extraordinarily shy, and fly off in a straight line when
approached. If you follow them they sit closer, and after being put up a
few times, they settle down separately in the tall grass, where they
hide themselves till the dog puts them up with its nose.

I had not ridden very far when a covey of about fifty got up before my
dog, and settled again about half a mile farther on the prairie. I rode
up to them, leapt from my horse, followed the dog, and again the covey
got up at a long distance. I fired both barrels among them, but was too
far off to hurt them much with my rather small shot; they flew some
distance, and I saw them settle on a mosquito-tree, so I reloaded and
rode slowly towards it, when the dog stood; I leapt off, went up to it,
and ordered it on: the hens rose, and I brought down seven of them with
my two barrels, while I looked after the rest, and saw them settle
separately not far from me. I now hobbled my horse and sought the hens
concealed in the grass, and in half an hour shot some twenty of them.

This sport affords much pleasure through the ease with which it is
performed, and the very delicate game most amply rewards the sportsman
for the slight trouble. I was home again by noon, when we had some of
the birds for dinner; a number of the others were hung up in the dairy
to keep fresh, while the rest were cut in pieces, boiled in water with
laurel leaves, spice, and isinglass, vinegar poured over them, and the
whole set to cool in a large earthenware pot, in which the liquid soon
becomes a jelly. Game preserved in this way remains for several weeks
good and tasty.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIII.

THE DELAWARE INDIAN.


One day after dinner, when we had drunk coffee, my sentry shouted that a
party of Indians were coming up the river, and I perceived through my
telescope that they must belong to one of the civilized tribes, as they
were not armed with lances, and bows and arrows, but with firearms, and
wore clothes, if we may call them such, consisting of leathern breeches
and jackets, and a coloured handkerchief wound round the head like a
turban. There were ten Indians, who halted at the great gate of the
palisade which enclosed my fort, in a large semicircle, with both its
ends joining the river. They shouted "Captain," and then gave me to
understand that they wished to speak with me. I went out, accompanied by
Trusty, with my large gun loaded with slugs on my arm, and found that
the men belonged to a tribe of friendly Delaware Indians, whose chief I
knew, and who had several times camped in the very neighbourhood and
paid me a visit.

They told me they had encamped several miles down the river, where they
had arrived on the last evening; their chief had sent them to tell me
that the prairie fire on the previous morning had been caused by the
negligence of his men, but that it had spread against their will, and
had not been purposely caused. Then they asked whether the chief would
be allowed to visit me, and rode back to camp after I had appointed his
visit for the morrow.

The next morning at about seven o'clock the chief of the Delawares duly
rode up with three of his men. They bound their horses by lassos to
pickets which they drove into the ground, carried their baggage into the
fort, and accepted my invitation to enter the house, where our parlour
and kitchen were. Delawares have always been on the most friendly terms
with the United States Government, fought on their side against England
in the War of Liberation, and have assumed a number of customs from the
whites. They have, as their property, a district of land on the Kansas,
where their villages are situated, and their squaws, children, and old
people carry on agriculture and cattle breeding, while the men, with
some of the squaws, hunt in the desert for nine months of the year.

The Delawares are generally good-looking; the men tall and well-built,
with expressive, marked features, aquiline noses, large dark eyes, long
black hair, and not a very reddish-brown complexion. The women are
small, but neat and pretty, and in spite of their darker hue, produce a
pleasing impression through their regular sharply-cut features, dark
curly hair, and brilliant coal-black eyes. They dress themselves with
some degree of taste. Their clothes consist of gaily-painted deer-hide,
ornamented with beads, and the gayest calicoes, which they obtain from
the Government trading posts by bartering peltry for them.

After our guests had taken their places, I lit a pipe, and handed it to
the chief, who, after taking some twenty pulls at it, passed it to his
next man, and so it went from hand to hand, or rather, from mouth to
mouth, till it returned to me. During this ceremony of the pipe of peace
not a word was spoken, but the chief now broke the silence. After
puffing out a portion of the swallowed smoke in a dense cloud from his
lips and nostrils, he told me they were the best friends of the white
men, and would remain so, and intended to stay for some weeks in the
neighbourhood for the purpose of hunting. I assured them that we
entertained the same feelings toward them, and that I intended to pay
them a return visit at their camp.

After this dinner was served up, which they greatly enjoyed. They
behaved with great propriety at it, were acquainted with the use of
knives and forks, and it could be seen by their conduct that they
frequently came into contact with white men. After dinner the chief
imparted to me, that his people wished to have a deal with me, and swap
tanned deer and antelope skins for powder, lead, and flints. I told him
I should be delighted, and should expect them in the afternoon. One of
them, who called himself "Black Tiger," pleased me remarkably. He was a
young, good-looking man, of about eighteen, tall, thin, with an open,
kindly face, and displayed great animation and conversational powers for
an Indian. He spoke English very well, and seemed much attached to me,
which he repeatedly told me, and at last displayed more fully by
expressing a wish to remain with me. I took it for a joke, laughed, and
told him that in that case I would build him a house for himself and
give him everything he wished to have.

They then rode away, after indicating the position of the sun when they
intended to return in the afternoon for the purpose of making the
barter. At about 4 P.M., some twenty Delawares dismounted in front of
the fort, and displayed their wares on the prairie. No tribe prepares
hides so finely as this one, and I was very glad to obtain a number of
them for use by myself and my men, as we made our clothes out of them,
and were unable to prepare them so handsomely ourselves. The exchange
was soon arranged to mutual satisfaction, although I had given but
little powder, lead, flints, and pressed tobacco in proportion. The
chief was presented with a small portion of the above articles, as is
the custom on such occasions, and then the whole party followed me into
the fort, where I regaled them with coffee and bread.

When they prepared to depart, the chief told me that one of his men,
Black Tiger, would stop with me, as I had offered to build him a house
and give him everything he required. He would in return be a very good
friend to me, and he (the chief) would hear on his return in the
following year whether he remained a Delaware. I saw now that it was no
jest, and replied that I would be a good friend to him as to all the
Delawares. On parting I gave him the assurance that I would visit them
next morning at their camp. Black Tiger remained behind in great
delight, carried his saddle and pack into the fort, placed his long
rifle and hunting pouch in the parlour, and then came to me begging I
would build him the promised house. I intimated to him that this would
take some time, but in the meanwhile I would give him a handsome tent. I
fetched a very large white and red striped marquee and asked him where I
should put it up for him. He pointed out a spot at the eastern end of
the fence under an elm-tree on the slope over the river, and when I told
him that I locked the fort gate at night, he laughed, and replied that
in that case he would shut up his house too.

He was quite beside himself with joy when the handsome tent was up, and
the long red, white, and blue American pennant floated over it. He now
refused to have another house, as this one was much finer than mine. A
trench was dug round the tent to carry off the rain water, and the
ground inside was covered with some buffalo hides, after which Tiger
carried in his baggage and weapons, quite delighted with his house. In
order to delight him even more, I hung upon the tent-post a
looking-glass, put in a chair, and gave my young friend a gay coloured
silk handkerchief, with which he bound his fine black hair on the right
side of his head, and let the end hang over his shoulder. After supper
my new guest went to his tent, and when we closed the fort, a merry fire
was still blazing before it, behind which he sat on his stool and smoked
a short pipe which I had also given him.

The next morning, almost before sunrise, I went to Tiger and saw him
turning some spits at the fire, on which he had placed the breast of a
turkey, while by his side lay another young cock which, as he said, he
had fetched for me. He had been hunting on the other side of the river,
to which he had crossed in my canoe. An hour after he came to breakfast
with me, and enjoyed it heartily, especially the milk and bread. Then he
went to his tent, and slept till I called him to ride with me to the
camp of his tribe.

I had mounted Czar, and one of my men the cream-colour, when my young
Tiger rode up to us in full costume. The lower part of his face, from
the corners of his mouth to the ear-tips, was painted pure red with
vermilion; from this a black stripe ran to the eyes, while the edges of
the eyelids were again thickly daubed with vermilion. His hair, fastened
with the silk handkerchief, hung over his shoulders, and in front of his
chest he had hung from a leathern thong the looking-glass from his tent,
which completely covered it. He glowed with pride and joy, and was of
opinion that his brothers in camp would stare when they saw him with
these splendid things.

Tiger was mounted on a magnificent piebald, with an enormous black mane
and tail. The saddle was of wood, and home manufacture, and from it hung
two large wooden stirrups by leathern straps. Over the saddle lay a
shaggy buffalo hide, under which the tomahawk, fastened to the saddle
bow, and a rolled-up lasso peeped out. The bridle was composed of
leathern straps fastened under the horse's jaw with a slipknot, and
vermilion dyed strips of deerhide were plaited in the mane. The long
single rifle hung downwards over Tiger's left shoulder, while he laid
his powerful forearm on the stock. A small medicine bag of beaver skin
hung on his right side, and on the strap passing over his right shoulder
a number of strips of shaggy buffalo hide were fastened as a rest for
the rifle. The young rider's dress consisted of leathern breeches
adorned on the sides with a delicate fringe of the same material, and
fastened at top by a strap to the short leathern petticoat that was
gathered round his hips, and decorated with very long fringe. On his
feet he had deerhide mocassins, round his neck was a collar of very
large white beads, very finely cut out of shells, and round his arms was
a number of polished brass rings. He sat his horse nobly, and turned his
flashing black eyes in all directions.

We soon reached the Delaware camp, hobbled our horses in the grass close
by, and went up to the chief, who was lying at his fire, in front of
his great buffalo hide tent, and being served with food by his two young
squaws. Without rising, he invited us to sit down by his side and smoke
the pipe of peace with him, while he silently gazed in admiration at
Black Tiger. The camp consisted of some forty tents, of white buffalo
hides, erected under clumps of trees on the river bank, and before which
an equal number of fires was burning. From the trees around hung a
number of skins of every description, stretched out to dry in the sun,
while men, women, and children lay round the fire and were eating their
dinner. A heap of dogs were running about the camp, while some hundred
horses and mules were grazing around. We sat down on a buffalo hide by
the chief's fire, and he at once told us about his journey which he had
made in spring in the Rocky Mountains; he wished to remain during the
winter in the south, and next spring pay a visit to his home on the
Kansas. He described in a very animated way the hunts he had made there,
and the bloody fights with hostile tribes; gave me a very attractive
description of the mountains, rivers, and valleys of those parts, and
remarked, with a slightly jealous look, that I occupied the best land. I
answered him that this land was free as before to friendly Indians like
the Delawares: the latter could sleep the more tranquilly, because I
only pursued the foes of my Indian friends, and had cast my bullets
solely for them. This speech produced a very good effect upon my red
friend, and with a cordial laugh, he took my hand in his two and shook
it with an expression of the most hearty and sincere friendliness. Soon
after he said a few words to one of his squaws, and one of his little
ones, about four years of age, came out of the tent soon after, dragging
an enormous tanned, exquisitely painted buffalo hide, which he presented
to me, while his father nodded kindly.

While we were sitting thus cosily together, several of the Indians in
the other tents prepared to go hunting, mounted their horses, called
their dogs, and rode off; while others got their fishing tackle ready,
or sported with the girls at the fire. Two young squaws went out in
front of the camp followed by several youths, and stood side by side to
try their speed in running. They were sixteen or seventeen years of age,
gracefully built and really pretty; they only wore their leathern
fringed petticoat, a couple of long red strips of leather round their
hanging black hair, with beads on their neck and brass rings round their
pretty arms. With their brilliant fiery eyes they waited, dancing on
their little feet, laughing and teasing each other, for the signal to
start, and the two goddesses of the desert glided like lightning through
the short grass, scarce touching the ground with the tip of their feet,
while their long hair, with the red streamers, flew out behind them. Far
away on the prairie stood the tree, which they touched almost
simultaneously, and they darted back with a laugh that displayed their
pearly teeth. I involuntarily rose at the sight of these pretty
creatures, and was surprised at myself, for years had elapsed since a
female glance had melted the ice of my heart. I looked for a long time
at these graceful little savages, as they teased each other and bounded
about with the most pleasing movements; then I once more assured the
chief of my friendship, and rode back to the fort.

The young Indian was already quite at home and always in good spirits. I
was thoroughly acquainted with the character of these men, who had grown
up in a state of independence, and knew that my only way of keeping him
was by gradually accustoming him to the minor pleasures of civilized
life, while at the same time avoiding everything that might lessen his
liberty, such as he enjoyed in the nomadic life of his tribe. Eating
played a great part in this--coffee, milk, bread, eggs, cheese, and
butter were delicacies which he heartily enjoyed, and he soon grew
accustomed to them. Whenever his hunting permitted it, he was rarely
absent from meals. At times he disappeared, struck his tent, and we saw
nothing of him for several days; at others, he stopped at home, and
hardly crossed the river to shoot a turkey or deer. It was an
incalculable advantage to have a trustworthy Indian with me, as any
hostilities against me affected him and consequently his tribe, and
would be avenged by the latter. The Delawares are the most respected
among the savage western hordes, as they have better weapons and more
weight with the United States Government than all the rest. Hence, I
regarded this chance enlistment as very fortunate, and was resolved to
make every effort to retain my guest as long as I could. Among other
amusements, which I strove to procure him, was chessplaying, which he
soon learnt and passionately loved. He became so excited that he would
spring up and dance about as if mad, and would frequently play far into
the night.

If by chance any of my horses or mules got loose and bolted, Tiger was
soon galloping after them, and drove them home; it was the same with my
milch kine when they did not come to be milked at the regular hour. In
smoking meat, plaiting lassos, tanning hides, &c., he was very useful to
me, and he very often accompanied me on my hunting excursions, when he
proved a pleasant companion and famous adjunct. Shooting with shot guns
was something new to Tiger, and afforded him great amusement; and as the
clouds of passenger pigeons had arrived to devour our abundant mast
crop, we frequently went across to the forest in the evening when the
birds were settling, sent our shot among them, and brought down
hundreds.

It is incredible in what countless numbers these pigeons fly, I remember
on several occasions watching from the fort their flight over the
forest, when they flew in a line from one end of the horizon to the
other, almost uninterruptedly for two hours. In the woods where they
settle to devour the mast, in a few weeks not an acorn is literally to
be found, and at the spots where they rest at night many trees do not
retain a single leaf on their branches, because the latter are broken by
the birds settling on them in masses. In those parts of America where
pig breeding is carried on extensively, these birds are regarded as a
plague, as they entirely eat up the mast in a very short time. The
pigeons are very good eating, but we who had such an abundance of large
game only followed these smaller varieties for fun, and it is a rarity
to find a shot gun on the border.

Our horses had enjoyed a rather long rest, when I one morning rode
across the river with Tiger to the northern prairies for the purpose of
procuring fresh meat. We had been an hour under way when we reached a
stream, which winds through the prairie to the Leone and is densely
overgrown on both banks with birch bushes. The stream through its
windings forms here almost an island, as it flows past again only a few
yards from its own bed. I saw from a distance a remarkably fat buffalo
in the young fresh grass of this island, and on the other side in the
prairie a herd of about four hundred of these animals. I dismounted
behind the birches, and left Tiger with the horses; then I sprang
through the stream, and crawled on my stomach through the grass toward
the buffalo, Trusty following me exactly in the same way. The buffalo
continued to graze, and did not seem to notice me at all. The sun burnt
fiercely, although the breeze was very fresh, and I became frightfully
hot on this march. The buffalo was one of the largest bulls in the herd,
and seemed to have selected this luxuriant spot for itself; it
frequently looked across to its friends, and drove away with its huge
fat tail and horns the flies which on this day were most troublesome.
Not far from it grew an old mosquito-tree, the only one on this round,
rather large meadow, and a very long, strong, but withered branch grew
horizontally out of its trunk about four feet from the ground.

I was near enough to shoot with certainty, but the buffalo was turned
from me, and I was obliged to wait till it moved before I could kill it.
I lay for a long time motionless with Trusty behind me, whose head I
pressed down to the ground. At last the bull started round, as the flies
had probably given it too fierce a sting, and exposed its whole
enormous side to me. I aimed just behind the shoulder-blade, and as soon
as I had fired laid myself flat on the ground. The buffalo darted round
several times looking for its enemy, but then tottered against the tree,
where it leant against the withered branch to keep itself from falling,
while it burst into a fearful roar and rolled its enormous head. I gave
Trusty a nod, and with a few leaps he was in front of the buffalo and
pinned it by the nose. I had just reloaded when the bushes parted on the
other side of the meadow at a hundred points, the whole herd of
buffaloes dashed through and galloped towards me. They had heard the
complaints of their lord and Trusty's furious barking, and hurried up to
help their comrade. I stood quite exposed, and expected that on seeing
me they would take to flight, but they dashed on straight towards me.
The foremost of the herd were only thirty paces from me when I took out
my white pocket-handkerchief and waved it in the air. The ranks now
broke, and the terrified animals dashed past me on the right and left;
upon which I sent two bullets after them, which certainly went home, but
were carried away by the wounded. Tiger at this moment came through the
bushes with the horses, and said to me, laughingly, that if I had not
had the handkerchief the herd would certainly have run over me. We went
up to the shot buffalo, while our horses grazed near us, paunched it,
and then put up a number of white rags we had brought for the purpose,
and fastened to sticks, and laid a white cloth over it to keep off the
carrion crows. Then we mounted our horses for the purpose of riding home
and fetching the meat in the mule cart.

We were in our saddles when a herd of about 400 buffaloes appeared on a
rise in the prairie, halted in a long point, and stared at us in
amazement. The distance was scarce 300 yards. Tiger looked at me with a
smile, and cried "Alligator Creek," while pointing to the herd. I made
him a sign to ride on, and we were soon galloping behind the flying
buffaloes, which pressed close together and thundered on ahead of us in
a cloud of dust. Tiger's clear hunting yell urged the terrified monsters
to a more rapid flight, and in ten minutes we approached a swampy stream
which crossed the prairie obliquely, and which we had christened
"Alligator Creek," from the number of those animals in it. The banks
were very steep and above twelve feet high, the water almost dried up,
and the deep bed only contained black thick mud.

The dense mass hastened before us towards the banks of the river bed,
and rushed down into the swampy bottom with deafening roars and grunts.
Buffalo after buffalo fell into the ravine till we pulled up on the bank
above them and laughed at their confusion and the efforts with which
they ascended the other bank all coated with mud. I fancied that at
least one half must break their necks, but not one of them remained in
the mud. They forced their way to the other bank atop of each other, and
sprang, apparently at least, quite unhurt up it. I had dismounted and
shot a fat cow, which had borne a calf this year and hence was very
plump. The cows only drop one calf every two years, and for this reason
it is the more inexplicable that the number of these animals is not more
rapidly reduced by the great destruction that takes place among them.
The cow followed the herd but a short distance, and then fell dead on
the prairie. We were obliged to go a long way up the bank before we
could find a low path by which to cross, but soon reached the cow, put
up rags round it, but left the paunching to my people, as we did not
care to dirty ourselves with the mud that covered it.

We now rode the shortest way to the forest on the Leone, and again
crossed the stream on which I had shot the bull about three miles below
the spot where it lay. We passed through the thick bushes out into the
prairie, but Trusty did not follow us. He trotted down the stream,
stopped every now and then, looked up to me and gave his deep bark. I
looked at him curiously, for I knew that he was on some track, when all
at once he disappeared in the bushes and stopped. I gave Czar, whom the
well-known voice had rendered impatient, his head, and soon reached the
bushes among which Trusty was baying, with a revolver in my hand. I
turned Czar into a gap between the bushes, when suddenly the shaggy head
of a furious buffalo rose above the bank within a yard of me. My
startled horse swerved, and cleared the bushes by a tremendous leap,
while the monster dashed past me with a roar and galloped across the
prairie. I soon got out of the bush, however, and went after it, while
Tiger came to meet me. I was close behind the bull, when Tiger flew past
it and gave it a bullet from his long rifle near the neck. The buffalo
followed the piebald with terrible fury, dyeing the prairie with its
blood, when I darted past it and gave it a bullet from my revolver
behind the shoulder-blade, which lamed its left fore leg. Trusty now
attacked it in the flank, and it stood at bay, holding its head close to
the ground, with its nose between its fore feet, and holding one of its
short sharp horns against the dog. The buffalo stood motionless with its
tail erect, while Trusty sprang barking before it, waiting for the
moment when it should raise its head. But its hour had arrived. I rode
within twenty yards, and shot it through the heart: it fell lifeless.

It was one of the bulls I had wounded in the morning, when they hurried
to the assistance of their comrade: feeling bad it had gone to the water
to cool itself, and Trusty had followed its trail to the spot. We put up
rags round this one too, and rode sharply to the fort, whence I sent off
two of my men with the cart and two mules, accompanied by Tiger. They
returned late at night, and brought a heavy load of meat home, which we
cut up and salted the next morning. Of the three hides, they only
brought the one shot first, which was employed in making a very long
lasso.

Hunting occupied us pleasantly through the autumn, and Tiger grew more
and more used to our mode of life: it became rare for him to remain away
several days without our knowing what had become of him; he also took
greater pleasure in domestic jobs, and applied himself to them more
frequently than at the first period of his stay with us. He learned to
milk the cows, and readily helped in it as he was so fond of milk, as
well as in making vinegar, which he also liked much, and which is made
of the large wild grapes with which the prairie thickets are covered.
For this purpose I had two large empty whisky casks fetched from the
settlement, and this year our vinegar turned out first-rate. Previously
we had made it in smaller quantities of mulberries, plums, or honey,
which was not half so agreeable as that made of grapes.

Tiger was able to make butter and cheese, and at a pinch cook. Our table
was now always well covered, as we had a superabundance of the finest
vegetables. The potato crop had turned out very well, and we had more
especially an extraordinary quantity of sweet potatoes, as they are
called. This is a tuber like the potato; the plant itself consists of
tendrils, which spread flat and thick over the soil, and can be easily
multiplied in spring. The shoot bears in autumn an extraordinary number
of tubers, which are employed precisely like potatoes, except that they
have a much more agreeable flavour, resembling the chestnut. A small,
most prolific bean, which we plant between the maize, and which spreads
over the whole field, had produced us a large stock, while the less
hardy vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, and cabbage, covered the
garden all the winter through.

The winter in this region is very mild, and may fairly be termed the
pleasantest season of the year. We have no lasting rainy season,
although rain falls more frequently then than in the summer months, but
it rarely lasts longer than a day, and then the cloudless blue sky
gleams pleasantly over us again. Frost is rare and trifling; but
sometimes it sets in towards morning, and will last a whole day if
accompanied by a wind blowing down from the northern Rocky Mountains.
These Northers are usually called something terrible in the whole of
the United States, but in reality they do not at all merit this
reputation. Certainly the cold is felt much more among us than
elsewhere; because, as men accustomed to warm weather, we rarely lay in
a stock of winter clothes. The houses, too, are not calculated for cold,
as they are built very airily and lightly, and have no stoves--only
fireplaces. When the Northers blow the people fly to these fires, while
the cattle seek bottoms and dense thickets, where they conceal
themselves.

I remember on a splendidly warm forenoon the sky becoming overcast from
the north, and it began to blow and rain, which caused the whole country
to be covered with ice in a short time. If such a storm assails a
traveller in his light summer dress, he is certainly in an unpleasant
position, and if he is a stranger it easily happens that he tells a
terrible story about it when he gets home. These disagreeable storms
from the north, however, are infrequent; we have perhaps six or eight in
a winter, and they rarely last longer than four-and-twenty hours, and
are then driven away by very bright warm days. The winter proper--which
may bring cold weather--does not begin till January, frequently later;
hence we have a very long delicious autumn. The days are no longer
oppressively hot, and the nights become so cool that we are glad to
snuggle under a buffalo robe or a woollen blanket. This is the season
when we recover from the exhausting continuous summer heat, and the body
regains its energy.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIV.

IN THE MOUNTAINS.


It was on a bright healthy morning in November that I, accompanied by
Tiger and Trusty, left the fort, and rode down the river toward the Rio
Grande Mountains. I had never made any excursions far beyond that river,
and even when hunting had rarely reached its banks, as it is enclosed on
both sides by savage rocky mountains, which neither man nor brute can
easily traverse. Tiger had formerly been several times on the other side
of the Rio Grande, and told me there was more game, and more especially
more bears there, while rich valleys ran between the mountains. Hence I
resolved to spend some weeks in those regions, and provided myself for
this tour with provisions, some buffalo robes, and a small tent, which
articles were carried by Jack, a most excellent mule. The animal
followed my horse without being led, and I may say that it could not be
kept away from it except by force. We had no trouble with it but to
saddle and load it in the morning, and take off its burden again at
night. It would certainly stop now and then at a fresh patch of grass
and snatch a few mouthfuls, but then it galloped after us again and
followed at our heels.

We rested at noon at the mountain springs, which I had not visited for
some time, and we were forced to cut an entrance into the little
thicket, as it was completely overgrown. They rewarded us on our arrival
with some fat turkeys, which were never absent there, and whose delicate
meat we enjoyed, while our horses rested from their hot march over the
open prairies. About 3 P.M. we started again, and rode in a northern
direction toward the foot of the mountains, as Tiger told me that
higher up a river ran towards the Rio Grande, with a rather broad valley
on either side, and I believed that this stream must be Turkey Creek. We
crossed the Leone toward evening at a shallow spot well known to me.
This spot, at which I had often rested, surprises the traveller coming
from the open prairie with a very pleasant scene. Bordered on both sides
by the grandest vegetation, magnolias, plane-trees, and enormous oaks
covered with the most splendid creepers, the foaming silvery stream
dashes between scattered masses of rock, with such a roar that visitors
can hardly understand each other. The atmosphere beneath these dense
masses of foliage is cool and constantly fanned by the breeze produced
by the violent motion of the current as it breaks on the rocks, and
falls over them in countless small cascades.

When we arrived the scene was enlivened by silver herons and flamingos,
some soaring high in air, others standing on the dry rocks jutting out
of the water, and forming a striking contrast with their white and green
plumage against the dark green background. We cautiously guided our
horses between the rocks, while Jack followed close behind, and the
birds raised a hoarse croak of surprise over our heads. The primeval
forest on the other side of the stream is broad, and day had yielded the
supremacy to night, as we moved along the buffalo path which was only at
intervals illumined by the moon. I knew here nearly every step, and we
reached the prairie all right, when we remounted, and half an hour later
reached the equally familiar sources of a stream which falls into the
Leone a little lower down.

It was a favourite spot of mine, where we took the load off our animals.
A cheerful fire soon blazed and threw its light upon them, while they
lay in the young grass around us. The moon had not set when we had
finished supper and fell into a refreshing sleep. The eastern sky was
already tinged with red, when I woke and saw several spits with meat
already put before the fire. The horses were grazing round our camp,
but I missed Tiger, whose weapons lay on his buffalo hide. I went a
little way round the bushes, and saw him on the open prairie on his
knees with folded hands and uplifted face, awaiting the appearance of
the sun, in order to offer his adoration to it. I heard him speaking
softly to himself as it sent its first beams towards us, and he
continued his prayer till it had fully risen above the horizon; then he
rose, and with a pleasant smile came back to his seat at the fire. He
then produced his small mirror and box of vermilion, laid the former on
his crossed knees and painted his face, as he supposed, very grandly;
then he arranged his splendid hair with a comb I had given him, rubbed
it with bear's grease and tied it up with strips of red leather.

During breakfast Tiger told me about his last tour in the Rocky
Mountains; of the mountains covered with eternal snow; the beautiful
valleys containing famous pasturage; his fight with a desperate grizzly
bear, which he killed, &c., and accompanied his words with the most
animated gestures. It is a peculiarity of Indians to enliven their
remarks with signs and gestures which render it easy to understand what
they say; and Tiger, in spite of his knowledge of English, had retained
the sign language, which had grown habitual to him. I remarked that I
felt a great inclination to take a trip there in the next spring, and he
was delighted at the prospect of being allowed to accompany me.

It was late when we started, and continued our journey in a northern
direction. The prairies here grew narrower; the woods closer connected,
and the country more uneven. Although we kept as far as we could from
the mountains on our left, we crossed small streams, which either came
down from the mountains and went to form the larger streams, with which
they flowed through the hills to the Rio Grande, or which had their
sources in the eastern plateaus, and pursued the same course. The
country was picturesque; the small prairies, beset by clusters of bushes
and clumps of trees of the most varying shapes, were covered with juicy
fresh grass and a quite new flora; here and there huge blocks rose out
of it, in whose crevices grew large yuccas and mimosas of different
sorts, cactuses and aloes, which represented the southern world of
plants; on the left the hills rose over each other in terraces, and
indicated the course of the large river.

We had ridden the whole morning and not fired a shot at game, although
we had seen a good deal. Our fresh meat was quite finished, and I was
just saying to Tiger that it would soon be time to shoot something as
the dinner hour was at hand, when I saw turkeys running in a small
scrubby patch ahead of us, and made Trusty a sign to follow them. In an
instant he put them up, but as a dense forest rose just before us, they
all but one entered its impenetrable foliage. The latter, an old cock,
rose straight in the air, and settled on the top of a very tall cypress
which grew on the skirt of the forest, and whose roots were washed by a
small spring. It waved backwards and forwards on the thin branch, as if
challenging the hunter who would dare to fire at it, while Trusty leapt
up at it and barked loudly. Tiger looked at me laughingly, pointed
upwards, and asked, "What do you think?" I gave him a nod to try his
luck. He sprang from the piebald, took a long aim, fired, and the cock
did not stir, but continued to oscillate and look down at Trusty. I felt
an itch to try my skill. I sprang from my horse, raised my rifle, and
with the detonation the haughty bird opened its wings for the last time,
fell like a ball and smote the ground heavily. Tiger laughed, and said
that he would have brought it down too, if it had not swung so on the
bough. It is a curious fact that the Indians armed with rifles, and even
the Americans, never think of firing when the object is moving at all
quickly, although they have so many opportunities of practising it. The
chief motive may lie in the very long and heavy guns they carry, which
cannot be moved so rapidly and lightly as our rifles.

We could not have chosen a better spot than this for our mid-day rest,
as our horses found the best grass, the clearest spring water flowed
close past us, and the virgin forest offered us its cool shade. We
therefore quickly unsaddled, hobbled our horses, and set to work cooking
the turkey. We unwillingly left this pleasant spot a few hours later,
and were obliged to ride a couple of miles up the forest before we found
a buffalo path wide enough for us to pass through. For about an hour we
rode through the leafy labyrinth, ere we reached the open plain again on
the other side. Here Tiger rode up to me again, and talking and jesting,
we kept our horses at a brisk amble, while Jack trotted after us.

Suddenly I heard a "hugh!" from Tiger's lips, and pointing to the ground
before us he stopped and said that the buffalo dung on the path was
quite fresh and the animals must be in the vicinity. He galloped on and
we soon reached a narrow wood, which ran through the prairie in nearly
the same direction we were following, and through whose centre ran a
small stream. We had scarcely reached this wood ere Tiger leapt from his
horse, pointed to the ground before us, then pointed to his ears, and
made a motion with his hands as if breaking a stick. He sprang away with
the lightness of an antelope, scarce touching the ground with his toes,
and never treading on a branch, which might produce a sound; then he
suddenly stopped, lowered his head slightly and listened for some
minutes. After which he shot ahead again at such a pace that I could
hardly keep up with him. He presently lay down on the ground and made me
a sign with his hand that the buffaloes were entering the water just
under us, and were going across to the prairie. In a few minutes he
leapt up again, signed to me to follow him, and flew down the wood,
through the stream, and up the other bank, where we arrived behind the
last bush on the prairie, just as the buffaloes had only gone a few
yards along it, and two of them were standing on the other side of the
bush and staring intently at us.

We both had our rifles raised and I gave Tiger a nod to fire first. I
kept the sight between the eyes of the buffalo, standing on the right,
and as the flame poured from Tiger's gun, I fired and ran round the bush
to be able to use the other barrel; but it was unnecessary, for the two
gigantic animals were rolling on the ground at the last gasp. Tiger's
buffalo was shot through the heart, and the bullet had smashed the skull
of mine. We hurried to our horses and packed the best bits of our ample
booty on faithful Jack's back.

The sun was not very high above the mountains, but it was too early to
spend the night here. Our cattle had rested a little, and so we merely
allowed them to drink, filled our own bottles, and rode merrily on in a
northern course. Tiger was remarkably colloquial on this evening, and
the time slipped away and we scarce noticed that the night had spread
its dark wings over the road, which now wound between conical barren
hills. I remarked to my comrade that we should have a hard camp, which
he denied, and moving his hand across a long chain of hills in front of
us, he said that we should sleep softly on the other side of it. While
saying this he laid his cheek on his hand and closed his eyes.

It was late when we reached this chain of hills. The mountain side was
very steep; although we selected the lowest spot to cross, we were
obliged to dismount and lead our horses. Our foothold grew more and more
uncertain on the loose pebbles, and our horses, too, were obliged to
exert themselves in clambering over the many large stones with which the
ravine was covered.

While we were clambering on in this way, Trusty suddenly growled,
trotted a few yards past us with bristling hair, and then barked into
the depths behind us. Tiger said a jaguar was following us, and put his
rifle under his arm. We at length reached the top, where we let our
animals breathe, and looked back for a long time at the valley behind
us, but could see nothing of our pursuer, although Trusty continued to
growl. We marched along the top, which soon sloped down and allowed us a
glance at the valley on the other side. The slope was not so steep as
the one by which we ascended. The valley before us looked gloomy with
its black shadows, and its depths were covered with a white strip of
fog, while the opposite mountain side, illumined by the moon, glistened
with indistinct bluish tones.

We descended the hill, and in an hour reached the grassy damp bottom,
where we remounted and shortly after pulled up on the bank of a large
river whose other side was bordered by a thick wood. Here we unloaded
our cattle and soon sank into the most tranquil sleep, leaving to
faithful Trusty the care of our safety. His powerful voice soon awoke
us, however, and made us clutch our rifles. We called him back, stirred
up our fire, and as we could see nothing of a foe, we fell asleep again.
The faithful dog awoke us again several times, but when morning broke,
he lay rolled up by the fire, and was fetching up the rest he had lost
in the night.

We were up at an early hour, and Tiger found in the dewy grass not far
from our camp the trail of a very large jaguar, which had prowled round
it during the night and disquieted Trusty. We bathed in the deep clear
river, then breakfasted and set out again. The river flowed westward
through a rather wide vale, bounded on the north by a wood, on our side
by rich prairies, while a range of bald conical shaped lime hills ran
along either side. Judging from its distance from the Leone, this river
could only be Turkey Creek, on whose banks I had spent that stormy night
with the unhappy botanist. We followed its windings westward for several
hours, crossing a number of small streams which came down from the
ravines. The valley was here considerably broader than at the spot where
we passed the night, but in front of us the hills approached each other
again; then the river turned a little westward and afforded a prospect
between the rocks of the western cedar-grown banks of the Rio Grande.

The prairie over which we rode led us to the banks of this large river,
which runs at a depth of at least fifty feet between the widest masses
of rock. At this time it contained very little water, as it does not
begin to swell to any extent till January, and we at once made
preparations to cross it. We selected from the quantity of dry
driftwood, with which the steep bank was covered, pieces of light
cedar-wood, bound them together as a small raft, and anchored it to a
great tree trunk on the bank. We laid our provisions, saddle-bags, and
clothes upon it, and Tiger leapt in the very rapid stream, holding the
loose end of the lasso between his teeth, and swam to an island covered
with willows, which lay about fifty yards from our bank. When he had
swam so far as to haul the lasso taut, I thrust the raft off, and it
rapidly followed the current behind Tiger, who, however, guided it to
this island and landed about two hundred yards lower down. Then he went
to the end of the island, dragging the raft after him, and pulled it
into the calmer water on the other side. Then he threw the lasso over
his shoulders, and easily pulled the raft to the other bank, where he
fastened it to some heavy driftwood. He was soon back by my side. I hung
my holsters over my shoulders, took rifle in hand, and we flew on our
horses down the stream obliquely till we reached the island, which we
soon crossed and guided our horses into the quieter water on the other
side. We landed on the western bank of the river at the moment when
Jack, who had reached the island, uttered a frightful bray of delight,
while looking over at the horses: then he cautiously entered the river
again, and soon trotted up to his comrades, who enjoyed the scanty grass
that grew on the bank while we were dressing.

As it was noon, and high time to eat something, we lit a fire a little
higher up the hills under a leafy plane, and prepared our meal, while I
reclined on my buffalo robe and gazed in delight at the wildly romantic
scene that was expanded before me. The very deep river bed, cut in
limestone strata, is very wide higher up, so that the river, when
swollen in spring by the mountain torrents, quite fills it up, and
attains a width of half a mile. On both sides of the bed rise grey
masses of rock in the wildest shapes, leaving yawning ravines between
them, through which the torrents flow to the river. The mountains on the
eastern side are generally bare, and bushes only grow in these narrow
valleys, out of which a solitary cypress here and there raises its crown
to heaven: the western heights, on the contrary, are covered with dense
cedar woods, whose dark lustreless foliage, added to the grey steep
precipices, imparts a saddening and gloomy aspect to the scenery. In
face of us, however, opened between a lofty rock gate the pleasant
valley of Turkey Creek, through which we had come. Foaming and roaring,
it leaps over gigantic strata of stone into the deep bed of the Rio
Grande; while on its south side, far up the valley, the prairie glistens
with its fresh verdure, and on the north the dark shadows of a colossal
virgin forest run along the mountain range.

We took leave of these banks for a short period, and marched up a steep
ravine to the dark shade of the cedar woods, which soon offered us their
agreeable coolness. The mountains here were of a conical shape, and so
closely overgrown with not very tall cedars, that we were compelled to
dismount on our buffalo path--although it had been used by the Indians
on their expeditions for centuries--in order to get along at all. Never
in my life did I grow so tired of a road; it seemed as if we rode round
every hill, and after we had ridden for an hour and had a prospect
eastward for a second, the wild rocky valley of the Rio Grande lay at
our feet just as if we had but just left it. But a perfectly new and
beautiful flora rewarded me for the monotonous, slow ride; in these
shadows grew a number of exquisite plants, whose seeds I collected to
transfer them to my home.

We had been marching for three hours through these woods, when the
country became clearer, the mountains formed into large masses, and the
valleys between grew wider. It was twilight, and we had, as I thought,
surmounted the last short but steep rise, when Czar suddenly darted
back, and a jaguar appeared about thirty yards ahead, gazed at me for a
moment, lay down flat on the grass, and drew up its hind legs for a
spring. This did not take an instant; and I had pointed my rifle over
the neck of my rearing steed at my enemy, when it made its first leap.
At this moment I fired, but heard simultaneously the crack of another
rifle behind me. Czar turned round at my shot, and almost leapt on
Tiger, who was standing behind me on foot, and then darted down the
hill. I shouted to him to stop my horse, and saw the jaguar appear on
the top of the steep. I sent my second bullet through its chest, and it
rolled down toward me in the most awful fury. I called Trusty to me, and
fired a couple of revolver shots into the gigantic body of my foe, which
ere long gave up the ghost with savage convulsions. My first bullet had
passed through its left side; but Tiger's had seriously hurt the spine
behind the left shoulder. Tiger's shot had certainly gained the victory,
as it robbed the brute of its springing power, and it caused him great
delight when I acknowledged his victory, and surrendered to him the fine
large skin, which I bought of him on the same evening for a number of
trifles to be delivered when we returned home.

It was rather dark when I lit a large fire, and we set to work stripping
off the fine spotted skin of the royal beast. As it was very uncertain
whether we should find water, we unsaddled, hobbled the cattle, and put
on the coffee water to boil. We soon had the jaguar's huge skin off, and
hung it stretched on young cedar branches, on a tree close to the fire
to dry. Then we prepared supper, drank coffee, and ere long were asleep
near our horses, while Trusty patrolled round camp.

A splendid morning awoke us from our dreams and displayed to us the wild
but beautiful scenery we had noticed on the previous evening. We had
camped at the entrance of a plateau, bordered on the east by the
cedar-clad hills sloping down to the Rio Grande, while on the west a
chain of large mountains ran northward. The plateau was abundantly
covered with grass, but its surface did not display the same monotony as
those lying to the east of the Rio Grande; it was covered with patches
of wood, and here and there huge masses of rock arose. We marched
northward, and as the mountains to the west appeared to us too
difficult, we soon crossed a splendid small stream where we watered our
horses and filled our flasks. For three days we followed its course
through this park; at times over fresh green prairies, at others through
thick woods or _cañons_. We met a great many antelopes and deer, but
only saw a few buffaloes at a great distance. Among others Tiger pointed
out to me a buffalo on the western mountain side, and said it was lying
on the ground. After repeated search I managed to discover a small black
dot in the direction indicated, and when I called my glass to my help I
really saw an old solitary buffalo lying there among the rocks, and was
astonished at the extraordinary sight of my young Indian friend.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XV.

THE WEICOS.


On the third evening we approached the western mountain chain, which
bordered the northern end of the plain we were crossing. Our road slowly
rose, while we steered toward a gap in the mountains, where we hoped to
find an available path. For an hour our path was steep and vegetation
had nearly entirely disappeared, only a few reeds were visible in the
crevices between the rocks. Deep yawning gorges and _cañons_ opened
between the overhanging limestone strata, round which we had to make
fatiguing circuits, while frequently we had hardly room to lead our
horses along the precipices over deep abysses. The sun was setting, and
the lofty mountain sides cast their broad shadows over the rocky depths.
It soon became dark, but we pushed on, still hoping to find a suitable
spot for camping. We had almost reached the highest point, when we saw
gigantic red granite walls rising in front of us like a fortress. They
hung a long way over us and the deep abyss, from which wildly scattered
colossal blocks, illumined by the parting sunbeams, rose, while on the
other side of the gorge the mountains were heaped up against the dark
purple evening sky. Our path was very narrow and strewn with small
pebbles, so that we were obliged to lead our horses with a short rein.

All at once Tiger shouted to me to halt, and immediately after I heard
him utter "Pah," in his Indian language. It was water he wished to
indicate, and he told me he could hear the rustling of a stream. Our
path grew rather broader, and ran into the granite masses on our left,
while on our right the slope was not so steep, and sank into the ravine
between a few large blocks of stone. We had scarce gone one hundred
yards when the road before us proved to be blocked by scattered masses
of stone, between which stunted oaks and bushes grew, while I found
myself in short grass, which Czar greedily attacked. I shouted to Tiger
that I could go no farther, and he led his piebald up to my side, who
with the never-failing Jack also went at the grass. Tiger was of opinion
that it was a famous spot, as the water was close at hand below us, and
disappeared among the rocks. He soon returned, dragging after him
several dry branches, while we broke up and lit a fire, which soon lit
up the immediate neighbourhood. The rocks on our left were deeply
excavated, and hung in large strata with broad cracks, covering a large
tract of ground, which bore at various points traces of fires which must
have been lit by Indians, who had camped here like ourselves. We
prepared our supper, but had great difficulty in putting the spits up
before the fire, as Tiger had not lit it on the grass, but under the
rocks. While we were thus employed the moon rose slowly behind the
mountains, and threw her first pale rays into our wild valley. Gradually
her light became more brilliant, and the dark masses around us emerged
in their various shapes. Tiger now leapt up, placed one of my revolvers
in his belt, took a cedar brand, and went down a narrow path between the
rocks, carrying our two large gourds by a strap over his shoulders. I
watched the ruddy dancing light of the torch which lit up at one moment
the rocks, at another the dark green foliage of the oaks; it continually
grew smaller, till it appeared in the depths below like a bright point.
It soon returned, however, and Tiger appeared between the rocks with our
bottles full of spring water, so cold and clear that my lips had not
tasted anything to equal it for a long time. He told me that below was a
small pool, into which the springs ran; buffaloes must have been
standing there a little while before, and he therefore believed that we
should be able to lead our cattle down to water by daylight. I gave
Czar a share of the refreshing draught.

We seemed to have entered the kingdom of owls, for their hoot was
audible on all sides. Tiger listened for awhile very attentively to
these sounds, but then lay down tranquillized on his buffalo hide,
saying that one of the sounds resembled the voice of a Weico; but he had
not signalled again, or he (Tiger) was mistaken. The fire was supplied
with large logs, and we then wrapped ourselves in our skins and slept
till daybreak. We blew up our fires, put on our horses' bridles, and led
them down the hill side to water, along a path on which we now
distinctly noticed fresh buffalo signs. It was a tiring road by which we
at length reached the bottom, where a small basin filled the entire
breadth of the gorge, into which a clear stream noisily poured. The
basin was washed out of the stony ground, and we led our horses into it
after a number of mocassin and rattlesnakes had taken to flight with a
menacing hiss. We then turned back to reach our camp again. Tiger led
his piebald in front, but stopped and said he felt much inclined to
climb up the opposite wall of the gorge, as it was full of crevices in
which doubtless bears were hybernating. He also said he had heard from
his people that the Delawares always shot a great number of bears at
this spot, though he had never visited it before himself. I hence took
his horse's bridle, and called Czar to follow me, while Jack completed
the party, and Trusty trotted on ahead.

After a fatiguing climb I again reached our camp, where I hobbled the
cattle in the grass and sat down to the fire to get breakfast ready. I
had just finished and lit a pipe, when the crack of a rifle reached me
from the opposite wall, and I supposed that Tiger had shot a bear, when
a few moments later a second shot was fired, and the frightfully shrill
sound of the Indian war-whoop echoed through the gorge. There was no
doubt but that Tiger had come into collision with hostile Indians. The
yell rolled down the valley, and ere long two shots were fired in rapid
succession. I quickly threw our saddles and baggage behind large rocks,
and led the piebald some way down the slope, while Czar and Jack
followed me; then I fastened the cattle up to trees a little off the
path, and sent my hunting cry across the gorge at the full pitch of my
lungs. Tiger at once answered me. I ran down to the pond and up the
opposite wall, continually uttering my cry and receiving an answer.
Trusty went a little ahead to clear the way, and then I climbed on from
rock to rock, until another shot was fired, and I heard Tiger's yell
higher up the mountain. I carefully noticed the direction whence the
yell came, and calling Trusty to me, I ran forward rapidly, though
cautiously, between the scattered boulders.

I was standing before a small grass-covered mound when Trusty growled
and sniffed; I went up in a stooping posture, and hardly had reached the
top when I saw Tiger with his back turned to me, holding in one hand his
rifle, in the other the bleeding scalp of his murdered foe, and gazing
at the latter, who lay outstretched in the grass: without turning, he
told me that the Weico had almost sent him to his fathers, but his heart
trembled, and hence he aimed badly. Tiger had seen his enemy first, and
fired soonest, but missed, and the other had not hit him either, as he
ran. Tiger pursued him, and both reloaded while running, till the Weico
reached the spot where he now lay, and the Delaware sprang on the grass
plot a little higher up. The Weico fired and missed again, and Tiger in
response sent a bullet through his loins, though without being aware
that he had hit him. The Weico disappeared in the grass, and Tiger too,
as he fancied the other was reloading; but when he had performed the
same operation himself and saw nothing of his foe, he crept to an
adjacent rock which he mounted, and saw the other in the grass
reloading, upon which he sent a bullet through his heart and speedily
scalped him. Tiger now took his conquered foe's gun, medicine-bag,
beads, and armlets, and made me a sign to return to the horses, while
he sprang from rock to rock with the lightness of a deer.

We saddled, and soon left our camp, as Tiger said there were several
Weicos in the neighbourhood, for on the previous evening they had made
each other signs with the owl hoot. Our road ran from here close to the
precipice, and for some few hundred yards was very difficult. We were
obliged to lead the horses, and make them leap over several granite
blocks, while the grass grew to a man's height between the loose stones,
and we could not see where we stepped. Here, however, the road became
better and led us in a pretty valley through which a stream wound, while
on both sides granite walls begirt it to a height of at least three
hundred feet. Trusty was some distance ahead all the time, and was
trotting along the birch-covered bank, when he suddenly barked, and I
saw something leaping through the grass on his left. The piebald darted
past me at the same moment, and Tiger shouted "a panther." I had no
inclination, however, to join in the hunt, but merely cantered on, saw
the piebald leap several times through the bushes, and a little later
heard Tiger's rifle crack. But when I joined him he laughed, and said
that the panther had too many feet, and pointed to a thicket on the
right-hand hills, in which it had disappeared.

The valley here became very broad, and we saw, a long distance off,
three buffaloes grazing under some mosquito-trees, and, when we drew
nearer, Tiger proposed to chase them, as, in the fresh close grass,
there was no other way of getting within shot of them. Suddenly the
buffaloes noticed us and fled, but Tiger set his horse in a gallop, and
stormed after them down the valley. I was just able to see that he had
caught them up, when a small blue cloud of smoke rose before him, and I
shortly after heard the crack of his rifle. He disappeared with the
flying buffaloes on the prairie, and I followed him at a quick amble. At
the spot where I last saw my comrade, thick bushes ran along both sides
of the stream. I went into them, but was obliged to dismount in order
to pass through the thicket. Crossing the wood, I gave my hunting-cry,
which was answered close by, and, a short distance farther on, Tiger
came to meet me, and said that it was no go with the buffaloes either;
he had hit one of them clumsily, and not killed it. The piebald was in a
frightful perspiration, so Tiger turned him round and we reached the
skirt of the wood, where we sat down in the cool shade of the lofty
trees, while our cattle, freed from their loads, grazed around us.

The stream wound out of the forest close by. I had gone to it to fill my
bottle, when I noticed a number of bees on the bank, which, however, did
not fly into the wood, but into the prairie before us. I called up
Tiger, who seated himself by my side, and we accurately observed their
course by the compass, and saw that they all flew to an old plane-tree
which grew in the grass about a thousand yards from us. We went up to
the tree, and found that the bees went to a very large bough, which had
an opening at the top. We fetched our weapons and axes, and brought out
our cattle under the plane, where I also ordered Trusty to lie down.
Then we went up to the tree, whose stem was at least eight feet in
diameter, threw a lasso over the lowest branch, clambered up it, and
went to the branch containing the bees. It was at least a foot and
a-half in thickness, and we had to work with our small axes for nearly
an hour before it gave way, and fell with a crash to the ground, whereon
the startled bees rose like a pillar of smoke, and swarmed off toward
the forest. We soon went down the lasso, and began eating the clear
honey which flowed out of the broken branch. We ate, and took pieces of
the largest combs to our camp, where we laid them in the shade.

Europeans will be surprised, and ask how it is possible to take the
honey from the irritated bees without being stung to death. The bees in
this country, however, are not so spiteful as in the Old World: it is
only when you are near a filled bee-tree, and strike at the bees with a
branch or a cloth, that you are attacked and pursued by them; but if you
go quickly up to the honey, and are careful not to touch any bees, you
are never stung. The honey of these wild bees is far sweeter and more
toothsome than that in England: it is very spicy, but at times so
impregnated with pepper, that much of it cannot be eaten. I have often
felled bee-trees whose honey was so clear that it could not be
distinguished from a glass of water put by its side. If you are near
home when you cut down a bee-tree, you drive the creatures, which have
collected close by in a swarm round their queen, into a bag, take them
home, and shake them out into a hollowed tree, nail a board at top and
bottom, cut a hole in the lower board, and place it above-ground at a
spot protected from the north wind. The bees at once set to work,
continuing it winter and summer, and in a short time the hive is filled
with honey and wax. We only regretted that we had no vessel in which we
could take a supply of this exquisite honey with us.

We had eaten heartily of it when we set out about 3 P.M. and continued
our journey down the stream. The sun was sinking behind the mountains on
our left, when we again struck the stream which we had left in pursuing
a northern course, and resolved to pass the night here. The valley was
narrow to the west and to the east; the prairie rose towards the
mountains, and some old oaks grew on it. We had unsaddled, hobbled our
horses, and lit a fire, when Tiger took his rifle and went towards the
western hills to see whether he could procure any fresh game, as our
stock was entirely exhausted. The sun had set, the time hung heavy at
the fire, so I rose, took my rifle, and walked slowly down the stream,
while Trusty ran ahead in the scrub. I had hardly gone a hundred yards
when I noticed that the stream turned to the west a little lower down,
and its banks were covered with rocks. Suddenly there was a crash in the
scrub ahead of me, and I heard a loud wail which filled me with terror,
for I knew the sound but too well--it was the wail of a jaguar cub,
which Trusty held in his teeth. I ran up and saw him shaking one, while
another was escaping in the bushes. As I knew exactly what would
happen, I looked around, with my cocked rifle in my hand, and saw the
mother coming down with terrible bounds from the oak clumps higher up.
There was not a tree near, and I must await it in the open. Trusty
placed himself close to my side, and with every hair bristling he
uttered his most savage bass notes through his gnashing teeth. The only
thing now was to hit, or else Trusty at least was lost, and myself too
very probably. Forty paces from me the infuriated brute crouched,
displaying its fangs and lashing its sides with its long spotted tail.
When I shot, the beast turned over, but then flew towards me with a
fresh spring. I shot again, and it rolled on the ground. The ball had
broken its spine, and, unable to move its hind-quarters, the raging
brute rolled and roared, and dug its mighty claws into the grass, which
it dyed with its blood. It was now harmless, and I regretted that I had
not my sketch-book with me to draw it in its paroxysm of fury. It was a
majestic animal, and the splendid golden yellow of its coat, with its
black and white spots, was heightened by the dark red of the blood which
streamed from its back and chest. Lying on the ground with its
hind-quarters, it stood erect on its mighty fore-legs, and with its
thick round neck slightly bent down, it raised its savage open jaws
towards me, while the large, yellow, catlike eyes flashed. At the same
time the brute made the valley ring with the most fearful roars uttered
at intervals. So soon as I approached it it sprang towards me, and
dragged its hind-quarters along on the grass, while showing its terrible
claws. I went up close to it, and fired a revolver bullet through its
head, whereon it fell lifeless.

After reloading, I went back to camp to wait for Tiger, whom I had also
heard firing. It was dark when I heard him coming, and saw his brown
elastic form coming through the bushes. Over his right shoulder hung two
deer legs, and the stripped-off meat of the back was thrown across the
barrel of his long rifle, which rested on his left shoulder. He threw
down his load, lay on his stomach on the river bank, and quenched his
thirst. Then he returned to the fire, and said that I had been shooting
too, and intimated by three fingers the number of shots I had fired. I
answered him that my deer was lying down the stream, but we would sup
first and then fetch it.

We now attacked the excellent venison and enjoyed a hearty supper, when
I gave Tiger a sign to follow me. I led him to the jaguar, and he
uttered a loud cry when he saw it lying on the grass with the cub by its
side. The moon lit us while we stripped off its splendid skin, which was
larger than the one we had obtained a few days previously. We took the
cub to camp, as Tiger told me its flesh was a great dainty; then he
stripped and paunched it, and hung it up to a tree. We then stretched
out the large hide, put it in front of the fire, and slept quietly and
undisturbed till morning.

I was very curious about the new dish which I was to taste for
breakfast. The very white meat of the young jaguar, which was about the
size of an ordinary shepherd's colley, looked very tempting, and I put
some pieces of it before the fire, while Tiger made his breakfast
entirely of it. I tasted it when it browned, and it was very nice,
though it had a musky flavour which prevented me from eating much of it.
Hence I applied once more to the deer meat, which I liked better, and
concluded my meal with the rest of the honeycomb which I had carried on
Jack, wrapped in large magnolia leaves and a piece of deer hide. Tiger
revelled in his meat, and on saddling packed up the rest for supper.

On this day we followed the stream, which flowed for about five miles
westward, but then suddenly turned round a tall hill to the east, and
probably fell into the Rio Grande. Here we left it, however, and rode up
a small stream which joined it and came from the west. We followed the
narrow valley through which it ran and found there a rather broad,
though at times stony road. It was bordered on both sides by granitic
hills, and ran rather steeply up to the heights, where it expanded into
a table-land. This plateau lay on the top of the mountains which we had
seen to the west when riding up, and I resolved to follow it in that
direction, so as if possible to reach the declivity on the other side
before night surprised us, as the barrenness of these lofty plateaus
recalled unpleasant reminiscences. This plateau was about fifteen miles
in breadth, and in the afternoon we reached its western side, where an
endless plain stretched out at our feet, bounded in the remote distance
by very lofty mountains, a few spurs of which ran out into the valley.
The valley was thickly covered with grass, and, as it seemed to me, well
watered and wooded. From our stand-point it must be at least one hundred
and fifty miles broad, and to the south we could not see its
termination. The plain, as far as we could survey it, was covered with
herds of buffalo, while nearer to us deer and wild horses were grazing.
How many thousands of men could easily find a living here, while in old
Europe law-suits are carried on for years about an acre of land, and yet
I was the only white man whose eye had rested on the inexhaustible
treasures which nature had stored up here. Still the time will come when
the plough will cross this beautiful plain in all directions; the smoke
will rise from the hearths of prosperous planters; the church bells will
summon the neighbours to church, and "hell in harness" (as the Americans
call the locomotive) will snort and whistle through their valley.

Our road down to the plain, though not very steep, was fatiguing and
wearisome, as the hill-side was here and there cut up by broad
_cañons_, which we were compelled to ride round. As we were going down
one of these ravines, one of the beautiful leopard-cats, so frequent in
these mountains, sprang out of the loose stones not far from us. I sent
Trusty after it down the ravine, and ere long he began barking. We
hurried on as quickly as we could, and on looking down I saw the
beautifully-spotted creature crouching on an isolated rock, while
Trusty was leaping round it and barking. It was too far to fire with a
certainty of killing, for though Trusty was quite as strong, he might
easily be so injured as to be unfitted for the fatigue of our tour.
Hence I dismounted, and crept near the stone on which the leopard-cat
lay. I went up high enough to see it, and sent a bullet through its
head. The rock was too high for me to climb up it and fetch the beast
down, so I was obliged to wait till Trusty arrived. I raised him on to
the rock, and he pulled the creature down. Then I returned to our
cattle, while Tiger stripped the cat and brought me the skin.

These handsomely-marked animals are most dangerous to game: they kill,
even when quite full, merely for the sake of the blood, and never miss
an opportunity to capture their quarry. They creep with incredible skill
and certainty, as well as indefatigable patience, up to the game, on
which they leap with lightning speed, and do not let it go till it has
given them its blood. When wounded or beset, they attack their pursuer
with great fury and determination, and many an Indian, under such
circumstances, has been severely injured by them. They generally live
and hunt in couples, and prefer rocky regions to the plains, but also
come down to the woods, where they leap down from the trees on the game,
and bite it to death in the neck. Tiger shot two more of these animals
before we reached the plain, which took place in the afternoon, and we
camped on a stream at an early hour.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XVI.

THE BEAR HOLE.


For about a week we traversed this extensive plain, first northward,
following the base of the hills we had crossed, and then westward,
towards the more western ranges. Everywhere we found the richest soil,
and water in abundance, as well as game of every description, and many
wild horses. We lived like fighting cocks, always had the best buffalo
meat, as many deer as we wanted, and also killed several antelopes. In a
narrow patch of wood Trusty aroused a one-year-old bear from its winter
sleep, which it was enjoying under some old fallen trees, and drove it
out into the prairie. We followed it, and Trusty pinned it to the spot
by a few bites in its breeches. I was just going to fire when Tiger
cried to me not to do so, sprang from his horse, and ran towards the
bear, laughing and leaping, with his long knife drawn. Trusty leaped,
barking, in front of the irritated animal, which showed its teeth
savagely, and kept him off with its forepaws, while Tiger crept behind
it, and--worthy of his name--leapt past the bear, digging his knife into
its side. The bear made a blow at him, but too late; and Trusty attacked
it on the other flank. Tiger soon passed again behind the bear, and
buried his knife between its ribs; and thus the two fought till the bear
fell breathless, and Tiger stabbed it to the heart. He was not a little
proud of his grand exploit, laughed, and said that he had killed an old
bear in the same way once, but had unfortunately lost his good dog. I
was obliged to promise him a son of Trusty, to whom he henceforth
especially gave his friendship. The bear weighed some hundred pounds,
and supplied us with excellent meat, in addition to its skin. We packed
a good lot of it on honest Jack, and improved our meal with it that
evening at the foot of the Rio Grande mountains.

Here the limestone rocks ran down to the plain, and on the distant
heights we could again notice dark masses of cedar forests which had so
impeded our progress. From this point our road became fatiguing and at
times dangerous, as the whole country consisted of rent limestone
mountains, through whose gorges and crevices we had to wind our way. In
the fear of being possibly obliged to camp without water, we followed a
rivulet up stream into these mountains: though we frequently had to
leave it, we still kept as close to it as we could; about noon we
reached a plateau which was entirely covered with petrified wood, of
which thick branches and even trunks lay scattered about. It was
apparently cedar wood, and I took several fine specimens of it as
souvenirs. In the evening we again reached our stream, and though it was
still early, and the grass not particularly good, we unsaddled, and
arranged our camp. While I was thus occupied, Tiger took his rifle and
soon disappeared among the rocks, which were scattered about in enormous
blocks on our left, while on the right they were several hundred feet
high, and displayed numerous rifts, out of which a tree here and there
grew. Tiger soon returned and told me he knew where a very old bear was
asleep. We would go and fetch it next morning; it was lying in a rock
crevice, and judging from its track it must be a sturdy fellow.

Day had scarce broken ere we quickly finished our breakfast, and in a
short time came to a spot where good grass grew; here we unsaddled,
fastened our horses to a tree, and then ascended the hill-side, which
became steeper the farther we got. Quite at the top, between the highest
peaks, Tiger went to an overhanging rock, and stopped before an opening
only a few feet wide, which ran downwards. Here he plucked a quantity of
long dry grass from between the stones, rolled it rapidly into a long,
thick, loose band, and then made me a sign to stand near the hole; he
next lit the torch and crawled on all fours with his rifle into the
rocks. I could hear only for a few minutes the sound he produced by
crawling farther into the cave, and then there was a silence again. I
stood with Trusty for some time without hearing the slightest sound;
when suddenly a stifled echo, resembling a powerful gust of wind, came
out of the crevice, and directly after, a scratching and rustling were
audible, advancing towards the orifice, till all at once a heavy black
bear appeared with a bleeding face.

I was standing only a few yards from the cave, and for the sake of Tiger
wished to let it come out entirely ere I fired, as I felt convinced that
the brute was wounded, and by firing prematurely I might turn it back on
my comrade. I pressed close to the rock, and the bear had made some
forward bounds, when I sent both bullets through it, although without
checking its pace. The bear disappeared behind the nearest rock, and at
the same moment Tiger came out of the cave all right, and ran off as
quickly as a deer after the bear. I followed, and was compelled to use
every exertion to keep Tiger in sight, when I noticed that in running he
reloaded, and suddenly sinking on one knee, fired. But he at once sprang
up again, and while reloading, sprang from stone to stone, till he knelt
once more and fired. I kept as close as I could behind him, and was
running up a rather steep incline, over large masses of stones, when I
heard Tiger's rifle crack for the third time. In a few minutes I got
round a large rock table and saw him carelessly sitting on a stone and
re-loading. When I went up to him he raised his left arm and pointed to
a heap of piled-up rocks, where to my surprise I saw the bear peeping
over one of them like a preacher in his pulpit. It had flown there,
mortally wounded, to defend itself, and showed us its bleeding terrible
range of teeth.

I quickly loaded and shot it through the head, upon which it rolled down
from its elevation. I took out my pocket-book and made a sketch of the
rocks, while Tiger skinned and broke up the bear. I did not notice the
latter retire; but when I missed him I rose and looked about for him. On
going a few paces round the rock, I saw him on his knees among the
bushes praying, while before him smoke curled up from a fire of leaves.
I quietly walked nearer, and heard him muttering to himself, while a
piece of the bear hung before him on the bush over the smoke. He soon
rose, came up to me, and when I asked him what he had been about, he
laughed cunningly, and answered that this meal of meat out of the bear's
chest was for the god of hunting; other Indians were not acquainted with
this, and hence the Delawares alone shot fat bears, while the others had
lean ones. I asked him how it was the bear had not choked him in the
cave. He said, laughingly, "Bear no love fire," and told me that he had
crept a long way into the rocks, till the cave became very spacious;
then holding his torch aloft he looked about him, and saw the bear's
eyes glittering a long way in the background. He fired at it, but his
bullet hit the beast on the cheek. The bear sprang up and rushed at him,
but he placed himself close to the rock and held out his torch, while
the bear rushed past him.

We hurried back to our horses, which took us nearly half an hour,
although we went for the most part down hill. They whinnied as we
approached, and waited impatiently to be noticed. Tiger mounted his
piebald and rode back to the bear to fetch the skin, claws, and some of
the meat, and was back in camp by noon. We merely drank coffee, packed
our animals, and laid the bear's enormous ragged skin, with the fleshy
side upwards, over Jack, who looked terrible in consequence.

We still followed the rocky valley up till about evening, when we
reached a capital spot for our cattle, and I had dismounted to pass the
night here; but Tiger pointed to the north, where the sky was slightly
overcast, and then up the hill, where brushwood was hanging about the
loose stones, and said, "We must go higher up the stream, or else we
should sleep in the water." He now showed me that this brushwood had
been lodged among the stones by the swollen stream, and we consequently
camped higher up. For the first time during this tour our tent was put
up, and our baggage placed under it. Then we dug a deep trench round it,
and laid in an ample stock of firewood. We lit the fire under a large
rock, so that it was protected from the north wind and drove strong
pickets into the ground in order to fasten up our cattle close to the
tent. We consequently let them graze by the water side till it grew
dark, and then led them up to the camp, where we secured them. We sat
till a late hour over the fire, while all nature seemed to have gone to
rest. There was not a breath of air, and only the crackling of our fire
interrupted the silence, and lit up the great masses of rock around us.

As we were both sleepy, I went into the tent and lay down on my buffalo
robe, but Tiger lay by the fire, and we were both in the deepest sleep,
when a frightful crash startled me, and a flash of lightning illumined
my tent. I leaped up and found Tiger busied in blowing the fire. A
pitchy darkness surrounded us, so that I could not see the horses, which
were but a few yards off. Suddenly the lightning shot down the rocks,
accompanied by a deafening peal of thunder, which was quickly followed
by other peals. The storm soon rolled over the hills, and the rain fell
in torrents. Although we had blown our fire into an enormous flame, it
was put out by the rain. The flashes darted here and there, and an
uninterrupted thunder rolled along the valley, while the rustling and
plashing of a rapid stream became audible, and we soon saw beneath us
the white foamy crests of a terrible stream pouring over the banks of
the rivulet, where our horses had been peacefully grazing a few hours
previously.

We stood by our horses with our buffalo robes over our heads, turning
our back to the wind, and waited longingly for the moment when the
storm would break. It lasted, however, till shortly before daylight.

"How are we to light a fire now?" I said to Tiger, for our wood was wet,
and no hollow trees grew between the rocks around us, in which we could
look for dry wood. He laughed, however, ran a short distance, returned
with an armful of dry twigs which he had hidden there on the previous
evening under a rock, and said, "Indian more cautious than white men."
Our fire soon burnt up again, and produced a tremendous glow, before
which we hung up our buffalo robes and tent to dry. The bearskin of the
previous day not being dry yet either, we also hung it up to the fire,
and then prepared a breakfast, a meal our cattle were obliged to go
without, as the grass was completely flooded.

So soon as the wet things were dry, we started for the higher mountains
in order to find a spot where our cattle could satisfy their hunger; as
the road was very bad we progressed slowly, crossing a great number of
morning trails of panthers, leopards, and ocelots, which were deeply
trodden into the soft lime soil, and reached about noon a grassy plateau
which extended to the dark cedar woods. Here we hobbled the cattle while
we lit a fire against a withered mosquito-tree, and enjoyed the delicate
bear meat. The air was cool, and the conical mountain peaks covered with
cedars were smoking.

In the afternoon we rode toward the gloomy forests to try and find a
path through them. We certainly found a number of small tracks, but not
one old and used enough for us to trust it, so we went southward on the
plain till darkness stopped our march. We stopped for the night at a
hollow filled with rain water, and on the next morning continued our
journey along the woods till, to our great joy, we found a much trampled
buffalo track, by which we entered them. It led us down between two high
hills, and hence I was afraid lest it might be a path which, made by
animals grazing on the hill down to a stream, would terminate there. In
half-an-hour we reached some large springs which gushed out of a rock
and flowed in a south-eastern direction through a very narrow gorge
covered with bushes, dry wood, and overarching cedars. The path,
however, ran hence, to our great joy, eastward, and we dismounted, as
the cedar branches hung too near over the path.

We had almost reached the top, where only a few cedars stood before us.
Suddenly I fancied I could hear a tremendous rustling some distance off.
I cautiously ascended to the top of the hill, and saw here, about forty
yards ahead of me, three enormous condors, one of which was standing on
the ground with expanded wings, while the other two were springing round
it, and rising each time some feet from the ground. I sank on one knee,
and sent a bullet into the broad chest of the first, while the other two
fluttered their wings with a frightful yell, and soon rose high in air
above me. Just as I was going to fire the second barrel, Tiger's rifle
cracked behind me, and the eagle I was aiming at turned over in the air
and fluttered down. I turned round to the third, and fired at it as it
was soaring over the depths near us. I saw the bullet enter the soft
feathers under the belly, and it shot like a dart with outstretched
wings between the hills, where it disappeared among the dark cedars.

Tiger had cut off his eagle's head by the time I ran up to mine, and
found under it an antelope, which the brave bird had just killed, and
which had only lost its eyes and tongue. Its body was but slightly
ripped up, but the whole back was covered with blood, which flowed from
countless small holes produced by the eight-inch long claws of these
rulers of the air. Tiger was beside himself for delight, for the wing
and tail-feathers of these birds are the greatest ornaments an Indian
knows, and he will readily give his best horse for them. He wears them
on the band which confines his hair, and the claws, sewn on a strap,
form a necklace. I told him I intended to skin mine, and take it home to
stuff; but he was of opinion that he must fetch the feathers of the
third condor, which had fallen into the valley, and he at once
disappeared. I did not consider it possible to get down there, and
utterly so to find the eagle, for I had watched it fly at least a mile.
I at once set to work skinning my bird, and had not finished when Trusty
growled, and Tiger really soon ran up with the spoils of the other bird.

These condors rarely come down into the lower hills; they live
exclusively on the highest points of the Andes, which no human foot
treads, and from the lower lands can only be seen as black dots on the
blue sky. The last night's storm must have surprised these wanderers in
their eyrie, and carried them before it, till they sought shelter in
these mountains. Starving from their involuntary journey, they wished to
taste the delicate game of these countries, which are not situated so
near the clouds, when our bullets cut off their return home. The condor
I first shot was by far the largest, and probably the mother of the
other two, which she was training to plunder; while, on the division of
the spoil, she reserved the right of taking her share first. The
outstretched wings of this bird measured from end to end very nearly
fifteen feet.

It was noon when we mounted our horses and rode down the stony incline.
We moved along around the hills again, and seemed hardly to leave the
spot, for we frequently rode for half an hour, and then suddenly found
ourselves again in front of an old withered tree, or a rock emerging
from the cedars which we had seen before. We rode without interruption
until the sun hid itself behind the highest peaks, and cast long shadows
over the hills glistening in the evening light. The sunny spots on the
mountains constantly grew smaller, until at length only a single cone
stood up as if gilt above the dark country. We had not yet seen a trace
of the Rio Grande, and we must still be a good distance from it, for
from the highest points we crossed we could see nothing as far as the
horizon, except the same conical hills covered with gloomy foliage.

We halted in one of the countless hollows of these stony mountains
where rain-water had collected, and decent grass grew on a small open
space, took the burdens off our very wearied horses, and soon lay on our
skins near the fire. A very large dry cedar trunk rose with its upper
half out of the coppice. We lit our fire against its side, so that it
soon began to smoulder and gave out a great heat. During the night we
scarce needed to look at it, and in the morning found small flames still
playing round the half-burnt tree. A strong breeze was blowing when we
crawled out from under our buffalo robes. We threw plenty of wood on the
burning trunk, and felt very comfortable in the warmth. While our cattle
were eating their scanty breakfast, we roasted bear and antelope meat,
and drank in coffee the health of the condors that had supplied us with
the game. Ere long, however, we mounted, in order to bid farewell the
sooner to these inhospitable forests, and see once more the frontiers of
my home--the Rio Grande.

We pressed on, uphill and downhill, at one moment riding, at another
leading our horses, and frequently impeded by wide torrents and broad
ravines. About noon we had a prospect of a deep rocky valley, on whose
sides no cedars were to be seen, and greeted it as the bed of the
long-looked-for river. The mountains sank, our path ran in a straighter
line towards the valley, and in little more than an hour we were riding
in a long broad gully through the rocks which bordered it. The familiar
river lay before us, a little deeper than we swam through it a little
while previously; but, to our sorrow, the rocks on the opposite side, as
far as we could see, were so steep that it was impossible for our cattle
to climb up them. Nor was it possible to ride down the river, owing to
the boulders and masses of drift-wood which covered the whole bank, and
hence nothing remained but to ride back and seek a passage to the south
among the mountains. Our cattle certainly shook their heads when we
turned them back into the gully, but Tiger laughed and said that we
should still sleep this night across the river. On reaching the summit
we at once selected the nearest hollow, and turned to the south,
following the river. It was a fatiguing journey through loose stones,
fallen trees, and at times dense cedar woods, but for all that we
progressed better than I had feared, and at the end of an hour we saw at
an angle of the river that another large stream flowing from the
eastward, fell into it, which seemed to me to be the Leone. We were
obliged to go higher up the hills here on account of numerous obstacles,
and lost sight of the river for awhile; still the sun had a good hour
before setting when we entered a broad buffalo path which led down in a
straight line to the river. I soon recognised on this road objects I had
seen before, and was now certain that the eastern river was the river of
my home.

So we found it to be when we rode down the Rio Grande, and unsaddled our
horses there. We consulted in what way we should get across, and agreed
to make a raft again. We soon had a couple of cedar logs fastened
together, a heap of brushwood laid on them and our baggage on the top,
and lastly we covered it all with the large bearskin, and secured it all
round with straps. Tiger left his rifle behind and rode into the stream,
which was not very deep here. He held the end of the lasso fastened to
the raft in his right hand, and thus dragged it along. When he had gone
across about a third of the river his horse was obliged to swim. The
current pulled him down stream, and he was compelled to follow with his
horse. He was now in the strongest current, and I noticed that he had
great difficulty in keeping on his horse, when he suddenly fell off it,
but kept the line between his teeth and worked his way into dead water.
He soon reached the other bank and gave a loud yell, while his faithless
piebald had turned back in the middle of the river and trotted up to me,
shaking himself. Tiger secured the raft, ran a little way up the bank,
and swam across to me with incredible speed. We now mounted our horses
and swam across, Jack saluting his native land with a song of joy.

The sun was setting as we trotted up the Leone in order to reach a
camping place in the hills, where I had rested many a night undisturbed,
and to which I knew the road perfectly. It soon became dark, but the
stars were shining. We could see enough not to lose our way, and hurried
forward wrapped in our buffalo robes, for the wind blew hard, and we had
become chilly in crossing the river.

When near our destination, we were riding slowly up the last ascent,
when Tiger uttered his familiar expression of surprise, "Hugh," and
turning round pointed behind him, to the Rio Grande. I looked back and
saw a column of flame rising on the hills on the opposite side, which
rapidly spread southward. The flames covered the whole hill, and the
brilliantly illumined smoke clouds rolled away over them. The fiery
waves poured savagely and uninterruptedly from hill to hill, checked
their speed but for a short time in the deep valleys, and then darted
with heightened fury up the next hill, devouring everything that came in
their way. The cedar woods were on fire, and probably our last night's
camp fire was the cause of it. The violent wind had doubtless blown the
ashes of the burning trunk into the coppice and assailed the surrounding
cedars; ere long the whole southern horizon was a sea of fire, out of
which here and there isolated hills, spared by the flames, rose like
black islands. We lay till late at night by our small camp fire, and
watched the terribly-beautiful scene, regretting our incautiousness or
neglect, which had entailed such fearful destruction. How many thousand
animals had found a martyr's death on that night, and how probable it
was that Indians resting there had been devoured by the flames! After
lying silently for a long time looking across, Tiger uttered the words,
"Poor Indians, sleep warm," accompanied by a deep sigh.

It was not till morning that fatigue overpowered us, and we fell back on
our saddles. We awoke when the sun was pouring its golden light over the
world, and brilliantly illumined the gloomy scene of desolation. The
bare, black burned lime hills rose there above each other, wrapped
themselves in black smoke-clouds, and seemed to accuse us to awakening
nature as the cause of the disaster. It was really a disagreeable
reproach cast at me by those hills, and we soon set out, in order to
escape the sad sight, and refresh our eyes as soon as possible by a view
of our cheerful home.

We crossed the Leone about noon, at the same pretty spot as when we
began our journey, and soon saw the pleasant mountain springs on our
right. Our cattle also knew that we were going home, and increased their
pace. At length we reached the hill where the first view of the fort
could be obtained, and joyfully greeted its grey wooden walls. It was
still early when we rode up to my settlement from the adjoining valley,
and two shots of rejoicing welcomed us from the western turret of the
fort, to which we responded by firing our rifles. Everything was in the
old state, the garrison healthy, and the cattle in excellent condition;
the only change that had occurred was, that one of my mares had enriched
me with a young Czar, that several calves had been dropped, and some
dozen little pigs more were running about the fort.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XVII.

THE COMANCHE CHIEF.


I felt very comfortable in my pretty house, and Tiger informed me with
great satisfaction that no one had been in his tent during our absence,
in accordance with a promise I gave him when we set out. For some days
we hardly left the fort, but enjoyed a rest. Tiger tanned the skins we
had brought home. I stuffed my condor, at which my young friend was
greatly amazed, and firmly declared that I restored the bird to life.
After this we rolled cigars, made new clothes, repaired our saddles and
bridles, and employed ourselves with the thousand domestic jobs which
gather even during a short absence. But after we had attended to the
chief matters, several wants became visible which we could only satisfy
on the prairie. Thus, among others, our substitute for sugar, honey, was
expended, and at the supper table we resolved on going out on this hunt
the next morning, if it was fine.

The morning dawned bright and calm, and both conditions are required for
a winter bee hunt, as at this season the bees only work in warm weather,
and their course cannot be watched when the wind is blowing hard. We got
ready immediately after breakfast, Tiger and I, armed as usual, but
Antonio and one of my colonists provided with heavy sharp axes and
buckets, while Jack carried two empty casks, a copper kettle, large
wooden spoons, and a tin funnel. Thus we trotted over the spangled
prairie across to Mustang Creek, crossed it and its thick wood by a
broad buffalo path, and then rode down the prairie to a fork formed by
the forest on an affluent of the Mustang, joining that on the latter
river.

Here we halted, stuck a long pole, on which a small tin frying-pan was
fastened, into the ground, lit dry touchwood in it, and laid on the top
a piece of comb in which some honey remained. Not far from this we put
up another pole with a paper smeared with honey upon it. The smoke of
the boiling wax and honey serves the bees cruising over the prairie as a
guide to the paper, and soon the busy gatherers arrive from all the
bee-trees in the neighbourhood, load themselves as heavily as they can,
and then go straight home in a direct line. The hunter now observes in
which direction the greatest number of the insects swarm, because this
leads him to expect a richer tree as well as a shorter distance to go.
When he has decided on his route, he follows the swarm with his bait as
far as he can see it, then puts up the pole again and waits till they
settle, or the honey ones move and then fly home. Thus he follows the
industrious insects, till by their restless activity they show him the
spot where their treasures, collected during many years, are concealed,
and he then disturbs the colony with cruel hand, robs it of its
laboriously gathered stores, kills thousands of the colonists, and
drives the rest away homeless.

We, for our part, behaved no better, except that we had brought sacks in
which to carry the shelterless bees home, and give them an abode. A very
large swarm went toward the Leone and another to the affluent on the
left. We decided for the former, however, and in less than half an hour
found ourselves in front of a gigantic maple that grew on the skirt of
the forest, in whose long trunk, between the lowest branches, the
orifice of the tree was completely covered with the insects. We hobbled
our horses some distance from the tree, lit a fire near it, and two of
us set to work with the axes to cut it down. Tiger and I had the first
turn, and when we were tired the two others took our place, till we thus
working in turn made the proud tree fall with its whole weight on the
grass, where its splinters flew a long way around.

Each of us seized a firebrand and ran with buckets, spoons, and knives
to the cracked part of the trunk, where the honey was exposed while the
bees circled high above us in the air in a dense swarm. The firebrands
were laid on the ground near the honey, old damp wood was laid on them
to increase the smoke, and we hurriedly cut out the comb, and poured the
liquid honey into a bucket which we emptied into the kettle which was
slightly warmed by the fire. Honey runs from the cells with a gentle
heat, and when it is liquid enough, the latter are pressed between two
boards, till all the honey runs out, after which it is strained through
a coarse sieve into the cask.

By the time we had secured our booty it was noon, and we recovered from
our fatigue over a cup of coffee and maize cake, then we went back to
the spot we had started from and followed the swarm to the small
affluent, where we found the bees in another old plane close to the
prairie. We also robbed this tree; it was even richer than the first,
and contained layers of honey probably fifteen years old, the oldest of
which were nearly black. When we had finished this job our two casks
were full, and the bucket loaded with quite fresh comb.

Evening had arrived, and the bees had collected in a dense mass on a
branch of the felled tree. We held an open sack under them, shook them
in, and then rode back to the first tree, whose colony we also took. We
returned home with our sweet stores, emptied our sacks into two hollow
trees, and placed them on a scaffolding near the fort. The honey was
conveyed to the storeroom, and the wax melted and laid by when cold in
plates. The Indians keep their honey and bear lard in fresh deer hides,
which they slit as little as possible in skinning; they cut off the neck
and legs, sew the openings up very tightly with sinews, fill the skin,
and close the last opening in the same way, into which they thrust a
reed and squeeze the honey as they want it through the latter. The honey
keeps in this way very well, and is easier to carry on horseback than in
hand vessels. We employed the honey in every way sugar is used in the
civilized world. We sweetened our coffee and tea with, it, employed it
in cooking various dishes, in preserving fruit, such as grapes, plums,
mulberries, &c. In a word, it fully took the place of that expensive and
hardly procurable product of civilization, and could always be obtained
in such quantities that we never ran short of it. When hunting in the
neighbourhood we very often found bee trees, which we marked in order to
plunder them as we wanted.

Our table was now enriched by a fresh delicacy which we enjoyed during
the winter months: it consisted of wild ducks and geese. These birds
visited our river at this season in great numbers, and spread in flocks
over the water. The very lofty banks, the numerous sharp turns, and the
insignificant breadth of the stream rendered it extraordinarily easy to
kill heaps of these birds in a short time. I usually took with me two
guns and a man with a pack horse, who followed at some distance and
placed the dead birds on the saddle. I followed the steep river bank,
every now and then creeping down to the incline, and could then see from
one bend to the other where the birds were resting on the water. I
generally contrived to creep through the wood exactly over this spot,
without the birds perceiving me. I then whistled, while holding the
muzzle of my very large gun over the bank, and the birds in their fright
drew closer together. Then I sent a charge of shot among them, and fired
the other right among the rising flock. Then I took the other gun and
sent the contents of both barrels after the flying ducks or geese. I
frequently shot in this way twenty in one flock. The remainder generally
joined the next flock farther down the stream. Trusty and some spaniels
accompanied me on this chase and fetched the shot birds.

Most of the ducks and geese that visited us were very like the European,
though rather larger; both are very fat and well tasted, which is
probably caused by the splendid acorns they find among us. We generally
carried a whole load home, from which we merely cut the breasts, legs,
and livers, and boiled them into a jelly.

One afternoon, when Tiger had ridden off at an early hour in pursuit of
game, I took my gun to go after geese down the river, which I heard
croaking from the fort: I went out without calling a dog, and ran down
to the water; I passed the garden and the ford, where the river winds to
the north in the wood, and went into the bushes in order to approach the
geese, which I had seen about a hundred yards farther on. All at once I
heard something like the footfall of a horse echo through the forest on
the opposite side. I listened, and convinced myself that I was not
mistaken. Tiger had gone southward in the morning to Mustang Creek, and
I could not imagine how he was now returning from the north. I lay down
among the bushes, so as to keep an eye on the ford: the noise drew
nearer, till a mounted Indian appeared on a path on the opposite side,
who stopped there and looked cautiously around.

After a while the Redskin crossed the ford, ascended the opposite bank,
and taking his long rifle in his right hand, he led his horse into a
thick bush about forty paces ahead of me. There he fastened it up, laid
his rifle across his left arm, and shook fresh powder into the pan from
his horn. What could the Indian intend, and to what tribe did he belong?
These questions occurred to me simultaneously with the suspicion that he
might probably have hostile designs. My gun was loaded with not very
heavy shot, but it carried as far as the Indian's rifle, though it did
not kill so certainly. I had, however, some slugs in my hunting pouch,
and while he was repriming, I, as I lay flat on the ground, pulled out
two of the largest bullets that fitted my gun. I thrust them both into
the barrels, and then slowly drew the ramrod, pressed two paper wads on
the bullets, and returned the ramrod to its place.

During this the Indian had returned his powder-horn to its place, taken
his tomahawk from the saddle and thrust it through his belt, woven
several large leafy branches of evergreen myrtle and rhododendron under
his saddle, so that they concealed the colour of his light horse, and
then, leaving the path, went in a stooping posture through the wood
toward my garden. I cautiously followed him at a distance of about one
hundred yards, bending down close to the ground, continually keeping
behind the bushes and disappearing in the grass when he stopped or made
a movement as if to look round. He seemed, however, only to keep his eye
on the garden, and bent lower the nearer he got to it. Suddenly he fell
into the tall grass between the evergreen bushes, and disappeared from
my sight. Had he heard me or seen me fall down? The point now was which
of us should see the other first. The grass in which I lay was not very
high, but green bushes hung down to the ground in front of me, too close
to be seen through by my foe, but still leaving me sufficient gaps
through which to peep, while the bushes round him were scrubby and the
grass alone concealed him. If he had seen me he would certainly not
remain lying, as he would have the worst of it.

I had raised myself sufficiently to survey his place, and after a while
noticed the grass waving a little to the left of the spot where I had
last seen him. Everything became still and motionless again, and we lay
thus for nearly a quarter of an hour, when I saw the Indian raise his
head out of the grass and look about him; he had not noticed me yet, or
else he would not have exposed himself so recklessly to my fire. He rose
slowly and glided towards the garden; he got close to the fence, which
was made of ten logs placed in a zigzag over each other, and on the
outerside were heaped up the branches of the trees from which the wood
for the palisades had been cut. I had put this up to prevent the
buffaloes and deer from forcing their way into the garden.

The Indian now stepped close to the wall of dry branches, while I lay in
the bushes about a hundred yards behind him. He stopped, looked into the
garden for a long time, and then round the wood; he then stooped and
crept under the brushwood up to the fence, seated himself crosslegged
close to the latter, and laid his rifle across one of the logs. While he
was working his way through the branches and brushwood, I crept on
all-fours nearer to him and remained behind an oak about forty yards
from him. Just as I reached the tree, I broke a thin dry branch with my
hand, and the very slight sound scarce reached the savage's ear, ere he
started round and gazed intently in my direction. I did not stir, but
held my gun firmly, with the determination that he should not leave the
spot alive.

He looked towards me for nearly a quarter of an hour, still trusting to
the sharpness of his ears, when suddenly one of my men, who was coming
down from the fort with two buckets to fill at the spring, could be
heard whistling on the other side of the garden. The Indian started
round, thrust his rifle through the fence, pointed at the spring, and
knelt down behind its long barrel. At the same instant I sprang out from
behind the oak, raised my gun, and sent the charge of the right-hand
barrel between the savage's shoulders; he leapt up, and while doing so,
I gave him the second charge, after which he fell backwards into the
brushwood. I shouted to my man who, in his alarm, was running back to
the fort, and rushed to the Indian, who was writhing in his blood and
striking around with hands and feet. My comrade hurried through the
garden, and clambering over the fence, gazed down at the shot man in
horror. I explained to him in a few words how accident had preserved his
life, as the savage had been lying in wait for him and had his rifle
pointed at him, and I then buried my knife in the heart of the quivering
savage. We took his rifle and medicine bag, fetched his horse after I
had reloaded, and took it up to the fort, where we fastened it inside
the enclosure.

I impatiently waited for Tiger to obtain an explanation from him, as I
feared lest the shot man might be a Delaware. The evening came and Tiger
was not back yet. A thousand suppositions, a thousand suspicions
involuntarily crossed my mind. Could Tiger be a traitor? could the
Delawares have broken their long-tried friendship with the white men?
We drove our cattle in earlier than usual, rode them down to water,
laid our weapons ready to hand, and prepared to oppose any possible
attack. I went to the eastern turret and gazed over the wide prairie,
when I suddenly noticed far on the horizon a black point that seemed
strange to me. I looked through my glass, and to my great delight
recognised the large white spots of Tiger's piebald.

I now felt lighter at heart, ran down and waited for him at the gate. At
length he rode up to me from the last hollow, loaded with deer and bear
meat, and the hide of a small bear, leapt from his horse and heartily
shook my hand. I told him what had happened, and he listened most
attentively. His eyebrows were contracted and his usually pleasant eyes
flashed savagely. He said nothing but "kitchi kattuh," made me a sign to
enter the fort, and when we reached the dining-room where the dead man's
hunting-bag lay, he cried, "Kitchi," placed two fingers of his right
hand before his mouth, so that they seemed to be emerging from it, and
repeated "Kitchi," _i.e._ two tongues. He then led me out of the fort,
when he stopped, and said to me that the false kitchi had laid watch for
him in the garden and intended to take his life, so that the Delawares
might fancy we had killed him and take their revenge on us. It had
indeed gradually grown a custom in the fort that Tiger, when he was at
home, fetched fresh water from the spring before supper, and his
supposition appeared to be well founded; still the unexpected appearance
of one of my men seemed to have turned the kitchi from his original
purpose, because he was on the point of sending the bullet intended for
Tiger through the chest of the latter.

We now helped to hang up the meat brought in by Tiger, and sat down to
supper, when the occurrence naturally became the sole subject of
conversation, and was regarded from every side. We agreed to bury the
Indian, and I went, accompanied by Antonio and Tiger, with a spade and a
cedar-wood torch, through the garden to the dead man. Tiger drew him out
of the brushwood, took off his beads, armlets, and leathern breech
clout, and then dragged him with Antonio's help nearer the river, where
we dug a deep hole and buried the corpse.

We soon forgot this incident, and went on with our winter avocations as
before. We slightly enlarged our field, which was a fatiguing job, as it
lay in the wood, and the bushes grew very close together there. These
and the smaller trees were cut down and piled up round the larger ones,
after the latter had been out into the wood. After they had dried for a
week, they were kindled, which dried the bark of the large trunks, and
thus killed the tree. We then set to work with a heavy plough to turn up
the ground: this operation is always performed twice or thrice through
the winter, before the seed is put in the ground in spring. It may be
asked why we did not lay out our field in the prairie, as we should thus
have saved this labour? The reason is that the prairie soil is
remarkably difficult to plough, because it consists of a black hard
earth, in which the delicate young plants have unusually large roots, as
hard as glass. I afterwards cultivated land of this sort, and at the
first breaking up had six or eight draught cattle fastened to the
plough. Then again, this land, owing to its hardness, produces scarce no
crop in the first year, in the second a very poor one, in third a
moderate one, and not till the fourth a full crop. It is always much
more difficult to cultivate than the forest land, as the heavy rains in
the winter season always more or less restore its firmness, while the
forest soil bears prolifically in the first year.

In the garden we had plenty of work too; the potatoes were laid in beds,
in order to grow the tap roots, which are cut off in spring and planted
out in the field. Then the tobacco beds were put in order, from which
the young plants were transplanted in February. The same plant produces
among us three or even four crops, as we always leave a young shoot to
grow, when the leaves are ripe enough to cut. Then there were vegetables
to sow, vines to prune, fruit-trees to graft; in short, we had our hands
full, and I only went with Tiger away from the fort to hunt bears,
whose fat we were obliged to collect at this time, as it is not nearly
so abundant at other seasons.

One morning I resolved to go to Mustang Creek, and choose a suitable
spot where I could build a carriage bridge across it, as I frequently
had meat to fetch from the prairies on the other side, and I also
intended to make, by degrees, a passable road to the settlements. I rode
away at an early hour, accompanied by Trusty, but at some distance from
home I noticed that Milo, an old bear-finder, was running after me,
which was a bore, as the good old dog, if he by chance hit on a fresh
trail, would be sure to follow it, and I had not intended to hunt bears
on this day. The dog was much too slow and deaf, and I only gave him
food for the many faithful services he had rendered me: I did not care
to ride back, and hence called him closer up to my horse, and continued
my journey.

I soon reached the river and was busy examining the banks, when suddenly
old Milo gave tongue, and had run too far into the bushes for me to
check him. I was sorry, for if the old fellow had a row with a bear by
himself, it would be all over with him. I heard his bark going farther
and farther, and though I felt grieved, I was obliged to leave him to
his fate. After a while I fancied that I heard him continually barking
at the same spot. I listened, and it seemed more than probable that he
had attacked a bear. I must hurry to his assistance, so I rode as far as
I could into the bushes, tied up my horse, and forced my way through the
thicket.

I soon leaped through the last bushes, and to my surprise saw Milo
sitting in front of an old cypress and barking up at it. I examined the
gigantic trunk, and clearly saw on its bark the traces of a bear which
had climbed up it. In the first fork the tree was hollow from top to
bottom, and I did not doubt for a moment but that Bruin was having his
winter sleep in it. To cut down the tree was a heavy task, as it was
above eight feet in diameter, and then, too, it stood among a number of
other giants, against which it might easily lean in falling, when we
should not be able to get at its occupant. I tapped round the tree to
see whether it was hollow far down, but I could not settle the point
satisfactorily, as I had no axe with which to hit hard enough.

I quickly formed my resolution, caught up Milo, carried him away from
the trail, and hastened to my horse, which speedily bore me home. Tiger
was at the river washing deer hides, when I arrived on the bank and
informed him of my discovery: he quickly packed up his skins, ran to his
tent, and hurried to the prairie to fetch the piebald. In less than half
an hour we were _en route_ for the bear, accompanied by Antonio and one
of the colonists armed with axes, while Jack followed us with a large
pack saddle, and Trusty leaped ahead of us. We soon reached the river,
led our horses some distance down it, and tied them up in the thicket;
then we went to the cypress in which our sleeper was. We examined it and
found it quite sound for over eight feet from the ground, but from that
point hollow, and more so on the western side.

We soon raised a framework of thin branches round the tree, on which one
of us was raised by turns, and cut an opening in the trunk at the spot
where the hollow began. While one was engaged in this way, the others
brought up dry wood, which we piled up against the opening like a
bonfire. We then lit it, and ere long the flames crept up the stem, and
the dried bark fell off with a cracking sound into the fire. We arranged
ourselves round the tree at some distance in such a way that we could
cover it pretty well from all sides, and expected every moment to see
the bear quit its winter quarters. We had been standing there, however,
for above an hour, and the gentleman did not make his appearance, though
the smoke was rising from the hollow. The bear probably lay below the
hole, and the smoke passed over it without annoying it.

All at once I saw sparks flying out of the tree, which proved that it
was beginning to catch fire inside. I shouted to the others to look out,
and just after I heard a crash, and with it appeared the black form of a
very old bear between the first branches. The fright and embarrassment
of my gentleman were extraordinary, when he looked down into the fire
under him, and moved backwards and forwards undecided what path to
choose. I had told my men not to fire so long as the bear was over the
fire, but to let it advance on the long branches far enough not to fall
into the flames, which would have deprived us of its splendid skin.

Master Bear had by this time selected a very stout branch and crept
cautiously along it, looking down first on this side and then on that at
the flames, and was on the point of making itself into a ball to have a
drop, when I fired at it, and in falling it clutched the branch with its
claws in order to drag itself up again. At the same moment, however,
four more bullets flew through it, and it came down with an enormous
blow. I ran up with a revolver, and shot it through the head, whereupon
it became quiet. It was one of the finest bears we had killed during
this year, and gave us a large quantity of fat and a splendid skin. We
broke it up, packed on Jack as much as he could carry, and distributed
the rest among our horses. We then went home heavily laden, and sat till
late in the kitchen, busied in melting down the grease, after enjoying
some roast bear ribs for supper.

At times there were slight domestic annoyances. A pig or a calf was torn
by the wolves, a few hen's nests plundered by the racoons, a dog killed
by the snakes, or a horse ran a thorn into its foot. However, up to the
present we had preserved our health, we knew naught of sorrow, and the
thousand passions which civilized life entails, and which become the
source of endless suffering, were entirely lulled to sleep among us. On
the other hand we were deprived of many enjoyments which social life
affords, but at the same time had countless pleasures, which must be
given up there. The hardest thing to me was that I could not obtain
books without great trouble and expense, while events in the civilized
world were more or less unknown to me. At times I received a packet of
old newspapers, whose fragments, however, only helped to render my
confusion worse confounded. To tell the truth, I was beginning to yearn
for a nearer connexion with the world and a little more society.

One morning the dogs barked in an unusual manner, and one of my men ran
up to me and told me that one of my buffalo calves, which I had captured
in the last summer, and of which I possessed eight, had leapt into the
river, because the dogs were tormenting it. I ran down to the river, and
after considerable exertions we succeeded in getting the animal out,
uninjured, but very fatigued. These calves were remarkably tame, more so
than those of our cows, and never went far from the fort. In spite of
their terrible appearance they were very comical; all had names to which
they answered, and caused us much fun. I intended to train them for
working, and to breed a mixed race with my cattle, which, however, only
offers an advantage in meat and size, as the buffaloes yield much less
and worse milk than our domestic kind. It is not possible to produce a
breed between our tame cow and the buffalo, as the cow cannot give birth
to the calf owing to the hump on the shoulders, and almost always is
killed by it; but the opposite breed flourishes and is capable of
further procreation. Buffalo oxen are excellent for work, as they grow
very tame and possess enormous strength; the only fault is that when
they are thirsty, no power on earth can restrain them from satisfying
their thirst. I knew a planter on the Rio Grande, who employed a couple
of these animals, that ran away once with a heavy cart to the river, and
dashed over its steep bank to satisfy their thirst, but he got them out
again all right.

Just as we were taking the saved buffalo up to the fort, the sentry came
to me and announced that five white men were riding down the river, upon
which I went to the turret and saw that the new arrivals were three
white men, a negro and a mulatto. About half an hour later the strangers
rode up to the fort and dismounted at the gate, while the coloured men
took their horses and unsaddled them. A fine looking man of nearly sixty
years of age advanced to me, shook my hand and introduced himself to me
as a Mr. Lasar, from Alabama, one of his young companions as his son
John, and the other as his cousin Henry, of the same name. The old
gentleman had something most elegant and attractive about his
appearance, which evidenced lengthened intercourse with the higher
social circles; over his high bronzed forehead shone his still thick
though silvery hair, while long black eyebrows overshadowed his light
blue eyes, and his fresh complexion seemed to protest against his white
hair. Though fully six feet high he carried himself with the strength of
a man of thirty, and his bright merry eyes proved that his mind was
still youthful. He was an old Spaniard, had settled when a young man in
Alabama, and though the blue eyes contradicted his origin, it was
manifested in all the rest of his countenance. His son John was shorter
and lighter built, with black curling hair and very dark, but pleasant
eyes, a nice looking youth of seventeen, and cousin Henry a young man of
twenty odd, of middle height and narrow between the shoulders, showed by
his auburn hair and grey eyes, that his blood was mixed.

I conducted the strangers to the parlour and set before them a
breakfast, among the dishes being one of duck's breast in jelly. The old
gentleman was greatly surprised, and said that he had not expected to
find anything at my house beyond very good game and roasted marrow
bones. When I treated them to French wine and cigars, and they surveyed
the ornaments of my room, they expressed the utmost surprise at the
amount of comfort they found, and John said that I had everything
precisely as his father intended to have it when he settled here. The
old gentleman now informed me of his intention to come into my
neighbourhood and requested my advice and aid. He had a cotton
plantation in Alabama, but the number of his negroes had increased so
considerably that he could not employ them all on his estate, and must
hire out the majority at very low wages; land was too high in price
there, so he preferred taking up Government land here and submitting to
the privations and dangers of a life on the border. He now proposed to
inspect the land, then return and send on John with fifty negroes, so as
to get a maize crop ready, while he would follow in autumn with his
family and five hundred slaves. I was very glad to have such neighbours,
so I gladly offered him my services in showing him as much fine land as
he wanted close to mine.

My guests rested for a few days and amused themselves with inspecting my
farm and arrangements, and making small hunting trips in the vicinity,
in which old Mr. Lasar eagerly joined. It is true that he shot deer and
turkeys with his large fowling-piece loaded with swan shot, through
which many a head escaped him, and I reproached him for doing so, as I
considered this shameful butchery. He allowed his fault, but said that
no other weapon was employed in shooting where he came from, but when he
came out to join me, he would also introduce the rifle.

After my guests had rested sufficiently, I rode with them over to the
Mustang river, passed through its woods and followed its course
southward to its junction with the Rio Grande. Here we turned back up
the stream, and rode along the forest to our morning track, so that the
strangers had ample opportunity for examining the land on both sides of
the river. Mr. Lasar was much pleased, and at once decided on this land,
as it fully satisfied all his wishes. We reached home at a late hour,
and Lasar was so perfectly contented that he proposed returning home at
once; but I urged him to look at other land to the north of me, for
which tour we made our necessary preparations on the next day. On the
third morning we rode up the Leone to the spot where my border line
crossed it two miles from the fort. From this point to the source of
the river lay very fine land too, although the woods were not so
extensive as lower down it.

We spent the night at the wellhead, and then rode northwards to Turkey
Creek, in which tour we found a great deal of land well adapted for
ploughing, although the smaller quantity would have rendered it better
suited for small settlers. Still the country here aroused Mr. Lasar's
admiration, and he declared that before two years had passed it should
be all occupied by friends of his from Alabama. I reminded him of the
human skulls and bones, which I had shown him at the sources of the
Leone, belonging to settlers murdered by the Indians, who had come from
Georgia, and only enjoyed the pleasures of a border life for a few
months. He said, however, that so many families must arrive
simultaneously as would hold the Indians within bounds. For his own part
he decided on Mustang River, and on reaching the fort again, he rested
two more days with me, which we employed in talking over and settling
everything. On this occasion I proposed to hire of him twelve negroes
whom he could send with his son, for I wanted to begin cotton planting.
He agreed most willingly, as, when he settled, he would require a good
many things of me, such as maize, pigs, cows, fowls, tallow, bear's
grease, &c., and we could deduct their value from the rent. On the third
morning I accompanied my guests some distance and then rode home with
the brightest prospects for the future.

A most unexpected event brightened my hopes for the future even more. A
few days after Lasar's departure a party of seven Comanche Indians came
riding up the river, armed with unstrung bows, and no lances. They rode
up to the fence, and one of them shouted--"Captain, good friend," and I
went out to them and asked what they wanted. One of them spoke English
very well, and appeared to me a Mexican, who had probably been stolen by
them in childhood and had since lived among them. He said that the chief
of all the Comanches, Pahajuka (the man in love) had sent them to ask
me whether he might come and make a friendship with me? He had heard
that I was a good friend to other Indians, and wished me to become his
friend as well. The message greatly surprised me, as hitherto, when I
had come in contact with men of this nation, we had used our weapons. My
first feeling was a suspicion that they wished to effect by treachery
what they had not been able to do by arms: still I would not entirely
repulse them, and said that if they were speaking to me with one tongue,
and desired my friendship, I would readily give it to them; but if they
were double-tongued I would become still more their enemy, and in that
case they would not be able to sleep peacefully in these parts.

I told them at the same time that I should expect their chief on the
next morning, on which their speaker intimated that their tribe were
encamped a long way off, and Pahajuka had sent them down from there, but
when the sun rose for the tenth time he would be here. I promised to
wait for him on the appointed morning, and then the savages rode away
and soon disappeared behind the last hill on the prairie. Whatever might
be the results of the impending conference, I was resolved to make every
effort to produce, if possible, more pleasant relations between myself
and the Comanches, as by far the greater number of Indians who visited
our country belonged to this nation, and the incessant hostilities with
them became the more annoying to me in proportion as my cattle and
property became augmented.

It was now winter, and in addition to our domestic tasks, we principally
employed our time in hunting bears, as I greatly needed their grease on
the arrival of the expected new settlers and could sell it very
profitably. For the sake of fun we also went out singly at night to
shoot deer by the system of pan-hunting, so usual in the Eastern States,
but which I rarely employed, although it is remarkably productive. This
hunt is effected on horseback: the sportsman carries over his left
shoulder a stout stick about six feet in length, to the upper end of
which a frying-pan with a high rim is fastened. In this pan he lays some
small-cut pieces of pine-wood, which, when kindled, burn for a long time
with a very bright flame, and allow him distinctly to see every object
for a long distance, while himself seeing nothing of the fire behind his
back.

Deer, antelopes, and other animals when they see the moving fire, hurry
up to it in order to satisfy their curiosity. The hunter can see the
animal's eyes glistening at a distance of eighty yards, while he is
scarce visible himself. He rides nearer up to distinguish the body more
clearly, but generally contents himself with the eyes, which he takes as
his mark, and discharges his rifle at them. Owing to the light which
falls from behind on the barrel and the back of the sight, a most
careful aim can be taken, and as a rule you can ride up to within thirty
or forty yards of the animal. Even after the shot I have seen the unhit
animals only run a few yards and then stop curiously, so that I have
been able to give them a second barrel. Over the horse's hind-quarters a
large wet blanket or hide is laid to protect it from the sparks or coals
that might fall out of the pan. It is the easiest way of killing game,
and in places not thickly covered with wood this mode of hunting
promises an extraordinary charm, through the wondrous illumination which
the fire produces on the green, flower-clad foliage. A whole forest may
be depopulated in this way, and hence I regard it as quite unworthy of a
true sportsman.

For all that, we now and then went pan-hunting for the sake of the fun,
but never shot till we could plainly distinguish the animal, which
prevented any butchery. In the old States, where people only care about
killing the game, this mode of hunting is almost exclusively employed,
and in those regions where game still exists, you rarely enter a
planter's house without seeing a pan behind the door. Very frequently,
though, in those inhabited districts, the nightly sportsman is
disagreeably undeceived by the yell of agony from his own steer, mule
or horse, which he has attracted from its pasture by its fire, for the
flashing eyes do not tell the nature of the animal. I remember going one
night on foot, with the pan on my shoulder, round my field to check the
deer, which were doing great damage to my beans. Suddenly I saw a pair
of large eyes gleaming before me which slowly approached and constantly
became larger and more fiery. They came slowly along the fence to me,
and seemed such a height from the ground that I could not imagine to
what fabulously large animal they belonged. They stopped, but I did not
know whether at a distance of twenty or fifty yards. I fired, heard
something dash across the field, and the eyes disappeared. The next
morning I went with Trusty to the spot where I had fired, and we soon
found a dead lynx, which had come toward me in the darkness walking on
the fence. In those parts, where the cattle graze at liberty, this sport
is consequently most dangerous, as you run as much chance of killing
your best horse as a deer or tiger-cat.

We also had great fun this winter in destroying the wolves, which we
pursued in every possible way, as they were very dangerous to my cattle.
The easiest way of killing them is poisoning with strychnine, but I did
not employ it near my house through fear of hurting my dogs. For this
object we always rode some miles away, threw a fresh deer-paunch on the
ground, and trailed it after us by a long rope. Thus we rode past the
wood out into the prairie, where we pulled up the paunch at a spot which
displayed little grass, and then scattered the little lumps of poisoned
meat. This was always done in the evening, and on the next morning we
rode back to the spot, where we found the dead wolves lying about, which
rarely went a hundred yards from the spot where they devoured the meat.

It caused us greater pleasure, however, to capture them in traps, a
quantity of which we always had set round the fort. They were made in
the following way:--Four stout posts were driven into the ground,
forming a square of about four feet, and inside of them other longer
posts were laid till they formed walls about three feet in height: we
then drove four more posts into the angles of the walls, and fastened
them securely to those outside. In these chests we placed a flooring, so
that the captured animal could not escape by scratching up the ground,
and on the top of the cage a cover, weighed down in front by large
stones. The other end of the cover was fastened to the trap with very
strong withes, and the forepart was raised, a prop was placed under it,
which fell at a slight touch, and caused the cover to shut. At night we
trailed a fresh deer-paunch from a long distance to the trap, threw meat
in, then dragged it to the next trap, and so on till all were baited. We
caught a great many wolves in this way, which we often took home alive
and let the dogs hunt them to death on the prairie. In order to take
them alive out of the trap we used an iron fork, which we struck into
the ground over the wolf's neck, and then pressed its head down till we
had fastened its feet. It is remarkable what an innate dislike dogs
entertain for these animals. Frequently when I had killed one of them,
whose skin was not worth taking home, I merely cut off its nose and
threw it on the ground near the fort, upon which all my dogs gathered
round and kept up the most fearful barking for hours.

At length the day arrived on which the chief of the Comanches had
appointed his visit, and at about 7 A.M. three of these savages came up
to the fort to inform me that their leader was encamped half-an-hour's
distance off in the woods of the Leone, and expected me there. I asked
Tiger's advice, and he advised me to ride out, as the Comanches meant
honestly. I therefore saddled and rode, accompanied by Tiger, one of my
colonists, and Trusty, out to the Indians, and told them they could ride
on and I would follow. We soon reached the spot where Pahajuka was
encamped, and I noticed to my satisfaction that only a squaw and a
single man were seated at his fire.

I dismounted, left my man with the horses, and walked up to the chief,
who now rose and folded me in his arms twice. Then his squaw came to me
and evidenced her friendship in the same way. Pahajuka was a man of
about sixty years of age, of middle height, plump, and possessing a very
pleasant, kindly appearance. He was entirely dressed in deer-hide, had
very fine beads round his neck, and in his raven black hair he had
fastened a tail of plaited buffalo hair five feet in length, on which a
dozen round silver plates, four inches in width, were fastened. He wore
this tail hanging over his right arm, and it seemed to me as if this
ornament was only worn on solemn occasions, as I never saw it again,
though I met this savage frequently. The squaw was a powerful, stout,
extremely pleasant matron, who appeared to take a great interest in
establishing friendly relations between us. She was very talkative, and
the interpreter could scarce keep pace with her tongue.

After the first explanations why they desired my friendship, the squaw
fetched several sorts of dried meat in leathern bags, spread them on a
buffalo hide, and begged me to take the meal of friendship with them.
Tiger, too, sat down, and my other companion was obliged to do the same.
It tasted very poor to us, whose tongues were spoiled by the culinary
art; still we did our best, and the same with the pipe, which Pahajuka
sent round afterwards. When these forms had been gone through, the old
squaw packed up her traps again on her mule, and mounted it, while the
chief seated himself on a similar animal, which was of very rare beauty.

We now rode, followed by the Indians, to the fort, where the latter
camped outside, while Pahajuka and his squaw sat down in our parlour. I
had coffee and pastry served up to them, both of which it seemed they
had taken before, and they disposed of them heartily. Then I gave them
both a pipe and tobacco, and then the conversation began, in which the
interpreter's services were greatly called upon. They told me that
before I came into these parts, the Comanches had always been able to
sleep here quietly, and their children and cattle had grown fat; but
since I had been here, their hearts had always beaten with terror, and
they were unable to sleep at their fire at night. They now wished to
make peace with me, and when they came to me, carry their weapons into
my house, and fold their arms, so that their cattle might graze in
peace, and their children grow fat.

After this affair had been long discussed, and all possible assurances
of friendship given on both sides, I turned the conversation to my
guests, and heard that Pahajuka was supreme chief of the whole Comanche
nation, and his wife a person of importance in all consultations. The
old lady was very sensible and really amiable. She moved with a great
deal of gracefulness, and was constantly in the merriest temper. She
laughed and joked with her husband as if she were a young girl, and if
he reproached her for it by a serious look, she turned laughingly to me,
and asked me if she looked so old as not to be allowed a joke? At dinner
the two old people behaved very properly, although they could not quite
manage to eat with a knife and fork, and frequently helped with their
fingers. They enjoyed everything excessively, and said they would take
with them a bit from each dish. I was curious whether they would sleep
in the fort or prefer the camp of their people. The evening came, and
after we had supped, and food had been given the Indians outside, I
prepared a bed for the old couple in the parlour, put up two tallow
candles for them, and told them when one was burnt out to light the
other, as candles delighted them uncommonly. Then I intimated to them
that I always closed the fort at night, as they must tell their Indians.
They were quite satisfied and lay down on the unusual bed, laughing and
jesting.

I chained up all the dogs during the night to prevent any disturbance of
the peace, and was awakened at a very early hour by my new friends
rapping at my door. They had both slept famously, and assured me that
ere long all the chiefs of their nation would come to make friendship
with me, and wherever Comanches lived, I could now ride and lie down to
sleep in safety. The old people had something so honest in their manner,
that I no longer doubted the truth of the sentiments they expressed; and
though I never carelessly trusted to the honesty of isolated Indians of
this tribe, the assurance of the couple was confirmed, and I was never
again engaged in hostilities with these people.

My guests remained three days with me, after which I dismissed them with
numerous trifling presents, consisting of articles of clothing, coloured
handkerchiefs, tobacco, a couple of blankets, small hand-glasses, &c. I
accompanied them on their first day's journey, slept with them that
night, and then took leave with promises of a speedy meeting. Afterwards
they visited me regularly several times a year, and as they had
predicted, all the tribes of their nation came in turn to make peace
with me, and their example was followed by others, such as the
Mescaleros, Kioways, Shawnees, &c.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE NEW COLONISTS.


A few months had passed since my Alabama friends left me, and I had
heard nothing more of them, when one morning the watchman told me, with
great joy, that a long train of men, draught cattle, and carts was
coming down the river. I soon recognised through my glass young Lasar
and his cousin Henry, surrounded by a large number of negroes. The train
moved very slowly onwards, and did not stop before the fort for some
hours, when I greeted the new-comers most heartily. John had sixty odd
strong negroes with him, twelve of whom were intended for me; and
brought stores and tools with him on five large waggons, each drawn by
six oxen. He had made the journey by steamer, _viâ_ New Orleans, and
partly on the Rio Grande. When they landed he bought the draught cattle,
and had reached me without any accident. I kept them a few days with me
to let them rest, and then proceeded with them across to Mustang River,
where they camped on the ground selected by Mr. Lasar.

They chose for their maize-field a spot in the advance woods, where the
soil was rich and loose, and the trouble of blazing the trees and
ploughing round them was saved. The negroes advanced in their job with
almost incredible rapidity, and in a short time a field of some hundred
acres was cleared, ploughed, and fenced. Up to that time, the negroes
lay at nights under tents or in their carts, but now they built
blockhouses and put up fences, in which the mules and horses rested at
night. John rode over to me regularly to spend the night with me, and on
Sunday we hunted in the neighbourhood. He was a good shot, laid aside
the shot-gun for the rifle and pistols, and soon learned to use these
weapons excellently.

My life from this time underwent a change. I had twelve negroes at my
disposal, and must so employ them as not only to get their hire out of
them, but also attain the object for which I had hired them, namely,
making a profit. With this the careless, happy life which had surrounded
me for years, far from humanity, was at an end, and the god of gold,
with his thousand sufferings, hatefulnesses, and sorrows, began to
establish his despotic rule even here. I now made a second extensive
field which was sown with maize, by the side of my old one, while in the
latter I planted cotton, as this plant does not flourish in new ground.
I took young oxen from the pasturage and forced them into the strange
yoke. My mules, which had hitherto only fetched at rare intervals our
few wants from the settlements, were now attached to the plough at
daybreak, and forced with the whip to toil till sunset. My colonists had
so much to do all day that they went to bed at an early hour, and we no
longer sat, as of yore, cozily round the table, talking and jesting
about the unimportant events which had occurred during the day. In a
word, the whole colony felt the change. Peace had departed and made room
for the restless activity of civilization. Tiger did not like the
change, although I carefully avoided everything which might render his
residence among us less agreeable. He was now obliged to ride out
hunting alone, while we required far more meat than before. Still I
frequently tore myself away and went with him for three or four days
into the desert, in order to recall past times, if only temporarily.
Summer arrived with a rich harvest, and with it again fresh,
uninterrupted toil. My neighbours had also been rewarded for their
exertions by an immense maize crop, and employed the late summer in
building larger houses for the reception of Lasar and his family.
Strangers came to prospect the land in our neighbourhood, and all went
away contented with an assurance that they would soon settle here.
Among them were many unpleasant characters, but I consoled myself with
the thought that they would not become near neighbours of mine, for I
possessed all the forest land down the river, so far as it was suitable
for cultivation, and up stream Lasar had purchased a large district
adjoining my frontier. They could not settle on the open prairie without
water or wood, and hence they must proceed to the streams farther north,
where I was tolerably out of their reach.

In autumn, Mr. Lasar arrived with his wife, two daughters, and a younger
son, and brought with him about five hundred negroes, a number of fine
horses and splendid cattle. Our social circumstances thus advanced a
stage. This highly educated and amiable family offered me pleasures
which appeared to me quite new and attractive, and I did not reflect
that I had bidden farewell to them some few years back through sheer
weariness. The deer-hide dress was now frequently changed for the
costume of former days, the razors looked up, an old negress hired who
knew how to wash and iron, and imperceptibly many long-forgotten follies
and considerations crept into our simple, natural life. Civilization,
however, had set its foot in our paradise once for all, and nothing was
able to oppose its rapid advance.

The winter brought several large planters to Mustang River, above
Lasar's estate, and the land toward the northern rivers was occupied by
others, while to the south of us the settlements of the Rio Grande also
increased. All these new-comers were persons who occupied large
districts, by which the disagreeable small neighbourhood was avoided.
Still a few squatters had already settled here and there on the less
valuable small lots between our estates, and among them were some most
unsatisfactory persons.

One Sunday morning I was riding several miles above the fort through the
woods in the direction of the Leone. I had thrown the reins on Czar's
neck and was no great distance from the river bank, when Trusty stopped
and looked round to me with a growl. I called him back and rode slowly
up the small elevation whence I could look down at the river. To my
surprise, I saw there a pretty young woman, with a man's arm round her
waist, sitting on the bank, where they had made coffee over a small
fire, and were now comfortably drinking it. Not far from them a powerful
horse was grazing, and close by stood a two-wheeled cart, which
contained some household articles and provisions. The long single rifle
lay by the man's side, and a couple of deer legs and a turkey were
hanging on the tree behind him. "Hilloh, sir, you are on Indian
territory!" I shouted to the stranger, and he hurriedly leaped up rifle
in hand, but I rode up to him with a smile, and blamed his recklessness,
remarking that if I had been an Indian he would no longer be among the
living.

I was surprised at the beauty of the female, whose raven shining hair
formed an admirable contrast with the deep carmine of her cheeks and
lips, and the transparent alabaster of her delicate skin. She also rose
and looked at me with her large blue eyes, from under her long lashes. A
loose, light dress was fastened round her waist by a red silk
handkerchief, and advantageously displayed her tall graceful figure, and
little feet thrust into light shoes of deer-hide. I asked whither they
were going, and if they were acquainted with the country? The stranger
said that he intended to settle in the neighbourhood: he had followed
the wagon trail of the planter who had settled on the Mustang, and was
told by him that no more land was to be had here; hence he resolved to
go farther north and look for a farm. The restless, shy look of the man
displeased me, and hence I did not invite him to rest with me and lay in
fresh provisions, but wished him luck in his undertaking and continued
my journey. I heard afterwards that he was living twenty miles to the
north of me; that the woman he had with him was the wife of a prosperous
planter in Kentucky, whom he had murdered: they fled together and
reached the desert, where human justice could not follow them. Some
years later I saw him again near his small log hut, wretched and wasted,
and shortly after he died of an arrow wound in the chest, which an
Indian dealt him. Such persons unfortunately are always among the first
pioneers of civilization, and disturb the social relations of the
borderers.

Although our changed mode of life offered many pleasant and interesting
hours, still I was unable to drive from my heart the yearning for the
old utter independence, which had almost grown a second nature.
Frequently, when I rode at an early hour through the dark woods, the
sounds of my neighbour's axe aroused me from my dreams; or, when I rode
over the wide prairies, where I was accustomed to see the endless
expanse covered with grazing herds of buffalo, I now only noticed here
and there small bands of these animals passing hurriedly and timidly as
if frightened at having strayed among the settlements. The antelope,
that ornament of the prairies, could only be seen on the most remote
heights; the deer had remained more constant to their grazing-grounds,
but they too had grown more restless and attentive to the heightened
danger.

The other side of the Rio Grande was less changed, and game will be
protected there for many years to come, by the insurmountable mountains
that surround the valleys; but it required a much greater outlay of time
to seek the game there which formerly animated the immediate vicinity of
my residence. Tiger was beginning to grow impatient, and often said to
me that the game in our vicinity had now got too many eyes and feet, and
he would go northwards to the great mountains before spring arrived. For
a long time past I had been desirous of passing through the Rocky
Mountains, but never was the yearning greater to throw myself once more
into the arms of virgin nature than at this moment, when civilization
drew me back by force into its sphere. In spite of the repeated
representations which reason and my material interests urged against
such an undertaking, I resolved to start in February for these unknown
countries. One of my men was an excellent farmer, and in every way
deserving of my entire confidence, so that I could with safety place
the management of my settlement in his hands; while one of the other
two, of the name of Königstein, insisted on accompanying me, to which I
readily assented, as he had given me a thousand proofs of his fidelity
and devotedness. With these qualities, so valuable for me, he united a
determination and courage which nothing could daunt, and I have often
seen him in the most desperate circumstances laughingly defy the danger.
John Lasar was enthusiastic when I told him of my intention; he
earnestly desired to accompany me, and begged me to procure his father's
consent. The enterprise appeared to the old gentleman rather daring, and
he made all possible objections, but he at last yielded to our
entreaties, and equipped his son with a brace of splendid revolvers,
while I supplied him with one of my double-barrelled guns. Königstein
was armed with a double rifle, but also carried in a leathern sheath
fastened to his saddle a four-barrelled gun, two pistols in his belt,
and two in his holsters.

While we were engaged in making our preparations for the great journey,
several of Lasar's friends arrived from Alabama, among them being two
young men, a Mr. MacDonald and a Mr. Clifton, who came to me with John,
and earnestly asked my leave to form the party. I was glad to have them,
as their exterior was very pleasing, and our number was still small for
a journey in which thousands of dangers and fatigues awaited us. We
worked hard at getting ready, in which John's elder sister materially
assisted us. New suits of deer-hide were made, two small tents prepared,
and a large sheet varnished to make it water-tight and thus protect our
baggage from the rain. Then biscuits were baked, coffee, salt, pepper
and sugar stamped into bladders, a small cask filled with cognac,
cartridges made, and our saddlery inspected; in short, there were a
thousand matters to attend to, and thus the last days of January found
us with all hands full of work for our expedition, while we had
appointed February 1 for the start.

On the last day of January there was a grand review in front of the
fort, where we appeared fully equipped for a start in order to inspect
everything and discover anything that might still be wanting. An
invention of mine caused us great amusement. It was a transportable boat
to convey our traps across large rivers, consisting of a large round
very firmly sewn piece of linen, resembling an open umbrella put on its
point. The edge was covered by a very broad leather, in which was a
drawing cord. The linen was thickly covered with linseed varnish and
hence quite waterproof. When in use, eight stout sticks were laid
crossways, with the ends thrust into the edge of the linen, so that they
expanded it and drew the running cord tight. We expanded it, carried it
to the Leone, placed Antonio in it, and Tiger swam through the river on
his piebald and dragged the vessel after him to the other bank and back
again, while Antonio was not touched by a single drop of wet. After the
sticks had been taken out the linen was rolled up, and formed a small
bale, which was packed with other articles on the mule. I had seen
something similar among the Indians, who take for this purpose a fresh
buffalo hide and stretch out in a similar way with staves. Our equipment
was hence as perfect as it could be for a journey on which the traps can
only be carried on mules, and the second of February was appointed for
the start, while we would take leave of the Lasars on the first.

Pleased and full of enthusiasm about our enterprise we spent the day,
and on saying good-bye in the evening Lasar promised to accompany us
with his family and spend the first night of our camp life with us. The
next morning found us busied at an early hour in arranging our baggage
and dividing it among our cattle. Czar displayed his full beauty and
strength, and expressed by loud neighing his delight at starting this
time with so large a party. Königstein saddled the cream-colour for
himself, who also looked the picture of strength, and proudly raised his
long black tail over his croup. Tiger's piebald impatiently stamped with
his forefeet, and responded with a neigh to every mark of joy from Czar
and the cream-colour. Antonio saddled for himself the iron-grey mare,
and decorated its bridle and saddle with gay ribbons and strips of
leather. Honest Jack was loaded with provisions and other effects, which
were placed in two baskets, while our tent was laid atop, and the whole
covered with the waterproof linen. Trusty was still chained up and
attentively watched our movements, but knew already that he was going to
accompany me, as I frequently spoke to him and had put him on his new
broad collar.

We had almost completed our preparations when we saw a long train of
riders coming from Mustang River over the prairie, led by a gentleman on
a powerful dapple-grey, and a lady on a black horse. They were our
friends from the Mustang; at their head rode old Mr. Lasar on a fine
Virginian thoroughbred, and by his side pranced a coal-black stallion,
who did honour to his pure Andulasian descent from his muzzle to the tip
of his flying tail, and proud of the load he carried on his back, bowed
his strength before the delicate hand, which guided him by a dazzlingly
white bridle. Julia, Lasar's eldest daughter, was the mistress of this
splendid animal. Her tall graceful form, her brilliant black locks
falling under her tall hat, her dark eyes overshadowed by long lashes,
and the long white feather which waved in her hat, reminded me of her
noble ancestry in the days of Ferdinand and Isabella. Behind them rode
John Lasar by his mother's side on a chestnut mare of pure Arab blood,
then came the youngest daughter and the youngest son, MacDonnell and
Clifton, several neighbours from the Mustang, and lastly loaded
pack-horses with a number of mules. The caravan came over the last
height to the Fort, and was joyfully welcomed by us. A cup carved out of
a buffalo horn, filled with Sauterne, was handed to the guests on
horseback, and then also emptied by us to the toast of a pleasant
journey and fortunate return, and we at once took leave of home for an
indefinite period.

The end of our journey, as we had temporarily arranged, was the highest
yet known point on the Rocky Mountains, the Bighorn, which is situated
in the 42° of latitude, and to which we had a distance of about eight
hundred miles to ride. Our road ran eastward from the mountains and did
not ascend the Rio Grande, along whose bank is the road through the
several old Spanish forts, which begins at El Paso del Norté and passes
through Santa Fé to Taos. If it is borne in mind that the entire
distance had hardly ever been trodden by white men, and that
consequently no settlement existed there; that no other roads led
through the Rocky Mountains and almost impenetrable forests except
buffalo paths; that our journey would be made through the
hunting-grounds of the most savage and hostile cannibal hordes--it will
be felt that the moment of parting was an earnest one. The charm,
however, which dangers, privations, and difficulties possess for
man--the thought that entirely new scenes of nature, a whole new world
was about to be presented to us, rendered the leave-taking light. And so
we turned our horses away from home toward these unknown regions.

Tiger led the file, and at once commenced his duties as guide. I
followed by the side of Julia Lasar, whose proud steed appeared to be
jealous of Czar, then came the other friends in pairs, till our
pack-horses completed the train. Trusty bounded before us and expressed
by barking his delight at the large party, which was a novelty to him. A
little way below the Fort we crossed the river, where each watered his
horse, and then proceeded towards the wood on the opposite side along a
narrow buffalo path. I cut away the creepers and vines hanging over the
path, in which Tiger helped me, for this was the first time it had been
ridden by white ladies. On reaching the prairie on the other side of the
wood, where the grass was still very short and offered no impediment to
our horses, we rode in frequently varying groups, galloped from one to
the other, tried the speed of our horses, and shortened the length of
the road by jokes and laughter.

We had chosen Turkey Creek as our halting-place, and rode at a quick
pace in order to reach our camping-ground by daylight. At noon we made a
short halt at an affluent of the Leone, to give our ladies time to dine,
and at the same time allow our horses to graze. During this short delay
the buffalo-horn, filled with wine, was passed round, and was
accompanied by singing and merriment. No one appeared to reflect that
the next morning would bring a parting more or less hard for us all, but
all yielded to their gay humour without a check. At about one o'clock we
held the ladies' stirrups--helped them on their horses again, and ere
long the whole party were moving northward. The short rest had done the
cattle good, and they hastened in a quick amble across the prairie,
which was already beginning to be adorned with its spring beauty. The
breeze was fresh, the sky clear and diaphanous, and everything around
seemed to be powerfully cheered by the splendid weather. Snorting and
neighing, our horses pranced after Tiger's flying piebald, and right and
left amazed deer, and at a greater distance rapid antelopes leaped up.

While riding through a narrow coppice, we suddenly saw before us, at no
great distance, a herd of grazing buffaloes, who for a moment gazed at
us in astonishment, and did not appear to have formed a decision as to
whether they should bolt or stand an attack. A loud hunting shout ran
along our ranks, and I saw on all sides pistols and revolvers being torn
from the belts. In vain did I strive to master the enthusiasm of my
comrades, and hold them back by the observation that we were heavily
loaded, were not hunting, but commencing a long journey, in which we
must spare the strength of our horses. Away the cavalry flew after the
piebald. I could hardly hold back my impetuous steed by the side of Miss
Julia's black, whom the very sharp bit alone prevented from bolting,
till the lady uttered a wish to follow the chase, as these were the
first buffaloes she had seen. Her younger sister joined her, and thus
only Lasar and his wife, the negroes and pack animals, remained behind.

On flew the noble black stallion, guided by the steady hand of his young
mistress, from whose hat the white feather floated, while the ends of
the long red scarf tied round her riding habit fluttered behind her. I
held Czar in a little, so as not to excite the black horse too much,
while Julia's sister's pony followed us at some distance, and behind it
honest heavily-loaded Jack came panting, whom the negroes had been
unable to keep in the ranks of the pack cattle. We were soon close to
the flying herd, whose thundering hoofs drowned the sound of my
comrades' pistols. We dashed past an enormous buffalo, which had sunk
seriously wounded with its hind quarters on the ground, and standing on
its huge fore-legs was holding its broad shaggy head towards us.
Immediately after we saw another quit the ranks in front of us, and dash
after John, who was flying before it on his fast mare. I shouted to
Julia to check her horse, in which she succeeded after some efforts, and
we now rode up to the wounded buffalo, which, with head down, was
preparing for action. We stopped about fifty yards from it, when John,
who saw that I had raised my rifle, shouted to me not to fire, as he
wished to kill the animal himself. He fired, and the buffalo rolled over
in a crashing fall. Our comrades also collected in the distance round
one of the animals, which, being wounded, stood at bay, and was soon
killed. Then they rode back with shouts of triumph, and stopped with us
till Mr. and Mrs. Lasar came up. The ladies were delighted with the
savage, though splendid scene, and confessed that hunting possessed an
attraction which might easily render a man passionately fond of it. We
left the negroes behind with a few pack animals, to take the hides and
best meat from the killed buffaloes, then ordered them to follow our
trail, and rode on to the camping-ground on Turkey Creek, which we
reached at sunset.

Lasar's spacious marquee was quickly put up, and the long pennants
hoisted over it: in front of this tent a large fire was lit, and buffalo
hides spread round it, on which the ladies reclined. We attended to the
horses, carried our baggage to other fires at which we intended to spend
the night, and then gradually collected in front of Lasar's tent, where
the coffee was already boiling and various kettles for supper were
standing in the ashes. The negroes too soon rode up with heavily-loaded
cattle, and each of us put some of the meat on a spit in front of the
fire, or laid a marrow-bone to roast. The night was magnificent, not a
breath of air stirred the dark leaves of the primæval evergreen live
oaks, which spread out their long horizontal branches over our heads.
Between them the moon, in its first quarter, spread its silvery light
over us, and the sky was covered with twinkling stars. In the dark
distance we could hear the notes of nocturnal birds of passage, which
proved to us, by their northward flight, that the winter there could no
longer be very severe; till these notes were lost in the rustling of the
adjacent stream, which filled up every pause in our animated
conversation.

We sat for a long time round the brightly-burning fire, till the ladies
retired inside the tent, and we proceeded to our several fires and
wrapped ourselves in our buffalo robes. Trusty alone still sat with his
nose in the air when my eyes closed, and it was his voice woke me, when
one of Lasar's negroes rose. I also leaped up, led Czar--though he felt
no particular inclination to rise--into the grass; took my rifle, and
went to the river, where I could hear the gobbling of the turkeys. It
was still too dark to shoot with certainty, when I got under the lofty
pecan-nut trees which stood on its banks. On their highest branches the
birds were sitting and saluting the dawn. I listened to them for a long
time ere I raised my rifle, and sent a bullet through one of them. It
fell from branch to branch, and startled the others, which flew off
noisily, while the hundreds standing on the trees around, timidly thrust
out their long necks, but would not leave their night quarters.

The cock had fallen into the river, and was flapping its wings
violently in the quiet waters, so I cut a stick with a hook in order
to pull it in. I had scarce secured it, ere a platoon fire burst forth
all round me from my comrades' rifles, whom my shot had aroused from
sleep, and now ran up to take part in the morning's sport. They
produced a terrible slaughter among the poor foolish birds, and each of
them carried at least two to camp. I went down the river a little way,
however, to have a bathe. When I returned all were busy and seeking by
occupation to avoid beginning a conversation which must necessarily
hinge on the approaching leave-taking. The ladies helped in getting
breakfast ready, the young men packed up their traps, the negroes
struck the tent and rolled it up, and old Mr. Lasar went from one to
the other offering his advice. At length nothing more was left but to
eat breakfast, saddle the horses, and say good-bye. We silently
collected round the large fire; coffee was swallowed, and with it many
a tear, which involuntarily ran from the eyes. No one ate properly.
Even Tiger thoughtfully scraped a bone with his knife, solely by this
employment to make the heavy time pass more quickly. At last feelings
could no longer be overpowered--hearts found a vent in tears, words,
and sobs; and without further delay we exchanged assurances and signs
of affection and friendship. When all were mounted, we turned our
horses toward the river, waving a farewell to our friends as long as we
could see them.

We soon passed through the wood on to the prairie, which ran along its
north side, and halted to have a last inspection of our small corps. I,
who had been elected captain, now assumed my duties, as from this moment
our journey really began. I examined how the goods were divided among
the mules, of which animals two others accompanied us besides Jack, Sam
and Lizzy, whom John Lasar had supplied; for it is important on such a
journey to take the greatest care that the animals are not galled by the
saddles or baggage. The best protection against this is a thick blanket
of woven horsehair, which is laid on the animal's back under the saddle;
the hair, through its elasticity, always offers a passage for the air,
and hence avoids the great amount of heat produced by woollen cloths.

When I had convinced myself that everything was in order, I called my
party's attention to the fact that strict obedience to my regulations
was indispensably necessary for our common safety. Tiger was entrusted
with the guidance, and always rode about a hundred yards ahead, while
one of us formed the rear-guard by the mules. I had with Tiger a long
consultation as to the route we should follow, and while I proposed to
keep more to the north-west, he insisted on a due north direction. I was
of opinion that the lowest passage to the north would be found at the
spot where the Rio Grande mountains sloped down to the east and joined
the San Saba mountains; while, on the other hand, Tiger asserted that
the mountain chain could be passed most easily due north, near the
sources of the Rio Colorado. It is remarkable with what certainty the
Indians know the nature and course of mountains and rivers, as well as
the climatic circumstances of the country, and judge distances. The
sense of locality is marvellously developed among the savages. Without
being able to explain why it is so, the savage will indicate in an
instant--without any examination of trees, rocks, &c.--the exact
direction of the point he wishes to reach. Animals, and especially
horses and mules, obey the same instinct. Frequently, when I have been
hunting buffaloes in all directions over the prairie, and evening warned
me about returning home, I have been in doubt as to the direction in
which the Fort lay. I certainly knew that, for instance, I was on the
north side of the Leone, and hence must ride southwards; but I could not
determine whether I ought to proceed farther east or west, and an
incorrect course might easily bring me to the river miles above or below
the Fort. The horizon was bounded by the sky, as if I were at sea, and
not a hill or forest reminded me of any familiar point. In such cases I
laid the bridle on my horse's neck, let him graze for awhile, and then
told him to go on, though without touching the bridle. The horse,
missing the usual guidance, looked around him for a few minutes with
upraised head, and then went in a straight line homewards. Remembering
this, I followed Tiger's advice and went due north.

The weather was glorious, and the sun poured down its cheering beams
upon us from a clear sky. With jokes and anecdotes, our hearts filled
with expectation of the marvels that lay before us, we trotted after the
quick-footed piebald, who appeared as pleased as his master to leave the
civilization of the pale faces behind him. It is true that the grassy
plains over which we rode were not spangled with flower-beds of every
hue as in spring or autumn; but for all that the illimitable
bright-green expanse did our sight good, while we were greeted by a few
budding flowers. Even though the coppices, rising every now and then
from the prairie, were not clothed in the luxuriant dark foliage of
other seasons, still they did not display that picture of utter death,
which the traveller finds during winter in the forests of northern
climes. The soil of the forests is at this season covered with wild
oats, growing to a height of four feet. The scrub consists principally
of evergreen bushes; above it rise many varieties of trees of moderate
height, which never entirely lose their glistening leaves, and these
again are crowned by the different families of the magnolia, which do
not lose their ornament either. Evergreen creepers climb to the highest
branches, and hang down from the airy height in long streamers, which
serve as a plaything to the slightest breath of air.

Four fine days we passed over these extensive plains, from whose lap
higher and steeper hills gradually rise, until the latter form into a
chain and impart to the landscape the character of mountainous scenery.
We were among the spurs of the San Saba mountains, which do not run so
far south here as they do farther west, and everywhere found water for
ourselves and provender for our cattle. But now the stone-covered hills
gradually became higher and the valleys narrower; we frequently crossed
large ranges of table-land, on which the mosquito grass grows scantily;
and as this is the only sort that remains green in winter, we could not
let any opportunity slip to feed our cattle when we came across good
pasturage. We need not be so anxious about water, as nearly all the
valleys between these mountains are supplied with it in winter.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIX.

A BOLD TOUR.


We had been going for several days through the mountains with
considerable difficulty, when one afternoon we reached a splendid
pasturage, where we resolved to let our cattle rest. It was at the same
time warm. We had doffed our leathern jackets and felt very comfortable
when we found thick cedar wood on the western side of this meadow and
were able to rest in its shade. We had scarce lit our fire to prepare
dinner, when Tiger sprang up, pointed to the north, where several small
clouds were rising, and then laid his ear on the ground. "A hurricane (a
fearful storm frequent in the Rocky Mountains) is coming up. We must
place our cattle in safety," he said, as he leapt up; and we all set to
work dragging our traps to the other side of the meadow, where a low
rock hung over and covered a considerable space.

After carrying across our traps, partly on our animals, partly in our
arms, we hastened to collect as large a supply of dry wood as we could,
in which an old trunk lying near the rock was of great service to us.
This was cut into several pieces, which were rolled under the stone
roof, and a fire was lit against one of them, while our horses were
quietly grazing. We had scarce completed these preparations when the sky
grew dark, and we heard a roaring and hissing, which quickly increased
with the growing obscurity. We brought our cattle under the rock and
fastened them to pickets we drove into the ground.

The cloud grew heavier and darker with each moment and rolled over the
mountain crests in a southerly direction. With the roar of the wind was
blended dull thunder, and an icy cold spread over the ground. These
were merely the announcers of the frightful hurricane, which now dashed
down from the Rocky Mountains and announced its approach with a crash
that shook the earth. The thunder was so deafening that we could not
hear each other speak, and standing silently by our trembling horses we
watched the storm drive the clouds of icy rain in almost horizontal
direction over our heads, and level the cedar-trees so that the roots
stood up instead of the crowns. The cold increased every moment, and ere
long everything was covered with a thick crust of ice, while the rain
was frozen and hurtled round us in heavy hail. The ground shook under
us, and the peals of thunder were repeated by a thousand echoes on the
sides of the mountain. Under these circumstances we could consider our
situation a fortunate one; for if we had been surprised by this storm,
we might easily have fallen victims to it, or at least we must have lost
our animals, which no human strength could have mastered in the icy
rain. Though pressed closely round the fire and wrapped in our buffalo
robes, we shivered from cold. The storm howled till late in the evening,
at which time, though dense rain fell, the wind had sunk, and by nine
o'clock the clouds broke too. A dead, frozen landscape surrounded us;
the moon's bright light shone down into our frozen gully as into a
palace of glass, and wherever we looked we saw transparent masses of
ice, while the reflection of our fire glittered in brilliant colours on
the crystals of ice near us. Not a breath of air stirred, and had it not
been for the numbing cold and the glistening ice around to prove the
reality of this fearful scene, we might easily have been tempted to
regard it as a dream.

Our cattle, too, felt the cold greatly and trembled all over. We covered
them with all the blankets we could spare, and I took special care of
Czar, whom I fastened up as near the fire as I could. We made a
tremendous blaze in order to render the cold to some extent endurable.
One of us was obliged in turn to watch at the fire during the night,
while the others lay round it and stretched out their feet to it.
Morning arrived, and with it we welcomed the sun which appeared over the
mountains in the blue sky. Everything glittered and shone around, as if
the world were covered with a sheet of glass and brilliants; the grass
plot was hidden by a layer of transparent pieces of ice, which
brilliantly reflected the sunbeams; every bush, every shrub glittered
with the hues of the rainbow, and the ice almost blinded our eyes. The
sunbeams gradually rendered the cold more endurable. We crept out from
under our rock and tried to warm ourselves by jumping. We were compelled
to leave our horses tied up, as the grass was covered with ice, even
where there was no drift. We could not go up to the spring which bubbled
up in a gorge below the destroyed cedar-wood, because the path leading
down to it was too smooth and slippery; hence we filled our pots with
hailstones and thus procured water for our breakfast. The ice
disappeared again as quickly as it had fallen on the unusual ground; it
was only where the hail had drifted in large layers that the masses of
ice lay for a longer period.

We resolved to remain here till the next day, because both our horses
and ourselves required rest. My comrades wished to obtain permission to
go out hunting, as Tiger had already done so without asking my leave,
for he paid little heed to our laws. John Lasar and Mac, as we called
MacDonnell for the sake of shortness, went off in different directions.
The former followed the spring which joined a stream about a mile from
us, whose banks were covered with a dense undergrowth, while Mac went
north into the hills. The rest of us remained in camp. Shortly before
sunset Mac returned, told us he had shot a large deer and two turkeys
close at hand, put a pack-saddle on Sam, and went with Antonio to fetch
the game. He had scarce left ere Tiger came in and triumphantly informed
us that he had killed a big bear in its lair, and we must go and fetch
it in the morning, for it was dark when Mac and Antonio returned with
the game, and John had not turned up yet, which rendered us rather
anxious. Still I had heard him fire several times, so he could not be
far off; but I was afraid that an accident had happened to him, as it
was now getting on for nine o'clock. We repeatedly fired our guns, and
though it was so late, Tiger went down the stream and raised his hunting
yell, but received no reply. At night it was impossible to follow his
trail, so we lay down to sleep; but at daybreak we swallowed our
breakfast and prepared to go in search of John. I took Tiger and Mac
with me, and told Antonio to follow us on Jack. Trusty trotted ahead,
and we had not gone many hundred yards from camp when John came riding
down between the hills. We were very anxious to learn what had caused
him to spend the night away, and he now told us that he had got among a
herd of peccaris in the wood, and after shooting one of these animals,
was compelled to seek shelter in a tree which they invested. Although he
shot several of them, they did not retreat, and hence he was obliged to
wait for daybreak. Of course, he had passed the night in the cold,
shelterless, and was now very anxious for rest. He rolled himself in his
buffalo robe, while I, with Tiger, Antonio, and Mac, left camp in order
to fetch the bear. We took Jack and Lizzy with us to carry ropes and an
axe.

We ascended the hills on the east for about half an hour, till Tiger
went round a lofty rock and showed us a small round opening about six
feet above the spot where we were standing. Tiger crept into the hole
with a lasso to noose the bear's throat. He soon came out again, and we
all three tried, but in vain, to drag it out with the rope. We harnessed
Jack in front and Tiger crept in again to the bear to push: now matters
went better, and the black monster soon appeared in the opening, and
rolled down the little slope to us. Jack and Lizzy, startled at the
sudden apparition, leapt on one side, but were soon pacified, and we
began skinning and breaking up the animal. I was anxious to have a look
at the interior of its abode, and crawled into the entrance, which was
at first very narrow, but then widened, and at length became two walls
leaning together at the top, but about eight feet apart at the bottom.
The floor of the cave was covered with cedar branches, on which the bear
reposed. I lighted a wax-taper, and was thus enabled to examine the cave
narrowly. Tiger had crept up to the bear with a lighted wisp of grass in
his hand, shot it in the left eye, and killed it on the spot.

We packed the best of the meat and fat, as well as the skin, on our
mules, and returned to camp, where we arrived at about ten o'clock. We
packed up, and were under way again by two P.M., following Tiger, who
led us through the mountain passes, which here became much steeper. We
rode nearly the whole day up hill, and only at intervals came to small
table-lands, on which our cattle rested for a while. Trees grew rarer;
here and there a small clump of cedars rose from a gorge, or an isolated
group of prickly yuccas decorated the rocks, and at times a mimosa hung
over our path from a crevice. A plant, whose three feet long narrow
leaves grew out of the rock in tufts, and are used by the Indians for
plaiting baskets and mats, was very common here: in the spring it has a
whitish yellow flower, which grows on a stalk nearly six feet high, and
through its graceful form is a real ornament to the landscape.

After a tiring ride the sun began to decline and illumined the red bare
granite mountains that now rose before us, and which we could still have
reached; but, as we found grass and water here, and our cattle longed
for rest, we halted and made our camp. We were all hungry and tired, and
hence enjoyed the capital bear meat, and stretched ourselves before the
fire in our buffalo robes, where we awaited the morning without any
disturbance. Refreshed, and strengthened, we gazed down from our
elevation at the dense clouds which filled the valleys below us, while
the dark sky in the east over the mountains continually became redder,
until all at once the sun appeared like a burning ball over the distant
misty blue range of hills. It shot a few golden red beams over the
awakening earth, and quickly rising poured its fiery stream of light
over the world. From the sea of mist beneath us the sharp howling of the
jaguars reached us, and we saw a long train of rapid antelopes, probably
flying before these beasts of prey, darting over a hill that emerged
from it. We had soon finished breakfast, and the mist in the valleys had
not entirely dispersed, when we guided our horses up the hill of granite
before us. The air was so cool that we buttoned up our jackets, and
pulled over our laps the part of our saddle-cloths hanging over the
holsters.

Before us the mountains illumined by the morning sun rose ever higher
and higher, while the valleys between them were wooded and seemed to
contain a great many evergreen oaks. Our path ran at a rather great
height along precipices, and it was not till noon that we crossed a
ridge, where a valley ran across before us, and we were compelled to go
down to it. This valley, which was not more than three miles broad,
surprised us by its peculiarly beautiful appearance: it was literally
covered with rocks of the most gigantic size, which lay near and on each
other, as if rained down from the sky. In some places these were so
piled up that at a distance they resembled castles with their turrets
and keeps. Between these red masses of stone groups of live oaks
emerged, and here and there small ponds could be seen glistening.

We had for a long time been enjoying this strange scene, and were on the
point of going down to the rocky valley, when a loud yelling and barking
was heard on our right beneath us, which rang through the valley, as if
raised by a thousand animals. It rapidly drew nearer, and on looking in
the direction of the sound we saw, at the foot of the precipice on which
we were standing, a foam-covered old buffalo dash past with a pack of
about fifty white wolves at its heels. The old fellow seemed very tired,
and with flying mane raised its weary feet in its gallop, spurred on by
the yells of its bloodthirsty pursuers. It soon disappeared with its
tormentors round the rock, and far into the valley we heard the wild
chase; but certainly the hunted brute eventually fell a prey to the
furious band. It is only at this season that the white wolves collect in
large packs, when they make very daring attacks on the largest animals,
and even man, and many a western hunter has before this fallen their
victim.

We rode down into the valley, following a very deeply-trodden buffalo
path, which ran between the blocks of granite, some of which were as
tall as a house, and at noon reached a small stream in its centre, which
ran westward. Its water was clear, like all the small streams in the
west, and was thronged with fish and turtle. Mac and Clifton soon threw
their lines in and fetched out the fish as quickly as the hook fell.
They had pulled out several cat and buffalo fish weighing twenty pounds
apiece, when Mac hooked a very large turtle, and was afraid lest it
might break his line. John, who was known as a good fisherman, ran to
his help, took the rod from Mac, but slipped, as the turtle gave a sharp
tug, down the steep bank, and sank up to his head in the clear waters.
He was an excellent swimmer, like all Americans, at once came up and
darted after the rod, which was hurriedly following the stream; we threw
him a lasso and pulled him and it out. Then we let down a lasso, which
Antonio managed to put over the turtle, and we dragged it ashore. It
weighed some thirty pounds, and afforded us a first-rate dinner with the
fish.

Our horses had here excellent grazing grounds, which are much larger
than they had appeared to us from the mountains, and as we did not wish
to hasten our journey and reach the north too soon, where the vegetation
was still dead, we resolved to rest here for a few days. Still, as the
stream might perhaps swell rapidly, we thought it better to pass it and
camp higher up. It was about fifty yards wide, and rather rapid, and the
buffalo path on which we were went down into it at such a pitch that it
was difficult to convey our traps across. Tiger and I consequently went
up the stream in search of a spot easier of access. We had hardly gone a
mile between the rocks, when we saw four large elks grazing on a meadow,
which did not notice us. We were obliged to make a lengthened ascent to
get to windward, and after a fatiguing clamber up and round the stones,
we at length reached a large rock about eighty yards from them. We
marked the animals we would fire at, and pulled triggers almost
simultaneously. Tiger's elk fell dead, but mine got up and went off with
my second bullet which I gave it, though it was in a very bad case. I
sent Trusty after it, and heard him bark once, and then become silent.
The distance at which I had heard him was too far for me to run the risk
of seeking him, and hence I sounded a couple of notes on my hunting horn
to recall Trusty. While we broke up the elk the faithful dog came in,
bearing the signs of victory on his blood-stained coat; we followed him
to the elk, which he had captured, and found it dead with its throat
torn out.

We broke this one up too, and then returned to the river to find a
convenient passage. About a mile farther on we came to a buffalo path,
so deeply trodden in the bank that it led with a lower pitch to the
water, while on the other side the bank was low and the stream shallow;
we therefore hurried back to camp, and marched up the river with our
baggage. Tiger, Königstein, and Antonio rode off with two mules to fetch
the game, and rejoin us at the indicated spot on the river. On reaching
the latter we at once prepared to cross, and on this occasion our boat
was used for the first time. We unpacked it, laid it on the grass and
expanded it, after which we carried it to the river, and secured it with
a lasso to the bank. It floated splendidly, and was packed with those
articles which must not get wet. Ere long our comrades came in with the
game, of which they had only taken the best joints. Antonio laid down
his weapons and saddle-bags, and rode into the river with the cord in
his hand, which was fastened to the coracle. He got across all right,
but the water was too shallow to bring the boat close to bank, and he
had nothing to which he could fasten it in the stream, but Tiger soon
helped by jumping into the river, swimming across, and carrying the
articles severally on land; then he brought back the coracle to us, as
there were several more articles which must be protected from the wet,
and because he also wanted to cross the river with a cargo.

We packed our boat again, and Tiger laid his long rifle on the top,
though we dissuaded him from doing so. He swam off, and had reached the
middle of the river, when the rifle lost its balance through a pull at
the lasso, and sank in the river before Tiger could catch it. He seemed,
however, to care but little about the accident, for he laughed heartily
and swam quietly across to Antonio, who held the boat while the Indian
carried its contents on land. When it was unloaded, it lay light as a
feather on the water, and was pulled up and fastened to the bank. The
young savage now leaped into the river again, dived like a stone at the
middle of it, and came up a few seconds later with his rifle in his
right hand, while he swam with the left. He mounted his piebald, and we
all followed him into the stream, holding our weapons above our heads,
and reached the other bank all right. When in camp on an elevation a
short distance from the bank, Tiger lit a fire, and laid his rifle
barrel in the ashes until the damp powder in it exploded and drove out
the bullet, after which he ran down with it to the river, and cooled it
in the water.

For three days we rested our horses here, and amused ourselves with
fishing and hunting, for which the valley afforded every opportunity, as
all sorts of game swarmed and the covered ground enabled the hunter to
approach it. At night the whole valley seemed at times to be alive; the
tramping of flying buffaloes rang on our ears, which were close to the
ground, and the yells of hunting wolves could be distinctly heard: now
and then the terrible roar of the jaguar rang through the damp moonlit
night, and often so close to camp, that we leaped up and seized our
rifles, while Trusty replied with furious barking. The couguar or
maneless American lion (panther), which is very frequent here, often
raised its plaintive cry; while the hoarse, dull growl of the bear
echoed through the rocks. Countless owls floated spectrally, with
lengthened flapping of their wings, over this nocturnal landscape, or
glided like a breath over our camp. Although we were frequently roused
from sleep by this night life of the animal world, it never disturbed us
for long, for so soon as we convinced ourselves that there was no danger
for us, we fell asleep again. During our stay we killed a great quantity
of game, of which we only used the tidbits, and thus behaved no better
than all these four-footed beasts of prey, whose behaviour is after all
far more chivalrous than ours.

On the morning we had appointed for our departure I was awakened by the
yell of a jaguar. I sprang up, and heard it again at no great distance
from our camp. Our fire was rather low, and hence it had ventured rather
nearer to us, and our cattle had probably aroused its appetite for
blood. I made Tiger a sign to go with me, took my rifle and crawled with
Trusty at my heels in the direction whence I had heard the jaguar. The
grass was very damp, so that we could creep on without making the
slightest noise. We stopped and listened. I fancied I had heard the
puffing sound I had previously noticed with these animals, and which, I
believe, is produced by their blowing out the dew which impedes their
organs of scent. I heard it again, and not very far off, when suddenly
the sharp snapping yelp was raised close before us, I hurried up some
rocks, and saw the huge creature standing on a small clearing about
thirty yards from me. The grass on which it was standing was still
rather dark, and only the highest haulms displayed heavy drops of dew,
while the breaking dawn was reflected in the brute's smooth
yellow-black spotted body. I had fallen on one knee on the grass, when
the royal brute again raised its half-open throat and uttered its
murderous cry, accompanied by a blast of its hot breath, which rose like
a strip of mist in the cold breeze. It stood motionless. I rested my arm
that held the rifle on my knee, and everything was so still that I could
distinctly hear my heart beat. I now fired, and with an awful roar the
brute first rose straight in the air, then turned over and writhed in
the grass. I had shot it near the heart, and in a few minutes it was
quite dead. Tiger was greatly delighted with the splendid skin, which he
stripped off the brute with extraordinary skill, and left the huge claws
on it.

At about ten o'clock we were ready to start, and rode through a narrow
gorge toward the hill ahead of us, which soon brought us to a wide
plateau, on which we and our horses were greatly troubled by the sun, as
the breeze was very slight. For several days we proceeded without any
great difficulty through the mountains, which constantly surprised us
both on the heights and in the valleys with the most beautiful
landscapes, the wildest rocks, cascades, uprooted trees piled on each
other; and then again the pleasantest and most peaceful valleys, in
which we every moment expected to see the smoking chimneys of a
settlement or a slowly turning mill-wheel. The mountains now grew much
more impracticable, their sides steeper and the valleys narrower; our
paths frequently led us from our course, wound round the precipices, and
at times trended due south; so that during a day's ride we only advanced
a few miles to the north. We reached a small river, which wound through
the rocks from the north-east, and which Tiger told us was the Rio
Colorado, which flowed in a great curve through these mountains and
Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. We had great difficulty in passing its
steep banks, and spent half a day ere we found a spot where we could
ride through it. On its banks we found enormous cypresses and live oaks,
and a generally rich vegetation for these regions, and above all,
musquito grass, which was of incalculable advantage for our cattle.

We had hardly scaled the heights on the opposite side and were riding
through a narrow path between two not very steep slopes, when we heard
the barking of a hunting dog rapidly advancing towards us. I leaped from
my horse and at the same moment there appeared on the left-hand
precipice a flying antelope and at some distance behind it a black and
white spotted dog, which only barked faintly at intervals. The buck was
very fast and took enormous leaps over the loose boulders, and when it
passed within a hundred yards of us a shower of bullets was sent after
it. It turned a somersault and rolled down the precipice to our feet,
when we cut it up and divided the game among our mules. The dog,
however, halted on the rock with hanging tail, and looked at us for a
while thoughtfully, then turned and slowly made back tracks. Tiger said
it was an Indian's dog, but not thoroughbred, as the latter never bark
(I do not know whether they cannot, but I never heard them bark). As we
rode along we looked for the dog's master, but did not catch sight of
him.

The farther we went from the river the less steep the mountains' sides
became, and the valleys widened again. On the following day we crossed
two other rivers, which were also arms of the Colorado, and went down
toward the northern spurs of the San Saba mountains. The mountain chains
here ran severally over larger surfaces, on which a great many hills
rose, but they had nearly all already donned the garb of the prairies;
they were covered with a red grass that is rather hard, but does not die
in winter, while in the lowlands grew the fine hair-like musquito grass.
Numerous patches of postoak crossed this country, and here and there the
hills were covered with thick leaf wood. The streams, begirt by fine
forests, all ran eastward, and were all full of fish, and the
crystalline water which so greatly distinguishes Western America from
all other countries. We found here again large troops of wild horses,
though we had seen none on the mountains, and enormous quantities of
game of all sorts. The prairie more especially was covered with
buffaloes as far as we could see. We were constantly supplied with the
finest meat which we shot in passing, without stopping any length of
time or tiring our horses.

One afternoon, however, we noticed among a herd of buffaloes two white
ones which excited our cupidity, and we resolved to hunt them. We left
Antonio and Königstein behind with the mules, laid aside our superfluous
baggage and slowly approached the buffaloes. They were standing on a
knoll on the prairie, and allowed us to ride rather close up ere they
took to flight. We galloped after them and were soon in their ranks,
which gave way as we pressed in, and spread on both sides with such
roaring and snorting as deafened the thundering noise of their hoofs.
The two white animals, an old bull and a cow, were right in the front.
In spite of the choking cloud of dust in which we were enfolded we kept
them in sight and at last got up to them. Tiger was some paces ahead and
first up to the buffaloes, but at the moment when he raised his long
rifle to fire the bull turned on him and the piebald gave a tremendous
start: Tiger lost his balance and would assuredly have fallen, had he
not caught hold of the mane and sprung from his rearing horse. At the
same instant the buffalo received our bullets, and dashed furiously
first after one then after the other, while being continually wounded
afresh, until it at last sank on its knee exhausted and received the
death shot from Tiger's rifle. I now rode back to those in the rear and
brought them to the dead bull, while the others skinned it. The hide was
splendid, very long haired, and shaggy, and snowy white without spots. A
white buffalo is a rarity. The savage Indians regard it with
superstitious awe, and make a sacrifice of sumach leaves ere they attack
and kill it. They set an extraordinarily high value on the hide of such
an animal, and either use it as a valuable present or sell it for a
large sum. After the bull was killed, I had the greatest difficulty in
keeping Tiger from following the herd which was out of sight in order
to take the hide of the white cow, and it was not till I assured him
that the hide of the dead one belonged to him and that I would purchase
it of him, that he remained with us. An hour later the bargain was
concluded, and my Indian perfectly contented. White deer, antelopes, and
bears are more common, but for all that are regarded as rarities.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XX.

THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.


We now reached open plains, where only here and there an isolated
musquito tree or a thickly foliaged elm offers a little shade on the
boundless glowing surface, and the sky forms the horizon all around. To
these single shady trees the deer and antelopes fly in the midday heat,
and lie down close together, so that you may be always certain to find
game under these trees, so long as their leaves are standing. At the
same season the grass is high also, and it is easy for the hunter to
creep unseen within shot, and shoot the fattest deer through the head.
Even at the time of our visit, when the leaves had fallen, these animals
frequently reposed under the scattered trees and rose as we passed,
forty or fifty in number, gazing anxiously at us. The buffalo, on the
other hand, always remains in the sunshine, and seems able to endure the
greatest heat, but also the greatest cold before all other quadrupeds.
It marks its endless marches from north to south and from south to north
by its skeletons, which bleach for many a year in the sun. Now, when the
grass was short, the whole surface in the distance had a whitish tinge,
which is produced by these bones, out of which the skulls rise like
shining dots. For about a week we rode through such land, only here and
there interrupted by small elevations, and frequently suffered with our
animals from drought. During this period we were often obliged to quench
our thirst with standing water, with which the heavy showers fill great
hollows in the prairies, and which remains in them even at the driest
season. As the inhabitants of these plains, and especially the
buffaloes, must also quench their thirst in them, and also wallow
there, we frequently found the water as thick and warm as chocolate, and
were obliged to strain it through a cloth to get rid of the hairs before
we could drink it.

After a very hot day, on which we had suffered greatly from thirst, we
suddenly saw from a knoll a large expanse of water before us, and
greeted it at the first moment with great delight. We hurried on in
order to reach this oasis as soon as possible, but surprised to see no
bushes or trees on its banks, and even more when on drawing nearer we
found far around only thin, dark grass, between which the ground shone
quite white. Tiger shouted to me that it was salt water, and neither we
nor our horses could drink it. This affected us the more deeply as we
had indulged in the hope of a hearty drink, and we silently turned again
to the west, in order to ride round the lake. Tiger laughed and said
that we should have good water, as several large streams flowed into it
from the west. This proved to be the case; for after riding about five
miles along the bank of the lake, we reached a perfectly clear,
sweet-water stream. We halted in order to refresh ourselves and our
cattle, but we were obliged, as was the case nearly the whole week, to
kindle a fire of _bois de vache_, to prepare our supper. At times, when
in passing over these prairies we found a dry musquito tree, we fastened
a few logs to our saddle, so as to have firing for the evening; but this
was too tiring, and we always hoped to come across wood, whence this
precaution was generally neglected. In such regions there were no
objects to which we could bind our horses; but this is easily managed by
cutting a long, sharp wedge out of the very firm soil, thrusting the
knot of the lasso in as far as possible and stamping in the wedge again
with the foot. As the bound animal pulls almost horizontally at the very
long lasso, while its end goes down nearly perpendicularly into the
ground, the rope offers such a resistance that it will sooner break than
be pulled out of the ground.

Gradually we saw more hills, and among them forests, while a few
distant chains of mountains ran from west to east. One afternoon I was
riding with Tiger about a mile ahead of our party, in order to have a
better chance of approaching game, when we heard two shots behind us. We
looked round and saw our friends gathered in a knot on a small knoll,
and a swarm of about fifty Indians galloping round them. We gave our
horses the spurs and flew back to them, while Tiger raised a hideous
yell, in which I supported him to the best of my strength. Our friends
now fired a general salvo at the assailants, which knocked over two
horses, but their riders were immediately picked up by their comrades.
On seeing us the savages took to flight with gruesome yells. We rode up
to our companions, who had placed all the animals in the centre to
protect them. Königstein had luckily seen some horses' heads over the
crest of the next hill which aroused his suspicions, and had employed
the time in assuming a posture of defence, or else we should probably
have lost our mules. Tiger saw, from the saddles of the shot horses,
that they belonged to the Mescaleros, who are considered the most savage
tribe in the west, and would certainly not have given up their attack so
soon had they not recognised Tiger's war-whoop as that of the Delawares.
The number of Mescaleros is not large, and they are constantly at war
with many other tribes, so that they do not care to make fresh enemies
among their red brothers. This little danger, which we escaped without
loss, was not unpleasing to me, as our precautions, which had nearly
been forgotten, were aroused once more by it.

For about a week we marched through a very pleasant country, and arrived
at a rather large river, which Tiger stated to be the Brazos, and which
falls into the gulf to the eastward of the Colorado. I had seen it
before at San Felipe, and would not have recognised it, for there it
moves sluggishly through a thick-wooded bed of heavy clay, and has a
dirty red colour, while here it rolls merrily over rocks, and its
crystal surface is covered with a snow-white foam. From this point we
proceeded to the north-west, as Tiger noticed that we had gone a little
too far east, and would have much greater difficulty in crossing the
rivers than farther west, where, though the country is mountainous, the
streams nearer their sources are smaller and more frequent. The
mountains were composed of limestone, and contained exquisite little
valleys, where the vegetation was already bursting into new life. All
the softer-wooded trees were budding, and the flowers were springing up
all over the prairies. We seemed to keep equal pace with the reawakening
of the vegetable world northwards, and even to go faster than it.

On a warm day we had been riding without a halt over desolate, stony
hills, and were quite exhausted. When our tired and thirsty horses
clambered up a barren height, we suddenly looked down into a lovely
valley covered with fresh verdure, through which a broad stream wound.
The view soon enlivened horse and rider, and we merrily hurried down to
the bank of the stream. We had hardly reached it and ridden our horses
in to let them quench their thirst, when a long train of Indians
appeared on the opposite height bordering the valley and came straight
toward us. Tiger looked at them for a moment, and told us to wait here
while he rode across to see who they were. We dismounted, led our horses
together, and got our weapons in readiness. Tiger galloped through the
valley to the hill side down which the Indians were coming, and checked
his piebald at its foot. We saw him making signs from a distance to the
approaching horsemen, which were answered in the same way, and ere long
the whole party pulled up around him. They held a long consultation and
then rode toward us with Tiger at their head. They were Kickapoos out on
a hunting expedition, and had recently left their villages on the
Platte, where they have settlements like the Delawares, and their squaws
and old men grow crops and breed cattle.

I had a long conversation with the chief, in which Tiger played the
interpreter, told him the purpose of our journey, invited him to visit
me on the Leone next winter, and asked him how far it was to the next
water. He assured me that we should come to good water and grass before
the sun sank behind the mountains, and so we parted, very glad to get
away from the fellows, whose appearance was anything but satisfactory.
The party consisted of about eighty men, twenty squaws, and a number of
small children. The first were dressed in deer-hide breech-clouts, and
had round the body a leathern belt, through which a very long and broad
strip of coarse red cloth was passed, whose two ends were pulled through
between the legs and fastened into the belt behind. In addition, several
of them had deerskin coats, others calico coats, but the majority merely
wore a buffalo robe over their bare shoulders, and nearly all were armed
with rifles. The squaws wore a short leathern petticoat round their
loins, and a buffalo robe on their shoulders, while those who had
infants carried them fastened to a board upon their backs. They had
already unpacked their horses and prepared their camp to halt here, as
we rode away from them over the hills, and Tiger came up to me, saying,
"Kickapoo no good--two tongues." I had heard before that these Indians
were false, spiteful, and hostile to white men, and only the advantage
they derive from being on friendly terms with the United States induces
them not to appear publicly as their enemies.

We quickly advanced, and reached at a rather early hour a valley in
which we found grass and water, and chose our camp at a spot where the
stream ran close under a precipice, while on this side was a small copse
in which we could fasten our cattle at night. It was an almost circular
kettle enclosed by steep limestone walls, which had an opening only on
one side, through which the bright stream flowed. The sun was sinking
behind the lofty gray rocks and dyeing the dark blue sky with a glowing
tint which no artist would venture to reproduce on his canvas. About
midnight Trusty aroused us by his loud savage bark: he was at the
opening of the valley and would not lie down again, but we could not
discover his motive, as it was quite dark. Tiger fancied, however,
that the Kickapoos were trying to steal some of our horses. When day
broke and cast its first faint light over the gray walls of the valley,
I awoke and saw at the entrance a herd of deer apparently browsing down
the stream. As it was still rather dark I hoped to be able to approach
them behind the few leafless bushes that grew on the bank, as crawling
through the dewy grass was too fatiguing a job to be rewarded by a deer,
especially as we still had a supply of game.

[Illustration: OCELOTS HUNTING IN COUPLES. _p. 243._]

I crept down the stream, and had got within shot, when I made a forward
leap in order to reach a rather thick bush, from which I could fire more
conveniently. At the same instant the deer started apart in terror, and
I saw that an ocelot had leaped on the back of one of them, which laid
back its broad antlers and galloped down the stream, while a second cat
followed it with long high bounds. Two of the terrified deer darted past
me, but I did not fire, as I felt an interest in watching the hunt of
the two beasts of prey, which I followed as quickly as I could out of
the valley. The deer ran about a mile down the stream, then reared and
fell over backwards, when the second cat also sprang on it, and hung on
its neck.

The deer collected its last strength and tried to rise on its hind legs,
but sank exhausted and sent its plaintive cries echoing through the
mountains. I crept, unseen by the beasts of prey, within thirty yards of
the scene of battle, and shot the first, while I missed the second, as
it bolted, but sent Trusty after it, and soon heard him at bay lower
down the stream. I soon reloaded and hurried after Trusty, who was
barking round a small oak in which the ocelot had sought shelter. I shot
it down and dragged it up to the other, which was lying by the dead
deer. All were up in our camp, as they had heard my shots, and John and
Königstein hurried toward me to see what I had killed. My clothes were
as wet as if I had been in the river, and I turned myself before our
fire while the others went out with Jack to bring in the game. Higher
north I did not come across these small leopards, while farther south
they are very frequent.

For several days longer our road ran through mountains, which were
bordered by savage precipices and crossed by grassy valleys; then we
rode for some days across open, boundless prairies, and again reached
low ranges of hills, between which we crossed the southern arm of Red
River, which divides Texas from Arkansas and falls into the Mississippi
in Arkansas, after flowing a distance of nearly one thousand miles.
There it is of a dirty red, and muddy, and moves sluggishly between
lofty poplars and planes which overshadow its flat banks, while the long
gray grass hangs down from thence to the surface of the water and
literally covers the trees. This moss hangs from every branch in
creepers twenty feet long, and conceals the swampy soil in which those
fearful monsters, the alligators, lie by thousands and await in their
pestiferous lair the unhappy victims whom accident leads to them. Here
and there a half-decayed blockhouse peeps out from under these weeping
banners, and as everything there offers the picture of rapid desolation,
you see in this house, where so many families have died out one after
the other, the pale, yellow wasted faces of the new-comers peering out,
like candidates for death, till it becomes too late to escape from this
pestilential abode.

How perfectly different, however, the river appears here! Clear as
crystal to the bottom, it dances from rock to rock; refreshes as it
darts past the luxuriant ferns and the thousand-hued flowers with its
waves, and displays to the visitor its living wealth, as well as the
vegetable world on its bed, in the most brilliant hues. The purest,
lightest breeze sports over its high banks and drives the diseases,
which are the curse of South-Eastern America, out of the paradise which
lies beneath the haughty cypresses, pecan nut-trees, planes, maples, and
colossal oak-trees that border it. How is it possible that men can be
terrified by the dangers of the West, and patiently expose themselves to
a certain, slow, awful decay in those poisoned forests, where Death
inexorably swings his scythe all the year round?

The Rocky Mountains now rose in the west, and glistened with their snowy
peaks, while around us the plants announced spring by their bursting
buds. We drew nearer to them, although in this way our route became far
more fatiguing than farther eastward, where the wide prairies extend to
the north. But Tiger employed this precaution in order to get out of the
way of the great Indian hordes pursuing the buffalo, who do not find in
these mountains sufficient food for their troops of horses and mules,
and cannot hunt the buffaloes there so well as on the prairie. Hence our
journey was continued more slowly; but at this season we could reckon on
water, and the small valleys offered our few cattle abundance of food.
The mountains constantly afforded us more game than we needed for our
support, and we could approach it with greater ease than on the
prairies.

We had been winding for some days through wildly romantic mountain
gorges, and our eyes were involuntarily fixed on the distant reddish
mountains which rose in the north toward the transparent sky. We had
left many a charming valley, turbulent current, and precipice behind,
when at about noon one day we were stopped by a deep ravine, through
which noisily dashed one of those mountain torrents which escape from
the snows of the Andes and make their long course through the valleys to
the Gulf of Mexico. Here we could not think of riding through, for the
precipices on either side were at least fifty feet deep, while the width
of the cavern was several hundred paces. We rode up the ravine and got
among such rocks and loose stones that we were forced to dismount, and
with the greatest difficulty reached a plateau where the banks of the
stream were not so tall and steep, and we were able to remount. A few
flat rocks were scattered over the bank where we were, while the
opposite one rose steeply, and was covered with thick scrub and low
wood.

I was riding with Tiger ahead of our party when, on turning a rock, we
saw a very plump bear leap from the bank through the shallow but foaming
stream, and disappear in a coppice opposite. It was too quick to enable
us to fire, and when we reached the spot where we first saw it, we found
a large elk lying behind some thick prickly bushes, which was still
warm, and hence must have been recently killed. One leg was torn up, but
the rest was in good condition, and we halted to await our friends and
put the game on the mules. When I was about to dismount, Tiger remarked
that the bear would return to the elk in the evening, and as we should
soon be obliged to camp, owing to the growing darkness, we could hunt
it.

Our friends came up and we marched about a mile farther, where we found
excellent grass in a gorge on the left of the river. We unsaddled,
hobbled our cattle, and prepared supper, although it was rather early.
The question then was who of us should go after the bear, and as all
wished to do so we agreed that the dice should decide. The lot fell on
myself, Clifton, and Königstein, and without delay we took our weapons
and walked down the stream to the spot where the elk lay. We advanced
cautiously, as the bear might already be at its quarry, and as we
noticed nothing of it we selected our posts no great distance from the
elk. I was at the centre, behind a large rock, Königstein lay on my
right near the stream in the dry grass behind some bushes, and Clifton
was on my left, covered by a fallen dead tree.

We had a good wind, and if the bear returned we should have it under our
guns, and it would hardly be able to escape. We sat without moving: the
sun sank behind the mountains and scarce illumined the heights, while
around us the gloom was already gathering; there was not a breath of
air, and only the buzzing and chirruping of insects and the rustling of
the stream disturbed the silence. Trusty, who had hitherto been lying at
my feet, raised his head, looked at the thicket opposite and then up to
me. I shook my finger at him not to growl, which he quite understood,
and thrust his head down on the ground. Directly after I heard a
cracking in the thicket, which soon became more distinct. At length the
bear burst out of the scrub and came down a small path to the stream. We
had agreed not to fire until it reached the elk on this side. It stopped
for a few minutes in the water to drink, then leapt from stone to stone
up the bank, and walked slowly toward the elk. The bear had scarce
reached the prickly bush ere we fired simultaneously, and it rolled
over, but got up again and leapt into the water. Clifton and Königstein
sent two bullets after it, which, however, did not seem to hurt it much,
for it dashed ahead to the other bank. Königstein at once leapt,
revolver in hand, into the stream after the bear, and was standing
between it and me, when he put a bullet into its leg at a short
distance. The bear, noticing its pursuer, turned and went toward him
with a hoarse roar, while Königstein, still standing in the water, put a
second bullet into its chest. I ran up and fired my rifle bullet into
the left breast of the furious animal, while Clifton gave it another in
the belly from his long pistol. The bear fell into the water but a few
yards from Königstein, who, seeing it rise on its fore paws, shot it
through the head with his revolver. Though the water was shallow, it was
so rapid that it would have carried the bear away, so we both threw away
our weapons, leapt into the stream to Königstein, and dragged the beast
on land. Here we let it lie, reloaded, and returned to camp, where our
comrades were, greatly pleased at the lucky result of our hunt. We
waited till the moon had risen, then took two mules, and I proceeded
with Tiger and John to our quarry, in order to fetch its skin and the
best meat.

It was late when we got back to camp, still our appetite had been
excited again, and instead of going to sleep, we sat joking round the
fire, each with some spitted bear-meat before him. The coffee-pot also
went the round, and the steaming pipe accompanied us to our buffalo
hides, on which we lay conversing for some time. Clifton insisted that
he ought to be rewarded handsomely by Königstein for saving his life by
the pistol-shot, while the latter tried to prove to him that he had
aimed too low to hit the bear's heart, and hence, as a punishment, ought
to have its paw stuck on his hat. The answers, however, gradually became
rarer, and we soon were all fast asleep. Excellent health, and a
consciousness of strength, of which the polished world is ignorant, are
the blessed companions of such a natural life; and no awful nightmare,
no frightful dreams, such as visit the silken beds of civilization,
venture to approach the hard couch of our Western hunters.

I was awakened by the cold about an hour before daylight; sprang up,
poked the fire, which was nearly burnt out, wrapped myself in my buffalo
robe, and fell asleep again soundly, till my comrades shouted to me that
the coffee was ready. The whole neighbourhood was covered with a thick
white rime, and though the frost was not heavy, we felt it severely. Our
large fire, however, soon dispelled the cold, and we lay very cozily
round it eating our breakfast. We soon mounted, crossed the stream
without difficulty, and followed a buffalo-path up the hills. Our
journey during the last day had been fatiguing for the horses, and, in
spite of the long distance we had ridden, we had advanced but little
northwards, so we gladly followed an easterly course, which brought us
nearer the great prairies. From here we also noticed that the highest
mountain peaks were a little farther to the west, and consequently off
our track.

The sky became overcast, and in the afternoon it began raining, so that
we were obliged to put our buffalo robes over us, and at night pitched
our small tents to protect us from the heavy, incessant rain. Tiger,
though, refused to crawl into the tent, but collected a great heap of
brushwood near the fire, laid his saddle-cloth on it, sat down a-top,
with his knees drawn up to his chin, and pulled his buffalo-hide with
the hairy side out over him, tucking it under him, so that he looked
like a huge hairy ball. During the night we were frequently obliged to
feed the fire to keep it burning, and in the morning we saw no sign
that the clouds were about to break. We could hardly distinguish the
nearest peaks, and round our camp rivulets had formed that conveyed the
rain to the valley. We could not think of starting, as all our traps
were wet through. Hence we grinned and bore it; killed time with eating
and smoking, and looked at our cattle, which, with hanging head and
tail, let the rain pour off them.

Thus the whole day and the next night passed, and it was not till ten
the next morning that we saw a patch of blue sky. This lasting heavy
rain proved to me clearly that we were already in a more northern
region, as in our country the showers are much heavier for the time, but
never last longer than a day. We lay up for this day too to let the
ground dry a little, and a strong cold wind which had sprung up helped
to effect this. Our cattle had good grass, we were amply supplied with
firewood, and had abundance of the best game, so that we wanted for
nothing. John and Mac went out shooting together, and killed some
turkeys and a deer, which they brought into camp on Sam. Tiger went out
alone, and returned in the evening with two deer legs and a beaver,
having surprised the latter on land while nibbling off the branches of a
fallen tree. Our supper-table was hence splendidly covered again, and we
greatly enjoyed the beaver tail, which is one of the best dishes the
West offers.

Our various skins, tents, blankets, &c., were now tolerably dry, and the
next morning we left camp and travelled northwards, towards the sides of
the mountains, and the spurs they shoot out, into the great prairies.
The sky was still covered with a few clouds, between which the sun shone
warmly and pleasantly. Two days later we altered our course again to the
west, in order not to leave the mountains, which here enclosed large
patches of grass-land. Crossing these low mountain spurs, we passed
through many extensive valleys with excellent soil, firewood, especially
oak, and abundant water, which assuredly ere long will be sought by
civilization advancing from the East. In the West the mountains now
rose higher, and raised their white peaks far above the clouds. They
were probably a hundred miles from us, and the horizon was enclosed by
mountain ranges like an amphitheatre. The mountains rose higher and
higher above each other in the strangest forms and colours, terminating
in peaks on which the heavens seemed to be supported. Tiger called them
the Sacramento mountains, which run southward nearly to Santa Fé.

One evening we reached a stream, which came down from these mountains
through a rather wide valley, which Tiger told us was an arm of the
Canadian river that falls into the Arkansas, between which and the
Kansas the territory of the Delawares is situated. When a boy, Tiger
added, he had often been hunting up this river and in these mountains
with his father, and in a few days we should reach another arm of this
river, on which his father's brother was torn to death by a grizzly
bear. On that river there was a very large iron stone, which had fallen
from heaven, and with which the god of hunting killed a Weico, who was
hunting here improperly. When we reached the river bank, we found its
water very turbid, and so swollen that we could not ride through, owing
to the furious current. Hence we unloaded, though it was still rather
early, and found ourselves on a steep bank, where the stream could not
hurt us, even if it rose higher. Tiger was of opinion that the water
would have run off by the next day, and enable us to continue our
journey, as these torrents rarely last longer than a day. John and Mac
went down the river to hunt, and Tiger went up it, while we looked after
the cattle and prepared the camp. The first two came back early with an
antelope, while Tiger was not in camp when night had settled on the
mountains. I had heard him fire twice, and we were beginning to fear
that an accident had happened to him, when he came out of the gloom into
the bright firelight with his light, scarcely-audible step, but without
any game, which was a rarity. He had fired thrice at a black bear,
followed it a long distance, but had been obliged to leave it owing to
the darkness, especially as he had hit it awkwardly, and it was strong
enough to run a long distance. The night passed undisturbed, morning
displayed a bright cloudless sky, and promised us a beautiful day; but
the river had not fallen so much as we expected, and we preferred
awaiting its fall here to going higher up and seeking a shallower spot.

The sun had scarce risen over the low hills in the east when I took my
rifle and went down the river with Trusty to try my luck in hunting. I
soon reached a low thin skirt of bushes, which covered the valley, and
through which many small rivulets wound to the river. I had not gone far
into it, when I noticed a great number of turkeys running about among
the leafless bushes. I ran up to them, frequently crossing the brook,
till I at last got within shot of an old cock, and toppled him over. I
hung the bird on a tree, close to the brook which I fancied was one of
those that came down the valley no great distance from our camp, and had
scarce gone a hundred yards beyond the brook when I saw some head of
game, which were too large for our ordinary deer and too dark-coloured,
and yet did not resemble elks.

I crept nearer and convinced myself they were giant deer, which are not
uncommon in the Andes. I shot at a very large stag, which had already
shed its antlers, and it rushed upon me, but soon turned away, and I
gave it the second bullet. It went some hundred yards bleeding
profusely, so that I expected every moment to see it fall, then stopped,
and I employed the time to reload and get within eighty yards of it. I
was on the point of firing, when it dashed away and got out of sight. I
put Trusty on the trail, and followed him, crossing the brook several
times up the valley toward our camp, as I fancied. At length I saw the
stag standing under an old oak, and I succeeded in getting within shot.
I fired, and saw the bullet go home; but for all that the deer ran up a
hill on the left and disappeared. My eagerness in following the animal
was more and more aroused; I reloaded and went with Trusty after the
bleeding trail over the hill and down the other side, then through a
thicket in the valley and over another hill to a stream, where I at last
found the stag dead. It was a splendid giant deer, distinguished from
our royal harts by its size, blackish-brown coat, and proportionately
higher forelegs. I broke it up, gave Trusty his share, and it was not
till I was ready to start that I thought of my road to camp.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXI.

LOST IN THE MOUNTAINS.


It was near noon, and I had generally walked fast. I looked around me,
and tried to recollect the numerous windings I had made, but soon saw it
was impossible to recall them, as I had paid no attention to them during
the chase. I now looked at my compass; I knew that the stream on which
we were camping ran down the valley from west to east, and that hence I
was on its southern side to the eastward of our camp. I must therefore
go due north to reach the stream, and then follow it in order to reach
camp. The calculation was correct, and could not fail to bring me home
soon. I therefore walked on quietly, and every now and then blazed a
tree, or laid a bush upon a rock, to be able to find the stag when we
went to fetch it. The first hour passed: at one time I walked through
thinly-wooded, narrow valleys, then over stony hills, or crossed small
streams and grassy meadows, but saw no sign of the river.

The second hour, during which I doubled my pace, passed in the same
manner, and yet I saw nothing of the river. I looked repeatedly at the
compass on my rifle stock and the one I carried in my pocket. My
calculation was correct, of that there could be no doubt; but how was it
that I had not yet reached the river? It might possibly make a small
bend northwards here; but I must strike it, as it belonged to Canadian
river, and all the waters from these mountains flow to the east. I was
certain of my matter, and laughed at myself for imagining for a moment
that I had lost my way. I marched cheerily on, especially up the hills,
as I fancied I should see the looked-for river from each of them, and
did not notice that I was exerting myself excessively. A certain
anxiety crept over me involuntarily. I hurried on the faster the deeper
the sun got behind the mountains; I ran down the hills and hurried up
them, dripping with perspiration, with a strength which only the feeling
of impending danger can arouse. My energy and presence of mind still
mastered my growing anxiety, as I hoped, felt almost convinced, that I
should soon reach the river which had disappeared in so extraordinary a
way, until at last the sun sank behind the highest peaks of the
Cordilleras, and the gloom of night spread its mantle over the earth.
Exhaustion followed long unnatural exertion so suddenly, that I sank
down on the last hill I ascended, and my strength of mind and body gave
way utterly. In a few minutes I fell into a deep sleep, and must have
lain there for five hours, as when I woke I felt on my watch that it was
midnight. I remembered everything I had hitherto done, and the last
thought which had accompanied me up to my unconsciousness startled me
out of it--the thought that I had lost my way.

When I got up, my faithful Trusty nestled up to me and licked my hands,
as if wishing to remind me that he was still with me, and I was not
quite deserted. I threw my arm round his strong neck, and pressed him
firmly to me, for at this moment he was an unspeakable comfort, and
restored my resolution and strength of will. I soon reverted to my old
rule, which I had kept for years, of always assuming the worst in
disagreeable situations, and making myself familiar with it; then a man
has nothing more to fear. I had lost myself, and must seek my road to
camp in some direction alone. I felt strong enough to do so, but must
reflect on the mode of doing it. I had sufficient powder and bullets for
my weapons; this was a precaution which I had constantly urged on my
comrades since our start, never to go out with half-filled powder-horn
or a few bullets for the sake of convenience.

My box was full of lucifers, and I had also flint, steel, and punk. I
carried bandages and a housewife, as well as a little bottle of old
brandy in my knapsack, and a rather large gourd at my side, I was fully
equipped to make this tour, which, honestly speaking, was now beginning
to appear interesting to me, and I laughingly thought of the friend of
my childhood's years, "Robinson Crusoe," who at that day sowed the first
seed of my later irresistible desire for such a life. I was soon
decided, and regained my entire calmness. I sprang up, and went
cautiously down hill to reach the valley, in which on the previous
evening I had looked in vain for the river. The darkness and the rocky
sloping route made my walk very difficult; but still I reached my
destination at the end of an hour, and entered a very narrow valley, in
which I soon found enough dry wood under the trees to light a fire. I
had turned cold, and the warmth it spread around me did me good. Close
by I found a fallen tree, to which I carried the burning logs, in order
to produce a longer lasting fire to throw out more heat; then I piled up
a heap of bushes and brushwood, laid myself on it, with my bag under my
head, and after drinking some brandy and water, fell asleep as soundly
as if I had been in my bed on the Leone.

The sun was high in the heavens when I awoke, I felt as strong as usual,
and lit a fire for breakfast, drank some more water from my gourd, and
went northwards in good spirits. I thought of the possibility that this
river might not be the one named by Tiger, and might lose itself in a
subterranean bed; but, extraordinary to tell, I did not for a moment
reflect that it could run due north parallel with mine; my only idea
was, that it perhaps made a great bend. I had been walking near an hour,
and had crossed several stony hills, when I looked down into a narrow
gorge, in which alders and poplars grew, leading to the supposition of
water, and on going down I noticed an old animal quietly grazing. I
crawled very cautiously nearer to it, for now I seriously needed some
meat, and on looking up from a deep ditch excavated by the rain, I saw a
small deer by the side of the old one, which was staring at me over the
bushes, I fired and saw the deer dart among the bushes, but knew that
it bore death in its heart. The old animal dashed close past me, but I
did not fire as I was certain of securing the deer and did not care to
waste a bullet unnecessarily.

I reloaded, went back to the bloody trail, and found the deer dead about
thirty yards ahead. I broke it up, skinned it, and placed the rump and
bits of the liver before the fire which I lit, while Trusty had the
kidneys and then amused himself with the shoulder blades. I stretched
the skin out before the fire, as I intended to take it with me to sleep
on. I enjoyed my breakfast, to which I ate but little of the salt I
carried in my bag in a bladder in case of need. Trusty had also eaten
heartily and pacified his hunger. I cut some good lumps off the deer's
back, filled my flask with fresh water, and set out once more, still
hoping to reach the river. I walked up hill and down, having on my left
the lofty mountain ranges, and in front of me a sea of rocks whose end I
could not see. I was accustomed to such scenes of solitude, still I now
greatly felt what a difference there is in looking down from the back of
a stout horse on the desert and having to cross the enormous tracks on
foot. The only anxiety that oppressed me was the agony my comrades must
be feeling about me, as they would naturally suppose that some accident
had happened to me. I knew they would not quit these mountains till they
were certain of my fate, and I listened continually for signal shots. I
dared not fire them for fear of expending my ammunition, and it would
have been unnecessary, as they would certainly not neglect this method
of showing me the road to them.

The day passed without my hearing the echo of a shot, and the sun was
rather low when I reached a small stream whose banks were both rather
thickly covered with wood. I resolved to spend the night here, as I had
wood and water, and was protected from the weather, which had got up
rather fiercely since the afternoon, I looked for a suitable spot,
carried wood to a fallen tree, and was about to light my fire, when I
looked up at the hill before me and felt a desire to take a look from
it at the valley beyond to see whether the long looked-for river was
there. It was still early, the sun had not yet set, and though I was
tolerably tired I set out. I walked up a steep gorge into which several
narrow passes opened on both sides; it was covered with several large
masses of rock and loose stones, and the nearer I got to the top the
narrower it grew, and the steeper were the precipices enclosing it.

I had just passed one of these narrow gorges on my right and was
approaching a second, when I noticed an opposite pass on my left. I
cautiously crept along the rock to be able to have a peep into this
pass, and see whether there was any game in it, and was only a few yards
from the angle of the wall, when suddenly a small bear, which I took for
a one-year-old black bear, though it looked different, sprang from the
pass on my right and hastened up the opposite one. As I said, it
appeared to me rather smaller than a one-year-old black bear, but there
was no time for reflection, and its skin might be of great service to
me. I raised my rifle, fired, and saw the bear roll over the stones like
a ball, uttering plaintive cries like those of a child; at the same
instant the hasty bounds of a heavy animal reached my ears
simultaneously with an awful roar. It became dark at the angle of the
precipice before me, and the upright gigantic form of a grizzly bear
appeared only a few paces from me. I fell back a step in horror,
involuntarily stretched out my rifle to keep the bear off, and at the
same moment saw Trusty fly past me under its belly. The rifle
exploded--a fearful blow hurled me back several yards against the
precipice--my eyes flashed fire--I lost my senses and fell.

I must have lain here about half an hour, and on opening my eyes again
felt that my forehead was wet and cold. I saw that Trusty was standing
over me with his honest face and licking me. I got up and sprang on one
side in horror, for close to me lay the shaggy body of the bear, with
widely opened throat, from which a stream of black, curdled blood ran
under me. It was a she bear whose three months' old cub I had shot, and
she had wished to avenge its death. My guardian angel had saved me, for
my bullet, which entered its throat and passed through the skull, had
killed the bear on the spot. In its fall it had torn the rifle from my
hand, and forced me back so violently that I had struck my head against
the rock, and the pain deprived me of consciousness. As on so many
previous occasions, an invisible hand had again saved me from a terrible
danger, whose extent I could appreciate now that I saw the monster lying
before me. I stood motionless reflecting on my position, when the hoot
of a passing owl reminded me that night had set in. While reloading, I
remembered that this was the pairing time of the bears, and that very
possibly male bears would be following the female, and hence this was
the most dangerous spot I could select. I went up to the cub, threw it
on my back, and hurried down the gorge to my camping place, where I at
once made a blaze, the safest and only way of protecting oneself against
the four-footed denizens of these regions. I now saw for the first time
that brave Trusty was covered with blood, and had three severe wounds on
his back, dealt him by the bear. Two of them I at once sewed up and
washed them repeatedly with the clear cold water by which I was camped.
I then skinned the cub, put a sufficient quantity of its tender fat meat
to roast at the fire, made a bed of brushwood, and after supper I rolled
myself in the shaggy, fresh bear-hide upon my deer-skin, and fell into
my usual sound sleep.

I had not been sleeping long when Trusty barked sharply several times,
and I sat up and seized my rifle. A frightful howling of wolves rang
from the heights through the valleys, and between it a hollow roar
resembling that which the bear raised when she attacked me. The night
was very dark, and the fire, which had burnt down, solely lit up the
nearest spots, while I could only distinguish the outlines of some
evergreen holly-trees around me standing out against the clear star-lit
sky. I quickly threw some small wood in front of the glowing trunk and
blew up the flame. At this moment I heard something dash away close by,
and directly after, at the foot of the ravine, renewed howls and roars,
while Trusty stood close by my side growling. I carried some heavy logs
to the fire, rolled myself again in my warm skin, and fell asleep,
though I only allowed one ear to sleep, as Tiger said. The howling
lasted the whole night. I looked after my fire every now and then, and
was waked by the dawn without having had my sleep any further disturbed.
After breakfast, I hung the two skins on my back, and followed the
valley for about three miles ere I crossed the heights to the north, as
I wished to avoid the spot where the bear lay, upon which the wolves and
bears had held a grand feast during the past night. On reaching the
saddle of the mountain, the idea occurred to me for the first time that
the lost river must necessarily flow to the north, and I was amazed at
myself for not thinking of this sooner. Hence I marched due west, and
saw about noon a chain of hills whose direction lay northward, which
animated me with fresh hope of finding my comrades again. At the foot of
these hills, from which spurs stretched out eastward like ribs, the
valleys were thickly wooded, and displayed generally a richer vegetation
than the small gulleys in which I had hitherto been marching. With much
difficulty and toil I reached the mountain chain in a few hours,
exhausted and starving; but the longing to learn whether I should find
at its top a pleasanter change in my prospects did not let me rest. I
selected the least steep spot, and climbed up over loose boulders which
constantly rolled away under me and brought me down. I had only one hand
at my service to hold on to the few mimosa bushes or to pull myself up,
for I carried my rifle in the other, and would sooner have injured
myself than it.

At last I climbed the last patch, bathed in perspiration and red-hot,
and words fail to describe the joyous surprise which befel me, on seeing
before me the wooded vale and river, which I had been seeking so long in
vain. In the first joy of my heart I forgot that it was still very
uncertain whether I should find my comrades there, and that my existence
might depend on a charge more or less in my possession. I fired my rifle
and listened attentively to its echo as it rolled away along the
mountains. I halted for a long time awaiting an answer, but to no
effect. I looked long up the river with my excellent telescope to try
and discover smoke, but also without success. Far and wide the rocky
landscape lay before me, with no other sign of life than that of the
buzzards circling round the heights. I had been resting for about half
an hour and cooling myself in the fresh breeze, when I seized my rifle
and proceeded down to the valley, which I reached in a much shorter
time. I went up it to the foot of the hills, where I had fewer obstacles
to contend with than in the wood that covered the river banks, till the
declining sun as well as hunger and fatigue warned me to select my camp.

I had gone a considerable distance when the sun stood over the distant
hills, for I had walked on without resting, and had no rocks to scale. I
turned off to a spring in the wood, and threw off my skins on the first
bushes I came to, as they fatigued me too much, though their weight was
not great. My fire was soon lighted at the roots of a stump, a stock of
wood collected, my meal made, and supper eaten, which consisted of the
remainder of the bear meat. Before I entered the wood, I had looked up
to the hills above me, and reflected whether at nightfall I should light
a fire there, which would certainly be seen a long way down the river. I
might possibly give my friends a hint of my whereabouts, but equally
well betray my halting-place to hostile Indians, who, if any were in the
neighbourhood, would see something unusual in it. But then again it was
an easy matter to hide myself from them, and as I was without a horse,
seek a refuge which could easily be defended. I resolved to carry out my
design, took my weapons and went up the hills, whose summit I reached at
nightfall. I then collected fallen branches and brushwood round an old
stone piled them up to a great height, and the fire quickly darted up
crackling and roaring. I carried up a great number of logs from the
trees lying around and threw them on the fire, which reminded me of the
bonfires we used to light at home when I was a boy. When I thought the
pile of wood large enough to last at least an hour I left the hill and
went to the nearest knoll, where I sat down near some rocks and lit a
pipe, which enjoyment I only allowed myself morning and night in order
to make my tobacco last as long as possible, as the leaves of the
sumach, which are a good substitute for tobacco, were not to be had. I
had been sitting there for about half an hour when Trusty got up,
uttered an almost inaudible growl, and gazed at the slope under my feet.
I pressed his head to the ground, laying myself on the top of him, and
distinctly heard beneath me light human voices and some footsteps, which
went under the precipice to the hill on whose top my fire was burning.
What had I better do? Should I call out? They might be my friends, but
if they were strange Indians, I should expose myself to unnecessary
danger; if they were my friends, on reaching the fire, they would
certainly make themselves known by their voices or by firing. I remained
perfectly quiet and gazed steadfastly at my fire. After a while I saw a
dark object moving before it, then another and another, and I was soon
able to see clearly through my telescope that the men moving round it
wore no hats. They were consequently Indians, and I was very glad I had
not betrayed myself.

All at once I saw a long way off to the south-west a light which rapidly
grew larger, and in spite of the great distance so increased that I
could distinctly perceive the smoke through my glass. I greeted it with
a loudly beating heart as the answer of my friends, for no one in these
dangerous regions lights a widely gleaming fire save under such
circumstances, and I was now certain I should join them again next day,
for they were safe to keep up the fire, so as to show me my course by
its smoke. I remained quietly seated under the rocks, and did not think
of sleep though I was very tired, for I did not dare return to my camp,
as the fire was certainly still burning there, and the Indians would
have seized my skins, whose absence I now severely felt. I was beginning
to chill, and as I could not await daylight on these bare heights, I
resolved to march during the night as well as I could. I crept in a
stooping posture from my seat to the nearest hollow which ran down from
the hills to the valley, and on reaching the foot of them, I walked
slowly on through the darkness.

I had been walking for about an hour, and had fallen several times,
though without hurting myself, when I heard a shot right ahead of me. It
was doubtless fired by my friends, who were seeking me in spite of the
darkness: my fatigue disappeared, and I walked with greater certainty
over the bare sloping ground. I soon heard another shot, and now could
no longer refrain from answering it. I fired, and soon after heard two
shots responding to me. It was a terribly tiring walk, for though it was
bright starlight I could not distinguish the boulders and small hollows
sufficiently to avoid them. I also got several times among prickly scrub
and swamps between the hill sides.

I was just forcing my way out of such a damp spot overgrown with thorns,
when the crack of a rifle rang from the hill side in front of me, and I
at the same time heard Tiger's hunting yell, though a long way off. I
fired again, and was again answered by two shots. I breathed freely and
hurried over the slippery rocks, and just as I came under a hill slope I
heard Tiger's shrill yell over me; I answered with all my might, and ere
long this faithful friend and the equally worthy Königstein welcomed me.
Their joy, their delight were indescribable. Trusty sprang round us as
if mad in order to display his sympathy, and I was obliged to call to
him repeatedly and order him to be quiet, ere he mastered his delight.
It was a strange meeting among these wild mountains, whose dark forms we
could now distinguish against the starlit sky, while the deepest night
lay around us. Tiger proposed to light a fire; but when I told him that
Indians had passed me and gone to the fire, he said it was better for us
to keep moving. I was too tired, however, and must rest first, so we lay
down under some large rocks where the wind did not reach us. I took
Trusty in my arms and pressed him to me to keep him warm.

In order not to fall asleep, I now told my comrades how I had fared, and
heard that Tiger had explained my disappearance to my friends precisely
in this way. At length the first gleam of coming day showed itself, and
was saluted in the valley by the voices of numerous turkeys. We leapt
up, went down to the wood, where these early birds were standing on the
trees, and brought two of them down. A fire blazed, and the breasts of
the turkeys twirled before it while we warmed ourselves at it.
Königstein had a tin pot and coffee with him, which improved our meal,
and when the sun was beginning to shine warmly we started for the camp,
from which we were about five miles distant, and where news of me was
anxiously awaited.

The joy at meeting again was great. From a distance we were welcomed
with shots: all ran to meet us, and each wanted to be the first to shake
my hand and express his joy at my rescue, as they all except Tiger had
given me up for lost. Czar raised his head and the forefoot buckled to
it, and neighed in delight at seeing me, while Trusty ran up to him and
leapt on his back. All were in the most cheerful temper, and a thousand
questions and answers flew round our camp fire.

My friends had gone in search of me on the evening when I did not return
to camp, and Tiger had found the turkey shot by me, and followed my
trail to the first stony knoll over which I pursued the wounded stag;
but from this point he had been unable to find my track, and returned to
camp when darkness set in. The next morning at daybreak he returned to
the same spot, and had gone ahead of my trail in a wide curve, in order
if possible to recognise it in crossing. Toward evening he had really
succeeded in finding first Trusty's trail and then mine in the valley
where I shot the deer on the first morning, and reached the spot where I
made my breakfast off its meat. But from this point every sign
disappeared, and any further search would be useless as night had set
in. Afterwards they lit a large fire on the nearest height, and kept it
up all night, though I had not noticed it. On the next morning Tiger
left camp at an early hour with Königstein, and told the others that
they would be back in eight days if they did not find me before. They
looked for me during the whole day, and had just collected wood on a
knoll over the river to light a signal fire, when they saw mine flashing
against the dark sky, and hurried toward me.

After all the events of the last restless days had been sufficiently
discussed, I longed for rest. I made my bed in the shade of a live oak,
covered myself with a buffalo robe, and giving my comrades directions
not to wake me under any pretext, I slept undisturbed till the sun
withdrew its last beams from the valley, and sank behind the glittering
peaks of the Andes. I felt strengthened, and after dipping my head in
the river to refresh me, I sat down with my friends and ate a hearty
supper composed of all the dainties of hunters' fare.

The next morning found us mounted at an early hour to scale the heights
on the other side of the river, whence we followed its course in the
next valley. Toward noon, however, the road became fatiguing, as we had
to climb rather large hills that jutted out from the mountain chain on
our right, and we were soon so wedged in among steep precipices that we
saw no prospect of advancing. After many attempts nothing was left us
but to turn back and recross the saddle we had last surmounted, after
which we followed the valley to the north-west. Here, too, our road was
rendered very tiring and dangerous by huge scattered masses of rock, as
we often had to lead our horses over them, and they might easily have
been injured by slipping upon them. We wound our way through, however,
without any accident, and were riding towards evening over grassy
meadows under a steep precipice, when we noticed on the top of it a herd
of about twenty buffaloes, following a path that ran over a plateau
several hundred feet above our heads. It was remarkable with what
certainty these apparently clumsy creatures followed the path which was
at times hardly a foot in breadth, close to an abyss on which a man
might have hesitated to venture.

I dismounted and aimed at an old bull which led the file, while I
shouted to my comrades to fire at the fifth head in the herd, which was
a cow that would not bear a calf this year, and hence must be very
plump, which can be easily seen by the dark glistening hair. We shot
nearly together. My buffalo made a spring forward, rose on its hind
legs, and fell over the abyss, falling on projecting rocks till it came
down to us in the valley regularly smashed. The cow, hit by many
bullets, fell on its knees, and, as if foreseeing its fate, remained in
this position for some minutes, till its strength deserting it, it lost
its balance and fell head-foremost from rock to rock down to us. Both
animals were frightfully smashed, their ribs and bones protruded from
their torn hides, and large pieces of rock had been forced into their
monstrous carcases. The other buffaloes trotted along the path till they
disappeared from sight behind a knoll. The smashed animals were
perfectly suited for our use, as we only took the best bits, and
especially the loins from the spine, cut the tongues out of the broken
jaws, and removed the marrow-bones, leaving the rest to the vultures and
buzzards which soon circled over our heads.

Towards evening we reached a small stream which wound through the
mountains to Canadian River, and offered us a very pleasant
camping-place through the fine grass on its flat banks, as well as an
abundance of dry wood.

We were lying in the twilight round our fire, when we heard a long way
up the valley the hoot of an owl, and at the same time saw a large very
white bird flying along the dark precipice. We all seized our rifles to
bring it down, when it settled on a projecting rock opposite to us.
None of us had ever seen a bird like it before. Several of my comrades
ran up nearer to it, and fired simultaneously; it swung itself in the
air, however, with a loud flapping of wings, and circled round our camp,
flying no great distance above me. I had more luck than my friends, for
I tumbled it over with a broken wing. It was a snow white owl of
extraordinary size, and with such beautiful plumage that I kept its skin
to stuff. I therefore killed it, hung it up, and on the next morning
skinned it, and prepared the skin for carriage.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXII.

BEAVER HUNTERS.


We left our camp at a rather early hour, and soon found below it
numerous signs of beaver trees, a foot and a half in diameter, lay with
a great number of smaller ones along the banks of the stream, and
farther in the wood we saw trees glistening whose bark had been peeled
off several feet above the ground. Any one unacquainted with these
animals and their habits would surely have believed that new settlers
had been busy here, and cut down wood for their block houses. The
splinters lay in heaps round the bitten-through trees, as if we had been
in a carpenter's shop, and many of the felled trees had been stripped of
their branches. These most interesting animals generally settle on the
smaller streams and brooks, and their families at first consist of but
few members. On such a stream they cautiously select a spot where
several tall soft-wooded trees, such as poplars, aspens, ashes, maples,
&c. stand on both sides of it, then proceed together to one of the
trunks, stand on their hind legs, and follow each other slowly round it,
tearing out of the tree at each bite great bits of wood, as if they had
been hewn out with an axe. They cut away more wood on the side of the
tree turned to the river than on the opposite side, so that it becomes
overbalanced and falls over into the water. Thus they fell one tree
after the other across the stream, nibble off the branches, and carry
other bits of wood between and under these trunks down to the river bed,
while they fill up the interstices with twigs. After this is finished,
they fetch on their broad flat tails mud and earth from the bank, and
plaster the wooden dam, till it becomes so tight that the water rises
before it, and overflows on both sides frequently for miles.

In this lake, produced by their art, the beavers build their houses,
which are generally of three storeys, though at times of four. They are
round and pointed like a sugar-loaf, are about twenty feet in diameter
at the bottom of the water; the floors are about two feet high, and
separated by a flooring, in the centre of which is a round hole, by
means of which they go up and down the house. The only entrance is at
the bottom of the water, and generally only the highest floor emerges
from the water, so that the latter is always dry. The creatures build
their house of branches three feet in length, which they bind together
with twigs and earth, and make the walls nearly a foot thick. They thus
build one floor over the other, each higher one being smaller, till the
highest one terminates in a point. They line the interior with grass and
moss, so that it affords them and their young a dry, warm abode in
winter.

[Illustration: BEAVERS BUILDING A DAM. _p. 268._]

The females give birth at the end of May, or beginning of June, to from
two to six young, which are brought up in the colony and remain there;
on the other hand, they never admit a strange beaver, and fight
sanguinary battles with it, if it tries to force its way into their
settlement. In proportion as the family increases, more houses are
built, and I have often seen lodges in which a dozen houses peeped out
of the water. The beavers, however, do not fell the trees solely to
build their houses, but also to procure food from the tender bark of the
thinner branches. They convey these branches in autumn, cut in lengths,
to their houses, and pile up a large supply in the lower rooms, on which
they live in winter. They go on land at this season, too, and for this
purpose keep holes open, in the ice on the banks of their ponds, and I
have also found their track in the snow; but as a rule, they remain at
home at that season. If the family grow too numerous for the space and
the food to be found in the vicinity, several members of it emigrate and
establish a new lodge close by: frequently an old beaver colony will
contain a hundred. The beaver is one of the most cautious and timid
animals in creation, and it is very difficult to get at it on land and
kill it with firearms; on the other hand, it is wonderfully easy to
capture in traps, and in this way an entire colony can be extirpated to
the last one in a very short period.

The male beaver carries in two bladders the _castoreum officinale_, a
very powerfully-scented, oily fluid, which the hunter collects in a
bottle and mixes with spirits, partly to keep it from putrefying, but
principally to impart to it another odour, by which the beaver is
induced to believe that it emanates from a stranger. In this bottle the
hunter thrusts a twig, the point of which he moistens with its contents,
then thrusts the other end of it into the bank of the beaver pond, so
that the point projects over the water at a spot where it is not very
deep. Exactly under this twig he places in the water his heavy iron
trap, to which he fastens, by a long thong, a very large bush, which he
throws on the bank. So soon as a beaver raises its nose on the surface
of the pond, it smells the castoreum on the twig, swims up to convince
itself whether it emanates from a stranger, and while going on land
steps on the trap, which closes and catches its forefeet. It darts away
with the trap into deep water, and wrestles furiously with the torturing
iron, for which reason a beaver thus captured is never found to have
sound teeth--till, quite exhausted, it tries to rise to the surface to
breathe. The trap, however, keeps it down, and the prisoner is drowned
in its own element. The next morning the hunter sees the bush floating
over the spot where the beaver is lying, and pulls it up with the trap.
The beaver hunters who visit these western deserts often take some
dozens of traps with them, so that when they arrive at a colony, it is
speedily destroyed, on which occasion they also capture in the same way
the otters living there.

Usually these hunters go quite alone into the desert with a horse that
carries the traps, some buffalo hides, salt, gunpowder, and bullets,
and lead thus, several hundred of miles away from civilization, a most
dangerous and fatiguing life for two or three years. At night they set
their traps, and in the morning take out the captured animals, whose
skins they dry before the fire, while their flesh serves them as food.
When they have cleared out the spot, they pack up the skins, conceal
them in caves, under rocks, and in hollow trees, and go farther with
their traps. In winter, when the hunt is not very productive, they build
huts of skins, or seek a cave in the rocks, in which they find a shelter
from the harsh climate, and hunt other varieties of game, while they
keep their horse alive on a stock of dried grass, collected in autumn,
weeds, or poplar bark. At the end of some years, during which such a
hunter has collected a large stock of skins, he proceeds to the nearest
settlement, fetches pack animals thence, takes a sufficient number of
men into his service, and proceeds to his hunting-grounds, in order to
carry to market the produce of his lengthened labour. It is often the
case that such a hunter receives from three to four thousand pounds for
the skins collected during this period, but still more frequently he
pays for his daring with his scalp and his life. The Indians themselves
do not kill beavers, but regard the trappers as the pioneers of the
white men, who eventually advance farther into their hunting-grounds,
and take from them one piece of land after the other, by which they are
daily driven farther back, and come into hostile collision with one
another. Hence the trappers are hated by all the Indians, and pursued by
them whenever they are seen. Only the great concealment and difficult
approach to the regions where they hunt, and the great caution with
which they manage to hide their abode from the eyes of the Indians,
render it possible for them to lead this life for years, and constantly
deceive the savages, when they accidentally acquire a knowledge of their
presence. It is incredible what acuteness and skill such iron characters
develope, and we must feel surprised that a single one of these
adventurers ever sees his home again, I have lain for whole nights at
the little fires of these people, and listened to their stories--how
they became familiar with this life in their earliest youth, and
returned to it when grey-haired, although able to live comfortably on
their savings in the civilized world. As the seafarer dies on the water,
the desert becomes the element of this hunter; and he rarely closes his
eyes elsewhere--with the rifle on his arm.

The sign of beaver lodges which we saw was so fresh and numerous that
probably no one had as yet appeared here with traps: the stream spread
far over its bank and formed a very large pool, from whose surface a
number of houses peeped out; but we could see nothing of the mysterious
denizens of the settlement. We were compelled to ride close under the
precipice on our right, where our cattle were up to their knees in
water, in order to cross the inundation, while below the dams the stream
remained in its narrow bed.

We reached Canadian River, which, however, here trended so to the east
that we took the first opportunity of crossing the hills that bordered
it and pursuing our course toward the north. On the other side of them,
which we reached about noon, we came to another small stream, on whose
banks we saw a number of peeled trees, and also found here a beaver
lodge. We rode through the stream, and had left it about a mile behind
us, when we suddenly heard a shout in our rear, and saw a man, who had
stationed himself on an isolated rock, and was making signs to us. Tiger
told me he was a beaver trapper. We rode back to bid this son of the
desert good day and hear whether we could be of any service to him. When
we drew nearer, the tall dark form disappeared from the rocks, and a man
stepped from the thicket on our left, with a long rifle in his hand, and
came up to us with the question--"Where from, strangers?" He was above
six feet high, thin, but muscular, with extraordinarily broad shoulders,
a dark bronzed face and neck, a long grey beard, and a haughty
demeanour; his small, light-blue eyes flashed with great resolution
under his thick black brows, while a pleasant smile softened the
impression which his glance might have produced on a stranger. His
exterior revealed at the first glance that he had endured a good deal in
his time, that he had often defied fate, and that nothing could easily
happen to him which would throw him out of gear and make his resolution
totter. Deer-hide tight trowsers, shoes of the same material, and a
jacket of the same composed his dress, and a scarlet woollen shirt,
unbuttoned, allowed his bronzed chest to be seen. A beaver-skin cap
proved that it was made by the wearer, and the same was the case with
the hunting-bag he carried over his shoulder.

I rode up to the stranger and replied--"From the Leone on the Rio
Grande," and offered him my hand, which he shook heartily. "Are you a
trapper? and where from?" I asked him. "From Missouri; my name--Ben
Armstrong--has been known for the last forty years in the Rocky
Mountains, and I have now been back for a year from the old State." He
invited us to go to his camp and spend the night with him, as he longed
to hear something about events in the old States. We accepted his
invitation, and followed him along a narrow path through the bushes and
rocks to a spot some hundred yards above the pond, where we dismounted
in front of some thick scrub, and passed through it with our host. We
stepped on to a cleared spot, from which the axe had removed the bushes,
at whose northern end heavy masses of rock rose above each other, and
hanging over at a height of thirty feet, covered a large space. Over the
whole place a number of dried beaver skins was suspended from the
branches, as well as the hide of a grizzly, and many others of deer and
antelopes. Under the rocks lay several bundles of beaver skins, while
one of them drawn up near the fire seemed to have served our host as a
seat.

Antonio and Königstein went down to the pond with our horses, where
there was excellent grass, and watched over them in turn with my other
comrades. I saw a track of a horse leading to our host's abode, and
asked him whose it was, to which he replied that on this trip, for the
first time in his life, he had taken a partner, a young Kentuckian of
the name of Gray, who was at present out hunting on horseback, to get
some venison, as they were sick of beaver meat. The next day, he said,
they intended to leave their camp, as they had trapped all the beavers
round, otherwise he would not have been so incautious as to lead so many
horses to his hiding-place and thus betray it to passing Indians. He
always led his own horse through the scrub up the stream, and let it
graze on the opposite side, so that its track might not lead to his
camp.

Our host now filled a cup from a small cask of whisky three of which lay
under the rocks, and, as he told us, constituted his sole luxury. He
loaded an extra mule with them when he started, but it had been killed
some months previously by a couguar, as it had got loose at night. He
readily offered us his favourite liquid and a cup of fresh spring water,
and after taking a hearty pull himself he put six beaver tails in front
of the fire, and we put all our coffeepots with them, and unpacked our
small stock of biscuit, while we set the remaining marrow-bones from
yesterday to roast.

The sun had not set when our friendly host's partner arrived with his
horse, loaded with deer meat. He was greatly surprised at finding so
large a party, and very pleased to have an opportunity of hearing news
from the States, even though it was not of the freshest. He was young
and tall, with a healthy, merry face, brown eyes, pleasant mouth, a
commencing beard, and long, dark brown curls hanging over his shoulders.
His tight-fitting leathern dress was made with more coquettishness than
Armstrong's, and displayed his handsome person, while a broad-brimmed
black beaver hat slightly pulled over one ear, imparted to his whole
appearance something resolute and determined.

Our cattle were now brought up and fastened to the withered trees in the
open space--then we lay down on our skins round the fire and enjoyed
the beaver tails, while our hosts paid special attention to our biscuits
and coffee, which were a rarity for them. After supper Armstrong sent
the whisky-cup round again, then pipes were lighted, and we first
answered the thousand questions asked us about the state of affairs at
home, and which principally referred to politics. When this subject was
exhausted, Armstrong spoke and told us the principal events of his life
since he last bade farewell to civilization, his various bloodthirsty
fights with the Indians, the dangers they had often escaped with
difficulty, and the fatigues and unpleasantnesses they endured, among
which he mentioned the hailstorm, which had also annoyed us. He told us
of successful hunts with the traps, and promised to show us the next
morning the last beaver to be found in these parts.

Then he told us how the ex-owner of the monstrous bearskin, which hung
behind us on a tree, had paid a visit one evening to their camp, and how
they killed it. For fear of the Indians they dared not light a large
fire, and the few coals had not frightened the bear, which advanced
within a few yards of them, when both fired their rifles at its head,
and laid it dead on the ground. While telling this story, Armstrong
pulled off his shirt and showed us on his sides and back a regular mass
of scars which he had received from the embraces of dying grizzlies. He
narrated so picturesquely that the matter was fully brought before the
listener: his powerful deep voice, which kept pace with the fire of his
narrative, the passionate gestures by which he accompanied his
narrative, as well as his coarse form, illumined by the fire and the
surrounding scenery, produced a remarkable and permanent impression on
me. We listened to the stories till a late hour, when fatigue at length
closed our eyes.

At the first beam of dawn we led our cattle into the grass, got
breakfast ready, and then went with Armstrong about half a mile down the
stream, where he had traps still set. We pulled up three beavers with
the bushes floating on the water, and our host remarked that now there
was only one old fellow left, who had escaped his traps several times
and would not go near them again in a hurry. On returning to camp, we
packed our animals and took leave of our kind hosts, to whom, to their
great joy, we gave a portion of our stock of coffee. We then described
to them accurately the district where we had seen the numerous beaver
lodges, and wishing them all possible luck, rode again up the mountain's
side where we had heard Armstrong shout.

For several days we followed our course without any particular
difficulties, while the country retained much the same character. The
Sacramento mountains seemed to run farther to the west, and attained
their greatest height here. We soon got among higher mountains, and
found we should have done better by going more to the east into the
prairies, for we were obliged to turn and ride a long way back, as we
could not pass through the mountains. At length, however, we reached a
river of some size, which flowed to the north-east, and resolved to
follow it until we reached lower and more accessible regions where we
could pursue our course again. We spent the night on the north side of
the river, and found, after riding a few miles down its bank, that the
valley through which it flowed constantly grew narrower and the
precipices on its sides steeper. It was still early, and the sun had
been unable to overpower the thick fog which had gathered in the valleys
during the night. It appeared, indeed, still uncertain whether it would
rise or fall, as it hung about the rocks in long, narrow strips. It was
as cold as on a damp autumn morning; the grass and bushes were as wet as
after a heavy shower, and heavy dewdrops hung on the old spider's webs
between them. We had put on our buffalo robes and guided our horses
between the many loose blocks of stone and step-like strata, while the
river constantly displayed larger and smaller cascades, some of which
were twenty feet high, and its bed continually became deeper.

We had just reached one of these falls when we noticed on the other
bank two very large grizzly bears, one of which squatted on its
hind-quarters and stared over at us. They could not hurt us, as the
stream above the fall was too rapid for them to swim across without
being carried so far that they would go over the fall, and below the
latter the banks were at least fifty feet high, and so steep that it was
impossible to climb them. Tiger, for all that, advised us not to fire at
them, as he was of opinion that they might find a spot where they could
cross to us, and then they would give us a good deal of trouble. We
therefore rode past without disturbing them, and only watched them as
they licked their paws and passed them over their clumsy heads, while
sniffing at us from time to time, and even following us a few yards
along the bank.

The gorge down which the river dashed grew deeper and our route the more
dangerous, until we suddenly came to a ravine which ran across our road
into the river bed. Our farther progress was here checked, and we were
obliged to try and make a path up it, which was effected with great
difficulty, as the stones lay wildly about. We soon reached an old very
practicable path, which, as it appeared to us, was used not only by
buffaloes, but also by Indians, and which ran north-west. Tiger was of
opinion that this was the road through these mountains to Santa Fé which
the foot Indians employed, as they avoid the prairies in order to get
out of the way of the mounted tribes, and because travelling in the tall
grass is too fatiguing for a pedestrian.

We gladly followed it, for the road through the rocks was more
impassable than ever; it ran up hill rather sharply toward the highest
mountain saddles. The nearer we advanced to them the better and more
passable the path became, and our horses scaled these high hills at a
good pace, and at times had an opportunity of drawing breath on small
plateaus. The sky was perfectly cloudless and the sun warm, so that we
welcomed the light north wind. Eastward the low hills lay at our feet in
the extreme distance, between which we could watch the various mountain
torrents for a long way, while here and there the rich green of the
fresh turf peeped out between the red masses. On our left, the mountains
were piled on each other in the strangest forms until their glistening
ice-peaks rose into the azure sky. Our path frequently wound along the
precipices, where it could be seen for a long distance like a white
stripe, and it did not seem possible to pass along it; but when we
reached the spot our horses stepped lightly over it, and we found that
it looked worse than it really was.

Thus, toward evening, when the sun was sinking behind the mountains, we
saw our path suddenly disappear behind an abrupt precipice, and expected
a dangerous bit. When we arrived there we considered it really better to
dismount and lead our horses. The path constantly grew narrower under
the precipice, and the abyss beneath us steeper and deeper at every
step. We advanced as it was no longer possible to turn back, and with
each foot our situation became more serious. We wound round the face of
the rock and looked down into a dizzy ravine, whose bottom was already
hidden by the gloom. The path was only a few feet wide, and at many
places washed away by the rain. Tiger, with his piebald, was ahead of
me, and was leading his horse by a long bridle; all at once he cried to
me, "Take care," and I saw his horse step down and then spring up again.
The rain had excavated the path here to some depth, and by its side the
rocks went down sheer. Without hesitation, I seized the end of the
bridle, quickly crossed the dangerous spot, and Czar did the same
gallantly. Königstein followed me, and then one after the other till the
mules at length came up. Jack was ahead; he went cautiously up and down,
and I saw the basket on his left side graze the precipice; still he got
across safely. Lizzy followed at his heels; but Sam swerved when he
arrived at the spot, made a leap to get across, struck his basket
against the precipice, and was hurled out into the abyss, down which he
fell with all four feet in the air. A general "Ah!" was the sole sound
that passed our lips, for we were not yet out of danger ourselves. Ere
long, however, the path grew broader, and ran over a grassy plateau,
whence we could look back at the dangerous point and into the dark
abyss. Had we arrived from this side, not one of us would have dared to
lead his horse over it, and we should have been obliged to ride round a
long way.

The loss of Sam was serious to us, for he carried our coffee, spirits,
several buffalo robes and articles of clothing. A little coffee was
still packed on Jack, as we had opened a fresh bladder that very
morning, and that animal carried all the articles for daily consumption.
Still the matter could not be helped, and we regarded the loss as a very
fortunate one, as we might just as easily have lost one of our horses,
which would have been far more serious. We unpacked, as the sun had set
and we did not know what roads we might still find. We had grass for our
hungry cattle, and water for ourselves we carried with us. We made a
small fire of _bois de vache_, to which Tiger presently brought a few
twigs of mimosa, so that we were able to cook our supper; then we
supplied our friends whose bedding had fallen into the abyss with such
blankets and hides as we could spare. The night was very cold, and we
missed a good wood fire terribly. We rolled ourselves tighter in our
blankets and skins, but could not keep warm, and were glad when daylight
came and we could make our blood circulate by moving about. All of us,
except Antonio, hurried off to look for firewood, in search of which we
had to go some distance; still the movement did us good, and each
brought an armful of wood back, so that we soon had a good fire at which
to warm our benumbed hands.

It was very early when we rode off with our buffalo robes over our
shoulders: we pulled the large woollen blankets that hung over the
saddle across our lap, so as to keep our knees warm, and throwing the
bridle on the horse's neck, we put our hands in our jacket-pockets. The
whole landscape looked as if sugared, the grass and bushes sparkled in
the sunbeams with their coating of hoar frost, and the rocks completed
the wintry scene by the cold blue tinge they had in the shade. This
picture, however, passed away very rapidly, and in an hour the rime was
hardly to be seen even at the shadiest spots. Our path continually ran
upwards, and went up and down from one mountain saddle to another. We
saw several bears climbing up the rocks, for in these remote regions
they are not very particular as to the mode of going home, and came
across a herd of antelopes, some of which we shot. About noon we reached
a hollow between two ranges of hills, where we found fresh grass and a
stream whose banks were covered with low bushes.

We noticed about a mile to our left at the spot where the stream ran out
of a precipitous and very narrow gorge, eight buffaloes quietly grazing,
and resolved to hunt them. We left our cattle under Antonio's charge and
crept toward the animals. Here my comrades hid themselves in a dry bush
overgrown with raspberry creepers that stood nearly at the centre of the
opening, and Tiger and I crept up to the buffaloes, which were standing
at the highest point of the ravine: we reached some bushes not more than
ten yards from the animals without their perceiving us, and lay down on
the ground in the midst of them. We had each selected a buffalo, when
they stared into our bush with tails erect, as they had probably scented
us; we fired together, and at the same moment there was a trampling over
us as if a cavalry regiment were charging. I jumped up and fired again
at the flying monsters, which now had to run the gauntlet of my
comrades' guns. One dropped close to them and a second fell a little
farther on, while the rest galloped down the stream. Tiger sprang up too
and cut off a buffalo near our bush, which he said was the one I had
shot: his had fled with the others. For my part, I had not seen it, for
the powder smoke still hung over my rifle, when the brutes charged over
us, and we might consider ourselves fortunate that they had not trampled
us with their huge feet. We skinned one of them in order to use the skin
as a substitute for the one we had lost, although an untanned buffalo
hide is a very clumsy thing to carry on pack-animals.

We laid in a stock of the best meat, took all the marrow-bones and
tongues, and then followed a very decent path, which here left the main
road and went down the stream eastward. After a little while the path
trended more to the northern hills, where we saw the smoke of numerous
fires rising farther to the north. Tiger said it was lucky we had chosen
this road, as on the other we should have ridden right into an Indian
camp.

For two days we followed our path and crossed various streams which
flowed more to the south, till the low hills became more scattered and
the glens between them wider. The vegetation was springing up here, and
the good pasturage induced us to grant our cattle some days' rest, as
they had been on short commons lately. We selected a very pretty
camping-place, where a small stream ran under a precipice and was
covered on one side with scrub and a few leafy trees, while on the north
and east a rich prairie opened out, and to the west the forest became
thicker. We had abundance of game of every description, and many a head
bled to death around us, merely for the sake of the fascination which
hunting exerts. All had left camp in turn to hunt except Clifton and
myself, and the latter asked leave on the second morning to try his
luck. It was a fine day and I proposed to accompany him, but stipulated
that we should ride. Clifton was delighted, and quickly saddled his
iron-grey, a horse of remarkable value, who up to the present had been
the least fatigued of all our cattle by the journey.

We rode away from camp and received from our laughing comrades a
seasonable hint to take care and not lose ourselves. We rode up the
stream, from which a thick wood soon separated us, on whose skirt we had
followed the prairie. We had ridden for about an hour, when we noticed a
little distance off some wild cattle proceeding toward the wood. Clifton
was very eager to kill one of these animals, but I warned him to be
most cautious, and reminded him that this was a most dangerous hunt. We
rode slowly to the skirt of the wood and reached the spot where the herd
had entered it, when Clifton pulled up under a young oak, wound his
horse's bridle round a branch, and ran off with his rifle and knelt
behind a large plane tree. He had done this almost before I knew what he
was about. I rode a few paces farther and saw a large bull grazing with
its head turned towards us, but at the same moment Clifton fired. The
bullet was hardly out of the rifle ere the bull rushed at him with
lowered head, and Clifton, throwing away his gun, took to flight. He
reached a young tree and swarmed up it, while the savage brute dashed
under his swinging legs and charged the iron-grey, which attempted in
vain to tear away its bridle from the branch. In an instant the bull
drove its head under the poor horse, and with its monstrous horns tore
its entrails out. The horse fell to the ground with a fearful piercing
cry, and at the same moment I sent a bullet through the bull's shoulder;
it turned and followed me furiously into the prairie, where I fled
before it in a wide circle. It became exhausted, stopped, and uttered a
furious roar, while hurling up the turf with his horns and stamping on
the ground with its feet. I turned Czar a little to the right, kept
Trusty back, and sent my second bullet between the bull's shoulders,
upon which it sank on one knee and soon rolled over.

I now hurried to Clifton, who was standing with tears in his eyes over
his dead horse and repenting his want of caution, but too late. Mourning
over this sad loss, we went back to camp on foot and there aroused great
sorrow by describing our misfortune. We consulted as to what was now to
be done, and there was no choice left but for Clifton to ride the mule,
Lizzy, while we divided her load between Jack and Antonio's mare. We
sent to the scene of the accident to fetch Clifton's saddle and some
meat from the bull, and remained all day in camp in sorrowful mood.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE GRIZZLY BEARS.


The next morning we followed the river for some hours, and then entered
a path which ran northward through a lateral valley. We had done a good
day's march, and were busy preparing supper in a small wood at a spring,
when Trusty began barking, and we heard the sound of horses. We all ran
to our horses and brought them together, while we got our weapons in
readiness, when Tiger leapt out of the bushes and shouted some words we
did not understand, to which no answer was given, though the sound of
the horses' hoofs ceased. Tiger hurried back, shouted to us to fasten up
our horses in the thicket, which was effected in a moment, and then post
ourselves round it behind the trees, as he believed that they were
hostile Indians. All at once a single voice was heard not far from us,
whose language was equally incomprehensible to us, but which Tiger at
once replied to; and springing up behind his tree, he uttered his
hunting yell. He ran in the direction where we had heard the voice, and
shouted to me they were friends, Delawares. Our joy was great, for our
position would not have been a favourable one if we had been attacked
here by a superior force: it was dark, and our thicket was commanded by
thick scrub and trees, so that our cattle at any rate would have been
exposed to bullets or arrows from a close distance. Tiger now came up to
our fire with an Indian, whom we soon joined, and he introduced to us
his friend, the Chief of a Delaware tribe, whom he called Young Bear.
Several of his men soon joined us, most of whom spoke English, and all
were very friendly to us. They seemed all to have known for a long time
that Tiger was living with us. Every one questioned him and appeared
satisfied with his answers. The chief remained at our fire, while his
people went to camp close at hand. He told us they had just left their
settlement, and were going to the Southern prairies, where the most
buffaloes were, but intended to march down the mountains to kill bears
and lay in a stock of grease and skins. Farther east there were a great
many Indians on the prairie, and we should do better in not leaving the
hills entirely, although no tribe would venture openly to attack us so
long as Tiger remained with us. He stopped to supper, and then returned
to his camp.

The next morning we visited the Delawares, and were pleased at the
cordiality with which they welcomed us. There were about forty warriors,
about half as many squaws, and a heap of children. They had at least a
hundred horses and mules with them, some of which were remarkably
handsome. Clifton requested me to ask Young Bear whether he could supply
him with a good horse, as his people appeared to have more than they
required. The chief spoke to them on the subject, and ere long several
came up with horses, which I advised Clifton, however, to decline, as
they were not good; for I was aware they would produce their worst
horses first. After we had inspected and declined a number of horses, a
young Indian came up with a black horse, which was really handsome. It
was a powerful, finely-proportioned animal, and showed in all points its
noble breed. The price he asked was two hundred dollars, upon which I
offered him thirty, and after a long chaffering we agreed on fifty,
which Clifton paid. He was delighted with his purchase, and had long
reason to be satisfied, for the horse turned out most useful and
excellent in every respect.

We breakfasted, Young Bear sharing the meal with us, and were busily
preparing for a start, when the chief came to me and said that one of
his men was inclined to go with us, and it would be better for us to
have him with us; he had often been on the Rocky Mountains, and was
acquainted with the tribes living there, while Tiger was only a young
man. I was very pleased at the offer, which seemed to me to be made
chiefly on Tiger's account. I told the chief I should be very glad, and
we would pay the man for his services; he had better ask him what he
expected. The Indian, a powerful man, between thirty and forty years of
age, now came forward, and we agreed that we should pay him five dollars
for every month he spent with us, till we returned home. He was very
pleased, fetched his horse, and joined our party. We stopped at the camp
of our friends, bade them a hearty farewell, and marched northward,
animated by fresh courage.

Our new comrade, whose name was White Owl, was a very quiet,
good-tempered, and sensible man, who in a short time gained the goodwill
of all; he helped us in everything, and appeared anxious to supplant
Tiger in our favour by his activity and valuable services. He was at the
same time a first-rate hunter and good shot. So that he rarely returned
to camp from hunting without game.

In a few days we reached open prairies; the mountains to the west seemed
here much farther off, and resembled blue clouds. These were the
mountain chains in which Santa Fé lies, and whence annually enormous
sums of silver are sent to Mexico; on the eastern side they are bordered
by rich boundless prairies, while their western slopes are washed by the
Rio Grande. On these plains we found vegetation more advanced, and
though the fresh grass was not enamelled by such a varied flora as the
prairies on the Leone at this season, still we saw around us several
pretty flowers, which offered an agreeable variety to the eye. Small
knolls and bushes, as well as clumps of trees, frequently broke the dead
level and saved the eye from resting on an indistinct horizon. At the
same time these plains were enlivened by an extraordinary number of
buffaloes, large herds of wild horses, antelopes, and deer; so that at
every moment the hunter's straying eye rested on something to interest
him. We marched for eight days due north, during which time we crossed
many rivers flowing to the east, and came across hunting-Indian tribes
repeatedly. One night we camped with a party of Shawnees, whose chief
was called Greengrass, and who behaved in the most friendly manner to
us. He promised to visit us next winter, and made us a present of
several beautifully dressed deer-skins, as he thought we should soon
want them. In addition we met Osages, Creeks, Choctaws, and a small
tribe of Pawnees: the latter displayed unfriendly intentions, but as we
treated them sternly and resolutely, they soon quitted us. Tiger shouted
to them on parting that we could see their scalps at night as well, and
so they had better keep away from us. The Pawnees are the most warlike
tribe among the Northern Indians, are splendid riders, have first-rate
horses, and live between the Platte and Missouri rivers; in proportion
to the other northern tribes, they are armed with but few firearms, but
use the lance and lasso with remarkable skill.

At the sources of the northern arm of Canadian River we crossed the
path, which runs from Santa Fé to Fort Bent, on the Arkansas, and thence
to Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri, and a few days after crossed
another road, running from Independence, on the Missouri, _viâ_ Taos in
New Mexico, to St. Francisco and Saint Fé. The country here became very
hilly; the vegetation had scarce sprouted, and the nights were cold. Our
cattle were badly off here, for grass was scanty, the roads very stony
and covered with loose boulders of red granite, which hurt their bare
feet, and they also suffered severely at night from the cold. We now
began to feel the loss of our coffee, which lay buried between the
mountains with Sam, and we equally missed on these cold nights the
brandy which had shared the same fate. In a few days, however, we shook
off these habits, and our meals did not taste the worse without these
articles of luxury.

We proceeded west-north-west, in order to enter the real Rocky
Mountains, and see the Spanish peaks, the highest in this range, which
lie to the south of the Arkansas, from which river we were now no great
distance. The weather favoured us; it was warm in the day, and the young
grass was sprouting in the valleys. During these days we generally
ascended and crossed a number of small streams that flowed from these
mountains to the Arkansas, and always found good provender for our
cattle on their banks. The mountains in the west continually rose, and
the snow-clad Spanish peaks, of which three were much higher than the
rest, stood out more and more distinctly against the blue sky. We
reached a mountain saddle, and on its plateau, a rather frequented path,
which appeared to have been originally made by buffaloes, though we
noticed old horse-tracks upon it. As it trended to the north, we
followed it, as it must certainly lead to the banks of the Arkansas. The
path became very fatiguing for our cattle, as it was covered with flinty
boulders, some of which had very sharp edges, and injured the hoofs. At
the same time we found but little food for them on this bleak elevation,
and noticed with sorrow that they were losing both flesh and strength.

We had been following this path for four days, when we were compelled to
lead our horses and expose our own feet to the sharp pebbles, for all
were more or less lame and unable to carry us any farther. Jack was the
only one that underwent no change, though he placed his little feet very
cautiously on the ground. We marched from sunrise to dusk, without
meeting with grass or a drop of water. Our feet were painful, too, and
we eagerly scaled every elevation in the hope of finding consolation on
the opposite side. The sun had set, and night would long before have put
an end to our journey, had not the moon lighted us. Tiger, who had gone
on ahead, awaited us on a knoll with the cheering news that there was
excellent pasturage here for our cattle, and water probably no great
distance off. We passed through a rock-gate into a glen, where we soon
stood in high grass, and our animals greedily bit at it, while we
hobbled them, and Tiger went off with Owl to look for water. The latter
soon returned, and told us that a stream ran along the valley on the
right, after which he informed Tiger of his discovery by several shrill
yells, and we now rose from the stones among the grass, on which we had
sunk greatly fatigued, to reach the desired water. Tiger soon found us,
and he and Owl led us between huge masses of scattered rock down to the
stream, where we refreshed our cattle. A crackling fire of brushwood
soon illumined the surrounding scenery, as we found plenty of wood to
keep it up. Late at night we lay round it, and watched our cattle
enjoying the sweet grass, for we felt a reluctance to fetch them in and
tie them up. At last, however, weariness compelled us to place them in
our vicinity under Trusty's charge, so that we might rest after our
exertions.

Morning showed us that we had camped in a small glen, which, being
watered by numerous springs, displayed a rich vegetation for its
elevated situation. The grass was fresh, and mingled with many juicy
plants, which our cattle seemed to be very fond of. The stream on which
we had camped had a good deal of bush on its banks, out of which grew a
few stunted trees, which by their growth, and the moss covering their
bark, clearly showed that they did not feel at home in this region. We
were very pleased to have reached this oasis, and resolved to let our
cattle rest here for at least a week, not only to enable them to regain
their strength, but also to give vegetation more time to sprout.

We made many hunting excursions, but always on foot, as we wished to
grant our cattle perfect rest, and we could get through the mountains
better in this way. We did not find the common deer here, but the elk,
whose dry flesh soon became repulsive to us. Now and then we killed an
antelope, and Tiger brought in one evening a mountain sheep, an animal
exactly like the ibex, which lives in large flocks in these mountains.
Its meat is agreeable and tender, and its skin produces first-rate
leather for clothes.

Our stock of game was again reduced to the dry flesh of an elk, when at
daybreak I cooked a bit of it for breakfast, and, after eating it,
seized my weapons and left the camp with Trusty to go in search of
better game. I followed the stream some distance, and soon reached the
bare slopes which ran down to the Arkansas: here I turned to the stream
which ran through the valley about six miles under me, and its banks
were covered with green meadows and numerous bushes. Down to it ran
bare, smooth strata of rock, between which countless gorges opened on to
the stream, which had been hollowed out by the mountain torrents in
their furious course. Between them lay, on the steep slopes, patches of
large and small rocks, often piled up on each other as if human hands
had arranged them. Little vegetation was to be seen here. A few bushes
rose from among the stones, while here and there the broken, withered
stems of torch weeds, which plant seemed the most common here, stood in
groups. Not a tree or bush offered a relief or variety to the eye gazing
over this solitude: right and left, as well as across to the mountains
on the other side, so far as I could distinguish objects, nature seemed
to be utterly dead. I looked again at the narrow, green strip which ran
like a long snake along the glistening stream, and tried to discover the
game grazing on it through my glass.

I noticed several elks, as well as a single buffalo, and had walked
about half an hour along the rocky strata, when I reached a group of
stones which attracted my attention by their remarkable and picturesque
arrangement. The lower layer consisted of three enormous rock-plates, at
least five feet thick, on which again smaller ones rested, and several
stones rose in this way, so that the edifice resembled from a distance a
pyramid, which could be seen through at several spots. I had walked to
the base of this mass of stone, and was examining its strange form,
when, on looking back to the river, I noticed three dark forms, which
were moving sideways toward me up the steep, and were scarce half a mile
from me. At the first glance I recognised in them three grizzly bears,
rapidly advancing at a sling-trot behind one another. I knew the danger
of meeting these savage brutes, and quickly measured the distance back
to camp. But I was on foot, and felt as if I had lead boots on which
bound me to the spot. It was hopeless to think of escaping; the animals
were following a course as if they wished to pass above the rocks near
which I was standing, when they must cross the recent track of myself
and Trusty, which they would indubitably follow at once.

It was pairing time, at which season all beasts of prey are more savage
and active, and hunt more from the pleasure of killing than to pacify
their hunger. The grizzly is so fast that it can catch up a buffalo or a
horse going at full speed, and its gigantic strength renders it more
enduring than any other animal. Only one chance of escape is left the
man it pursues, and that is, a tree, for this bear cannot climb. But
then there was not a tree anywhere around, and besides I could not take
Trusty up one with me, and he must be saved. I had no time for
reflection, as the peril rapidly approached. I laid my rifle on the
first layer of rock, seized Trusty round the body, hoisted him on my
shoulders, and helped him on the rock, up which he scrambled: with one
bound I was by his side, then aided him up the second and third layers,
and laid myself close to him on the uppermost blocks, where I placed my
weapons and ammunition ready to hand.

If the bears passed under my fortalice I would let them go in peace, for
in that case it was probable they would not find my track; but if they
passed above it, I must throw away no opportunity to render them
harmless as soon as possible. I peeped over the rock with my rifle, when
the three monsters were scarce fifty yards from me, proceeding to cross
my trail above me. An old she-bear slouched carelessly along in front.
Close behind her followed a gigantic, very old he-bear, and a short
distance in the rear came a rather smaller male. The old one drew up to
the she-bear and laid his right paw on her leg, but she was greatly
offended by this caress, and dealt my lord such blows with her enormous
paws that the hair flew out of him. He sprang back; she sat up, showing
her frightful teeth, and with her side turned to me, I pressed my barrel
firmly against the rock, and pointed it at the heart of the she-bear. I
fired; she crossed her paws over her face, and sank lifeless in a
second. The old bear ran up to her and laid his paws over her, but his
rival came up, and a fearful struggle began between the two monsters, in
which they rolled over and over, and tore out each other's greyish brown
wool in great masses. The old bear had the best of it, however, and sat
up, uttering frightful growls at the smaller bear. By this moment I had
reloaded and sent a bullet into the brute near the heart. With one bound
it leapt on its foe, which tried to escape it, but the old bear held it
tight in its fore-claws, and dug its monstrous teeth into the other's
back. The other bear defended itself desperately, and soon found that
the old brute's strength was giving way: it sprang on it and buried its
tusks in its chest, and standing over it tore it up with its two
hind-paws.

I was certain of the victory, and was so careless as not to reload my
rifle, but fired my second barrel at the younger bear without concealing
myself properly behind the rock. I hit it well, but it scarce felt my
bullet ere it turned its savage head toward me, and galloped toward the
rock with an awful roar. In an instant it reached the base of my
fortress, and sprang with its fore-legs on the first layer, while it
opened, its blood-stained throat, and, with smoking breath, uttered the
most fearful sounds. At the moment when it raised itself on the rock I
held my revolver as near as I could, and fired between its small glowing
eyes: it fell back, but at once got up again, and tried still more
furiously to scale the rock, by springing with all four feet at once
upon the first stage, and raised its blood-dripping face just under me.
I had pulled out my second revolver, and held it cocked in my left hand.
I pointed both barrels at the monster's head and fired them together: it
turned over, and rolled motionless on to the ground. I looked at the two
others which still lay quiet side by side, and could scarce believe my
eyes as they gazed down on the victory which I had gained over these
three terrors of the desert. I quickly reloaded, and looked around
carefully from my fort, especially in the direction from whence the
brutes had come, for other male bears might easily follow their track. I
could see nothing to alarm me, and now sprang down from the rock with
Trusty, went cautiously up to the bears, and found them all lifeless.
They were three monstrous brutes: the old bear must have weighed at
least fifteen hundred pounds, the she-bear one thousand, and the smaller
bear eight hundred.

These beasts are often found on the Rocky Mountains, where they are very
numerous, as the hunters do not care to pursue them. Everybody is glad
to get out of their way, and only uses weapons against them when he is
attacked, or can fire at them from a place of safety, such as a boat on
a river, when the bears are on land, or from a stout tree. The Indians
also only fight them in self-defence, and hence their claws are
considered the greatest mark of honour with which they can adorn
themselves. The value of a grizzly stands in no proportion to the danger
the hunter incurs in pursuing it, for its hide is too heavy, and its
hair not so fine as that of the black bear: it never becomes so fat as
the latter, and its flesh is not so delicate. Hence people are glad to
avoid it, and the hunter willingly surrenders his booty to it, when on
following the bloody track of a head of game he runs a risk of being
caught up by the grizzly. This animal does not know what fear is, and
once irritated it will fight and hit as long as it is able. I know
instances in which a grizzly had some thirty bullets in its body ere it
was killed; but if hit at the right spot, it falls as easily as any
other animal. The she-bear gives birth, from November to January, to two
or four cubs, which soon follow it on its forays, and are trained to
hunt, which speedily develops the savage, cruel qualities of the young
monsters. It hunts both in the mountains and on the prairies: in the
former it lays in wait for the game, and darts down from the rocks on
its unhappy victim, while on the latter it will chase its terrified
quarry for miles, and mercilessly rend it when captured; for instance,
it seizes buffaloes, horses, wild cattle, &c., at full gallop by the
hocks, tears out the sinews, and in a second renders them incapable of
flying farther. When caught quite young and trained, these animals
become very tame, but they must never be trusted, as any negligence may
cost one's life, and I knew several instances on the frontier of men
being torn by such tamed bears, or at least losing an arm or a leg.

I had had enough sport for to-day, and fled from the battle-field, as I
was fearful of the advance of other foes. I went straight to camp, and
was saluted by a hurrah! as my early return indicated a successful hunt.
I had the two mules got ready, and invited the Indians and John to go
with me. They all wanted to know what I had killed, but I merely told
them that I had killed a heap of game, as they would soon see. We made a
hurried dinner, and then started with the mules. We soon reached the
slope, and rode quickly down to the river, during which I constantly saw
my rock fort, but it was too far to notice my quarry. My comrades
believed that the game lay on the river, and kept their eyes turned
towards the latter, while I led them a little to the west of my rock, to
keep them from seeing the bears as long as I could. When we were in a
right line with them, I turned aside, and we suddenly caught sight of
them. The amazement and surprise of the Indians were very great, and
were expressed by the most extraordinary outbreaks. They danced as if
stung by a tarantula, swinging their rifles over their heads, round the
dead bears, and imitated their roar in a remarkable manner. At one
moment they crept close to the ground up to the animals, then ran past
them with fierce yells, or leapt over them, swinging their guns with
wild shouts of delight. After they had finished this dance of triumph,
they sat down on the old bear, sharpened their knives on small stones
they took out of their medicine-bag, and wished to cut off its claws. I
told them, however, that I wished to keep this skin with the claws on,
but the two others were at their disposal; with which they were
perfectly satisfied. We skinned the largest bear, and cut out the best
meat and the fat, which we intended to take with us. We took the paws
and fat of the other two, after the Indians had appropriated the claws.
I pulled all the tusks out of the three heads, and we now packed the
mules to convey our booty to camp. As we intended to remain a few days
here, I asked the Indians if they would dress the large skin for me, to
which they readily assented; for this purpose they split the head with
an axe, and took out the brains.

We rejoined our comrades before sunset, who were also very pleased at my
success. We at once took some of the bears'-grease we had brought, and
fastened it with strips of hide round the hoofs of our cattle, as this
fat refreshes the horn, and deprives it of the brittleness which is the
principal cause of its breaking when marching over stony ground. My
bearskin was staked out on the grass, and we all set to work with our
knives scraping off the flesh and fat, after which the brains were
rubbed in and the skin rolled up. We then laid heavy stones on it and
hurried to supper, which we greatly enjoyed after our powerful exercise
during the day.

We repeatedly changed our camping ground, partly to get fresh grass for
our cattle, partly to have a new stock of dry wood at hand; and thus
went farther down the stream. We stopped here nearly a fortnight, by
which time our horses were quite restored, my large skin dressed, and we
bade good-bye to the glen which had given us such a kind reception. We
followed the path again which had brought us here, and in a few hours
reached the Arkansas, on which we found excellent pasture. In the
afternoon we crossed it and rode up its northern bank, till evening put
an end to our march, and we camped in a wood, which was already adorned
with young foliage. The next morning we discovered close by, to our
great delight, a bee tree, out of which the warm morning sun had
already drawn the busy artisans. It was an old plane several feet in
diameter. We soon attacked it with our axes, and ere an hour had passed
it crashed to the ground, and the hollow burst open filled with most
delicious honey. We had a glorious feed, and a man must, like us, have
been for awhile put on simple fare in order to appreciate the pleasure
which such a variation produces. Unluckily we had no vessels in which to
carry off much of it; still we packed a large stock of comb in
deer-skins, and carried it with us for some days, but the comb soon ran
and dirtied our baggage, so that we were obliged to leave it behind.

We had ridden up the river for two days, when we reached an arm of it
coming from the north, up which we proceeded for a day, and met with no
special difficulties. One path ran through a pretty glen, on the right
side of which the mountains gradually rose, and stretched out their
peaks far in the distance, while on our left the river-bank was overhung
by colossal precipices, over which the mountain chain rose steeply with
its snow-covered pinnacles. On the fourth morning, however, our bank
became very rocky, and we rapidly ascended toward the mountains. We
spent several nights without fire or water, and even during the day the
latter, as well as grass, was very scarce. My large bear-skin, which Owl
had made very soft, was of great service to me with its long close hair,
as it was large enough to wrap three of us in, for the nights were
chilly, and my comrades complained greatly of cold. We here crossed the
highest point we had yet reached, and the snow peaks did not appear to
be very far from us; still we found sufficient grass for our cattle in
the gullies between the mountains.

We halted for a day at one of these grassy spots, and I went with Tiger
early from camp to procure meat, when a flock of mountain sheep drew us
farther into the mountains. We had fired several bullets at them to no
effect, and followed them in growing excitement from one rock to another
until, some hours later, we reached a plateau which was shrouded in
fog. Our sheep flew over this and disappeared in the mist. We stood
amazed at this phenomenon, whose cause we could not explain, for it was
a clear, bright morning, and the hills around shone in the brightest
sunshine. We went up to the plain, and found to our surprise that the
mist covering it came from hot springs, which rose to the surface in
immense numbers, the highest with a jet of about three feet. The
plateau, which was about a mile in diameter, was quite covered with
these springs, which produced a great calcareous deposit. This lime
formed a rim round each spring, over which the water poured and
collected into a rivulet, which ran down the eastern slope under a thick
cloud of steam. We could drink the hot water, though we could not hold
our finger in it for a minute. We walked between these hot springs, on
which the sun produced the most brilliant rainbows, to the eastern side,
where the water flowed away, and reached it bathed in perspiration, for
the steam was very hot, and we were constantly enfolded in it. We could
watch the course of the stream far through the mountains, for steam
continually rose above it. The water had a slightly saline taste, and
was very like weak chicken-broth. There is no doubt but that these
springs are mineral water, which probably in a hundred years, or a
shorter period, will prove most valuable to suffering humanity. At the
spot to which a flock of mountain sheep led me and an Indian there will
then rise palaces, and gaily dressed ladies and gentlemen will drive
out, and the time when only naked savages and a few adventurers admired
these beauties of nature will be forgotten. But whether it will be so
beautiful there then is questionable; for it is this very untouched
nature which is so charming, with its mosses and weeds on the bare rock,
its bushes growing out of the crevices, its clumps of trees, and its
solitary gigantic pines, behind which are the distant blue ranges. All
these pictures will be altered by human hands, but as a rule not
improved. Before we proceeded after the game, I carved my name and the
date of the year in a large upright rock, and we looked back frequently
from the mountains at this strange scene.

We soon found sheep again, but they fled on our approach to the most
inaccessible rocks, where they leaped with wondrous strength and
certainty from one pinnacle to another, and sometimes after a desperate
leap reached a peak on which they had scarce room for their four feet.
In such cases they looked round for a few minutes in their airy
position, and then flew with equal strength across to the nearest
precipice, frequently over dizzy abysses whose bottom was concealed by
mist. After a long, tiring, and unsuccessful stalking we scaled a
height, and saw below us a flock of these animals standing on a slope
over which they could not leap. We had cut off their retreat, and did
not consider it possible that they could find their way across the
scattered peaks to a lateral valley, which was about twenty feet broad
and about fifty long. We would not fire at them where they stood, as
they would have fallen over the precipice, and we could not have got at
them; hence we showed ourselves and shouted, on the supposition that
they would dash up hill and pass us. But they no sooner saw us than an
old ram leaped with an enormous bound on to a projecting stone, and
thence to a second, till he reached the gorge on our right, and darted
up it. We ran up to the gorge, and I toppled the ram over with a bullet.
The other animals followed it leap by leap, and all reached the other
side of the gorge, excepting one ram, which jumped short and fell
backwards into it. We looked after it, and I felt certain that it would
be killed and become our prey; but it fell on the monstrous horns which
nature has given these animals as a protection in such dangers, turned
over, and leaped with the lightest bounds up the gorge, where both Tiger
and I missed it. We reached the dead ram by a long circuit, paunched it,
loaded ourselves with the best meat and the handsome skin, and returned
to camp. About a mile farther on we shot down another large sheep from a
rock, and sent Owl out to bring it in.

The mountain sheep, as I said, bears a great likeness to the ibex. The
ram has enormous curved horns, with the points turned slightly outwards,
as thick as one's arm close to the head, and surrounded with rings. Its
hair is more like that of a goat than a sheep, of a brownish gray
colour, and with a dense coat of underwool. The female has also horns,
but they are smaller, and not turned outwards at the point. They bear
two lambs, which, while still very small, follow them on their dangerous
paths in the mountains. At night the mountain sheep descend to the
lowlands, and are there easily killed by the hunters who lay in wait for
them, while following them day by day in the mountains is most
fatiguing, dangerous, and generally unsuccessful. The skins of these
animals are greatly sought by the Indians to make clothes of, as they
furnish a handsome, soft leather; their meat is fat and agreeable. They
live in large flocks, and may be seen by day in the Rocky Mountains
standing about the highest peaks, at spots which it appears impossible
for a quadruped to reach.

We had no lack of game, but saw to our great regret our supply of salt
running out, for the greater part of it was lost with unlucky Sam. Our
clothes, too, were beginning to get defective, especially our linen, as
we had lost our changes on the same occasion. We mended our shirts as
well as we could, and cut off from the tails to repair the damage higher
up; but for all that they were speedily wearing out. Our stock of
tobacco was all but expended, but this article was the easiest to
supply, as the leaves of the wild sumach represent it very well. We were
provided with the essentials, however, especially powder and ball, as
these were distributed among the animals, and we had enough to last us a
year. A great privation was impended over us when our salt was consumed,
and we so restricted its use that it would last for some months, in the
hopes of obtaining a fresh supply at one of the forts of the fur
companies, which are in the vicinity of the Rocky Mountains. Our good
spirits did not desert us, however, but enabled us to endure all the
fatigues of this mountain tour. We passed two nights on fields of snow,
where we could hardly find sufficient firing to prepare our supper.

At length our route descended to lower hills, and we reached at their
base a plain, which, as it seemed was enclosed by even loftier
mountains, whose saddles still bore the signs of winter, while on the
streams in this elevated valley, which our Indians called Salade Park,
May was flaunting in her spring garb. Although the vegetation that
surrounded us here could not be called luxuriant, it did our cattle a
deal of good. For a long time past we saw for the first time herds of
wandering buffaloes, among which we produced great destruction, as we
had long been yearning for their marrow-bones and tongues.

One morning we approached a herd which was grazing among large scattered
rocks, and we all crept up to them under cover of the latter, with the
exception of Antonio, whom we left with the horses. We lay in a long
line in the grass and behind stones, and had shot five of the animals
without being noticed, when Mac fired and got up after doing so. He had
hit the old bull he fired at badly, and the latter, slightly wounded,
charged furiously at him. At this moment Clifton jumped up not far from
Mac, fired his two bullets at the infuriated animal, and then bolted
with Mac. The buffalo dashed furiously after them, while the two
fugitives, running at full speed, threw away their rifles and lost their
hats. Fright carried them over the grass as if they had wings, between
the numerous rocks, and they had contrived by making a long detour to
get within hail of us again, when Trusty, whom I had laid on, caught up
the bull, and attacked it in the flank. A kick from its hind leg,
however, threw the dog on his back, and without stopping the savage
brute dashed after our comrades, and was only a few yards from them when
Mac slipped and fell among the rocks just as we discharged all our
rifles at his pursuer. The buffalo flew over him, followed Clifton but a
short distance, and then turned with a fearful roar on Mac, who was
trying to get up. It sprang with lowered head toward the fallen man,
when a second shower of bullets was sent at it; but it would certainly
have impaled Mac had not Trusty come up and pinned it by the snout. Our
shouts encouraged the brave dog; the buffalo rose with him on its hind
legs and fell backwards on the ground, while we ran up and honeycombed
it with pistol bullets. We now helped Mac up, who had not, as we feared,
been trampled by the buffalo, but had sprained his leg, and complained
of great pain; hence we put him on his horse, rode with him back to the
stream we had crossed shortly before, where he bathed his foot, while we
returned to the dead buffalo, and cut out the best meat, the
marrowbones, and tongues. The result of this chase afforded us great
dainties, on which we revelled for some days, as the meat kept good for
a long time in the cold temperature.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXIV.

ASCENT OF THE BIGHORN.


In a week we crossed the valley by short stages and again reached the
loftier mountains. One afternoon we arrived at a stream where we
resolved to pass the night, as we did not know whether we should find
water farther on. Tiger at once hastened off to look for game, and as my
comrades preferred a rest, I set out to try my luck too. I told Antonio
to follow me on Lizzy, that I might not have to carry the game myself,
and had got about a mile from camp when I noticed from a clump of oaks a
herd of deer on a grassy spot ahead of me, which looked like the
ordinary Virginia deer, but were darker-coloured. I took up a deer-call
to draw them toward me, as the spot where I was standing was too barren
for me to be able to stalk them. I posted myself near an oak, and
Antonio sat on Lizzy behind me. The herd advanced toward me on hearing
my call, and were near enough when Antonio cried to me, "Here! here!" I
fancied he was alluding to the approaching deer, and whispered that I
could see them; but he repeated his "here!" and presently added, "Look
to your right!" I turned and saw an enormous snow-white bear forty yards
from me, I tried to fire, but the bear got behind a large oak, and then
behind another, and so was a good distance off ere I could despatch a
bullet after it, which I heard enter a tree. It escaped me, as I had
left Trusty in camp, for his feet were sore from running over sharp
stones lately. The bear heard the call and hurried up, believing that
there was booty for it. It was only a variety of the common black bear.
I would gladly have secured its beautiful skin, as it is a rarity, but
it was out of my reach, and hence I returned to the deer, which after
my shot had disappeared in a distant wood. I went after them, and found
them grazing again: when I emerged from the bushes I shot a large deer,
and found to my surprise that it belonged to a genus I had never seen
before. It was of a very dark, almost black, colour, much larger than a
Virginia deer, and more lightly built, with a longer black scut. It had
cast its antlers, and the new ones had already grown to some size. We
packed the entire animal on Lizzy, and carried it to camp, where Owl
called it a mule-stag or black-tail deer, a variety not uncommon in the
lower regions of the Rocky Mountains.

Our road rapidly ascended from here to the higher mountains, and became
daily steeper and poorer in vegetation; still the path we followed was
very fair, so that we rather rapidly surmounted the heights, on whose
small plateaus our cattle were able to rest again. We left behind us in
a few days many mountain chains with their narrow valleys, when suddenly
the mountains before us became covered with snow, and we were soon in
the wintry landscape again. We suffered terribly from the cold, as our
clothes were not at all suited for such a temperature; and though we
wrapped ourselves in our skins we could not keep warm. I was the best
protected, as I hung my large bearskin over me, and, sitting upon it,
wrapped myself up from head to foot; but for all that I did not get warm
during the ride, and we were very glad when we reached a hollow in the
evening, where we found but little snow and a clump of fir-trees, in
which we camped, and warmed the atmosphere around us with an enormous
fire.

On the following day our road ran principally over snow-covered rocks,
but we came now and then to spots where the sun had melted it, while all
around us rose mountains which even at midsummer do not doff their
winter garment. At last, early one morning, after spending the night at
a very poor fire, we ascended a saddle, whence we looked down into a
plain, whose end in the blue misty distance was bordered by high
mountains, while on the west and east it was begirt by immense ranges,
whose lower chains ran down sharply on both sides in the most remarkable
shapes. The steepest rocks here rose precipitously over the valley, and
the white stone formed long pinnacles, round domes, globes resting on
their pillars, in a word, the strangest shapes, so that our wondering
eyes were tempted to see in them towers, castles, and monuments, while
farther on the mountain masses rose above each other with a reddish-blue
tinge, and touched the clouds with a few isolated peaks. The valley
itself, if it may be called so at this elevation, was well watered, and
from south to north glistened at the base of the western mountains the
surface of a large river, while on the right-hand side signs of water
were also visible. Except the forest of pines on the sides of the
mountains, vegetation seemed to be restricted to the vicinity of this
water, where we noticed a good deal of bush and some rather lofty trees
of the aspen and poplar kind. The greater portion of this extensive
undulating plain only displayed desolate tracts of stone and rocky
knolls. Our Indians call this mountain glen Old Park, and the river
before us the sources of the Rio Colorado, which flows through New
Mexico and California to the distant Pacific, where it falls into the
Gulf of California.

We hastened to the lower regions, and on the third day reached the
river, whose course we followed. A few days after we were surprised by
two men, as we were letting our horses graze at noon. They were beaver
trappers who had been hunting for some years in these mountains, and
paid us a visit in the hope of procuring provisions from us. We showed
them, however, that in this respect we were almost as badly off as
themselves, and that with the best will we could not meet their wishes.
They were both Canadians, of French origin, and had led this life in the
desert for many years. They were men of very slight education, with
repellant manners, and a disagreeable, very coarse appearance, so that
we were not sorry when they took their rifles and went away with a
hurried farewell.

We marched for about a week near this river, till we reached a bend,
when it suddenly trended to the west, and thence pursued its
uninterrupted course through the enormous plains. We crossed here an arm
of the river which came from the east, and followed another up stream to
the north-east. We constantly drew nearer to the mountains on the east,
and ere long the highest peak, clad in eternal snow, rose distinctly
against the blue sky before us. The Indians called this the Bighorn,
which agreed with the statement of the two trappers, of whom we had
inquired. I had been determined from the commencement of the journey to
get as high as I could up this peak, and hence steered toward it.

On the second evening we reached the outer hills, and resolved to take
our cattle as far as was safe regarding food for them, and then continue
our journey afoot. It was the second half of June, the weather splendid,
and the heat at times oppressive by day, while the nights remained
extraordinarily cold. The farther we advanced in the mountains the
scantier food became for our cattle, but on that account they were all
the safer during our absence from an attack of hostile Indians, who
rarely venture so far into the mountains. On the third day, after
crossing a considerable chain of mountains, we reached a small glen,
which, on the east side, was enclosed by precipices, and on the
south-west offered an open view of the mountains of Old Park. It was
covered with good grass, amply supplied with pine-wood, and watered by a
beautiful stream, which forced its way through the ravine by which we
had entered. This spot exactly satisfied our purpose, as it was remote
from regular paths, protected against possible storms, and could be
easily defended. Hence we formed our camp here, conveyed our traps under
overarching rocks, where they were protected against storm and rain, and
hunted for some days in the neighbourhood, in order to provide those who
remained behind with food for some time. I had selected Tiger to
accompany me, and wished only to take one other of my comrades with me,
while the other four remained in camp, I proposed that John, Mac, and
Clifton should draw lots as to who should accompany me; but the two
latter gave way in favour of John, who gratefully accepted.

On the morning of our departure I rolled up my large bearskin and sewed
straps to it, in order to be able to carry it on my back; John and Tiger
did the same with buffalo hides, and ere long all our preparations for a
start were completed. We urged on our comrades the greatest caution, and
then said good-bye in the hope of finding them all right on our return.

We walked bravely up the mountains, from one chain to the other, Tiger
being ahead and Trusty behind. Sometimes we came to paths along which we
went pleasantly; at others, we crept on hands and feet up the steep
granitic strata, and with every hour we had a more extensive view to the
west. On the first day we covered a considerable distance, at least
five-and-twenty miles. We saw an incredible number of mountain sheep,
which, at our appearance, flew up the precipices and gazed down at us in
amazement. Tiger shot a large ram, and we each took a lump of the flesh
with us, while we left the rest to Trusty. Toward evening we came to a
stream, and though it was still early we halted, as we found plenty of
scrub in the vicinity with which to light a fire and roast our meat. It
was an exquisite spot where we camped; beneath our feet we recognised
quite distinctly the white rock towers which border Old Park, and
between which our friends were encamped. We gazed at the immense
mountain valley below us and the windings of the stream through it; we
noticed on its western side the mountain chains that ran up to it, and
saw clearly where the water forced its way through them, taking a
south-western course. Still these mountains formed the border line of
our view, as we were not yet high enough to be able to see over them.
The air was pure and clear, but it soon became very cold, and so soon as
the sun sank behind the mountains we rolled ourselves up in our hides.
We had collected a large stock of wood in order to be able to make a
blaze quickly, but determined to keep it up all night; but we had
forgotten our fatigue, which soon made us fall asleep, and we did not
wake till daybreak.

Dawn aroused us, and animated the extensive landscape around us, whose
glens were covered by a thick damp fog, while a fresh breeze blew round
the heights. We soon finished breakfast, and when the sun shone on the
first peaks of the western mountains we were again ascending the
mountain in the direction of our object. After filling our gourd-bottles
afresh, we went the whole day indefatigably up the steeps, through
desolate rock strata, almost entirely denuded of vegetation, between
which, with the exception of a few clumps of fir, only grasses, reeds,
and torch-weeds sprang up. We very frequently came to water, which
indubitably had its source in the snow melting on the peaks. Toward
evening we reached a plateau, which seemed to separate the higher
regions from the lower, and extended up and down the mountains, with but
slight breaks, as far as we could see. It was at least three miles in
breadth, and offered us a free prospect of the mountain saddle and its
isolated peaks, of which the Bighorn rose far above the others. All
these peaks were covered with a bluish coat of ice, and shone and
glistened so in the sun, that it hurt the eyes to look at them for any
length of time, while the hollows displayed the pure white of the snow.
A number of snowy peaks stood in a large circle around us, among which
two enormous domes rose to the sky, the northernmost being the highest,
and bearing the name of the Bighorn. On its northern side it is a
perfect precipice, while on the south it forms several steep terraces,
while the lower peak bears to some degree a resemblance to a truncated
cone.

We soon recognised the impossibility of reaching these icy heights,
still it appeared to us feasible to scale the back of the mountain
farther to the north, as we noticed there in a deep gap which ran
almost to the summit isolated spots free from snow.

The sun was now approaching the distant mountains in the west, the sky
gradually turned red and at last stretched out over them like a stream
of fire, from which their ice-clad peaks stood out like gleaming flames,
the whole boundless landscape around us was suffused with a warm red
light, and the peaks in the east had changed their brilliant white into
a dark transparent carmine. We stood in silent admiration and saw the
last beams of the glowing sun disappear behind the mountains; ere long
the gloom of nightfall spread over the earth. The eastern sky was
covered with the nocturnal dark purple blue, and the still illumined
snow peaks alone looked down on us, like the last gleam of departing
day. An icy cold wind reminded us that it was time to look for a
resting-place, and without long consideration we went toward the
mountains and reached a group of scattered rocks, between which we found
a species of moss and dry hard grass, which offered us a softer couch
than the bare stones.

We were not quite asleep, when the fearfully plaintive tone of some
animal which was probably bidding farewell to life in the claws of a
grizzly bear rang through the mountains; still this did not prevent us
from falling into the soundest sleep, and trusting our safety to the
faithful dog. The rising sun saw us again _en route_ over very difficult
ground. The ravines which we always followed in order to skirt the
precipices, were at times so full of large blocks that we could not jump
from one to the other without danger, while the rock strata we were
compelled to climb were often too high for us to lift ourselves upon
them. Hence we were obliged to make numerous circuits and could not
advance so rapidly as the distance would have allowed. About noon we
were scaling a height when suddenly a mighty condor spread out its
enormous wings with a loud yell, and rose from a rock with a great
effort, and we saw a mountain sheep hanging in its claws. It swung
itself on to the nearest peak and sat down there, looking over at us
with extended wings and croaking hoarsely. We raised our rifles almost
simultaneously and the eagle sank lifeless on its quarry. Tiger climbed
up and threw both down to us. The sheep was a one year old ewe and
welcome to us as delicate food: while Tiger appropriated the eagle's
feathers and claws, we cut the flesh from the sheep and rubbed salt into
it, after giving it a hearty beating, for thus when our stock of roast
meat was expended, we should be able to fall back on raw meat, as we had
no fire materials.

We continued our journey and soon reached snow, which only remained,
however, on the north side. The air became very cold, which rendered
breathing difficult, and we could not walk fast. Evening surprised us
completely surrounded by snow, and we had to go a long distance ere we
found under southern precipices a spot where the sun had melted it away.
Here we slept and my comrades woke me several times and asked whether I
was not frozen--they could not close an eye, while I was tolerably warm.
They shook me again before daybreak and we continued our journey,
pulling our skins tightly round us. The snow was frozen very hard and
had generally a rough surface, so that we passed easily over it. Our
long sticks, which we frequently sharpened, here served us in good
stead, as at doubtful spots we felt with them whether the snow would
bear us, and no doubt we frequently crossed deep places, into which we
might easily have sunk.

At eleven in the forenoon we at last scaled the highest point after
excessive toil and stood on a wide snow field, which sloped down on the
east to a hollow, behind which other snow mountains rose, and in the
extreme distance the sky formed the background. To the south rose the
white peaks of our saddle, above which extended the two mighty crests of
the Bighorn. The bluish cold colour of these enormous snow domes
contrasted with the warm reddish tint of the mountains and the sunlit
landscape below them, and the icy peaks dazzled our eyes when we looked
up at them. Before us in the west stretched out a scene which I cannot
find words to describe faithfully. To the right and left on the sides
of the snowy mountains which formed a semicircle we saw a sea of hills
and rocks in the most eccentric shape; above them rose to an immense
height the various peaks vividly illumined by the sun, and between them
lay the dark shadows of the mighty glens, which were enclosed by
precipices. Only rarely did the living green of foliage peep out of the
desolate scene, which was slightly enlivened by the more frequent clumps
of pines, and the straying glance gladly rested on the isolated patches
of grass, whose fresh juicy green imparted a warmth to the landscape. At
our feet we gazed at the depths, till our eyes rested on the snow-white
wondrous outline of the precipices which surrounded Old Park on this
side, and we followed the silvery ribbon of water that wound through it.
Old Park lay like a narrow glen before us, lost in the mist and often
crossed by ranges that connected the eastern and western ranges. Far
away in the misty distance, above the mountain chain that borders Old
Park on the west, our eyes rested on the enormous plains which sink from
the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, and in the extreme distance their
outlines became blended with the sky. They seemed to be crossed by but
few ranges; to the south-west we could distinguish lower chains of
hills, while in the west and north-west a long dark cloud was visible,
which indicated to us the snowy mountains or maritime Alps of
California. So far as we could see, this country appeared to us but
slightly wooded and not very well watered. The course of the Rio
Colorado was alone marked by lower ranges of hills and the hue of the
vegetation.

Our eyes were fixed for a long time on this grand landscape, and we
found it difficult to bid it a last farewell; but the cold warned us to
start, so that night might not surprise us on these inhospitable
heights, on which we did not see a sign of a living creature. It was one
o'clock: we once more bade adieu to the cold, desolate spot, which had
afforded us this enchanting prospect, and then hastened to our last
night's camping-place, where we arrived with frozen beards. We passed a
very cold night here, for the wind had got up, and we felt very happy
when we left the snow behind us on the following day. At noon we rested
and pacified our hunger with the remainder of the raw flesh, which the
condor had provided for us; then we continued our journey, and reached
before evening the foot of a hill, where we found water and sufficient
scrub to prepare a supper of a fat ram which we had killed on the road.

On the next day we joined our comrades again all right, found them in
the best spirits, and our cattle rested and strong. Before the camp they
had erected a number of small scaffolds of sticks, on which meat cut in
strips was being smoked over fires, and a very large and a small
bear-skin hung on the rocks proved the nature of the meat which was
drying. Owl had shot close by an old she-bear and one of her cubs, whose
meat our comrades were now drying for the purpose of taking with them.
This was very welcome, for when a little bear-meat is roasted with dry
venison, the latter becomes dainty and fat. We heartily enjoyed the
tender meat of the young bear, which weighed some sixty pounds, and the
fire which we had so missed for some nights. Unfortunately our salt was
now out, and the same with our tobacco, while we could not expect to
find in these mountains any sumach leaves which we could smoke. In a
word, we were out of everything, except ammunition, for our clothes
literally consisted only of deer-hide, and we merely carried with us the
remains of our linen to use as bandages in the case of a wound. Still we
were in good spirits and healthy as bears, and comforted ourselves with
the thought that in a few months we should obtain supplies at one of the
forts to the east of the Rocky Mountains.

We started on the morning after our return to camp, and went back
through Old Park and up an arm of the Colorado. We followed its windings
across the hills to the point where as a mountain torrent it formed the
most exquisite cascades in falling over the rocks. We halted a long way
up it, and though we were once compelled to quit it through the
impassable nature of its banks, we sought to reach it again soon, as its
crystalline waters contained delicious trout, some weighing twelve
pounds, abundance of game grazed on its banks, and the latter always
afforded us plenty of wood for our camp fires. Moreover, it continually
formed the prettiest bathing-places, in which we refreshed ourselves
morning and evening. At last, however, we were compelled to say good-bye
to this pleasant friend, as it broke up into several small streams, and
we ere long reached the highest point of the hill-range, which we had
scarce crossed, however, ere we found on its northern side an exactly
similar stream, which, instead of flowing southward to join the Pacific,
runs due north and in a great curve round the black mountains on the
North Platte river, and then through Missouri and Mississippi to the
Gulf of Mexico. We greeted this stream with great joy, as it afforded us
the same comforts as the one we had just left, and followed its course
down to the spurs of the mountain chain, which we reached on the second
evening, and found in its valleys a rich vegetation for these regions,
which seemed, however, to be confined to the vicinity of water. The
hill-side, on which we camped, was covered with oaks and pines, through
which our torrent wound down to the valley in front of us, which we
could survey from our elevated post. The hills gradually descended into
it, and in its centre rose a conical lofty rock, whose pinnacles had
exactly the shape of a ruined castle. Our stream wound round this rock,
and glistened in the wood that covered its banks; we also saw a few
buffalo scaling the lower rocks to crop the scanty weeds that grew among
the crevices.

It was getting on for sunset, and still early enough to secure a few
marrowbones from these emigrants: hence Tiger, John, and Clifton hurried
off, Antonio following them on Jack. In a quarter of an hour we saw our
hunters emerge from the wood at the base of the rock, and approach the
buffaloes by stepping behind the stones. Light clouds of smoke rose
above their heads, and the crack of their rifles reached us, while we
saw one of the animals fall in a heap, and the others flying up the
mountain side. Next Antonio with the mule joined our comrades, who had
collected round the animal, and were busy in breaking it up. Königstein
and I had meanwhile lit a roaring fire, and Mac and Owl pulled some
trout out of the adjoining stream, so that, when we were all assembled
again in camp, we had the prospect of a glorious supper.

The next morning we finished packing our cattle at an early hour, and
were about leaving our camp, when we saw behind the rock in the valley
the smoke of many fires rising, which indicated a very large Indian
camp. We must employ the precaution of first finding out to what tribe
they belonged, and in which direction they were going: so we rode down
into the glen and concealed ourselves in the thick wood. Tiger and I
then went to the rock and climbed to the top of it, whence we could
survey the valley on the opposite side. Who can describe our surprise on
seeing at our feet a large, animated camp, with all the signs of
civilization! From the numerous gay tents pennants blew out in the fresh
breeze, and between men, horses, and mules were moving in the strangest
confusion. Here and there laggards crept out of the tents and ran off to
the stream to remove the last traces of sleep in its clear waters. Round
the fire other men, in the strangest costumes, were busied in preparing
breakfast, while others were proceeding to and from the stream with
horses and mules. Our amazement was great, and our joy knew no bounds. I
pulled out the last remnant of a pocket handkerchief, fastened it to the
end of my rifle, and then discharged both barrels, while swinging my
white flag high above my head. I saw that the attention of all the
occupants of the camp was directed to us, and many arms were raised
pointing at us. A salvo of at least fifty shots answered my greeting,
and handkerchiefs were waved in the air. We soon descended from our
observatory, and hurried back to our comrades to impart the pleasant
news to them, and we galloped along the stream, round the rock, and
toward the camp, where our little party were received with a thundering
hurrah.

In an instant we were surrounded by a crowd of curious persons, who
assailed us with a thousand questions. I gave Antonio and Königstein the
charge of our cattle and traps, and then went with my other friends into
camp, following the eager crowd, who led us to a large marquee in the
centre, from which a long white pennant floated. A man came to meet me
whose features seemed familiar to me at the first glance, and on whose
face I could plainly read that I produced the same impression on him. We
offered each other a hand with an inquiring glance, and after the first
few words of greeting, I recognised an old acquaintance, Lord S----,
whom I had last seen ten years before on the east of the continent. The
pleasure of meeting again was heightened by the most peculiar
circumstances under which it took place.

We sat down at the fire, and I described my journey to this spot, and my
plans for its continuation. A thousand questions interrupted my story,
and when we reached the present moment, we leapt back to the time of our
last meeting, and followed the course of my life up to the commencement
of the present tour. His lordship was already acquainted with some of
the details, but I had much to tell him of since the day when I bade
farewell to civilization. I then heard from him in return the story of
his life, which, though moving along a smoother surface, claimed my
entire attention. During the period he had been back to Europe, and made
a lengthened excursion to Asia; still his passion for this great,
unadulterated nature had brought him back to the mountains of the New
World, to bid them a last farewell, as more serious duties recalled him
home. He had started from Independence, in Missouri, with a large party
of friends, Europeans and Americans, and a number of voyageurs and
half-breeds, engaged for the tour, in a small steamer up the Missouri,
and then proceeded up the Yellowstone as far as the depth of water
allowed. They landed there numerous saddle and pack animals, provisions,
tents, and other traps, and had gone overland through the mountains to
the banks of the Platte, which they had followed to this point round the
Black Mountains. The whole company consisted of about eighty persons:
they had about one hundred animals with them, most of which they
purchased of Indians at the fort where they left the steamer, and had
also taken a dozen of the latter into their service.

This small army offered the most curious sight I ever beheld. All sorts
of dresses, from the lightly-clad savage to the most elegant gentleman
were before us. Many young swells from the Eastern luxurious cities of
this continent, as well as from those of the Old World, educated in
ballrooms, operas, and concert rooms, had followed their fancy in the
selection of their costumes, and appeared in mediæval garb, with
broad-brimmed plumed hats, jerkins with slit sleeves, leathern breeches,
tall Napoleon boots with enormous spurs, large gauntlets, and had put on
the swords of their forefathers; others had preferred the old Spanish
costume, and donned loose velvet blue or green paletots, while the hat
of an Italian brigand chief, with its red-cock's feather, covered their
long perfumed locks, and a broad white shirt-collar was turned down over
their shoulders. The open sleeves displayed the fine linen of their
shirts; wide trousers were forced into long red morocco leather boots,
on which large wheeled spurs rattled, and a brace of handsomely inlaid
pistols and a long dagger ornamented their belt. Others, again, had read
Cooper, and chosen his heroes as their model; they were dressed in
leather from head to foot, with a broad-brimmed gray hat, a long heavy
hunting-knife at their side, and leaning on an enormous rifle. They
seemed to envy me my shabby clothes, all stiff with blood, while their
dress, which had only just left the tailor's hands, had not a spot on
it. Others, again, had remained faithful to the appearance of the
gentleman of the Broadway, New York, had put on a broad-brimmed hat
instead of the "chimney-pot" of civilization, and went about the camp in
comfortable slippers, smoking fine Havannah cigars. Only one fashion had
gained the victory over the national and fancy costumes here
represented, this was the beard, which had not been troubled by a razor
for a long time.

We soon formed acquaintances among this medley of characters, and led a
life than which a better could not be found at the Palais Royal. The
most delicate wines graced our table, which was covered by artistic
cooks with the daintiest dishes; we smoked the best cigars and drank the
finest mocha. All these things so precious to us were rendered more
agreeable by the cheerful humour that prevailed all through the camp,
and was displayed in every conversation. We spent the time in firing at
a mark, in riding races, in various sports in which agility was
displayed, in card-playing and in dicing, in hunting, which sport,
however, only appeared popular with a portion, while the rest amused
themselves nearer camp. Owing to the great number of animals our new
acquaintances had with them, they had not always found sufficient forage
for them on the mountains, whence they had selected this rich pasturage,
to give them time to rest and to enjoy a little repose themselves.

I remained with my comrades four days in camp, during which time we were
favoured with the most splendid weather, and on the fifth we got ready,
after breakfast, to continue our journey and bid adieu to our friends,
who intended to spend some time here. My friend S---- had supplied us
with all the requisite stores for the pleasant continuation of our tour,
had pressed upon us many luxuries, and given us a perfectly new outfit,
so that we were now better equipped than when we began our journey. Owl
and Tiger were handsomely remembered, at which they felt very happy,
hung themselves and their horses with numerous ornaments, and never let
their looking-glasses out of their hand. S---- and several others would
have been glad to buy Tiger's piebald, and offered him about 200 dollars
for it, but he had no thought of entering into any bargain of the sort,
and he always pretended not to hear when the subject was brought up.
When we at last led our horses out of camp, S---- accompanied us with a
few of his friends, while a final farewell was given us by a salvo of
rifle shots. The gentlemen rode several miles with us, and then returned
to their friends, accompanied by our warmest thanks and heartiest wishes
for their welfare.

We were now reduced again to our own small number, but were in a very
different state from that prior to our meeting with our new friends, as
we had all our wants again supplied, and they now afforded us double
enjoyment after the lengthened privation. Our pipes again burnt
incessantly, at times we even had a cigar as a change, and at the spring
we reached, brandy was often mixed with the water we drank. We halted at
a very early hour, although we could easily have ridden for another
hour, as we were following the river; but the supper that awaited us was
too inviting for us to delay it any longer; for now once again coffee
was drunk, our meat peppered and salted and biscuit eaten with it, and
before going to bed a glass of grog swallowed; which comforts people
cannot always value at home, but which afford great enjoyment after
having been missed for so long a time.

We had again reached a valley which runs between the Rocky Mountains,
and is called New Park. The mountains on both sides drew very closely
together here, and at some spots hardly left space for the river to
pass, which was swollen by numerous torrents, and already had a rather
powerful current. It was still only a torrent, however, which dashed
over large rocks, and hurried along foaming and roaring between the
hills. The mountains on our right hand are called by the Indians the
"Medicine Mountains." Our road here was often very fatiguing, and was
rendered smooth and slippery by several violent showers; so that we were
often obliged to dismount and lead our horses on the descents, for fear
of them falling.

One evening we reached a rather lofty point, where we found a little
grass and a few live oaks; the river rustled below us, scarce a mile
distant, through the rocks, and received there a spring which ran from a
small coppice near us. We had been awakened on the previous night by a
sudden shower, and as our traps had been lying about us uncovered, many
of them were wet through before we could get them under shelter in the
darkness. As the sky was also overcast this evening, we thought it
advisable to put up our small tents. After supper we gathered our traps
together under the tarpaulin, on which we laid large stones, and then
crept into our tents, after wishing each other good-night. The night was
calm and warm, so that when Königstein lay down by my side, and fastened
up the opening of our tent which faced to the north, I got up and opened
it again, as it was oppressively hot in our confined space. Our
conversation was but short, our tongues grew heavy; the rustling of the
neighbouring stream was blended with the sound of our broken sentences,
and a deep sleep carried us into the land of dreams.

An icy-damp breeze awoke me suddenly, and when I started out of my sleep
the storm drove the cold rain through the entrance of the tent into my
face, and violently shook its sides. I roused Königstein, and was about
to jump up, when a violent blast raised the tent above us, and carried
it off into the darkness, while streams of rain lashed us. All my
companions shared the same fate, and ran about in the darkness seeking
their blankets, hats, and articles of clothing. At the same time we
heard the sound of flying horses, probably ours, which, startled by the
flapping of our tents, had torn themselves loose. We ran to the spot
where we had secured them, and only found Czar and John's mare, but no
sign of the others except the broken lassoes. In the darkness I had
thrown my large bearskin over me, and concealed my weapons under it. So
I remained with Czar, turning my back to the storm, and bade him be
quiet, while I saw the others running back and forwards like shadows.

The storm grew more furious still, and the powerful tornado seemed
desirous of carrying away with it everything that did not bend before
it. I leant my shoulder against a young oak in order to keep on my feet,
but the tree often bent so low as to touch the ground with its foliage.
My comrades had disappeared--at least I could not notice them anywhere,
for the darkness was so dense that I could not see a yard before me. It
was impossible to call to each other, as you could not even hear your
own voice. At the same time the rain still poured down in almost a
horizontal direction, and formed a stream round my feet. There was
lightning in the north, but neither thunder nor lightning had approached
us, until suddenly the eastern mountains were lit up by brilliant
flashes, which displayed their white peaks, and the ground trembled
beneath a tremendous clap of thunder. For more than an hour the
lightning did not cease for longer than a few seconds, and the thunder
roared uninterruptedly between the hills. But at last the storm moved up
the valley and left an impenetrable darkness behind. We gradually came
together again, and would assuredly have laughed at each other had this
been the time for it, for we were wet to the skin, stood in the cold
night breeze upon saturated, bottomless ground, and what was worst of
all, most of our cattle had bolted. It was simply impossible to light a
fire, so we made no attempt to do so, as we could not seek dry materials
in the darkness. Nothing was left us but to wait quietly till day
arrived, which on this occasion seemed to delay terribly.

At length the new light gleamed over the hills, and we could soon
distinguish objects around. We had a melancholy prospect: here lay a wet
buffalo robe, a blanket, or a leathern jacket; there some hats were half
buried in the mud; farther on we saw one of our tents hanging on an oak;
wherever we looked, storm and rain had left traces of their destruction.
A joyous surprise was prepared for us with the return of light: we saw
honest Jack grazing higher up the valley, and Königstein's cream-colour
following him. Tiger and Owl soon set out to seek the other horses,
which would be easily found if no accident had happened to them, and
there were no thick woods in this valley to hide them from us. We
fetched up Jack and the cream-colour, and while the Indians followed the
trail of the horses, we sought under the stones dry grass and roots with
which to light a fire, which caused us great difficulty, and only
succeeded after several failures. Then we put up sticks round it in
order to dry our traps, and finally looked up those which had been blown
away. The articles under the tarpaulin had remained quite dry, as the
water ran through the brushwood on which we had laid them, while the
heavy stones kept the cover down. In time we got everything in order
again, and about noon we saw our Indians coming down the valley and
driving our animals before them, which they had found a long way in the
mountains in two parties. During the whole day we were occupied in
repairing damages. The tents had to be mended, the broken lassoes
reknotted, the saddles and bridles cleaned from mud and dirt--in short,
the whole day was spent in getting ready to start again. The next
morning, however, we mounted again, and no one could notice that our
equipment had suffered severely.

Since our leave-taking from Lord S---- and his friends about ten days
had passed, during which we never went far from the Platte River, as the
impassable precipices of the mountains on both sides ran down almost
close to the river. At last the latter opened, the mountains on our left
trended to the west, and before us was spread out an extensive and hilly
tract, which, offered rather decent pasturage for these rough regions. I
intended to follow the river generally to the large prairies on the east
of the Rocky Mountains, in order to visit Fort Lamarie, and then proceed
homewards across the open plains to the south.

It was a warm afternoon when we cut off a large bend which the river
described, and riding over a grassy plain got several miles away from
it. The sun shone hotly on our backs, the horses walked with drooping
heads through the tall grass, and we jolted silently in our saddles,
every now and then putting straight the embroidered blankets on which we
sat, as folds in them become disagreeable in hot weather. I was riding
on the left wing of our cavalcade, and had turned to Trusty, who was
stalking behind Czar with hanging tail, when, on looking across the
prairie, I fancied I saw about half a mile off two human forms conceal
themselves in the grass. Without checking my horse, I called Tiger up,
and imparted to him what I fancied I had seen. He advised me not to look
round, as he was riding on my right hand, and, without exciting
suspicion, while talking to me, could keep in sight the entire plain on
our left. We had been riding on for a long time when Tiger suddenly
pulled round his piebald and galloped across the prairie, in the
direction where I believed I had seen the men. We stopped to look after
him and watched him ride through the grass, but presently turn his horse
toward us. He told me they were probably Blackfoot Indians, who were
following S----'s trail, in order to steal some horses from his party.
Close to the spot where he had seen one of them was a reed-covered pool,
and hence it was useless to seek him, as he would have concealed himself
in it. However, he was of opinion that we must be on our guard here, so
that they might not get hold of any of our horses, for these Indians had
eyes in the darkness, and could walk more softly than sleep.

During the following night, we again encamped on the river, and fastened
our horses near camp, where Trusty mounted guard over them. He appeared
extremely restless, got up several times, went growling round our camp,
and barked frequently; but our rest was not otherwise disturbed. Early
the next morning, as we were folding up our furs, Tiger returned to the
fire saturated with dew. He had gone over the neighbourhood and said
there was a number of Blackfeet close by; the dog had prevented them
from approaching our camp at night; but they could not be an entire
tribe, or else they would have ventured an attack by day. He had found
several tracks going round our camp at some distance. Tiger told us that
the Blackfeet live farther north, and only come so low down for purposes
of plunder; but here they had to be on their guard against the Utahs,
Sioux, Pawnees, Sacs, and Foxes, who occupied this country and lived at
war with them. The Blackfeet are pursued by nearly all the other Indian
tribes when they venture south, and in former years, when they prowled
about the present state of Missouri, they were hunted by the first
settlers there like wild beasts. The power of these Indians is very
considerable, and their number is probably the largest of all the
numerous tribes of natives. They live between the sources of the
Missouri and Yellow-stone River, tolerate no other tribe there, and are
warlike and cruel to their conquered foes. The Crows, their neighbours,
are much fewer in number, but for all that oppose them in the field and
wage the most sanguinary wars with them. Neither nation, however, dares
to cross the Yellow-stone, without being pursued by the Indians living
on the opposite side; they only do so when they have a prospect of
committing a robbery without any great risk, or capturing a few scalps
from their enemies.

We followed the river to the spot where the Medicine-bow River falls
into it, and Tiger and Owl made an excursion along its banks, and
brought in the news that some forty Blackfeet had crossed the river,
probably expecting that we would follow the Platte farther up to the
Black Mountains, to watch for us and attack us in the narrow passes.
They told us these enemies would not leave us till we had passed that
region, and we must constantly keep a watchful eye on them. We camped on
this side of the Medicine-bow River, and talked over our further tour
over the camp fire, and Owl was of opinion that we should do better by
following the course of this river and effecting our retreat through
Lamarie plains, between the Medicine and Black Mountains, as on this
route we should be less troubled by Indians than on the great Eastern
Prairies, and, with the exception of buffaloes and wild horses, might
expect to find much more game there. We heard Tiger, who was of the same
opinion, and soon agreed to follow this road.

We fished in the river till it grew quite dark, and had just put supper
on the fire, when Tiger and Owl took their rifles, and, after telling us
to keep a bright look-out for the Blackfeet, went up the river, and soon
disappeared. I ordered Königstein to mount guard at the end of the small
wood in which we had camped, at the spot where it joined the Platte, and
promised to relieve him in an hour. We thus changed sentries until about
eleven o'clock, when I relieved John. It was not very dark, although the
moon was not shining, and sitting on the ground I could not only see
across the Platte, but distinguish objects in the grass for some
distance. Trusty lay by my side, with his head resting on his crossed
paws; suddenly, however, he raised his nose, and I heard his low growl,
which I stopped by a wave of my hand. He kept his nose turned
obstinately up stream, in which direction I also kept my eyes fixed on
the grass. I felt with the hand I had laid on Trusty that his attention
was growing greater, for he began trembling all over, which he did when
he was forced to master his growing excitement.

Still I could not distinguish anything that appeared to me strange. The
grass in front of me was not tall, and there were but few patches of
scrub. All at once I fancied that a bush, about fifty yards from me, had
moved, but it might be imagination, as I had been gazing at it so
intently. A profound silence brooded over the landscape, which was only
interrupted by the continuous monotonous rustling of the river. In our
camp no voice was audible, and the bright fire, which had lit up the
surrounding trees and bushes, had burned down, and only indicated its
position by a glimmering light. When I took my post half an hour
previously Owl and Tiger had not returned, and since then I had not
heard them arrive. The air was very damp and cold, and the grass around
me felt quite wet. I now fancied I could be certain that the bush had
moved: I rose a little and looked at it more sharply; it moved again,
and a dark object, in the shape of a large stone, slowly rose out of the
grass. Now I could entertain no doubt it was a living creature: but what
could it be? That was a matter of indifference to me, so long as it was
not either Tiger or Owl, and they would not approach our camp so
cautiously and suspiciously. It could be none but a Blackfoot. I rose on
one knee, cautiously lifted my rifle, and aimed as well as I could for
the darkness, at the object whose indistinct outline now covered nearly
the whole bush.

Bang! the flame flashed from the rifle, and a hollow plump into the
river followed a few seconds later, before the smoke had risen on the
damp atmosphere. I looked at the dark, shining surface of the water, and
noticed that large circles surrounded a black spot, and were moving with
it toward the middle of the stream. I fired my second barrel at it: I
clearly saw through the gloom that the motion of the water became very
violent at the moment, but then it was all over, and the next minute the
current flowed on as usual, and nothing on its surface revealed what was
passing in its depths. I had scarce fired the second shot when my
comrades dashed up under arms. I quickly told them what had happened,
and we remained under arms awaiting the return of our Indians, of whom
we had as yet heard nothing. About an hour later they returned, and
Tiger at once asked why we had been firing: then he told us what had
happened to him, and that my shots had robbed them of several Blackfeet
scalps. They had crossed the river a little higher up, at a point where
it was shallow, and lay down on its banks, as they expected that the
savages would return during the night to try and get hold of our horses.
Shortly before I fired, Tiger had heard and seen the branches of a
neighbouring bush parted, but after that all became quiet again. Tiger
fancied that their number was considerable; but we had nothing more to
fear from them on this night, and could go to sleep in peace. However,
we posted sentries till daybreak, when I and Tiger examined the spot at
which I had fired. We found that my bullet had cut away a spray in the
centre of the bush, and noticed the track of an Indian, which was
distinctly marked on the bank, and Tiger recognised it as that of a
Blackfoot. Owl swam across the river and examined the opposite shore to
see whether he had landed there, but could not discover any sign, and,
pointing to the river, supposed he was sleeping under that.

We slept quietly till eight o'clock, then breakfasted, and packed our
animals, so as to continue our journey on the new plan. Tiger said that
the Blackfeet would be cheated out of a day, for they were awaiting us
farther down the Platte, and if they had not their horses with them they
could not catch us up before morning: if their number was large,
however, as he believed, they had their horses with them, and would be
camping in the thickets on the opposite side of Medicine-bow River. It
was nearly noon when we struck camp and marched up the river. The grass
was not very high, and our path slightly covered with loose stones, so
that we could keep our horses at an amble, and when the sun sank behind
the distant hills on our right, we had covered a distance of at least
twenty-five miles. After riding past a stony knoll, round which the
river described a short curve, we reached a stream flowing between deep
banks, which fell into the Platte, and was densely overgrown with
alders. The spot pleased us to spend the night at, and we were engaged
in unpacking our cattle, when suddenly a fearful yell rang behind us,
which came toward us accompanied by a dense cloud of dust. The
Blackfeet! all shouted, and seized their weapons. Tiger, however,
shouted to us to follow him, as he led his piebald through the alders
into the stream, and the next minute all the cattle were left in charge
of Antonio, who fastened them to the bushes.

We had scarce returned to the bank when a body of forty Indians dashed
up to us like a tornado; lying behind their horses' necks, and covering
their left side with their large shields, they allowed a very small
portion of their bodies to be seen. We permitted them to come within
fifty yards before we fired. The band hesitated, and we saw through the
dust several horses lying on the ground, and many of the horsemen
engaged in taking others up behind them, while the greater number
galloped back to the hill, and uttered a frightful yell. They had not
galloped far, however, when one of them, mounted on a powerful black
horse, darted to their head, and casting himself in their way, swung his
long lance before them. His horse reared in front of the flying horde,
and the thundering voice of the leader distinctly reached us through the
yelling. At the next instant the band turned back, with the warrior on
the black horse in front of them. We had reloaded, and I shouted to my
comrades to expend but one bullet, and reserve the other for shorter
range. The savages had galloped up to within about the same distance as
before, when I shouted, Fire! and aimed myself at the leader of the
band. The black horse reared and fell over with its rider, while another
horse fell dead by its side, whose rider ran with the speed of an arrow
after his comrades, who were now flying in the utmost confusion. The
rider of the black horse, however, had scarce fallen with it ere he
crept from under it, and at the same instant we saw Tiger leap out of
the willow bushes on the river bank, and, swinging his tomahawk, catch
up the Blackfoot warrior with a few leaps. The latter fell back a pace,
and threw his iron axe at Tiger with such force that, missing its mark,
it flew far out into the river. Tiger now buried his axe with lightning
speed in the chest of his recoiling foe, and both fell to the ground
like two intertwined snakes. It was the work of a few minutes, and the
yell of the flying Indians was still ringing in our ears when we dashed
up to the combatants in order to help Tiger. It was no longer necessary,
however, for he rose from off his lifeless foe, and setting his knee on
the other's bent-back neck, he passed his knife round the head and tore
off his scalp. During this time Owl had scalped the other Blackfoot, and
our Indians danced frantically round the dead men, waving the reeking
scalps and knives, while the blood poured down Tiger's back from a
gaping wound in his left shoulder. At length they concluded their dance
of victory, and then our Indians plundered their slain foes and the dead
horses. The dress of these Blackfeet is made of leather, with remarkable
taste, adorned with paintings and long fringes, porcupine quills,
shells, scalp-locks, and coloured pebbles; the leather is smoked of a
very dark hue, and gives the savages a gloomy and terrifying aspect.
Their weapons are lances, bows and arrows, tomahawks, and knives; only a
few have firearms.

I examined Tiger's wound, which had only cut the flesh obliquely, and
was produced by his enemy's knife; while the latter had a bullet through
his left thigh, a gaping wound in his chest, and a stab in his heart.
Tiger had run down to the willows on the river without our noticing him
after the first attack of the Blackfeet, and had thence fired at the
chief, whom he afterwards killed with his knife. "Now," he said, "we can
sleep; the Blackfeet have lost their head, and will go home and tell how
the Delawares have some more of their scalps in their tents; their
squaws will not even take their dead with them, and not let them sleep
with their fathers."

We camped close to the stream, but posted sentries all through the
night, as I feared lest we might have to oppose a nocturnal surprise.
The night, however, passed undisturbed; but we heard incessantly a
fearful yelling of wolves, which prowled round our camp, but owing to
the huge fire did not dare approach the corpses, which lay not far from
us in the grass. The next morning we quitted the spot, for which
movement the numerous wolves were watching, and they attacked the dead
Indians and horses almost before we had crossed the stream.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXV.

ON THE PRAIRIE.


We hastened up the river for five days, during which time we crossed a
number of small streams which fell into it. Then we reached the eastern
spurs of the Medicine Mountains, in which the river rises and pours over
the rocks in the shape of a large torrent. Here we crossed it, and
following the base of these hills in the plain, we reached on the second
evening a small stream, which flows for at least a hundred miles due
east through this broad plain, which the Indians called Lamarie, to the
Black Mountains bordering the plain, and, as Owl told us, winds through
the latter till it falls into the Northern Platte to the east of Fort
Lamarie. These mountains, which in height and shape exactly resemble the
range from which the Bighorn rises, are to the north of that snow peak.
We marched along the stream to the eastward to the Black Mountains, and
then turned up an arm of it coming from the south until it was lost in
the plain. We marched from here for a whole day without water, and were
obliged to pass the night, too, without it or fire, as the desolate
plain over which we rode showed us not a single tree. Toward evening the
next day we reached a lake, which was about three miles in
circumference, but its waters were slightly impregnated with salt:
following its banks, however, we arrived on its western side at some
clear streams of fresh water. Here we refreshed ourselves and camped,
though it was early in the afternoon, and amused ourselves with shooting
geese and swans. On the next evening we came to a similar lake, with
fresh-water streams on its western side, so that we again had a
splendid camp, and took advantage of the opportunity to bathe in the
lake.

During the next day our road again ran over a desolate, melancholy
plain, but toward evening we saw a low wood in the distance, and reached
another arm of the river which runs through the Black Mountains to Fort
Lamarie. Here we had everything we could desire, a protected camp in the
wood, and a splendid trout stream, in which we refreshed ourselves and
our horses. We shot several fat buffaloes, and a few black-tailed stags.
The wood above us sufficed to put us in good spirits, for we were very
tired of the monotonous, desolate plains over which we had been marching
for a long time. Before sunset our horses neighed, and we heard them
answered from, outside the wood. All at once there was a thundering
burst through the low bushes, and the leader of a troop of wild horses
fell in terror immediately in front of our fire, and the animals behind
him one over the other, after which they got up again in the utmost fear
and confusion and dashed out of the wood. The stallion was a splendid
iron-grey, very powerfully built and finely shaped, and we all regretted
that we were unable to take him home.

The next morning we left the river and went south, and for the whole day
without finding water. The sun sank behind the hills, and nowhere was
there a tree or a sign of water; the grass, too, was bad, but our cattle
were very weary, and we too longed for rest. We made a poor fire of
_bois de vache_ and small bushes, large enough to cook our supper, then
we put up our tents and secured our traps under the tarpaulin on a bed
of stones, for the sky was overcast and led to expectation of rain. At
nightfall it began to blow and rain, and went on the whole night till
daybreak, when the clouds gathered together again, and hanging on the
base of the mountains displayed the snow peaks brilliantly illumined by
the sun. We quickly started, and marched from this disagreeable spot,
looking for pleasanter signs ahead. At length, toward noon, wood rose
again from the barren surface. We drove our animals into a quicker
pace, and in a few hours were resting again on a river fringed by trees,
upon glorious grass, which our starving cattle eagerly devoured. It was
still very early, and we all felt inclined to go hunting, as the rain
had refreshed the country, and the verdure of the forest and the meadow
does the eyesight good. A few preferred fishing in the neighbouring
stream; several went up the river to hunt, while I went down it,
accompanied by Trusty only. I had gone about a couple of miles along the
skirt of the wood when I saw something moving on the prairie behind some
very low bushes. I crept cautiously up to the last bush, and before me
stood, at about the distance of a hundred and twenty yards, a herd of
some forty large and old giant stags. The beautiful animals--the pride
of the animal world--stood in a long line before me, with their faces
turned to me, and raised their powerful antlers like a forest of horns.
It was a sight whose beauty only a sportsman can estimate. I lay for
some minutes lost in contemplation, but when I raised my knee and rifle
the whole herd turned and galloped past me. I had long had my eye on the
largest stag, for its antlers rose far above the others with their broad
lines. I aimed behind the shoulder and fired, heard the bullet
distinctly go home, and saw, that though it was bleeding profusely, it
kept up with the others. The next largest stag, being just behind this
one, I fired the second barrel at it, heard the thud of the bullet
again, and saw that it was mortally wounded; but it too remained in
line, and I watched the stags till they disappeared a long way off in a
hollow.

I loaded, and on reaching the spot where the stags were hit, Trusty at
once put his nose to the blood trail and stopped, looking up at me. I
made him a sign that it was all right, and when he had gone a little
distance he went off slightly to the right, took up the trail of the
second stag, and then again pointed with his nose to the ground, while
looking at me inquiringly. I again urged him on, and he went first to
one trail, then to the other, till I was able to look down into the
valley, where I saw the two stags lying dead, hardly ten yards apart. I
hastened up to them, and counted, on the antlers of the largest,
eight-and-thirty tines, and on the smaller one six-and-twenty; the
length of the two antlers was between five and six feet, and their
weight between thirty and forty pounds. The antlers of this stag only
differ from those of our stag through their size and the greater number
of tines: the great difference between them is in the weight, as the
giant stag is often double the size of ours. Both animals, it seemed,
had died nearly at the same moment, for they lay side by side with their
heads stretched out, as they had been running. After looking at them for
awhile in delight, I broke them up, gave Trusty his share, cut out a
couple of grinders as a recollection, and then went back to camp, when
my comrades were equally pleased at the result of my sport. The other
hunters had also been fortunate, and had killed a fat buffalo, while the
anglers had pulled a number of large fish out of the river. Owl went
with Antonio and Königstein to my stags, in order to fetch their skins
and meat, and I requested them to bring me the antlers of the largest
one, as I wished, were it possible, to carry them home. Though we liked
the place so much, we left it again next morning, abundantly supplied
with the best game, and Jack trotted after us with the enormous antlers
on the top of his packages.

The country here became again intersected by low ranges of hills, which
crossed the plain from east to west; their heights were long and barren,
but the large valleys between them ornamented with small prairies and
woods, in the latter of which we frequently found springs. The variety
was a relief to our eyes, and offered us many a fine prospect, with the
mountains approaching each other. Isolated masses of rock again rose out
of these valleys, and before us in the far South were visible loftier
ranges, some of them branching off from the Medicine Mountains, others
from the Black Mountains. The colouring of these landscapes in the west
of the continent is much warmer and more hazy than in the Eastern
States, or in the countries of Old Europe. The distances, although
transparent and extraordinarily distinct, float in a delicate
reddish-blue tinge, in front of which the deep dark shadows and flashing
lights produced by the glowing sun stand out the more powerfully. The
shadows which the clouds throw on the landscape are also, like the
latter, dyed with carmine and cobalt, and not, as in England, black and
white, the mere sight of which produces a shudder. The streams reflect
on their surface the dark ultramarine of the heavens, and the rich green
of the woods and prairies loses through its countless tints and rich
flora its wearisome monotony.

With every hour the beauty of the country increased, and the animal
world became more animated. Countless wild horses of the most varying
colours flew at our approach over the green hills, large herds of
dark-haired buffalo galloped awkwardly over the wide stretches of grass,
and from the stony heights the light-footed antelopes gazed down
curiously at us. Up hill, down hill, we jolted in the saddles of our
ambling steeds, when, on a calm warm evening toward sunset, we rode down
from a grassy knoll to a stream, which was closely overhung with alder
bushes, and separated the base of the hill from a wide prairie, round
which it wound with numerous meanderings. Tiger was riding about forty
yards ahead, and had just disappeared with his piebald in a patch of
scrub, when he dashed out of the other side of it with a loud cry and an
enormous grizzly bear after him. We galloped through the stream after
him, while his rapid horse bounded over the grass toward us, and gained
a slight advance on the grizzly. All our rifles were fired at the
monster, and turning away from Tiger it came toward us with long leaps,
and pursued John with an awful roar; once again our rifles cracked
behind it, but the bullets did not check its clumsy but yet rapid
course. John turned his mare again toward us, and had hardly joined our
ranks when we fired a salvo from our revolvers at the maddened bear,
and galloping after it, kept up our fire. Königstein, on the
cream-colour, was the nearest to it on the left, and gave the bear a
shot at short range, when the latter turned on him and smashed his
broad, wooden stirrup into a thousand chips between its savage teeth.
Königstein, however, had pulled his foot out and flew with his horse to
our side. Again we sent a hailstorm of bullets into the broad back of
the infuriated animal, upon which it sank on its hind-quarters, as a
bullet had smashed its spine. Its fury and the roars it uttered were
fearful, and turning in a circle on its monstrous forepaws it covered a
large space around it with its blood, which streamed from its shaggy
carcass.

I shouted to my friends not to fire, as I saw Tiger had dismounted and
was hastily loading his rifle, and I wished to grant him the pleasure of
killing the bear. He fired his bullet into its head, and then cut off
its claws with great satisfaction. We took the paws, tongue, and liver
of the huge animal, while Tiger rode back to the stream, and thence
shouted to us to join him. We rode up, and found in the water a two-year
old, very handsome chestnut horse, which the bear had captured on the
prairie, and, as the trampled grass showed us, had dragged to the
stream, in order to enjoy its meal without being disturbed. I took the
tusks of the slain animal, and with the new matter for conversation
which this fight gave us, we shortened the road to our camp, which lay
in an exquisite hollow on the south side of lofty crags, under which a
clear torrent rolled over loose stones that glistened like gold. They
contained a substance which really resembled this metal, so that they
shone through the water hurrying over them like lumps of pure gold. Some
stately palms, maples, and oaks overshadowed our camp, and served as a
cool retreat for the countless songsters that saluted us with their
evening hymn.

It is incomprehensible why the belief prevails throughout Europe that
American birds are very brilliantly plumaged, but cannot sing, while
most certainly there are sweeter songsters and more varieties of them on
this continent than in Europe. A single bird is wanting, the
nightingale, but it is compensated a thousandfold by the mocking bird.
All other classes of birds are represented, though with different and
finer plumage. The belief may arise from the fact that emigrants from
Europe land in the large eastern cities, and in their walks in their
vicinity see no birds, from the circumstance that boys there of ten
years old run about with guns and kill every bird that shows itself: and
then again, these persons only seek the shade of the trees and bushes
during the heat of the day, when all birds silently hide themselves from
the burning sun. If they went out in the morning, however, when nature
is awakening, they would hear quite as good singers as in their old
home.

Before us the valley wound between partly wooded low hills, behind which
the higher base now rose. For several days we marched along this valley,
till on one afternoon we looked down from a hill on the blue crystalline
waters of the southern Platte, which coming down from the Medicine
hills, rustled through the valley at our feet. The river was large even
here, and shot with the speed that characterizes the streams in this
country, and with many windings between its wood-clad banks. Before us,
where the river described a sharp curve, the banks were stony on both
sides, and seemed from time immemorial to have been used by the
inhabitants of these countries as a ford. At this moment, when probably
for the first time the eyes of white men rested on this ford, a
countless herd of buffaloes was occupied in crossing. They were coming
southward from the mountains, and pressed shoulder to shoulder in dense
masses to water in the river, while others came down the hills in a
black line. The roars of these thirsty wanderers filled the air and rang
through the hills in a thousand echoes. They dashed by hundreds
impetuously from the high bank into the deep, rapid stream, on either
side of the ford, and drifted with it into the dark overarching wood.
We stopped for a long time gazing down at this scene and awaiting the
end of the herd, whose head had disappeared some time previously in the
valley on our left, while dense masses still continued to pour down
without a check from the hills to the water. At length, at the end of an
hour, only a few laggards came, after at least five thousand buffaloes
had crossed the river, and yet the number of these animals is said to be
quite insignificant compared with what it was twenty years ago. Who
knows whether fifty years hence they will exist anywhere but in natural
history? We were obliged to let the wanderers pass, as we also wanted to
cross the river, though in the opposite direction, and we should have
run a risk of the whole herd marching over us, had we got in their way.
We now rode down into the river; but, although so great a number of huge
animals had passed through it, the water was as clear and bright as if a
stone had never been stirred on its bottom. We watered our cattle, and
followed the path by which the buffaloes had found their way to this
ford, on the supposition that they had rendered it quite passable, and
that they had come from the southern prairies to which we were bound.

[Illustration: BUFFALOES CROSSING A RIVER. _p. 333._]

We had scaled the first hill, when we saw about two miles off a few
buffaloes trotting towards us, which had probably lagged behind, and now
wanted to catch up the herd. We rode about thirty yards off the path, to
a spot where we were covered by rocks and commanded the sloping path
down to the water. Ere long we heard the heavy trot of the approaching
animals on the stony ground, and presently several cows, and behind them
a fat old bull came past us. We all fired together, and the old bull
rolled over and over down the slope, and lay dead at the bottom. We took
as usual its tongue, marrowbones, and loins, and left the rest to those
that came after us.

We could not have found a finer road through these hills: broad and
trodden smooth, it wound along the crags, so that we were often able to
advance at a quick amble. It frequently ran over dizzy precipices,
whence we surveyed the pleasant valleys, whose dark shadow seemed to
invite us, while the hot sun and its reflection from the bare rocks over
which we were marching, was hardly rendered endurable by the fresh
breeze blowing up here. We crossed a number of small streams, which came
down from the western hills, and all flowed to the Platte, until at the
end of a week we again reached the latter river, at the point where a
large affluent, coming from the Bighorn, joined it. We appeared to be
here on the last slopes of the enormous mountains, over which the
snowpeak was visible in all its splendour as a farewell salutation. It
rose higher above its smaller comrades, and glistened like the purest
silver in the blue sky, while the edge of the mountains displayed no
snow, and seemed like a thin strip of fog above the nearer hills.
Eastward we noticed on the horizon of the extensive plains only low
ranges of hills, while to the north the Black Mountains raised their
mighty crests and a few snow-clad peaks.

We crossed this southern arm of the Platte, and camped on the other side
of it, in order to grant our cattle a few days' rest there, where the
most splendid grass and a cool thick wood covered its bank. The bright
streams offered us the most glorious fish, which can be almost selected
in these streams, as we see them swarm round the bait, and the latter
can be dropped before the fish you wish to catch. The neighbourhood of
our camp was enlivened by game of every description; on the slopes of
the neighbouring Black Mountains we found mountain sheep and
black-tailed stags; in the forests between them and the Platte the
majestic giant stag was preparing for the rutting season, and with
swollen neck whetting the numerous tines of its splendid antlers on the
trees. The prairies near us brought to us the elegant Virginian stag and
the swift, black-eyed antelope, while the buffalo incessantly passed in
all directions: not far from our camp we also found a warren of those
interesting little creatures, which are falsely called prairie dogs, as
they do not belong to this family, but to that of the badger.

We went out and shot some dozen of these dogs, as they afford a nice
dish for a change. They live in burrows under ground, which they throw
up like the rabbits, and a hundred of them are frequently found close
together. They are very shy, but easy to shoot, as, if you lie down for
a little while in the grass, they come out of their holes and give a
snapping cry, which has been falsely called barking by some naturalists.
They are badgers, about fifteen inches in length, which only live on
vegetables, carry a large winter stock into their subterranean houses,
and form very numerous families. They frequently quit a place without
any visible reason, and wander a long distance over hill and dale in
order to seek a new home.

Our horses and pack-cattle were recruited, and we too had recovered from
the fatigue of our journey over the last mountains; hence we set out
again, and casting many a parting glance at the Bighorn, we followed the
Platte in an eastern direction, till at noon we reached a well-trodden
path which runs from Fort St. Brain on the southern arm of this river
down to the Missouri. We crossed it, and proceeded more to the
south-west, in order to escape the numerous Indian hordes going up and
down this path. A few days after we crossed the hills we had seen from
our last camp, and the sky now rested before us on the interminable
horizon of the prairie.

For nearly a week we marched over this green plain with scarce any
change in the scene. It was, however, undulating, the flora in the grass
gay and varied, and a few trees afforded us shade and firewood morning
and evening to prepare our meals. At length hills rose on the horizon,
and we soon saw again the darker verdure of forests, which received us
into their shady gloom towards evening. In this tour we were so broiled
by the sun that we entered the wood with delight, and at once resolved
to rest a few days here, if, as we anticipated, there was water at hand.
We hurried along a buffalo path into the depths of the forest, and soon
heard to our delight the rustling of a neighbouring river, whose banks
we speedily reached, and it proved to be a rapidly flowing stream
overhung by tall ferns. Owl told us it was one of the numerous sources
of the Kansas, which runs eastward to the Missouri. "Here let us build
tabernacles," we cried in one voice, but followed the path across the
stream to the skirt of the wood, which was no great distance off. We
unloaded our cattle in a small clearing off our path, lit a fire, and
really built tabernacles, as we made a roof of bushes between several
young oaks, which kept off every sunbeam, and in whose immediate
vicinity were trees enough to tie up our cattle every night.

After a long ride over the open prairies of Western America the comfort
of a spot like this is very great and almost indescribable. The eyes are
refreshed by the rich green, after the continued view of the horizon,
which is rendered still more painful by the quivering sunshine of these
plains. The breeze under the trees is most refreshing, while on the
prairie it is dry and oppressively hot: we felt very jolly and
comfortable in our hut, roamed about the neighbourhood, which was very
rich in game; went along the streams and caught magnificent trout, or
destroyed colonies of bees and plundered their rich stores of honey. To
the south small prairies continually alternated with narrow patches of
wood, through which the streams that spring up in them run under cover
to join the Kansas.

After resting our cattle for some days, I went out one morning after
breakfast to hunt and have a nearer view of the country round. I rode in
a southern direction, followed by Trusty, and in going off, said to my
comrades that if I lost my way, I would follow the course of one of
these streams till it joined the river; then I would wait till they came
to me, in which they could not fail, as we knew that all these small
streams joined.

In a few hours I had crossed several of these streams, and had ridden
out of a wood into a small prairie glade, when suddenly a horse Indian
darted toward me with a furious yell from a thicket of tall oaks and
swung his bow over his head, while his long lance hung on his right arm.
It was too late to dismount and make use of my rifle. I quickly drew my
revolver, put Czar at a gallop, and flew towards the Indian, turning my
horse to the left, as he on his right side could make less use of his
bow than I could of my revolver. However, he soon perceived my object,
guided his chestnut to get on my left hand, and we galloped on in the
same direction some distance out of shot. Suddenly, however, he turned
and dashed toward me with his bow raised over the head of his rapid
steed. I too had urged Czar to his full speed, and when we were about
sixty yards apart, I fired. I had not expected to hit, still it was
possible, and I had five shots left in my weapon. The savage's horse
leaped on one side, stumbled and fell forward on its chest. A few blows
of the whip forced it to make a last effort, but it then sank lifeless
under its rider, who disappeared like lightning in the not very high
grass behind it.

At the moment when I saw his horse fall, I turned mine away and pulled
up about one hundred yards distant. The horse lay with its back turned
to me, and the Indian was concealed behind its belly. I took out my
telescope to try and get a better sight of my enemy, but it was of no
use, he had disappeared. All at once I saw an arrow shoot up behind the
horse and fly toward me in a large curve, but I easily pulled Czar out
of its way and it sank harmless by my side with its point in the grass.
While the Indian was firing the arrow I distinctly saw his hands holding
the bow projecting above the horse's belly. I leapt from Czar's back,
threw the bridle over his shoulder, and fired with my rifle at the
horse's back. I heard the thud of the bullet, but the savage did not
show himself. I reloaded both rifle and revolver and walked at the same
distance round the dead horse till I got to the side on which its
hind-quarters lay. I could now look under its belly and saw the Indian
creep under the animal's chest and roll himself up behind it in a ball:
still the surface by which he was hidden was now too small to cover him
entirely, and I could distinguish the upper part of his body. I fired
again and noticed a quick convulsive movement on the part of the foe,
but only at the moment of firing. I had recourse to my glass once more,
and saw that his head was now under the horse's chest, but his legs lay
behind its neck, and he was peeping at me between its forelegs. I
reloaded, and now having become much calmer, I aimed again at my mark; I
fired and at once saw the savage throw up his legs, then try to rise but
fall back again. I drew closer to him and watched him through the glass,
as he had got a little way from the horse. He did not stir and lay on
his back, but he was an Indian, and such a man a white man must not
trust even in death. I fired again and heard my bullet go home, but he
remained motionless. After reloading, I walked with cocked rifle nearer
and found that life had left him, and that he had my second bullet in
his right hip, the third in his head over the right ear, and the last in
his chest, while I found one bullet in the horse's chest and another in
its back. He was a man of about thirty years of age, tall and powerfully
built, of a very dark colour and with sharply marked features; his
remarkably long hair hung wildly round his head, with two eagle plumes
thrust into the topknot, while his neck was decorated with a necklace of
bears' claws, and his arms with brass rings. The lower part of his face
and the eyelids ruddled with vermilion, and his forehead and cheeks
painted black, gave him a terrific, uncomfortable aspect, which was
heightened by the dazzlingly white teeth visible between his drawn-back
lips. I only gazed for a few minutes at the corpse, took his bow and
quiver of arrows, hung them on my horse and speedily beat a retreat, as
the comrades of the dead man were certainly not far off, and might very
easily be on the road to the spot, guided by my shots. I rode back on my
trail and soon reached camp, when I told my friends what had happened.

Tiger was out hunting and not yet returned. I ordered a rapid start, had
the horses packed and everything ready to be off. We had scarce
completed our preparations when Tiger, bathed in perspiration, came back
along my track, and said he had heard my shots, followed their
direction, and found the Indian and his horse. He was a Pawnee, whose
tribe was certainly close at hand, and when his companions missed him
they would seek him and easily find us too, in which case we should run
a great danger, as they were brave men. He quickly packed his horse, and
in a few minutes we left camp. Tiger rode ahead into the stream, and we
followed him, riding singly down the water, which offered us no
obstacles beyond here and there a fallen tree, as it ran over pebbles,
was nowhere deep, and had flat banks. Evening arrived, and the sun was
already low on the western horizon. We marched almost constantly in the
stream till we found on its right bank a wide plain covered with
pebbles, when we turned off to the south at a right angle. We reached on
the other side of the plain a similar stream, which was also
overshadowed by trees, entered a thicket and dismounted to let our
horses graze without unsaddling them, and to await nightfall. The moon
was already up, and though her light did not brilliantly illumine the
country, it was sufficiently strong to enable us to distinguish objects
at a slight distance. We then left our hiding-place, marched out of the
thicket into the prairie, and urged our horses on at a quick pace.
Without interruption, we hurried on through the silence of the night,
which was only disturbed by the howling of the countless wolves and the
roar of the buffaloes we put up, until shortly before daybreak the moon
withdrew her light from us and the darkness did not allow us to advance.
We sat down on the damp grass round our cattle and waited till the first
new light appeared on the eastern horizon, then we remounted and hurried
on toward a distant strip of wood which rose before us on the prairie.
The sun was standing high in the heavens when we reached it and led our
wearied animals to a stream. Here we unsaddled and let them graze,
hobbled, in a small glade, while we prepared breakfast at a small fire.

We were very tired and after the meal could hardly keep awake. We posted
sentries in turn to watch the plain behind us, and kept lively by
smoking and telling stories. Our cattle wanted sleep more than grass,
and we were sorry at being obliged to saddle them after a short rest,
but Tiger and Owl insisted on our going on, as we were certainly pursued
by the Pawnees, and could only escape them by keeping the start we had
on them. It was hardly noon when we started again and spurred our horses
on toward the southern prairie. They only moved because they felt the
sharp steel in their sides, and we were obliged to lead the mules by
lassos and appoint a man to drive them, as they refused to follow. The
heat was oppressive, there was not a breath of air, and the plants on
the plain we crossed hung their leaves in exhaustion, an incessant
buzzing of the insects in the grass filled the motionless air, and a
trembling dazzling light lay on the wide expanse around us. The sweat
ran in streams from our cattle, and was mixed with the blood which the
countless musquitos sucked from their coat, so that under their belly
their colour could not be distinguished. But not noticing their
sufferings or fatigue, we urged them on and looked back at the distant
horizon to see whether our pursuers appeared on it, till the sun sank
and in the distance a wood rose, which crossed the prairie to the east
like a mist. Tiger said that we should be safe there; this was the wood
running along the Arkansas, and the horses of the Pawnees could not go
so far without a rest. The sun mercifully withdrew its beams, and the
moon's cool light showed us our road, when we expended the last strength
of our cattle and so reached the forest.

We had ridden for over fifty hours since yesterday morning, a greater
part of the distance without any path, through rather tall grass and
over stony soil. On the whole route we had been exposed to the burning
sun, and only once had been able to cool our fevered lips at a stream.
For our cattle, it is true, we had more frequently found water, though
only standing rain, which collects in large hollows on the prairie, but
at this season is more mud than water; at the same time it is almost
boiled by the sun, and if it can keep a man alive it does not refresh
him. We as well as our cattle were utterly exhausted to such a degree
that we would incur any danger for a few hours' rest. We rode into the
wood and followed a buffalo path, but had not ridden far when Tiger, who
was ahead, stopped, saying he had lost the path and could go no farther.
The foliage over us was so thick that only here and there the moon's
pale light stole through it, and only a few leaves and small spots on
the branches glistened like silver in the obscurity. We turned our
horses in all directions seeking the path, but after going a few yards
were continually stopped by the hanging creepers. Tiger now leapt from
his horse and sought in the darkness dry grass, which he twisted into a
torch and came to me to light it. It soon spread a light around, and
while I held it up Tiger collected a larger stock of dry grass and made
a thicker torch, which we lit, and soon found an issue from this
impenetrable thicket.

We soon reached a small arm of the Arkansas, on whose fresh, cool water
we and our cattle fell insanely. We now lit a fire, though there was no
grass for the cattle near at hand, as the small, open spot on the bank
of the rushing stream was surrounded by a dense wall of forest. At this
moment, however, rest was more necessary than food, and our cattle had
scarce been freed from their load when they all sank on the ground and
fell into a deep sleep; we did the same, and, after drinking several
draughts, fell back on our saddles and forgot that we still stood a risk
of being caught up by the Pawnees. We had collected our fire into a
small pile, so that it only coaled, and spread no light over the crests
of the tall trees, which might possibly have been noticed from the
prairie. We slept without moving a limb till the turkeys in our
neighbourhood awoke us, and, though Tiger and Owl protested most
strongly against it, we shot four of the birds, resolved to defend
ourselves to the best of our ability if the shots betrayed us to our
pursuers.

Tiger now mounted his piebald, rode through the river, and soon
disappeared in the forest on the other bank, where he sought pasture for
our cattle. In half an hour he returned and told us that between this
wood and the Arkansas there was a fine prairie, on which we should find
excellent grass for them. We followed him across the river and out of
the wood to a small glade, which was overshadowed by close-growing
trees. Here we camped and prepared breakfast, while our cattle greedily
browsed on the fresh, dewy grass. We rested here till the sun cast the
shadow of the forest far across the prairie; then we set out again and
rode to the Arkansas, which here rolls its foaming waters between low
banks. We reached the opposite forest and rode into its cool shade
before sunset, so that the last beams still lighted us as we marched
over the next prairie and hurried to a low scrub, from whose centre
several tremendously tall poplars rose and announced water near their
roots.

The sun had just set when we came to a stream running toward the
Arkansas, and covered on this side with bushes, while on the other the
most splendid grass hung over its crystalline waters. We watered our
cattle and then rode down stream on the other side, as the pasturage
seemed more luxuriant lower down. In a few minutes we reached a small
cascade, where the stream fell over rocks about ten feet, and below this
fall formed a deep basin, whose bottom was also composed of stone slabs,
and on one side was overhung by rock strata about twenty feet in height,
which covered a considerable space near the basin, whose bottom and
sides also consisted of bare stone. We camped on the top of this
overhanging ledge, as a number of medlar-trees grew there, to which we
could fasten our horses at night round the camp, and at the same time
the richest grass grew all around. We unsaddled, hobbled the horses in
the grass, lit a fire, and put the supper before it, and then went to
bathe in the basin under the rock. After we had cooled and refreshed
ourselves we supped and then prepared our resting-place; but John took
his weapons and skins and said he would sleep on the stream under the
crag, as it was much cooler and pleasanter there, and he should not feel
the heavy dew so much as in the grass. We wished him pleasant dreams and
shouted to him not to let himself be devoured by a bear.

We had fastened up our horses, and had fallen into a deep sleep, when
the sharp crack of a rifle aroused us, and we all leapt up, arms in
hand. At the same moment a second shot was fired below us on the water.
We were only a few yards from the edge of the crack, and on hurrying
there saw an enormous panther slowly walking among the low bushes on the
opposite bank, and looking over at us. We showered bullets upon it, and
induced it to hasten its pace till it disappeared like a shadow in the
mist. Now John ran up to us with his baggage, and told us he had
accidentally waked up. He fancied he heard a growling; rose on his arm,
and recognised the moonlit shape of a panther walking towards him
hesitatingly, with lashing tail, round the basin. He quickly seized his
rifle--fired one barrel at it, and gave it the second in the water, into
which it leapt. Providence had aroused him, for before we could have
hurried to his help from above the brute would probably have killed him,
and we might very easily have known nothing of it till we found our
comrade's lacerated body on the next morning. However, we soon forgot
this incident, and slept till dawn woke us and showed us the grass
around wet as if from a shower, while a thick fog brooded over the flat
country. We led our horses out to graze, put our breakfast to cook, and
then I went with John and Tiger, accompanied by Trusty, to the spot on
the opposite bank, where the panther had been standing when we fired at
it. We found here a quantity of hair, and soon after blood, which
increased with every step, and presently came to a spot where the jaguar
had halted and covered a large space with its blood. We went about a
hundred yards farther when Trusty stopped, looked round at me, and then
into the bushes with his tail erect. I called him to me, and crept
cautiously to the spot, when I saw the panther lying under the roots of
an old poplar, with its head turned towards me, and showing its teeth. I
shot it through the skull, and Owl took off its fine coat to prepare it
for John, who wished to preserve it in memory of the danger to which he
had been exposed during this night.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXVI.

THE COMANCHES.


Our route ran from here through the most pleasing and rich countries,
crossed by numerous streams running eastward. Generally this country had
the character of the prairie; it was undulating, and covered with fine
grass; the hills and woods on the streams gave it variety, so that the
wearied eye did not stray over interminable plains, seeking in vain for
a resting-place. Prairies alternated with coppices and patches of forest
oak, and here and there an isolated hill rose, which gave the country
greater diversity. The grass, though rather tall, was fresh and juicy,
and hence did not greatly impede our horses, while it rendered it easy
for us to stalk game, large quantities of which we found here. We had
been marching for nearly a month through this pleasant region to the
South, and had crossed the Red Arm as well as several other affluents of
the Arkansas, when one evening we reached the Saline. It was fringed
with forests, which were much thicker and richer than those farther to
the North, and offered us splendid wild plums as refreshment when we
rode through.

We crossed the river, and went through the wood on its south side, and
had just unsaddled our horses and picketed them in the prairie, when
suddenly several hundred horse Indians came round the nearest angle in
the wood, and halted a few yards from us, while we gazed at each other
in amazement. At the head of them rode a single Indian, with a smoking
piece of wood, who at the sight of us gave a piercing yell. We saw that
great excitement was produced in the ranks of the caravan, and that the
men collected in the fore ground, while the squaws and children hurried
to the rear, and hastily drew back the numerous pack animals. We, too,
ran at full speed to our horses, and were removing them to the bushes,
when Tiger shouted to me that they were Comanches. The name at once
tranquillized me, and I told him I believed they would do nothing
hostile to us when they heard my name. He went towards the savages, and
shouted my name to them, upon which they raised loud cries, and an old
man, on a large mule, trotted towards us, in whom I recognised my friend
Pahajuka. He was followed by his squaw, and both testified their joy at
seeing me. The whole band was now coming towards us, when Pahajuka
checked them in a loud voice and with commanding gestures. They turned
away, and disappeared again soon after round the angle of the wood. He
told me his people were impudent, and would rob us if he did not keep
them away, and for that reason he had ordered them to camp lower down
the river. Both the old folks dismounted, and sat down on their buffalo
robes, while Antonio lighted a fire before them. I sat down with them,
and gave them a couple of cigars. We prepared our supper, which my
savage friends shared and enjoyed, and the squaw gave full vent to her
eloquence. She told me they were going to the sources of the Puerco on
the western side of the Sacramento Mountains, where a great council of
all the Comanche tribes was about to be held. They invited me to go
there, but I declined, as in spite of the friendship of these two, I did
not care to trust myself among so many savages.

[Illustration: THE INDIAN CAMP. _p. 346._]

Gradually several men, with their squaws and children, crept up and
camped curiously round our fire. Their number quickly increased, more
and more of them crawled through the bushes and sat down around us, till
it appeared that the whole tribe was collected. They pressed round our
baggage, and I was obliged to call to Antonio and Königstein to keep a
sharp eye on it, as I saw they were beginning to examine it. Suddenly
old Pahajuka leapt up, and in a furious voice shouted some words we
did not understand to the intruders, upon which the whole band
disappeared again in the bushes, except a very pretty girl of about
sixteen, whom the chief introduced to me as his granddaughter. She was a
nice creature, gracefully formed, with a remarkably pretty head, from
which a great mass of glossy black hair floated loosely over her
shoulders. Her finely-chiselled, slightly aquiline, nose, her small
mouth with its pearly teeth, and the modest, shy glance of her large
black eyes, would have rendered her a perfect beauty had her skin been
white, but even with her dark complexion she was handsome, and her
appearance produced an extremely pleasant impression. The leathern
petticoat which hung from her hips was finished with considerable taste
and exquisitely painted; her finely-formed long neck was adorned by a
necklace of white beads, and on her plump, graceful arms she had a
number of polished brass rings. Her father, Pahajuka's son, so the old
squaw told us, was shot in a foray in Mexico, and the old people had
adopted her as their daughter. I was sorry that I had nothing with me to
make her a present of, but I promised her lots of pretty things if she
would visit me at home with the old folks, and the latter promised to do
so.

The moon was up, and my guests rose to mount their mules, in which I
assisted the squaw. I wished to accompany them to their camp. They rode
in front and I followed with their daughter Tahtoweja (Antelope) along
the skirt of the wood, and reached the camp not long after them, which
consisted of some forty large tents of white buffalo hides, which were
put up in two long rows and formed a wide street, on both sides of which
the fires were burning in front of the tents. Pahajuka dismounted in the
middle of this street, and his squaw was leading his horses away when I
reached the first tents with the young Indian girl, and the old chief's
thundering voice rolled along the camp, while he walked quickly up and
down the tents with the most animated gestures. My companion pulled me
back by the hand when I was going up to him, and led me aside behind
the first tent, where she sat down and peeped round it at him, while I
noticed that all the Indians had crept into their tents and only popped
their heads out. For half an hour the old fellow stormed up and down the
camp, during which time no other sound was heard, and not one of the
Indians ventured to come out of the tents. All at once he came up to me
as calmly and pleasantly as if he had not uttered an angry word, took me
by the hand, and led me to his fire, where I was obliged to sit down. He
told me he had been giving his people a reproof for the impudence with
which they had forced themselves into my camp, so that they might learn
how to behave with white friends. I remained with them a long while, and
listened to the animated, sensible stories of the old squaw, which were
at times interrupted by a reproving look from Pahajuka, when he fancied
she was more lively than propriety admitted, and that her remarks
slightly wandered from the literal truth; then, however, she bent over
him, laughingly pressed his head to her bosom, and patted him on the
back with her hand till he freed himself from her affection.

Tahtoweja too became more lively, took part in the conversation, and
laughingly supported the old lady in her amicable dispute with Pahajuka.
At the same time she became quite impatient when the interpreter did not
express her remarks quickly enough, and tried by signs and gestures to
make up for his omissions or incorrect rendering. Her language was quick
and fiery, her large eyes, in which the flame of our fire was mirrored,
flashed with the stream of her eloquence, and her little hands or
fingers sought to render her meaning clearer, and in all these movements
there was extraordinary power, decision, and grace. So soon, however, as
she ceased speaking, she sat motionless, looking down or attentively
listening to the remarks of her foster parents, while her dark eyes were
fixed on them. She sat slightly back from the fire, so that the outline
of her dark form was blended with the obscure background, and the small
fire only lit up her eyes and her beautiful teeth when speaking, by
which her appearance acquired a peculiar and mysterious charm.

It was late, and except our little party there was not an open eye in
camp. I got up, offered my hand to my hosts, wished them good night, and
when I put my hand to Tahtoweja she sprang up and laughing pointed in
the direction of my camp, that she would accompany me, and at the same
time gave the old squaw an inquiring glance. The latter nodded her
assent, adding that she would accompany me too, but her feet were no
longer so light as those of Antelope, and so the latter passed her
graceful arm through mine and walked with me along the forest through
the dewy grass. The distance was only a few hundred yards, and when we
turned round the angle of the wood our camp was blazing brightly, and
lit up my still waking comrades who were sitting round it smoking. Here
Tahtoweja stopped, pressed my hands kindly while wishing me good night,
and flew through the light mist back to her camp.

The next morning before daybreak Pahajuka with his squaw and pretty
daughter joined us. The latter ran up to me with the pleasantest morning
greeting, took the pipe from my mouth, and placing it between her cherry
lips, sat down among tiger skins by the fire, making me a sign to do the
same. We prepared as good a breakfast as our means allowed in honour of
our guests, served up the last of our biscuit and handed round
afterwards some Madeira which I owed to the kindness of Lord S----.
After our friends had enjoyed themselves thoroughly, they returned to
their camp to prepare for a start, for, as Pahajuka told me, they wished
on this day to reach the northern arm of Canadian River, between which
and the stream on which we now were, no water was to be found. I went
across with them to see the large tents loaded, while my comrades packed
our animals, for, as our road ran in the same direction. I wished to
accompany our savage friends. When we arrived in camp we found perfect
quietude there, the various families were lying round the fires in front
of the tents engaged in breakfasting, while the children were amusing
themselves in the long tent street with shooting arrows, throwing
stones, wrestling, and running races, in which they were observed,
praised or blamed by their parents. Pahajuka stopped at the first tent
and shouted a few words I did not understand, upon hearing which all the
squaws hurriedly rose and set to work striking the large tents. The
latter are about fourteen feet high, pointed at the top, and some twenty
feet in diameter on the ground. There are openings above on the sides
which can be pulled open in the direction of the wind to let the smoke
out when the weather is cold and the fire is lit in the middle of the
tent. The buffalo hides of which the tents are composed are tanned
white, and adorned inside and out with paintings. They are very thickly
sewn so that no rain can penetrate, and in winter when the fire is
burning the interior is very warm and cozy.

In a quarter of an hour all the tents had disappeared, and at the spot
where they had stood lay bundles bound with straps. The squaws came up
with the horses and mules, hung on each side of them a very long tent
pole which was allowed to trail behind, and a few feet from the end
fastened cross bars, on which they placed the tents, buffalo hides,
cooking utensils, and all their traps, and then seated either themselves
or their children atop, while others mounted horses or mules, and took
two or three or even four children up with them. While the girls and
squaws were performing this operation the warriors lay smoking round the
fire, and only rose when their horses and weapons were brought to them.
In less than half an hour everything was ready for a start, and one of
the Indians took some firebrands of musquito wood, which keeps alight
for a very long time, and rode ahead of the party southward, while I,
accompanied by Pahajuka, his squaw, and Tahtoweja, returned to my camp
and mounted Czar, and we then followed the Indians.

It was a glorious day: the sharp breeze rendered the heat endurable,
while clouds every now and then obscured the sun. We rode sharply on
without a check, as the distance to the appointed camping-place was over
sixty miles. Still our horses did not object to it, as we followed the
track of the Indians, and their numerous cattle formed a smooth road,
and they often made the last ride at the head of the file, so as not to
fatigue individual horses too much. Our road ran over an open prairie,
and the sky line soon formed the horizon. The grass around us glittered
in the darkest green, which in the distance grew lighter and lighter,
till at the extreme point of sight it melted away into the blue colour
of the sky. Flowers of the most varied hues sprang up out of the rich
verdure, and for a long distance dyed various spots on the prairie with
their prevailing colour. Pahajuka and his squaw trotted in front of us
on their capital mules, while Tahtoweja kept her stag-like little pony
at an amble by my side, and took all possible trouble to keep up a
conversation with me by means of signs. On her saddle lay several folded
hides, on which she sat like a cushion, and her little feet were thrust
into wooden stirrups on either side of her horse's neck. She frequently
swung her small, graceful leather-woven whip over her horse's head, and
spoke to it in her sweet voice, while pulling up its head with the
bridle.

Without resting we rode the whole day, and had only now and then
opportunity to water our horses at standing pools, till the sun sank
beneath the western prairie, and we could scarce recognise to the south
the blue outline of the woods on Canadian River. Darkness very rapidly
spread over the plain around us, while the sky was still red over the
departed sun, and in the east a pale yellow patch on the horizon
announced the rising moon. Our horses had fallen into a swinging walk,
when the new light appeared above the prairie and rose like a glowing
ball above us, while the clouds were gradually lit up by its silvery
light. A fiery shower of fire-flies glistened over the extensive plain,
and in front of us lightning flashes in the distant southern heavens
every now and then displayed to us the dark contour of the forest which
we were approaching. It was not far from ten o'clock when we unloaded
our wearied animals on the skirt of the forest near the long-looked for
river, and camped close to our savage friends. After supper no long time
was granted to conversation, for each soon sought his bed to rest after
the exertions of the ride. The next morning Pahajuka, his squaw, and
daughter, again shared our breakfast, and then prepared to go on, while
we resolved to rest for the day. The two old people were very sorry at
being obliged to leave us, but promised, without fail, to come to my
house after the great council on Puerco River and remain some time.
Tahtoweja tried by laughing to hide the tears which glistened in her
long lashes as I helped her on her pony and bade her good-bye. She gave
me a small leathern pocket very artistically worked in beads which hung
from her belt, while she was unable for her sobs to utter the words she
wished to say. She pointed to my eyes, then to the parcel in my hand,
laid her little hand on her heart, and said--Tahtoweja. Once again she
offered me her hand, and then hastened to join her grandparents, who
were already leading the file behind the fire-bearer.

Carrying fire from one camp to the other appears to be a custom peculiar
to most of the savage tribes in this country. They halt on the last
elevation, whence they can look back at the deserted spot, lay a still
smoking brand on the ground, wave a farewell across, and then try, by
swinging and blowing the brand, to keep it alight as long as possible:
on a long ride they naturally do not bring it burning into the new camp.

We halted this day on the northern Canadian River in order to rest our
cattle, which had the most splendid pasture here, and the next morning
marched south again. Toward evening we reached a spring which ran out of
a low range of hills. Here we found a pleasant camping spot, and
followed the course of this stream on the following day to the Southern
Canadian River, on whose bank we unsaddled, after crossing it with much
difficulty. From this point we altered our course, as we went up stream,
in order to reach its springs, the southernmost of which well up in the
Sacramento Mountains, at the point where the latter form a low pass
which separates them from the mountain chain which runs parallel with
the Puerco river, in nearly a southern direction, to the San Saba
Mountains, and form an extensive rich valley between themselves and the
former river. On the western side of the Puerco, between it and the Rio
Grande, with which it also runs parallel, again rise large ranges,
forming beautiful valleys toward both rivers, until the former river
falls into the Rio Grande at the western end of the San Saba Mountains.
All these rich regions on both sides of the Puerco as far as the Rio
Grande and the western settlements in Texas, the Comanches and
Mescaleros regard as their property, and only tolerate there a few of
the civilized tribes, such as the Delawares, Kickapoos, &c., because
they fear them, and do not care to be engaged in war with them.

This district is indubitably by far the finest in the whole of the
States, as regards richness of soil and climate, as here tropical and
northern vegetation are blended. The banana, the cocoa-nut, the orange,
the plum, the apple, and the cherry flourish, and vines spread over all
the woods: the soil in the valleys is extraordinarily rich and
productive during the whole year. The pasturage is incomparable, and
cannot be equalled in the whole world: it is covered with the splendid
musquito grass, which remains green and juicy in winter as in summer,
and sooner or later these valleys will support as many domestic animals
instead of the countless herds of wild creatures now living there. The
climate is magnificent; the great summer heat is rendered endurable by
the cooling winds from the Gulf of Mexico, while the winter has no long
lasting rain, and a very slight frost is only felt rarely, just before
daybreak. There is no visible cause for diseases, as there are no
swamps, and the forests as well as the prairies consist of undulating
land, from which the water left by heavy showers or inundations of the
rivers quickly recedes. The region is abundantly traversed by the
clearest streams, which well up in the neighbouring granite mountains,
and through their remarkably rapid fall render it an easy task to
irrigate the surrounding land should ever a drought occur. The great
variety of plains, hills, mountains, and the most luxuriant vegetation
in the virgin forests as well as on the plains, impart to these regions
remarkable picturesque attractions which are heightened by the
transparency of the atmosphere, the dark blue sky, and the peculiar
light effects.

Our road now ran along the south side of the Canadian River to the west,
and in a few days the Sacramento Mountains rose before us. We reached an
affluent of this river, on which some miles farther up the iron stone
was said to lie with which Tiger told us the god of hunting had killed a
Weico. As it would not take us very far out of our course if we rode to
it, I requested Tiger to lead us to it. Before sunset we reached a
prairie, round which the little wooded stream ran in a semicircle, and
saw in the centre of it the stone rising about three feet out of the
short grass. It was a meteorite of enormous size; its circumference on
the plane measured twelve feet, and it did not rest on rock; it must
have sunk a great distance into the ground, although the latter is
excessively hard on the prairie. It had considerable magnetic power, was
of a dark rust colour, and so hard that it cost us great difficulty to
knock off a few splinters with the back of our axes. It is certainly the
largest stone of this sort in existence--at least the largest I know are
much smaller, and it would repay the trouble and expense to fetch it
from this desert and convey it to some museum.

We slept here for the night, and had to hear several times the story of
the Weico who was slain with this stone. The next morning we left the
river, marching westward along the mountains, and camped again on the
banks of Canadian River. For about a week we followed this course, to
the spurs of the Sacramento Mountains, where we left the river, and went
along the former to the south, until in a fortnight we reached the
sources of the Red River, which flow from the eastern slopes of these
mountains. We rode up them to their source among the granite rocks,
where we found at a considerable height a splendid camping place, on
which we found the remains of several Indian camps, made by foot
Indians, who do not carry large tents with them. They consisted of long
thin sticks, four or six of which were crossed and had both ends stuck
in the ground; over these sticks they hang skins, and thus obtain a
decent shelter against rain and cold. A much-trodden path led on the
north side of this stream to the camp, and from here ran up to the
saddle of the hill, and thence, as Owl and Tiger told us, down it to the
south, over the San Saba range, to the sources of the Rio de las Mires,
which stream falls into the Gulf of Mexico at Corpus Christi. This is
one of the oldest connecting paths of the Indians between the northern
lands of the Rocky Mountains and the Gulf, and proves by the depth it is
worn in the rock that it has been used since the earliest period by
these wanderers as well as the four-footed denizens of the desert.

The springs at which we camped welled up under immense granite crags,
which rose in terraces, and formed in front of them a small basin in
which they collected and flowed in a rivulet through the plain on which
our cattle were grazing, and thence to the wide prairies which we had
recently crossed. Around us lay large masses of rock, which had probably
fallen from the heights, between which the path wound upwards. On the
east we gazed at the immense plains through which Canadian River marked
its course by the rich woods that overshadowed it, and at our feet we
looked into savage gorges, from which here and there small patches of
grass and scrub peeped out, and a few enormous cypresses raised their
gigantic branches, inviting the wanderer in these deserts to enjoy a
fresh draught in their shade, as these noble trees only flourish in the
vicinity of water.

Day had scarce broken on the next morning, when we prepared breakfast,
and the sun had not risen over the eastern horizon, and the valleys were
still covered with mist, when we were already mounted and going up the
path, to take advantage of the cool of the morning, as during the day we
might calculate on great heat upon these barren rocks. The morning was
splendid. The fresh, cool mountain breeze refreshed us, and every plant,
every blade of grass between the rocks seemed to enjoy the treat. We had
ascended a considerable height when the sun spread its beams over the
earth. Our path ascended from hill to hill, till at about ten o'clock we
reached a barren table-land, which in some parts was broad and others
narrow, and overshadowed by crags. The landscape on either side of us
was remarkably fine, and frequently the crags in our immediate vicinity
offered very pretty pictures. When we drew near the western slopes, we
looked down into luxuriant valleys on both sides of the Puerco, as far
as the hilly range which divided that river from the Rio Grande, or a
distance of from 150 to 200 miles. Farther south, in the valley on this
side of the river, was an isolated mountain, whose peak ascended to the
clouds, and which the Indians called the Guadaloupe Mountain. When our
road ran nearer the eastern slopes, or the plateau along which we were
riding became narrower, our eyes rested on the rich grasslands to the
south of the river in the vicinity of the Salt Lake we had passed on our
journey, as well as on the numerous streams which spring up on the
eastern side of our mountains, and flow, some to the Brazos, others to
the Colorado. It was now very hot, however, in spite of the violent
breeze; but a rest without any shade could not refresh us. The stony
strata along which we rode, and which at times were deeply trodden in,
reflected the sunbeams and rendered the heat almost unendurable; our
animals dripped with perspiration, and trotted on with hanging heads, as
if anxious to get away from this glowing surface. Nowhere, however, did
we see a spot to receive us in its shade, as the sun was vertical, and
the few lofty rocks we passed cast no shadow. No path ran on either side
downwards, which might afford us hopes of reaching water, and the few
cypresses which indicated it to us were too far down in the bottoms for
us to attempt to get to them. Our cattle became more and more tired, and
at last hardly able to move, when the sun had sunk a long way on the
western horizon. We halted several times in the shadow of large rocks to
let our cattle breathe, and gave them the juicy pear-shaped fruit of the
cactus, which grew here abundantly, and they eagerly devoured it. My
comrades also ate them contrary to my advice, and several of them became
very unwell in consequence. Such a rest could not do us much good, and
so we continually urged our horses on, till after passing about sunset
between tremendous crags, we found a broad path, which soon wound down
the eastern slope, when about a mile farther on we saw a copse of low
cypresses. With great delight we accepted their invitation, and followed
the path which ran into a small glen, where we found good grass and
splendid spring-water.

Here, too, we found the traces of several Indian camps, some of which
seemed to be quite recent. The few halting-places in the vicinity of
this mountain path are well known to the savages who go over these
mountains, and are used by them like hotels by travellers in the
civilized world. We kept up a large fire during the night, as we here
heard for the first time the howls of the jaguars rising from the valley
to us, so soon as darkness lay over the earth. We allowed our cattle to
graze till far into the night, when they lay down, and we brought them
near our fire and slept quietly till dawn.

The sun had scarce risen, when we left this spot and hastened back to
the road across the ridge. Our cattle walked quickly along the path in
the cool morning breeze, and at about nine o'clock Guadaloupe hills lay
to the north-west, while the western mountains on the opposite side of
the Puerco opened, and allowed us a view through a broad pass of the Rio
Grande and Paso del Norté. This is the only easily accessible pass
through the Cordilleras, through which, too, ere many years elapse, the
locomotive will snort from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Between this
pass and the mountains on which we were standing, stretched out the rich
green valleys on both sides of the Puerco, and through it we saw in the
extreme distance the blue contour of the mountain ranges beyond the Rio
Grande. Though it was so grand up here, we longed to be down below on
the banks of the Puerco, and resolved to seize the first opportunity of
descending afforded us by a direct path. During the whole day, however,
we only found indistinct traces where buffaloes had descended the
western slopes, till at about four P.M. we found a very practicable
path, which crossed ours from east to west, and which we went down. It
was at places so steep that we were obliged to lead our horses, and the
latter slipped down on their hind-quarters after us: then again it wound
round crags, past precipices, and between isolated peaks, up hill and
down, until about sunset we reached, greatly fatigued, a rivulet, upon
which our cattle greedily fell. The path ran down from the spring, and
we followed it for about half an hour, till about nightfall we reached a
small leafy coppice, in which we camped. Tiger and Owl were of opinion
that the path led down to the valley, as it ran past the springs, and
because a path corresponding with it had run down the eastern side of
the mountains.

The next morning we ate our last meat at a very early breakfast, and
Tiger saddled his horse to make certain whither the path ran, and also
to try and shoot a deer or an antelope, of which there were large
numbers on these mountains. During this time we wished to let our cattle
graze and recover, as they greatly needed rest; and in the event of our
being obliged to ride back to the ridge, we wished to halt here till the
next day. The sun had just risen when Tiger left us. We lay in the shade
of the closely-growing elms and poplars, and were drinking coffee at
noon, as Tiger had not yet returned, when we suddenly heard the
footsteps of a horse beneath us, and directly after saw the piebald come
round the precipice. Our surprise was great, however, on seeing that the
horse's handsome white seemed dyed quite red on the neck and breast, and
Tiger too, when he drew nearer, was quite bloody. I hurried toward him,
and saw, to my terror, that he had serious wounds on his left shoulder,
and that the blood covered his arm and the whole of his left side. I
took his rifle, helped him off his horse, and went back with him into
the shade of the elms, while Antonio looked after the piebald. Tiger now
told us he had been riding about three miles down the stream through a
small coppice when suddenly an immense jaguar leapt at his horse's neck,
but at the same instant he buried his hunting-knife between the beast's
ribs. At this moment he slipped off his terrified rearing horse--the
jaguar buried its claws in his right shoulder, while he dealt it several
stabs, and it then fell dead. The piebald bolted down the stream as fast
as his legs would carry him over the stones, and Tiger believed that he
should never see him again when he noticed him on a bleak crag: he
shouted to him from a distance, and the faithful creature at once
hurried up to him. He then washed his own and the horse's wounds, and
returned to us, suffering great pain. He had four wounds on his
shoulder, close together, as if cut with a knife, and which ran about
four inches down his arm. The foremost was so deep that I was obliged to
sew it up. I bandaged him as well as I could, laid all the rags we
possessed in a moist state on the wound, and made him moisten them
pretty frequently in the neighbouring stream. Then I examined the poor
piebald, who had on his back four deep wounds from the jaguar's fangs,
and several injuries on the neck from the claws; still none appeared
dangerous, and though the throat swelled considerably, constant washing
soon produced an alleviation.

Owl now went up the hills in search of game, while I proceeded down the
stream with Antonio and Königstein to fetch the jaguar's hide. We
reached the scene of action, where the jaguar lay outstretched on the
bank, and the ground was trampled by the horse's hoofs; the animal had
five knife stabs near the heart, and the earth and grass around were
dyed with its blood, while we were able to follow the blood-stained
track of Tiger and the piebald down the stream. My two comrades at once
set to work removing the splendid skin, while I followed the path for
the purpose of procuring meat.

I had gone some distance without getting within shot, though I
frequently saw game, and the low position of the sun warned me to
commence my return to camp, I was following a small affluent of the
stream, which came down from the hills a little more to the south, in
order not to return by the same road I had come, when I suddenly heard
about half a mile off a roar that exactly resembled that of a lion. I
ran in the direction whence the sound came, and soon saw on the bank of
the stream two giant stags engaged in a most furious contest and
surrounded by a herd of does, and further on some large stags on the
watch, I ran up within forty yards of them unnoticed, while with their
huge antlers intertwined they butted each other, and frequently sank on
their knees. I shot the largest, which fell, and its enemy at once
buried its tines in the flanks of its overpowered foe, not suspecting
that the same rifle which had slain its opponent still held a deadly
bullet in readiness. I could easily have killed it, but preferred a
fawn, which was standing no great distance off, and killed it. I now got
up behind the rocks to reload, and the startled herd darted off to the
mountains. I went up to the stag, which had two-and-twenty tines, and
was very plump; after which I hurried to reach camp before it grew dark,
and met Owl, who had shot nothing. As we had nothing left to eat, we at
once started with Jack to fetch in the game, taking some firebrands of
pine-wood as torches. The night was dark, but the torchlight illumined
all the objects around the more distinctly in consequence. Antonio
walked in front, I followed with Trusty, and Königstein, with Jack,
formed the rear. We soon reached the stags, and loaded Jack with a large
supply of meat, with which we arrived in camp about ten o'clock. Our
hunger was great, as we had eaten nothing since morning, and we sat till
a late hour round the fire turning our spits. Tiger was much better; the
pain was reduced, and the swelling of the wounds was slight. The next
morning, however, as the bandages had not been wetted during his sleep,
his arm was very stiff, while the pain was greater, and hence I resolved
to stop where we were at least for the day.

It was scarce daylight when I took my weapons and went to pay another
visit to the rutting stags, John accompanying me. The morning was cool,
and the dew lay in heavy pearls on grass and stones, the valleys below
us were still veiled in mist, and large white clouds hung on the
hill-sides. We reached the spot where I had shot the stags, and heard
thence the roars of the animals echoing through the valleys. They were
standing, however, rather higher up the stream, as they probably
remembered my last night's visit. We pressed through the tall ferns,
from which the dew dripped upon us like rain, and reached a plateau that
hung over a dizzy precipice. Here stood the game, and nearest to us an
old stag, which had its proud antlers thrown back, its thick swollen
neck outstretched, and was roaring furiously. All around the other stags
responded from the hills, and we listened for a long time to the concert
of these jealous lovers ere we thought of hunting them. As it was the
first giant stag John had had a chance of firing at, I readily granted
him the first shot, and allowed him to stalk the stag. The majestic
animal, hit by my comrade's deadly bullet, fell on its knee in the midst
of a roar, raised its head once or twice, and then fell lifeless on the
scanty grass that covered the rock. John could not master his delight,
and ran up to the stag, by doing which he put an end to our sport here
for this morning, as all the deer flew at the sight of him. The stag had
six-and-twenty tines, and a pair of colossal antlers, whose ends were
like shovels. We broke it up, threw the paunch over the precipice, and
hoisted John's white handkerchief near it in order to keep beasts of
prey aloof.

It was still very early, the first sunbeams were just illumining the
highest points of the steep precipice on the opposite side of the abyss
on which we were standing, and the cool breeze was too refreshing for us
to think of hurrying back to camp. We followed the plateau therefore,
from which the opposite one continually retired, until the gorge widened
into a rocky glen, from which colossal masses of stone rose in wild
confusion. Far down the valley, at the point where it trended to the
east, round the opposite hill side, we distinctly noticed a path which
ran along the base of the mountains, and was probably the continuation
of the one on which we were camped. As we still heard numerous stags
roaring we advanced till we were able to look down into the valley on
the east, and follow our path for a long distance through it. We stopped
to gaze at the wondrous forms of the mountains. I took out my telescope,
looked at the path, and saw a long way off dark forms moving among the
rocks, which I soon discovered to be a large party of horse Indians. No
doubt but the path they were marching along was ours, and they would be
in our camp in less than an hour, while we had a good half hour's walk
to it. We therefore turned and hurried at full speed to join our
friends.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXVII.

HOME AGAIN.


Tiger advised us to saddle at once, while he and Owl carefully removed
everything that could betray our recent presence here. All the logs were
carried into the stream in a deer hide, the horse excreta and scraps of
food hidden in the neighbouring bushes, and after giving our camp the
appearance as if its occupants had left it some days previously, we led
our horses over the firm stones down to the stream where I had shot the
stag on the previous evening, and then along it till we could survey our
path from a distance of about two miles from camp. Here we led our
cattle into a coppice where they were hidden from the Indians by the
bushes and rocks. Ere long the latter marched up the path. Tiger
recognised them as Apaches who were probably on the road to the eastern
trading ports of the United States, as they had their squaws and
children and large bales of hides with them. We let them pass in peace.
We then rode down the stream to the path and put our horses at a sharp
amble in the direction from which the Indians had just arrived. The path
led us round many blocks of granite into the glen, down into which we
had gazed that morning while stag hunting. John looked up at the
overhanging crag, on which his stag and pocket-handkerchief were, but
could not see it from here, and only regretted that he could not take
the antlers with him as a memento. He spoke about it several times, and
said he would willingly give ten dollars to have them. On this Owl rode
up to him and said he would procure them for him by the evening, after
which he turned off into the rocks. He shouted something to Tiger that
we did not understand and disappeared, while we soon reached the spot
where the valley turned to the east. On both sides of it rose the barren
mountains, and only an isolated yucca or mimosa grew out of the
crevices. The valley itself, here about two miles in width, was covered
with loose stones, and only from time to time did we notice on the
stream that wound through it a small clump of trees or patch of grass.
In spite of the great heat we hurried on till the sun was rather low,
and the mountain wall that closed the extremity of the valley cast a
long shadow into it. From here it trended to the south-west. The crags
that enclosed it sank, and we looked down into the valleys of the Puerco
River, between which and us lay smaller hills and mounds frequently
covered with forest. When the sun sank behind the southern pillar of the
mountain gate in front of Paso del Norté, the Diablo Mountains, we
unpacked at the first wood we reached after leaving the glen, and camped
on the bank of the stream which we had followed nearly all through it.
It was one of the numerous exquisite points we had found during our
tour, and the wonderful evening light did much to heighten its beauty.

We had lit our fire under the dark foliage of the oaks and thus
illumined the surrounding scenery, when Trusty rose from my side, walked
a few paces toward the pass and began growling. I called him to me
coaxingly and bad him lie down by my side, and at this moment we heard
the sound of a horse rapidly approaching us from the valley. We knew it
was Owl, but for all that every one seized his rifle and awaited the
arrival. Our friend soon rode up to the fire, took the enormous antlers
with the entire head of the stag off his horse, silently laid them and
the handkerchief before John, led his horse into the grass, and lay down
on his buffalo robe near the fire without saying a word. I asked him
whether he had seen anything of Indians, upon which he stated that he
had left his horse in the glen and gone up alone to the stag: after
cutting off its head and taking the handkerchief he went to our camping
place and ascended the nearest hill whence he could have an outlook.
The whole party of Indians were quietly camping on the spot, and at
least a dozen columns of smoke were rising from it.

We cut the antlers off the head and put them with the skull bone to dry
at the fire, and then got supper ready, while Owl turned the stag's
tongue on a spit. In the morning the familiar notes of awakening turkeys
aroused us again once more. After a long time we cheerily seized our
rifles and hurried down the stream toward them to the spot where large
peccan-nut trees enthralled them by the rich crop of nuts. We behaved
most unmercifully to these dainty birds, and when we returned to camp
had a perfect hill of them lying before us. We set to work roasting and
frying, in which we were greatly aided by the extraordinary quantity of
delicate fat which these birds have in autumn. The remaining turkeys
were cleaned, rubbed with salt, and wild pepper, which is very common in
the woods at this season, and packed on the mules; we then continued our
journey down through the hills to the long looked for valley of the
Puerco.

Our road was very fatiguing, and we were frequently obliged to dismount
and lead our horses down the steep slopes; at the same time the path was
covered with small sharp stones, which rendered going down hill still
more wearisome to the cattle, and it often ran over loose blocks of
stone, where they ran a great risk of breaking their legs. Still all
went well, and toward evening we rode out between the last hills into
the fresh verdure of the Puerco valley, and camped on the stream whose
course we had been following for some days, and which here ran as a
small river to the Puerco. We preferred riding down the valley along the
hills, in order to keep out of the way of the wandering Indians who
generally marched up and down the river, and whose number was large,
especially now, as all the tribes of the Comanches and their relatives
were _en route_ for the great council at the sources of this river.
Then, again, we could calculate on finding more game on this side of the
extensive valley, and had only one disadvantage, that we must at times
go without water. Nature everywhere showed us that we were approaching
home: the prairie was again ornamented with the gorgeous flora which had
so often delighted us there; the sky above us was darker, and, in the
distance, more hazy than in the north, and a warmer life seemed to be
stirring in everything. Still the vegetation, especially that of the
woods, did not bear the peculiar southern character which is so striking
at our home. We started very early, rode till far into the evening, and
rested, when we could manage it, at noon in some shadow, for the heat
was most oppressive from eleven till three. Moreover, we were in the
moon's first quarter, which lighted us a little when the sunshine had
departed, and enabled us to employ the cool of the evening on these
smooth plains in pushing on.

We marched, thus without halting for about a week along the hills,
during which the mountain chains on the west of the Puerco constantly
drew nearer to us and contracted the valley. We had followed our course
one whole morning without finding water, till about two o'clock p.m.,
when the heat became unendurable, and we looked out ahead for some
shadow in which we could rest for a few hours. At length we caught sight
of a clump of trees, and to our indescribable joy we saw distinctly that
they were poplars which retained their fresh foliage, an infallible sign
that there was water near; for such trees often stand in pools, and when
the water dries up their leaves turn yellow and fall off. We urged our
cattle on in order to reach the trees as speedily as possible, for now
that we might expect shadow, and probably water, we felt the sun's heat
doubly. On these plains objects are seen so clearly and distinctly for
incredible distances, that you often deceive yourself, and such was the
case with these poplars; we constantly believed that we must reach them
in a quarter of an hour, and yet hours passed ere we really arrived. We
hastened into the thick shade of the old trees, and I can scarce
describe the cheerful feeling that possessed us all on seeing close to
them, instead of a pool of muddy slime, two ponds of the clearest,
freshest spring water, one of which the poplars overshadowed with their
long branches. The cattle were quickly unloaded, and rolling themselves
on the grass they dried their wet backs, while we, reclining on the
turf, inhaled the cooler air. The pools, like the mountain-springs near
my house, had no visible connexion with any other water, but for all
that retained their freshness, though almost constantly exposed to the
burning sun.

We lay without stirring, so as to avoid any movement which might have
impeded our rapid cooling: not a breath of air stirred, the
easily-agitated leaves of the poplars hung motionless from the long
stalks, while over the water lay that quivering dazzling glow which
announces the highest degree of heat. The insect world alone seemed to
revel in this heat, and filled the air with an uninterrupted monotonous
buzz, like that which a patient hears in his fever dreams. Near me there
rose from the roots of an old poplar a chameleon, which probably found
it too warm. This wondrous lizard glistened and sparkled with a thousand
hues, puffed up the large orange-coloured bladder under its chin, and
displayed every tint, as if illumined by a variegated light in its
inside: it sat motionless, with widely-opened mouth, fixing its large
golden eyes on me, as if asking whether I would leave it the cool spot
it so enjoyed? I lay with my head on the roots of a poplar quite still,
so as to be able to gaze at the beautiful creature for as long a time as
possible; then my eyes turned from it to the ponds whose surface
dazzlingly reflected the sunlight, but quickly returned to the blessed
shade which we and our cattle were enjoying.

I accidentally looked again toward the sparkling water and noticed a
trunk of a tree in the middle of it, which I had not seen a few moments
previously. What could have raised it from the bottom of the pond to the
surface? I sat up a little and saw a second and a third emerge by its
side: I did not stir, but continued to gaze, and in ten minutes the
pools were covered with old wood. I cried in a low voice to Tiger to
look, but he had scarce done so ere he laughed, and said they were
alligators enjoying the sunshine. The surface of both pools was
literally covered with these monsters, mostly of a large size. I cried
to my comrades to take their rifles, quietly aim at their heads, and
fire when I gave the signal. I did so; our guns exploded simultaneously,
and the water spirted up furiously, and bedewed the grass for a long way
round. Only two of the monsters remained in sight, shooting backwards
and forwards in the water, and beating their tails so furiously that the
spray dashed over us. At this moment Antonio came up with a lasso, and
in an instant threw the noose over one of the furious creatures. We all
ran with the end of the rope over the grass, and dragged the alligator
on land, when it snapped savagely around with its fearful jaws, and
lashed its tail. We now set to work with pistols, and ere long its head
had so many holes in it that it could not move its dangerous jaws. Its
comrade was still swimming quietly on the top of the water, so we
fetched it out too on to the grass, when it behaved as furiously as the
first, but we soon put an end to its fun. They were two gigantic
animals, nearly sixteen feet long, and their throats were armed with
rows of terrible teeth, some of which we all took as a memento.

It is a riddle to me how the creatures got here, for the nearest stream
was many miles away, while they never quit the banks of the water in
which they live, and are as awkward as tortoises ashore, so that a land
journey was impossible. But even assuming that one of the creatures had
strayed and reached this spot after a long wandering, it could not be
assumed that hundreds of them had emigrated together to a spot so
distant from their element. Another question presented itself which was
more easy to answer, however, and which was settled before our
departure--on what such large creatures lived here? They were supplied
by the unfortunate inhabitants of this country, who came many miles to
this spot in order to quench their burning thirst at these glorious
springs, and strengthen their wearied limbs, during which they were
dragged under by the watchful monsters, and torn to pieces by thousands
of teeth. I am convinced that even a buffalo, in spite of its gigantic
strength, would be overpowered and killed by these monsters, if,
fatigued by a long journey over the prairie, it ran into their ponds to
cool itself.

The sun was near the hills, we had satisfied our hunger with turkey
breasts and venison, and were ready to leave this pleasant spot, when
Königstein slit up an alligator with his hunting knife and drew out of
the belly of one some deer feet, and then out of the other the leg of a
turkey. We would gladly have extirpated the whole nest of disgusting
monsters, but not one of them was now visible, and the evening sun
played as cheerily on the surface of the water, as if no horrors and
dangers were concealed beneath it. We watered our horses once again and
then trotted on in order to cover a good bit of ground, for the nearer
we got to our home, the greater grew our longing for it and all the
friends whom we had left there.

We continued our journey for about a week, and crossed a number of small
streams, which ran into the Puerco, till one noon we reached another
rivulet, on whose shady bank we resolved to rest. From this point we
surveyed in the south a large forest which ran across our road from the
eastern mountains to the Puerco, while we saw above it distant ranges of
mountains running in the same direction, which we saluted as the San
Saba Mountains. These were the only ranges that separated us from home,
and full of desire of them as old friends, we saddled toward evening,
and at midnight entered the forest, which we had seen before us ever
since our midday halt. The moon had hitherto distinctly shown us the
buffalo paths, but here her rule was at an end, and only now and then
did a ray fall through the lofty masses of foliage which now roofed us
over. We stopped on a very trampled path, which we could not follow,
however, through the forest, for even if our cattle kept the road, the
creepers hanging over it rendered our progress difficult. Our cattle
were very thirsty, and as we had no doubt of finding water in the forest
depths, we resolved to try and reach it. We dismounted, gathered dry
grass, out of which Owl and Tiger twisted torches, one of which we lit,
and then pressed on, leading our horses. We had not gone more than one
hundred yards into the forest when Tiger cried that he was at the river,
and shortly after we led our thirsty horses down the bank and refreshed
them in the cool stream: we filled our gourds and returned by the same
road to the prairie, where we fastened up our cattle in the grass and
lit our fire. As the horses were very hungry we did not drive them out
of the grass, but set a sentry over them who was relieved every half
hour. At daybreak we shot turkeys in the wood for breakfast, bathed in
the adjoining river, and then fetched up the sleep we had lost in the
night.

We stopped here till about 3 P.M., and then continued our journey
southward. As the banks of the stream were very steep here, we were
delayed a little till we had all our baggage across, but then rode for
two hours without a halt through the glorious shade of the forest, in
whose gloom only now and then a bright yellow patch was lit up by the
inquisitive sunbeams. We felt here as much at home as on the Leone or
the Mustang, and the conversation throughout the whole day turned upon
home and our friends there, for nature all around offered pictures of
those regions. The trunks of the trees here rose again side by side;
from their lofty branches llianas covered with gayest hues swung across,
and under the evergreen bushes the flowers displayed their brightest
colours. The parrots with their lustrous plumages hung high above us on
the branches head downward, and innumerable bright red cardinals flew
like live coals through the dark foliage. Here a proud stag with mighty
antlers peered out from a cozy glade, and there a timid antelope fled
with its two fawns behind it through the thicket. When we rode through
the last clumps and reached the prairie on the other side of the wood,
the sunbeams were falling on it obliquely, and we did not miss the
delightful shade so much as we should have done had we exposed ourselves
to the sun a few hours earlier. We rode sharply, and at about 9 P.M.
unsaddled at the foot of the San Saba Mountains, and camped on a torrent
that ran down thence to the Puerco.

The next morning we followed the stream to the river, and about noon
reached the principal Indian path that led from these valleys over the
San Saba Mountains, and greatly facilitated our passage over them. On
the third morning we looked down on the hills near our home, on which we
camped the same evening. The next day we reached Turkey Creek at sunset,
and would assuredly not have camped, but ridden home without resting had
not our cattle been so fatigued. It was very late ere we thought of
lying down to rest, and even then the conversation was carried on for a
long time. After the old fashion the turkeys announced to us that day
was breaking. On this occasion, however, we did not shoot any, but each
breakfasted quickly and got ready for going home. A little more
attention was paid this day to our costume; although we could not make
much of it with the greatest skill, still we looked altogether tidier
when we left camp, and each galloped on to be the first. I was obliged
to hint that we still had a long way to go, and ought not to begin with
galloping. The journey to-day seemed very long to us, although our
horses advanced sturdily, as if they too noticed that we were going
home. At about ten o'clock we made a half-way halt and let our cattle
rest for a few hours, while we lit a fire at the same spot where we had
made coffee at the beginning of our journey, and drank it again: at
about two o'clock, however, we saddled and spread over the baggage of
the mules the finest jaguar skins, above which the two splendid stags'
heads were displayed.

We were still busy with our horses, when suddenly Jack kicked up behind,
gave a few springs, and then trotted along the path that led to the
Leone. He would not be deprived of the pleasure of being first, for so
soon as we approached him he doubled his pace, and even galloped when it
appeared necessary. All our cattle now plainly showed that they knew
they were near home, and could not be held in. Long before sunset we
passed through the wood on the Leone, and entered the prairie below the
Fort, where we fired all our shots. We were greeted from the Fort in the
same way, and its inhabitants ran out to meet us and overwhelm us with
congratulations. Everything was as before, except that another good
harvest had been got in, that horses, cattle, pigs, and dogs had
multiplied, and that numerous new settlers had arrived both north and
south.

John was impatient to get home, and left me no time to change my
clothes, as I wished to accompany him. I therefore saddled Fancy, left
Königstein to look after Czar and Trusty, and rode with my companion
toward Mustang River. From a distance we could see that the Lasars had
built a large new house with glass windows and galleries, whose
whitewashed walls glistened through the gloom. We had reloaded and
announced our return to our friends some distance off. Soon after we saw
white handkerchiefs waving, light dresses hurrying out of the garden
gate, and old and young, black and white, hurried to meet us and
welcomed us with expressions of joy and congratulations. I had to
apologize for my dress and retire, but I was obliged to stay to supper,
which meal we took under the verandah, and after it we sat in the garden
before the house, where the perfumes of splendid flowers surrounded us,
which, illumined by the moonbeams, formed graceful groups around us. The
bottles went so rapidly the while, that I thought it advisable to seek
my homeward road before I had any difficulty in finding it.

It was about midnight when I reached the Fort, where I found everybody
up and also cheered by wine, for I had ordered Königstein, when I rode
away, to give them a treat. I, however, soon sought my bed-room with
Trusty, and slept with open doors and windows till the sun stood high
in the heavens. I hastened down to the river, and after a bathe the old
trunks were opened and the garb of olden times was taken out.

Some weeks passed ere I was quite at home again; all the works looked
after, others to be undertaken arranged, and repairs and improvements
carried out. I frequently came across the Lasars; visited, with the old
gentleman, the new settlers in the neighbourhood; consulted with him
about making roads and bridges, and was appealed to by him in any
important undertakings in his private affairs. Although we now felt no
alarm about the Indians coming to the numerous new settlements, their
friendly visits now grew wearisome and disagreeable. Every moment a new
tribe arrived, of whom we had scarce heard, to make friendship with us
and receive presents. Something must be given them, else we ran a risk
that they would take it out on our cattle, or fire the prairie when a
violent wind was blowing, or take some other revenge which would do more
injury than the value of the presents. They no longer ventured on open
hostilities within range of our settlements; to such only the more
distant squatters were exposed, who lived nearer to the desert.

Shortly after our return, arrived a Mr. White, from Virginia, with his
wife, two sons of twelve and fourteen years of age, and two younger
daughters. He applied to Lasar and myself to show him a good bit of land
on which he could settle. The people pleased us, they were friendly and
honest, lived on good terms together, as we noticed on our frequent
visits to their camp on the Leone, and were the right sort to defy such
a mode of life. Lasar and I resolved to take them under our wing, and
induced them to settle at our old camping place on Turkey Creek, for
which purpose we set out early one morning with them, Lasar ordering
twenty negroes to come with us and prepare an abode for the new-comers.
We built for them there in a few days a neat double blockhouse, that is
to say, two houses about twenty yards apart, over which and the space
between one long roof was thrown. Then we surrounded the house with a
palisade, in which they could lock their cattle at night, and fitted for
them a lot of wood, with which they could fence in a garden. Lasar gave
them a handsome cow, and I gave them a breeding sow, some fowls, and
maize to eat and to sow for the coming spring. White was one of those
resolute, unswerving men, who, after struggling for a long time with
misfortune in the civilized world, turn their attention to the western
deserts, where they try to extort from fate what has been refused to
them elsewhere. With his peculiar energy and restless execution of
everything he had once undertaken, he set to work in his new home, in
order, as soon as possible, to lay the foundation of his own and his
family's future prosperity; but unfortunately he was only able to see
the foundation, for the garden was hardly fenced in and the maize field
taken in hand, ere he fell ill, and a violent fever carried him off in a
few days. His eldest son, Charles, rode over to me to bring me the
melancholy news, and tell me that his mother wished to speak to me. I
rode across the next morning with Königstein and a negro. The widow was
sitting inconsolably by the side of her dead husband, without any plan
for the future; and on my entrance pointed--with sobs, and unable to
utter a word--to the dead body. I at once ordered the negro to dig a
grave, and buried the poor fellow; after which I sat down by the widow's
side, and tried to give her some consolation by offering her my
assistance. I proposed to her to settle near me till her sons were old
enough to look after their present farm. But she was of opinion that
they were able to do so already, although not strong enough to do the
heavy field work, such as clearing the land from bushes and trees as
well as felling and clearing the wood itself. If this could be done for
her, she would not leave the spot, as her lads could plough and use the
pick, while both fired a rifle as well as any frontierman; and she, too,
if it came to the point, knew how to use her husband's fowling-piece. I
made every possible objection to her plan of living here alone, but
promised my help and Lasar's if she insisted on adhering to it.

The next morning I said good-bye to the woman, who was determined to
stop here, and promised to send her help to prepare her garden and
fence, and bring her a few trifles for her comfort. I got home at an
early hour, and rode in the evening to Lasar's to tell him what had
happened. The old gentleman at once declared that he would send John off
the next morning with the requisite number of slaves to arrange
everything for the widow, and all the members of the family vied with
each other in displaying their sympathy by sending articles of clothing
and stores of every description. In a week everything was in order at
White's--the garden was laid out, and a field of five acres prepared for
planting with maize, beans, gourds, and potatoes. The best varieties of
vegetables were sown in the garden, and seeds of all sorts given to the
widow. The woman had for the present only to keep the garden in order,
while the sons procured game, which they could shoot at times from their
own door, for all her other wants were amply supplied. Thus peace and
contentment soon returned to this house, and the love of her children
restored Mrs. White the activity and determination which the loss of her
husband had palsied. Dawn found her busy with domestic duties--cleaning
the rooms, dressing her daughters, milking the cows, preparing
breakfast, salting and drying game, in short, with all sorts of
occupations; after that she was seen sitting in the shadow of the roof
between the houses, cleansing and spinning cotton to make clothes for
her children, while the two little girls sported around her, and the
sons were busy in the garden or hunting close at hand. She could recall
them at any moment by sounding an immense cow-horn which hung in the
passage between the two houses, near the door of the keeping-room.

Shortly after peace had settled down again on this solitary abode, the
widow was seated as usual in the cool passage with her daughters, while
her second son, Ben, had gone to the spring to fetch water, and Charles
had gone into the neighbouring wood with his rifle. All at once the very
sharp dogs which guarded the family made an unusual disturbance and ran
barking across the yard that surrounded the house. Mrs. White jumped up
and saw several Indians standing in front of the nearest wood, and then
retire into it again directly after. She seized the horn, sounded it
with all her might, then ran into the room and took down her deceased
husband's fowling-piece that was loaded with slugs, with a resolution
and courage such as has grown almost entirely strange to the feminine
sex in civilization, and is only found on rare occasions on its
outermost frontier on this continent. In a few minutes Ben ran up and
found his mother already behind the palisade with the gun in her hand.
"Quick, Ben, your rifle!" she cried to her twelve year old son; "but
don't forget your bullet, boy;" and then blew the horn again. The dogs
now came in again, and Mrs. White closed the hole in the fence through
which they passed. All at once a frightful yell was heard from the wood,
and from its gloom sprang a swarm of some thirty red-skinned fiends, who
dashed over the grass toward the house with an awful war-cry. "Don't
fire, Ben, till I have loaded again!" Mrs. White cried, and then rapidly
discharged both barrels, sending some forty leaden pellets among the
charging horde. The effect of the two shots at hardly fifty yards
distance was so tremendous that the horde darted in all directions as if
struck by lightning, and eight remained on the grass while the others
ran howling to the wood. "Fire, Ben!" Mrs. White cried to her son, who
had thrust his rifle through the palisades, while she poured a handful
of slugs down her gun, and placed two cotton wads upon them. Ben fired
into the thickest of the fugitives, and one of them fell with his feet
in the air, while the yells of the others filled the air. "I have hit,
mother," the boy said, as he poured fresh powder down the barrel.
"Bravo, Ben! but where is Charles? He ought to have been here by this
time, as he has not been gone long. Run into the house and have a look
at Fanny and Bessie, but come back again directly." Thus Mrs. White
called to her son while she was hurriedly making cotton wads, which she
moistened with her lips, and threw back her long raven hair which hung
over her shoulders. "Mother, Charles is coming with Kitty!" Ben cried,
as he ran out of the house and hurried to the hind part of the fence to
open the gate for their cow Kitty, which was trotting over the grass in
front of Charles. The latter had heard the horn and the shots and yells
of the Indians as he hurried home, had come across Kitty, and had driven
her home.

Everything was quiet, and the Indians did not make the slightest sound.
Charles and his mother secured the two fence gates with logs of wood,
and then the mother went to her young children, leaving her sons orders
to call her if they saw anything of the Indians. The day passed without
the savages making a fresh attack on the settlement; but the greater on
that account grew the widow's alarm, lest they should take advantage of
the night to satiate their vengeance. Toward evening, she bade her sons
lie down and sleep, so that they could keep awake during the night,
while she kept guard in front of the house. The sun set and darkness was
lying over the country, when Mrs. White and her two sons took their
places behind the palisade, and carefully surveyed the open prairie. It
was about nine o'clock, when they saw the light of a fire coming through
the wood, rapidly grow larger, and presently appear on its outermost
edge. Again the fearful yell was raised, with which the savages always
accompany their attack, and the light moved from the forest over the
grass. A dark object moved across the plain toward the house, and the
light shone out on both sides of it. The object slowly drew nearer, and
Mrs. White soon saw that it was a framework of bushes behind which the
Indians were concealed, and pushing it before them. This leafy wall had
advanced within twenty yards, when Charley and Ben fired at it, and the
groans of the wounded were distinctly heard amid the yells of the
assailants. For all that, the wall moved slowly forward, and in a few
minutes leaned against the corner of the palisade, after which flames
suddenly darted up and set the fence on fire. The savages had brought a
heap of dry wood with them behind the screen, piled it up against the
palisade and kindled it, after which they ran back about forty yards and
lay down flat in the grass.

The space behind the fence round the house was now so brilliantly
illumined that Mrs. White feared lest the savages might fire arrows
through the palisades at her boys; hence she retired with them into the
house, and went up under the roof, whither she took her daughters, too,
while the dogs ran furiously along the palisade. Then she raised several
of the shingles with which the roof was covered, and placed others under
them, so that she could survey the brilliantly-lighted prairie, where
she saw the Indians lying in the short grass. At the same instant,
however, sparks fell down from the roof, for the savages had fired a
number of burning arrows, which set fire to the dry shingle roof of
cedar-wood. An inhuman yell of joy from the savages greeted the first
flash of the flames, which soon ascended with a crackling sound.
"Charles, the axe!" Mrs. White shrieked to her son, while she thrust her
double-barrel through the roof and fired at a group of savages lying
together in the grass, who doubtless fancied themselves safe from the
besieged. The unhurt men leaped up with a yell and darted back to the
wood, while the second barrel was fired after them, and again brought
down several. Charles handed his mother the axe, with which she soon
made a hole in the roof and pulled out the blazing shingles, so that the
fire was extinguished in a few moments. Then she ran with axe and gun
down into the yard, reloaded, and checked the fire at the palisades,
which, as there was no wind, spread very slowly and was speedily put
out. The corner of the palisade was certainly burnt down, and there was
a large opening in it, while outside a large heap of burning coals
remained from the fire. Mrs. White, with her sons' help, pulled the
small cart which had conveyed their little property hither into the
opening, and then filled up all the gaps with logs of firewood. The
night was passed under arms, and when dawn lit up the country the heroic
woman looked out of the roof at the battle-field in front of her
fortress without being able to see a trace of Indians. The savages had
carried off the corpses of their comrades in the darkness, and had
probably departed with them in the night to let them rest with their
fathers; for the Indians take the dead bodies of their friends with them
and carry them hundreds of miles to the burial-place of the tribe.

Late on the following night the barking of my dogs awoke me, and when I
shouted out of the fort, asking who was there, Charles White announced
himself and told me what had happened. I had his wearied horse looked
after, gave him a bed, and early next morning rode with him to Lasar, to
consult with the latter what was to be done. This humane man soon formed
a resolution, and told me he would let a faithful old negro, who was not
of much use to him, live at Mrs. White's. He could sow a bit of land
with cotton, the proceeds of which would be his own, and the family
would have a protector in him, as he was an excellent shot and a
fearless, determined man. Within an hour, we were mounted and rode past
my fort, in order to fetch Owl and Tiger. We arrived in the evening at
White's, where we saw the damage done by the savages, and then heard the
story from Mrs. White's own lips, on which occasion she praised Ben's
bravery, who during the narration stood by his mother's side with her
arm thrown round him. The woman was most grateful for our kindness and
sympathy, and said that, with the help of the old negro, Primus, she
would withstand a whole Indian tribe. Primus remained there, and this
settlement was really never again disquieted by Indians. It was,
however, less the presence of the negro that made them refrain from
hostilities, than Mrs. White's heroic defence. At a later date, Indians
told me that the aggressors were Mescaleros, and Mrs. White fired so
many bullets among them all at once, as if the storm-god had been
scattering a hail-storm on the earth. Since then an Indian was hardly
ever seen there. Such atrocities often happened at the outermost
settlements, while very possibly the same Indians who committed them
came to us as friends and were dismissed with presents and assurances of
amity.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXVIII.

INDIAN BEAUTIES.


Shortly after the occurrence on Turkey Creek, I was sitting one
afternoon in the verandah before my house and drinking coffee, when I
saw a long way down the prairie a cloud of dust coming down the river.
Curious as to who it could be, I went into the house and fetched my
telescope. I saw three Indians on horseback, a man in front, and two
squaws following him. They rode very fast, in spite of the great heat,
and soon came up the hill to the Fort. I went out to them, and all three
came through the palisade gate, and pulled up in front of my house. The
warrior leapt from his horse, while the two girls remained seated on
theirs. He told me in English that a tribe of Indians wished to make
friendship with me, and the chief had sent to inquire whether he would
be allowed to pay me a visit with his people. I asked him to what nation
they belonged, which question appeared, as it seemed, to be disagreeable
to him, and he passed it over in silence. He then said something to the
two girls which I did not understand, and then told me they were
Mescaleros, but not of those who made the attack on Mrs. White. The
chief of the latter was no good friend of the white men; but the father
of these two girls was a very good friend, and hence he wished to come
and tell me so himself. I replied, that I should be glad to see him
here, and invited the girls to drink coffee with me, which invitation
they did not at once accept, but, with their elbows resting on their
horses' necks, gazed at me curiously, and then took side glances through
the open door of my house at the interior. I offered them cigars, and
took a lucifer match out of my box, the lighting of which surprised them
immensely. I lighted my cigar at it first, and then handed it to them,
and they loudly expressed their satisfaction at the excellence of the
tobacco. I then took a drink of coffee, and handed the cup to one of the
girls, who first examined it curiously all round, and then raised it to
her lips to taste the contents. She had scarce tasted it, however, when
she emptied the cup at a draught, and gave it back to me, with an
intimation that I should give her sister some. I gave her a full cup,
too; she emptied it at a draught and asked for more, so that in a few
minutes my whole supply of coffee was expended. I gave them cakes, which
they ate with equal appetite, and then went into the house to fetch a
bottle of sweet Spanish wine. I poured out a glass, tasted, and handed
it to one of the Indian girls, but she declined it, and after saying a
few words to the man, their glances lost the calmness and merriment
which they had gradually assumed.

I emptied the glass and placed it on the table, without again offering
them wine, but handed them a light for their cigars, which had gone out.
After a while the man asked me whether it was fire-water the bottle
contained, and when I replied in the negative, and assured him it was
capital wine, he said that one of the girls wished to taste it. I filled
the glass, put it to my lips, and handed it to her on the horse: she
raised it to her lips rather timidly, but drank the wine off at a
draught so soon as she had once tasted it. Her eyes beamed with joy, and
as she sat up on her horse, and passed her hand from her neck over her
breast and stomach, she said, with an expression of delight, "Bueno,"
and handed me the glass back with a sign to give her some more. I filled
it again, but gave it to her sister, who was looking on silently but
eagerly. She, too, liked the wine, and emptied the glass, which I set on
the table. At this moment both girls leapt from their horses, gave the
bridles to the Indian with a disdainful gesture, while one of them told
him imperiously to take the horses to graze; I at least concluded so
from the gestures with which she accompanied her words, and from his at
once going off with the horses. The speaker then turned to me with a
most gracious smile, and, after throwing a contemptuous glance at the
man, said to me "Mexicano," and now it became clear to me that he was a
slave, probably stolen by this Indian tribe when a boy.

The two young savages now ran up to the verandah in front of my house,
and I saw for the first time properly what remarkably pretty visitors I
had; for both girls had been so crouching on their horses that but
little of their figure could be seen. The one who seemed to me the
younger, was very tall, slim, and most beautifully formed; her shape was
elegant, but round and full, and her bones so delicate, that the
comparison between horse and deer involuntarily occurred to me; her
hands and feet, like those of all Indians, were very small, and so
gracefully shaped that the white colour was not missed. On
proportionately broad shoulders and a plump, round neck, she carried her
head freely, and her demeanour proved that she was perfectly well
satisfied with herself. Her glossy black silky hair hung, fastened
together on the left side of her head with a strip of vermilion leather,
for a length of four feet over her shoulders, and on the top of the red
fillet floated by the side of her head a round bush of countless
feathers of the most brilliant colours, which heaved up and down at
every movement. Her fine lofty forehead was adorned by sharply-cut,
glistening eyebrows, beneath which black eyes flashed; but their wild
expression was toned down by the shadow of long eyelashes, and only in
moments of excitement did the passionate look return to them. The small,
pretty nose turned up slightly at the end, and gave a saucy look to the
face, while the laughing, fresh, half-parted mouth, with its full cherry
lips, cut in the shape of a Cupid's bow, heightened the expression. When
the laughing lips parted they displayed the most beautiful and regular
teeth, and in the peach-coloured cheeks were two deep dimples. At the
same time her mien was elegant, her movements were rapid but graceful,
and her whole appearance was full of young life, unchecked and wild,
but attractive and pleasant. Her dark colour passed easily from light
brown to olive, and announced that under it dwelt those warm feelings
which are only born under a hot sun.

Though the interpreter was absent, our conversation now went on better
than before, as the eyes of the Indian girl and her gestures rendered a
dictionary quite unnecessary. She quickly disposed of another glass of
wine, and would certainly have drunk a good deal more, had I not filled
the glass again and handed it to her sister, and then locked the bottle
up in a cupboard. The sister displayed less of the passionate Indian
blood; she was quieter in her movements, and though she, too, frequently
opened her mouth to smile, she did not burst into a loud laugh, and
while the former looked all around, the eyes of the quieter girl were
fixed the more firmly on the object she was surveying. She was shorter
than her younger sister, but much plumper, more of a Titian's beauty,
had also splendid hair, arranged in the same fashion, coal-black, but
smaller flashing eyes, a graceful aquiline nose, and a smaller mouth.
Her colour was rather darker than that of her sister, and it was
doubtful whether a dazzling white or this transparent brown was the more
beautiful colour for the skin.

The name of the elder sister, who was about nineteen years of age, was
Cachakia (sparkling star), while the younger was called Pahnawhay
(fire), and had not seen more than sixteen summers. The costume of these
two savage beauties was much alike. Over their shoulders hung a
handsomely painted, costly dressed deer-hide, in the centre of which was
a long slit, through which they thrust head and neck. This mantilla was
ornamented all round with a fine long leathern fringe, to whose ends
glistening stones and shells were attached; it hung lower down before
and behind, and left the pretty round arms at liberty. Round their hips
was a petticoat, also of leather, adorned with long fringe, and
handsomely painted in colours, while the leathern trousers were also
decorated at the sides with similar fringe. Their little feet were
thrust into deer-hide shoes, also ornamented with, stones, shells, and
fringe.

Pahnawhay was the first to run up into the gallery; at each step she
rose on her feet as if walking on whalebone, while Cachakia came on with
a quieter but scarce audible step. Both sate down at the table, and the
younger sister took the wine-glass and drained it, while making me signs
to give her more wine. I made her understand that she had better not
drink any more, as it might send her to sleep; but I would give them
some more before they rode away. Pahnawhay had looked for a long time
curiously at my room; at last she jumped up and ran to the door, and
leaning against the lintel, thrust her head in as far as she could. With
a loud cry of amazement she sprang back several steps, clapped her
hands, and, with a beaming face, said something to her sister, and then
ran back to the door. I went into the room, and made her a sign to
follow me; but she only took one step across the threshold, looked
around her in amazement, and then cried to her sister to come, who,
however, did not obey her. I now went to Cachakia, took her by the hand,
and led her into the room, where I made her sit down in my large
rocking-chair. The admiration and surprise of the two girls were
extraordinary; they remained for a long time motionless and silent,
looking from one object to the other, until Pahnawhay first found her
speech again. Running to my bed, she drew a red blanket from under the
jaguar skin, that served as counterpane, and hung it proudly over her
shoulders. As she had not yet noticed my large looking-glass, I led her
in front of it, and a loud cry of surprise burst from her pretty mouth.
She turned round before it, and at last ran up and from it with the most
graceful movements, while Cachakia looked at her in silence, but showed
by her flashing eyes that she would like to be in her place. I now led
her in front of the mirror, took a bright silk handkerchief from a
chair, bound it round her thick hair under the tuft of feathers, and
made her understand that it was hers. I then took another blue and
yellow one out of the chest of drawers, and fastened it round
Pahnawhay's hair, for I knew if I did not it would be all over with her
good temper.

Everything in the room was now examined, and if possible handled, and I
had to explain its use. Cachakia too became gradually more animated and
took a greater share in the conversation, always trying to make me
understand that her sister knew too little and her chatter was not
worthy of attention. Everything pleased her, and when she saw anything
she wished particularly to have, she made me understand that we would
swap, but never said what she intended to give me in exchange. Still I
could not help giving both a number of trifles, such as knives,
thimbles, needles, cotton, and sewing-silk, and I was very glad when the
negroes came and announced that the dinner I had ordered for my guests
was on the table, through which their desires took a different
direction. I conducted them to the dining-room, and was obliged to dine
with them again in order to show them the use of knife and fork, which
they, however, soon laid aside and employed their little fingers
instead. They liked everything, but the pudding most, and when coffee
and cakes were again served, it seemed as if they intended making a
separate meal of them. After dinner I gave them cigars and intended to
keep them in this room till they rode off, but they soon got up, and
after pointing round the room and saying with a dissatisfied expression,
"no bueno," they walked off straight to my house. Whether I would or no,
I was obliged to admit them, and Cachakia was now the first to nestle up
to me and point with her little hand to the wine-glass, while she looked
up at me with her sparkling black eyes and laughingly displayed two rows
of pearly teeth. I could not possibly refuse her, and when I had filled
the glass to the brim she raised the golden liquid to her lips and drank
it to the last drop. Pahnawhay also drank a glass, but then I locked the
bottle up again, and in spite of Cachakia's languishing looks and her
sister's more stormy requests I did not take it out again.

Pahnawhay had again taken the red blanket from my bed and walked round
me praising it loudly, while I was sitting by Cachakia, but she seemed
not to have the courage to ask me for it. I noticed her embarrassment,
and as I had long wished to have a dress like these girls were wearing,
I pointed when she again stood before me to the various articles of her
costume, then to the woollen blanket, and made the sign of exchange. As
if the greatest piece of good fortune had happened to her, she fell back
a step and repeated my signs inquiringly as if not believing her luck,
and when I again affirmed it, she threw off in a few moments all her
clothing, folded herself in the blanket, and stretching out her arm
under it, carefully laid her leathern dress on my bed. I was so
surprised at this instantaneous metamorphosis that at the first moment I
did not think how Cachakia would be humiliated by it; but Pahnawhay
pointed to her, and said I must give her a blanket as well. In truth the
thermometer had already fallen in the eyes of my pretty neighbour, so I
got up quickly and opened a chest in which I had several blankets, but
not a red one; however, there were five blue ones among them, which
pleased Cachakia remarkably, and in an equally short period her dress
was also lying on my bed, and she was seated, highly delighted, in the
Turkey blue blanket in my rocking chair smoking her cigar.

The sun had already set, and darkness was spreading over the landscape,
when my princesses trotted out proudly into the prairie, wrapped in
their blankets, with an assurance that they would return early the next
morning with the whole tribe. At an early hour I had a very large kettle
of coffee made and extra bread baked before the cattle were driven out
to pasture, a fat ox was driven into the enclosure, the dogs were
chained up, and I ordered my men to keep the Fort closed, as the Indians
whom I wished to enter it would be led through my house, which stood at
the south-eastern angle, and had an entrance through the palisade.

At the appointed hour we saw the party of Indians coming down the river,
and soon halt in front of my fence. I went out, received the chief with
the usual ceremony, and saluted his two daughters who on this day only
wore snow-white bran-new petticoats, painted in the brightest colours
with very considerable taste. They wore necklaces of very handsome
beads, earrings of the same material hung down on their shoulders, and
their round arms were ornamented with flashing brass rings, while a new
long tuft of feathers of the most brilliant hues was planted on the left
side of the head. They left the blankets, which had hung loosely on
their shoulders while riding, on their horses, and the latter were led
off by the Mexican slave. After this both girls, but Cachakia not so
quickly as her sister, hurried to me, and we exchanged the usual signs
of good-will in the customary fashion; they pressed my hands, wound
their pretty arms around me, and would assuredly have kissed me were not
this mark of affection quite unknown to the Indians, and would have
seemed to them highly ridiculous. After the first greetings they pointed
to their father and then to my house, saying "Vino," and making the sign
of drinking. The chief was a man of about fifty years of age, about six
feet high, with broad shoulders, and arched chest, regular handsome
features, straight nose, sharp black eyes, lofty forehead, and--a rarity
among the Indians--a heavy moustache twisted into points. He had a
haughty, imposing mien, and something very determined in his appearance,
which was however kindly and hearty, so that we fraternized in a few
moments. I proposed to lead him and his daughters to my house, but he
turned to his tribe and said something I did not understand, upon which
two men stepped out of the mob and joined us. We reached the gallery in
front of my house to which I had had all my chairs carried, in order, if
possible, to keep the interior clear for the curious guests. I made them
sit down at table, and handed the chief the pipe I had myself lighted;
he passed it to his neighbours, and so it went the round; while the two
girls swung themselves in the rocking chair or the hammock hung up in
the gallery, and smoked cigars. After the calumet of peace had passed
round, the chief informed me of the purpose of his visit, to make peace
with me, and introduced the other two Indians to me as the Chief of
Peace and the Sage in Council, in which the Mexican acted as
interpreter. Dinner was now served, the chief employing knife and fork
as I did, while the two others used their fingers. Pahnawhay had fetched
a buffalo robe out of the house and laid it on the ground, and sat upon
it with her sister to have her dinner. I handed them the plates of food,
but they returned me the knives and forks, saying it was easier work
with their fingers. They amused themselves famously on their buffalo
hide, and teazed each other with the heartiest merriment, for which
their father gave them several warnings, to which they responded with a
laugh. The chief now explained to me that many tribes of his nation
entertained hostile feelings against the white men, but he hoped they
would soon see it was to their advantage to enter into friendly
relations with them, and that his tribe from henceforth would never
commit any act of hostility against us.

We had finished dinner, and I told the chief that I now wished to give
his men their dinner, on which he rose and said that he had better be
present or else no order would be kept. We went out in front of the
palisade after I had locked my house door, unseen by the two girls, and
had the caldron of coffee, sweetened with honey and mixed with milk,
brought out, as well as the bread, which last the chief distributed
among the various families, telling them to use in coffee-drinking their
own utensils, which consisted of shells, horns, and cocoa-nuts. There
were above two hundred souls in camp, though among them all were only
forty warriors.

I now showed the chief the fat ox, which I had shut up in the cow's
milking enclosure, remarking at the same time that I intended to give
it to his people, and asked whether it should be shot now, to which he
assented. Königstein brought me a rifle and I shot the ox through the
skull, after which some of the Indians skinned and carried the joints to
camp. Ere long some thirty fires were lighted, round which the Indians
lay and roasted the meat, while constantly running to the coffee-caldron
to fill their vessels.

I was standing and admiring the appetites of these people, when Cachakia
thrust her arm through mine and affectionately tried to induce me to go
to my house with her to open the door, which, as she made me signs, she
could not manage. I told her I would wait for her father, so that he
might drink coffee with us. I walked through the groups of Indians to
him, with my young lady friend hanging tightly on my arm. These
Mescalero Indians were certainly the least civilized I had as yet seen:
their dress consisted of leathern breech-clouts fastened round their
hips, and large, strangely-painted dressed buffalo-hides. In the whole
camp, however, I found nothing emanating from white men. On all their
faces something shy, mistrustful, and savage could be noticed, which is
not generally the case with other tribes. The people were, on the
average, not very tall, but sturdy and broad-shouldered, and well fed;
the women, however, were nearly all good looking, and I do not remember
having seen so many pretty Indian girls together as in this camp. As we
walked from fire to fire, which appeared to please the savages,
Pahnawhay dashed every now and then like a young filly through the grass
to my side. It had taken too long to open the house, and she now hung on
my other arm, and pulled my beard as a punishment for having kept her
waiting so long. I told her I was waiting for her father, she could go
and bring him to my house while I went on in front with Cachakia. On
arriving, my companion could not at all understand in what way the door
was closed so tightly, and was quite surprised when I opened it with the
key. She wished to try the experiment herself, and said she would keep
the key so as to let herself in when she pleased, and it was not till I
made her understand that in that case I could not open the house without
her, that she returned it to me.

I now took my guitar from its case, and sitting down on my bed, let my
fingers stray over the strings. Cachakia stood with widely-opened eyes
and mouth before me, and became quite beside herself when I began
playing. With one leap she sat cross-legged on the bed behind me, and
peeping over my right shoulder, watched my performance. She was really
delighted at the music, attempted to play the guitar herself, and became
very angry and impatient when she could not manage it. At last Pahnawhay
arrived with her father and the two ministers: we again took our seats
in the verandah, and I ordered the coffee and cake, which my guests
tremendously enjoyed, then I gave them all cigars to smoke, after which
the chief told me that his people were well satisfied, were very good
friends of mine, and would remain so. I took him to the arms-case in my
house to let him see my weapons, about fifty first-rate implements. They
did not fail to arouse my guest's admiration, and when we returned to
the gallery I took a revolver, and at about one hundred yards put a
bullet into a young tree, not nearly so wide as a man, and then fired
the other five rounds in rapid succession. After this I placed in a few
seconds a fresh cylinder in the lieu of the discharged one and fired the
six rounds with equal rapidity, remarking the while that I could go on
firing thus uninterruptedly. This weapon excited my guest's attention in
the highest degree, and he looked at it for a long time with the
greatest astonishment, and declared with the utmost seriousness that it
was the grandest medicine he had ever seen. I made him a present of a
very pretty hunting-knife, whose handle was composed of a roe-foot
mounted with a silver shoe: his joy at it was childish, and in his
excitement he assured me that he would lift the hair of the first enemy
he conquered with it: this knife was also a great medicine.

The girls now left me no peace. I must fetch wine, which the three men
at first looked at very suspiciously, but on my assurance that it was
not fire-water, they tasted it, and drank with great satisfaction. When
I carried the bottle back to the cupboard I filled a glass and put it on
the table, making Cachakia a sign that it was for her, but at the same
time I laid my finger on my lip so that she might not let the others
know it, as I did not wish to open a fresh bottle, and this one was
nearly empty. She understood me perfectly well, and as a proof nodded to
me when I came out of the house, while a quiet smile played round her
little mouth. I returned to my seat, and she carelessly rose, walked
into my room, took the glass from the table, and gave me a nod unseen by
the others, as she slowly drank the contents. Then she walked back into
the gallery carelessly and sat down with us, like a person who is proud
at having been preferred; but she cast her eyes down, as their sparkle
might betray her.

Evening arrived; we supped, and when the moon had fully risen, went out
to the Indian camp, as the chief wished to spend the night with his men,
because the latter might be alarmed about him if he slept in the Fort
with me. We had hardly reached the first fire, when we heard a fearful
row at the other end of the camp, and the chief ran with his two
colleagues in the direction of it. I was anxious about what was going on
there, and hastened after them, accompanied by the two Indian girls. Two
young men had quarrelled, and were engaged in a violent dispute when we
came up, while the voices of the chief and his colleagues were raised to
a loud key. Suddenly, however, the two men rushed to different fires,
seized their bows and arrows, flew about a hundred yards apart into the
prairie, and in a few minutes disappeared from sight. The chief shouted
after them, but no one pursued them. The Mexican was standing not far
from us at the next fire, and I called him up to give me an explanation
of the disturbance. Pahnawhay, however, explained to me with a few very
intelligible signs, that the two young men loved the same girl, and she
had given her affection to both, upon which they quarrelled, and had run
off to kill one another. The Mexican confirmed this statement, on which
I asked why no one tried to prevent it, but I received the laughing
reply, as if the thing were self-evident, that this was impossible.

A number of Indians had by this time collected round one of the fires,
and Cachakia, taking me by the arm, drew me to it, when we saw a weeping
and loudly lamenting girl seated with her head between her knees, with
dishevelled hair almost concealing the whole of her person. This was the
sweetheart of the two jealous knights, one of whom had probably by this
time the deadly arrow in his heart. We were standing by the side of the
unhappy girl, when a frightful yell echoed far across the moonlit
prairie, the war-cry of the combatants, who had now met in open fight,
as they had not been able, probably, to discern each other by crawling
through the grass. The first note scarce reached us ere the weeping girl
sprang up, threw back her hair, and hurling back the people standing
round her, ran off with a shrill scream and disappeared. A deadly
silence set in, as everybody expected to hear at the next moment that
the fire was over; and all looking in the direction where the girl had
disappeared, seemed to be anxiously holding their breath. At this moment
the girl's piercing scream rang through the night air, and immediately
after a fearful yell that pierced the marrow, and was answered by all
the occupants of the camp pretty nearly. It seemed as if the latter had
only been waiting for this signal, for now a number of men and squaws,
some of whom held firebrands, ran off, and we could see these fires
collected into a point far away. Cachakia said to me, "He is dead," and
pressed her head down with her right hand to the left side, and closed
her eyes. We soon saw the light moving towards us, until we could at
length distinguish the separate torches, and the procession marched into
camp. Four Indians bore the bloody corpse of the murdered man to the
first fire, and laid it on the ground. I took a torch to see whether
life still remained, but the last spark had disappeared. On his left
side, near the heart, gaped three fearful wounds, which almost divided
the chest in two parts, and his hair was bound into a mass by the
curdled blood, while his head was cleft with a tomahawk. The Indians
only take a scalp when it belongs to an enemy of their tribe. He was
carried to the middle of the camp and covered with a buffalo robe. I
asked Cachakia what would become of the other man and the girl? and she
told me that the warrior must fly within four and twenty hours, and keep
away till he had made it up with the dead man's relations, or otherwise
they would take his life in return. Thus time was allowed him to fetch
his traps, and if he came into camp during the period, he would not be
molested, but after that he would be nowhere safe from them.

The chief now held a council with the relations of the dead man, which
was just ended, when the victor's sweetheart appeared, silently led his
horses to his fire, packed all his traps on them, and then went out into
the night again without a word, while no one in camp appeared to have
noticed her, although she walked openly towards the blazing fires.
Indians do not consider it any harm for a girl to be a coquette, but
they punish the infidelity of a wife, and frequently with death; but it
is more common for the husband to cut off her nose, which indulgence is
chiefly occasioned by the squaws being a portion of the husband's
fortune, as he is obliged to buy them, employs them as servants and
labourers, and can sell them again for ever, or for a time, as he
pleases. I missed in this tribe more female noses than in any other I
had seen.

In a very short time all became quiet again in camp, as if nothing
extraordinary had happened; and after I had sat for a while with the
chief, I wished him good-night, and was accompanied home by Cachakia,
which attention appears to be one of the forms of politeness on the part
of the savages; and even though the home of a parting guest is a long
way from their camp, they always accompany him to the last highest
point, whence they can look back on their camp.

Day was hardly dawned when I opened my door, and stepped out into the
gallery to greet the fresh morning. In the Indian camp all appeared to
be still resting except a few forms moving about in it. I saw through my
glass that they had with them a horse and a mule, and ere long an Indian
mounted the latter, and two others raised something that was wrapped in
a large buffalo hide up to him. Then another Indian mounted the horse,
and they went off up the river with the mule in front. I conjectured
that it was the corpse of the murdered man which the two were carrying
to the burial-place of the tribe, and found my supposition confirmed
when I entered the camp. I had another caldron of coffee and a great
quantity of maize bread carried to the camp, invited the chief, and his
two councillors of state, and his daughters to breakfast, after which he
told me that our friendship was now eternally concluded, and that he
would depart with an easy mind. I made him a number of trifling
presents, such as blankets, tobacco, looking-glasses, vermilion, &c.;
gave the daughters several keepsakes as well, and my guests quitted me
apparently remarkably well satisfied.

During the two days Owl and Tiger had not shown themselves, as the
Delawares, though not open enemies, are not on very friendly terms with
the Mescaleros, and so they went off hunting. Owl had received his wages
long before, but still remained with us, as he seemed to enjoy himself,
in which our cooking played a great part; but he now came one morning to
me, and said the time had arrived when he promised to join his family,
and so he must leave us, as he did not wish to render his friends
alarmed about his safety. He rode to Lasar's and took his leave, when he
received handsome presents: I, too, gave him numerous trifles for his
fidelity and devotedness, and he went off, accompanied by Tiger,
promising to pay me a visit very shortly.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXIX.

THE SILVER MINE.


It was now the busiest time in the fields. The storms had blown down a
great number of huge dried trunks standing in the fields, which had to
be cut up and rolled away, which business was one of our hardest jobs.
Moreover, I had the field enlarged, fenced in a very large extent of
land, part prairie part forest, where I could turn my mares and colts
out, and on rainy days had wood felled to let it dry, and afterwards
employ it for building purposes. Axe and plough were equally active on
the Mustang, and on many smaller streams in the vicinity, where
civilization had set its foot. Thus whole patches of forest disappeared
before man's busy hand, and the soil was robbed of its natural
protection: the roots were turned up to be burnt or rot, and the earth
was thus forced to receive and generate seeds foreign to it. The
prairies, which a few years back had only been traversed by the desert
animals, were now inhabited by herds of tame domestic creatures attached
to a home, and the traveller's ear in these regions was no longer
startled by hearing the unexpected sound of a cattle bell.

But nature will not allow laws to be prescribed to her without taking
vengeance, or have changes made in her domestic arrangements forcibly by
human hands. With the felling of forests and the turning up of the soil
she sends diseases which check her insulter in the work he has begun,
and punish him for his audacious inroads. It usually takes half a
century ere nature is appeased and ceases to contend in this way with
the mortals who trouble her; at least in Continental North America the
diseases produced in this way usually increase for thirty years, and
decrease for so long a period, until they entirely cease. This is the
case with the interior, but not in the cities, where other relations
occur in proportion with their expansion. At my settlement there had
been for many years no malady, save those caused by external injuries;
but now one or the other frequently complained of ague, bilious fever,
flux, &c., and we often cursed the time when we saw the first white face
settle amid our solitudes. At Lasar's matters were proportionately
worse, for a hundred negroes would be down at the same time. For my part
I had as yet been spared, while all my companions had been ill.

It was a very hot day when I rode to the nearest town, as usual only
provided with a blanket, and during the nights lay by my fire in the
open air with it pulled over me. I remained several days in town, and
during the period felt a never-before-known ailing, and a reduction of
my strength. My business being ended, I rode off about noon to reach the
next house, whose inhabitants were friends of mine. I arrived there
about an hour before sundown, but found the family in a great state of
disorder, as the head of it had just died of a violent attack of fever.
Although I felt very unwell, I did not like to be troublesome to the
family, and rode on after a short halt. My illness increased with every
quarter of an hour; at one moment I shook with cold, at another I felt
as if I were being burned alive, and my head ached as if it would burst.
I rode on, although I could hardly sit my horse, and at last tottered in
the saddle, quite incapable of thinking; at the same time an
indescribable burning thirst tortured me, and my tongue seemed to cleave
to my roof, while I had a singing in my ears, as if there were thousands
of grasshoppers inside my head.

It was nearly dark when I reached the middle of a very wide plain, that
was covered with fine, very white sand, and in which the horse at every
step sank above the hocks. I could no longer remain in the saddle;
dismounted; sat down on the red-hot sand, fell back, and became
perfectly unconscious: presently I fell into a profound sleep, from
which I did not wake till the next morning. I looked around in surprise,
and it was some time ere I could remember what had brought me here. I
jumped up, and Trusty the faithful leapt barking around me, but I did
not see Czar. My feet would hardly carry me, and my head was as heavy as
if I had lead inside it. I looked for my horse's track, dragged myself
along it, and to my great consolation saw the faithful creature in a
hollow, nibbling some cactuses, and saddled and bridled as I had left
him on the previous evening. I got on to his back with difficulty, and
turned him in the direction of home. Thirst now began to grow
unendurable. The sun burst forth, and poured its burning beams upon me
with such fury, that I fancied I should never be able to reach a pool,
about five-and-twenty miles distant, which contained the only water in
the neighbourhood. This pond was at last the only thought of which I was
capable; at the same time my head threatened to burst, and the fever
shook me mercilessly. My horse walked along the familiar path through
the heat, and bore me, when the sun was vertical, down a sand-hill to
the edge of the pond, where I sank powerless, and crawled to the water
in order to moisten my burning lips. But it was no water, but a thick,
dark red mud, which was nearly boiling, and in which buffaloes had been
wallowing very shortly before. No matter, I lay with my mouth over the
thick fluid, and swallowed as much of it as I could. It was really a
comfort, for the dryness of my throat was removed; but my helplessness
was so great that I could not resolve to leave the spot, though I lay
exposed to the burning sun on the hot sand, and was only a short
distance from shady trees.

I lay as I was, and had but one thought that the sun must kill me here,
but still I could not muster up the courage to go away. At length,
toward evening, when the sun was lower, the terrible fever gave way a
little. I crept slowly into the shade, and soon was asleep under the
tree. It was quite dark when I awoke, and though very faint, my head was
clearer. I went up to Czar, who had been grazing by my side all this
time, got into the saddle, and continued my journey, on which the
pleasant light of the new moon lit me, and the cool evening breeze
refreshed me. I rode till ten o'clock, when I reached the Lynx Spring,
which I had christened after one of those animals that I had found dead
here many years ago, and whose water was the best for miles around. I
was quickly off Czar's back among the roots of the magnolia, beneath
which the spring bubbled up, and I drank as if I should never be
satisfied. I had a biscuit and a paper of coarse sugar about me. This
was my supper and I washed it down with the pure fluid. I felt much
refreshed, drew many a deep breath in the powerful breeze, and gazed at
the patches of light around me which were thrown by the moon through the
dense foliage, and through the violent motion of the leaves trembled and
continually altered their shape. It was a very dangerous spot, as this
water was the only spring for miles round, and wandering Indians often
select it as their destination after travelling for a day through the
desolate, waterless sand-plains; but I would not have ridden away even
if I had been compelled to defend myself against a whole tribe. I had a
few good cigars about me and lit one, which I smoked leaning against a
tree, and, as I fancied, inhaling fresh strength at every breath.

It was about midnight when I set out to reach a camping-place at which I
should not be so threatened as at the present one, and after filling my
gourd with water I rode away, faintly lighted by the waning moon. I knew
the road thoroughly, and the outline of the trees was sufficient to
enable me to keep my course. I could, if my horse went at any pace,
reach within an hour a well-known camping-place at which I had passed
many a night, and which lay but a little way off my route. It certainly
had no water, but excellent grass for my horse, and hence various sorts
of game could generally be found there. The main point was, that it lay
some distance from the principal Indian path and was tolerably
concealed, so that a fire could be lighted there without any great risk
of being seen from a distance. It soon became very dark after the moon
had sunk behind the hills in front of me, and I was obliged to yield the
reins to Czar, and leave it to him to find the road, while I sent Trusty
on a little way ahead to make certain there was no danger. Every now and
then, however, I saw by familiar clumps of trees or knolls that I was
still on the right track, and I approached my destination rather
quickly, considering the circumstances. The country through which I rode
consisted more or less of sandy hills, covered with isolated black oaks,
without any scrub, under which grew a very tall grass, disliked by
cattle, which had now entirely decayed. So far as I could judge in the
darkness, I was no longer any great distance from my camping-place, for
I saw in a hollow on my left a wood running along my route, and which I
knew to be a swampy patch, in which all the rain-water of the
neighbourhood collected. On my saddle hung several new tin cups and a
coffee-pot of the same material, which rattled at every movement of my
horse and thus produced a ringing sound which could be heard for some
distance. I dismounted and twined dry grass between them to keep them
quiet.

I had just remounted my horse and was riding up a hill, when suddenly
bright flames sprang up not far behind the latter and illumined the
whole country around. In terror I stopped my horse, and saw in a few
minutes that not only on the right of the hill the flames rose to the
branches of the surrounding oaks, but that the fire was spreading with
extraordinary fury on my right and in my rear. There was only one
opening in this circle of fire on my right, near the swamp. I turned
Czar round and galloped through the low oaks and tall grass toward the
valley, in which I was obliged to trust to the safe foothold of my
horse, as I could not see a sign of a path. The wind luckily was not
very violent, or else I could not have escaped; as it was, I reached the
wood before the fire darted down into the bottom behind me. I stood
here on moist ground, between green bushes which the flames could not
reach, and saw that they had fired the oaks and converted each of them
into a fiery pyramid. The whole country ahead of me was now a mass of
fire, whose tongues rose over fifty feet, in which the flames of the
trees could be recognised by their dark red hue, while above them the
ruddy clouds of smoke rose to the sky. Ere long, however, the burning
oaks stood alone like pillars of fire on the denuded knolls, and the
sparks flew out of them with a terrible roaring and crackling. I stood
before this fire till day broke and showed me the black skeletons of the
still burning trees, and the dark smoke-clouds rising above them. Ere
long, only small flames crept round the bare trunks. I mounted my horse
to get away from this scene of conflagration and rode up the wood, being
obliged frequently to draw nearer to the burning trees to escape the
swampy ground, until at last I was compelled to pass through the fire,
owing to the impassable nature of the ground. The smoke, the black ash,
and the heat were almost unendurable, and frequently heavy branches fell
close to me. I rode as sharply as I could, and in an hour reached an
open burnt clearing, where I was once more able to draw fresh breath.
The fire had undoubtedly been lit simultaneously at different points for
the purpose of burning me by the Indians, but none of them had ventured
on to the prairie leading down to the bottom, as I could see over it,
and if a fire had been lit there, I could have detected the culprits.

I hurried along in the refreshing morning breeze, and arrived about noon
at a stream, on whose bank I turned into the adjoining wood, and granted
my horse and myself a rest. On the road I had shot a turkey, which
pacified my hunger and Trusty's, and I strengthened myself by a sound
sleep, from which I did not awake till evening. During the whole day I
had felt tolerably well, but looked with terror for the next, as I must
expect that my fever would return every second day, so I rode till a
rather late hour in order to reach a camp where I was tolerably certain
I could pass the day without disturbance. Before I rode off, I dug up
some roots of the tulip-tree and chewed them, swallowing the juice, till
I reached camp. These roots are one of the best remedies against fever
which nature offers in these regions. I slept till the sun disturbed me,
and woke with aching head and weary limbs. I took Czar to graze, and
then lay down on my blankets, after placing my gourd full of fresh water
by my side. The attack of fever was not very violent: about 2 P.M. I was
able to continue my journey, and slept that night on an affluent of the
Mustang. The next morning I mounted at an early hour, in order to reach
the Fort as soon as possible, and made Czar step out, as I felt very
well.

[Illustration: TRUSTY AND THE ALLIGATOR. _p. 402._]

About ten o'clock I rode through a prairie which ran down to the
Mustang, which here an insignificant stream, flowed between high banks
over loose pebbles, and was only deep at isolated spots. The prairie was
covered with clumps of tall cactus and sunflowers, and I was riding
between some of them when a large stag got up before me and stopped a
little way ahead. I turned Czar half round and shot the stag, which
fell, but got up again and ran off to the Mustang. As I saw that it was
very sick, I sent Trusty after it, who soon disappeared with it in a
thicket, and I had scarcely reloaded when I heard his hoarse bark and
recognised by its tone that he was occupied with something else than the
stag. I went up the wood as fast as Czar could carry me, leapt off and
ran through the bushes to the bank where I heard Trusty's voice. A
mortal terror assailed me on seeing Trusty in shallow water near a deep
spot, with his left hind leg in the jaw of an alligator, whose skull he
was smashing with his teeth, though this did not make it open its
clenched teeth. I sprang at one bound into the river, in order to
prevent the horrible brute from reaching deep water, to which it was
retreating and was only a few feet from it. I sprang on the beast's
back, held it between my knees tightly, and lifted it into the shallow
water while it lashed its tail madly. I now pulled out a revolver,
held it against the hinge of the jawbone, and fired one bullet after the
other till the bones were splintered and the lower jaw fell off,
liberating Trusty from his arrest. I examined him and found that his leg
bone was not injured, though the flesh had suffered severely: at the
same time he was losing much blood and appeared to be enduring great
pain. The stag lay close to the scene of contest, so I drew it ashore
and cut off the haunches; then I fetched Czar, bound one of them on
either side of the saddle, packed a lot of bushes on the lot and spread
my blanket over them, on which I raised Trusty, after I had bound up his
wounds as well as I could with wet pocket handkerchiefs. I reached home
in the afternoon, and at once made a decoction of the roots of the tulip
and pomegranate and willow bark, in order to check the fever, which it
soon effected, combined with a strict regimen.

Though these illnesses may usually be checked so easily, their frequent
return affects the body greatly, and makes it more and more susceptible
to injurious climates and atmospheric influences, so that the slightest
change is often sufficient to bring back the fever. Still, all the
diseases produced in these regions by an alteration in the surface of
the ground are less dangerous than in any other part of the United
States, which may be chiefly ascribed to the free unimpeded motion of
the air, and the fact of no large swamps or standing waters existing
here.

Tiger returned, after accompanying his friend to the Puerco River,
whence the latter travelled on alone to Santa Fé, at which place he had
promised to meet his friends about this time. My young Indian friend now
complained very often that I allowed him to ride out hunting alone,
which was most disagreeable to him, as I did not permit him to take
Trusty, who was of such great value in the bear hunts, which are
principally carried on at this season. I had certainly placed Leo, an
excellent dog, at his service, but he was only half the value of Trusty.
One evening Tiger returned from hunting, and told me that he knew where
a very large bear was sleeping, but it would be difficult to get at it,
as it was living in an old cypress that grew in the middle of the river
and was too large to fell. He described the spot to me, and I at once
recognised the tree. We talked about the matter at supper, and resolved
to make an attempt to get hold of the sleeper on the next day.

On the following morning we put our weapons, axes, and dinner in the
canoe and floated down the river in it. It was carried along by the
current like a dart, so that we were obliged to steer very carefully
between the numerous rocks. In an hour we stopped at the cypress, which
was nearly six feet in diameter. We cut down some saplings on the bank,
conveyed them to one side of the tree, and fastened them together so as
to form a raft on which we could stand; we then placed the canoe on the
other side of the tree, and set to work with our axes felling it. In
addition to Tiger and myself, Königstein and Antonio had come, so that
one of us was always able to rest. About noon we had got some distance
through the tree, and as we had heard nothing of the bear, we began
greatly to doubt whether it was in it; but Tiger insisted, in spite of
our laughter and chaff, that it was sleeping there. We dined, drank the
health of the occupant of the tree, and then set to work again. In a few
hours the supports of the tree became so weak that it was time to take
precautions lest it should fall on us. We had hewn it on the side of the
raft, toward which it naturally hung, and we now all proceeded to our
canoe and held ourselves in readiness to push off at any moment. We gave
the tree a few more cuts, and ere long we heard the first sound of
cracking in its wood. We were certain that it could only fall over the
raft, and the only danger was that it might slip backwards from the
stump, in which case we might easily be sunk. A couple more blows and
the lofty crown of the cypress bent more over the raft, one more stroke
and it groaned and cracked at its base: we pushed off, and with a
frightful crash it fell into the river and splashed up the water so high
that we were completely wet through, while the splinters and broken
branches flew in all directions. We involuntarily held our heads down
into the boat, which was raised a great height by the waves; but after
the first oscillation, we all burst into a hearty laugh and mockingly
asked Tiger, "Where is our bear?" At the same moment, however, the bear
leapt out of the middle of the splinters covering the surface of the
river, and while the water poured down and prevented it from seeing, it
laid its huge fore-paws on the floating pieces of wood and sought a
support, by means of which it could lift itself out of the disagreeable
element. "The bear!" everybody shouted, and we seized our rifles and
fired at it. At the moment when it reached the stern of our boat and was
trying to get into it by means of its paws, Königstein ran at the brute
with his sharp axe and buried it deep in the skull of the enormous
animal, and then drove into its carcase the bent iron point of the
boat-hook to prevent it from sinking. We pulled quickly ashore, where we
hauled in our quarry with lassos.

Antonio ran back to the Fort and fetched our cart with two mules, with
which he joined us before sunset. With the help of the animals we pulled
first the bear and then the canoe on land, rolled the former into the
cart, then raised the canoe on the back of it, where we secured it, and
so drove back to the Fort, with the stern of our boat trailing along the
grass. The bear gave us a large quantity of splendid fat, and its smoked
flesh long supplied our table.

We and our friends on the Mustang now rarely visited the districts lying
beyond the distance of a day's journey, as our domestic duties kept us
more or less constantly at our settlements; but we became all the better
acquainted with our immediate neighbourhood, and on our hunting
excursions learnt every path and locality. I had found but a few miles
from us the traces of an old Spanish settlement, and the remains of a
forge, whence I concluded that the precious metals had been found here,
and that they still existed in the vicinity. Old Lasar was a man of most
enterprising spirit, and as he had more working power at his command
than he could employ profitably on his cultivated ground, he always
desired some other speculation by which he could derive greater profit
from his slaves. A silver or gold mine was always one of his favourite
schemes, and he quickly turned the conversation to the subject,
expressing an opinion that the mountains near us certainly contained the
precious metals. He came to me one day greatly excited, and told me with
great mystery that an Indian had been to him and told him under a
promise of the profoundest secrecy, that he knew a spot where the old
Spaniards worked silver mines, and offered to show it to him if he would
promise to hold his tongue as to whom he obtained his information from,
as the Indians would certainly kill him if they discovered that he had
revealed the spot. Lasar stated that he had told the Indian to return in
eight days, when he would ride with him, and reward him if he really
pointed out the silver mine. The old gentleman then begged me to join
him on this excursion, on which he only intended to take his son John. I
promised to do so, and when the appointed day arrived, I rode over to
Lasar's, accompanied by Trusty, and found the Indian there, whom I took
for a Mescalero, though he stated himself to be a Shawnee.

We left Lasar's settlement at noon, rode west toward the Rio Grande, and
crossed the hills on that river by a path which I had not known before.
We passed the night on the banks of this river, and on the next morning
proceeded into the hills in a south-west direction. The path, to the
great comfort of our horses, wound along the hill-sides without crossing
any steep ascents, and our Indian guide appeared quite at home here, for
he often left the main path and followed scarce visible tracks, which
always brought us back sooner or later to the main path, while we had
escaped a steep hill or a thick cedar coppice. We found here, too,
though many miles farther south, traces of the forest fire which Tiger
and I had occasioned against our will, and many bare knolls rose
between the cedar woods which had been robbed on that occasion of their
leafy covering. We passed the third night on the western slopes of these
hills, and on the next day reached their spurs, whence we looked down on
a very extensive plain, which appeared to be excellently watered, and
displayed a rich tropical vegetation in its summer garb. Although these
plants, which belong to the real tropical region, especially the
varieties of the palm, do not attain such luxuriance and such gigantic
size as they do farther south, they still grow in these protected
valleys very powerfully, and surprise the traveller by their foreign but
agreeable appearance. We marched through the valley, and camped for the
night at the foot of the hills bordering it on the west, not far from
which spot was said to be the ancient mine to which the Indian promised
to lead us on the following morning.

It was one of those mild southern spring nights when man feels beneath
the star-enamelled vault of heaven that he is nowhere better in health
or stronger than in the open air. The odour of the flowers had sunk upon
the earth with the motionless air, and the glistening insect world
sparkled and flashed like streams of diamonds from the dark shade of the
evergreen shiny foliage. Lying round our small camp-fire, we were soon
lulled to sleep by the feathered songsters of the night, among which the
mocking-bird appealing to its mate was the most remarkable, and we
negligently allowed the last flames to die out; but at a late hour we
were startled by the roar of a jaguar close to us, and on awaking we
recognised the sound of flying horses. We ran to our cattle, and only
found Czar and John's mare, snorting and dragging at their bonds, while
the Indian's horse and Lasar's mule had bolted, and we heard Trusty
barking down the glen. We quickly blew up our fire, and threw fresh wood
on it; but the damage was done, and we might reckon with certainty on
the loss of one if not both beasts. We spent the rest of the night on
the watch, and just as day dawned, and we had breakfasted I rode
accompanied by Trusty, down the glen, while John and the Indian
proceeded to the mountains in search of our fugitives. Only Lasar
remained in camp, as walking through the grass was too fatiguing for
him. I followed the foot of the hills, along which ran a stream
overshadowed by yuccas, tree-like aloes, gigantic cactuses, palms and
mimosas, and had ridden about four miles, following the tracking dog,
when the latter showed me on the clayey bank on which no grass grew the
hoofmarks of our mule and the imprints of a jaguar running down to the
stream. Not long after, on riding round a projecting clump of shrubs, I
noticed in the grass Lasar's mule, and upon it an enormous jaguar, which
appeared to be asleep, as its golden-spotted body lay stretched out and
motionless. I led Czar back into the bushes, and then crept down the
stream nearer to the beast of prey, until I concealed myself within shot
in a tuft of old mimosa trees, from which I could survey it. Laying my
rifle on a low branch, I aimed at the centre of the brute's back, which
was turned toward me, as its head rested on the mule. I fired, the
jaguar sprang up, but fell on its side immediately, and while uttering
an awful roar, looked about the valley in search of its assailant. It
was unable to rise on its hind-legs, and strove to drag itself on its
forepaws to the adjacent water. I had reloaded in the meantime, and
stepped out of my hiding-place on to the grass plot. The jaguar now saw
me, its fury increased with every step I took, and dragging itself
toward me it made the hills ring with its savage roars. I walked pretty
nearly up to it, and put an end to its life with a bullet through the
head; then I went to Lasar's mule, whose belly was slit up, and one of
its legs devoured. The jaguar must have caught it up while running, for
on its croup I found numerous wounds where the beast had buried its
claws.

[Illustration: THE JAGUAR DISTURBED AT BREAKFAST. _p. 408._]

After taking the animal's skin, I rode back to camp, and bore Lasar the
sad news, which painfully affected him, as this mule was a favourite of
the whole family, and its loss the more grieved him, because it belonged
to his wife, and was always ridden by her. It was not to be helped,
however, and so when John and the Indian returned with the horse, we
started for the silver mine. Lasar saddled the Indian's horse and rode
it, while the latter walked ahead of us.

In about two hours we really arrived at an old deserted shaft, into
which we were able to go about fifty paces; then, however, it was
blocked up, and any farther advance was impossible. In it we saw a
number of scattered pieces of ore, and also found several of them under
the turf at the entrance of the shaft, which proved that a long time
must have elapsed since any works had gone on here. We took a good deal
of the ore with us, and after carefully noticing the bearings of the
place, we rode back to the valley, from time to time making a sketch of
the localities, so that we might find them again hereafter. On our
homeward road the Indian guided us on foot, so that we did not progress
so rapidly: but for all that we got back without any misadventure, and
produced great grief in Lasar's family by the announcement of the death
of the faithful mule. The old gentleman was determined to take the
requisite steps next year with the Mexican Government to buy the land on
which the silver mine was, and then set to work on it.

A few days after my return to the Fort, I was surprised by an unexpected
visit from my old acquaintance Warden, whom I had not seen for a long
time, and who declared that he could no longer resist the desire of
seeing me again. He had been living principally on the western side of
the Cordilleras, and during his perilous hunting expeditions on the Gela
and the Rio Colorado had got as far as the Gulf of California. His
powerful horse had been killed there in a skirmish with the Apaches, and
he had saved his own life under the greatest dangers, after the savages
had incessantly pursued him for several weeks. We again sat till far
into the night, and listened to the interesting stories of this daring
man who had gained nothing by all his privations, fatigue, and
frightful perils, except the recollection of them, but had thus
perfectly carried out his sole object. As before, he remained some weeks
with us; but then he felt compelled to leave this quiet life, which he
could not endure. He saddled his horse, in order to continue his
solitary life. On parting I made him a present of a brace of pistols,
for which he was most grateful, and he galloped over the prairie and
disappeared from my sight on the horizon. It was the last time I saw or
heard of him. I often asked western hunters about him, but none could
give me any news of him, and in all probability he at last met the fate,
which he seemed to desire and seek, a solitary death in the desert.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXX.

THE PURSUIT.


Lasar and I were occupied for several weeks on the settlement of Messrs.
Clifton and MacDonnell and a Mr. Wilson. The latter had arrived from
Georgia with a considerable fortune and numerous negroes, and the three
young men settled together on Turkey Creek, in the neighbourhood of
Widow White. We helped them by word and deed, and in a short time a very
large lot of ground was cleared and sown with maize, although it was
late in the year for it, and a large garden laid out, and the necessary
buildings erected at a spot where very recently an axe had never been
laid against a tree, or a plough had turned a furrow in the earth. The
three young men set eagerly about the heavy work which such a new
settlement demands, and were busy the whole day in the garden or the
field, or else in felling wood. While doing so, they often forgot that
they and not we were now living on the outermost Indian frontier, and
constantly went from home unarmed. They went into the woods with an axe
to fell trees, or rode without any weapons into the prairie, to drive
home their milch kine, or fetch their draught oxen. Lasar and I had
frequently blamed them for this negligence, but it was of no use, and
often when we visited them, one or the other was away from home unarmed;
while we, during the years, that we had no neighbours, when working in
the field, chained up our dogs round it, in order to be informed of the
approach of stalking Indians, and carried our rifles either on the
plough or on our backs, they ploughed and worked for days without a dog
or any other weapon but their hands. Their dwelling stood on the south
bank of the river where it joined the prairie; but they had their field
on the northern side in a wood, which extended for a considerable
distance.

At an early hour one morning they all three crossed the river with a few
negroes, in order to thin the growing maize crop, which operation is
generally performed in the morning, as you are obliged to stoop
constantly, which is very fatiguing in the hot sun. All three took their
weapons into the field, and rested them against the fence, as they
thought it too much trouble to carry them on their backs. They followed
the rows of maize, one behind the other, from one end of the field to
the other, and were again nearing the spot where they had placed their
rifles, when suddenly some fifty Indians dashed over the fence with a
loud war yell and attacked them. They could not think of flight, as the
Indians surrounded them before they could recover from their first
terror. Resistance was equally impossible, as they were quite unarmed,
and hence the sole chance of escape lay in the mercy of the barbarians
to whom they surrendered. The two negroes were accidentally at the other
end of the field, and, at the first glimpse of the Indians, leapt over
the fence into the woods, to save themselves by hiding in its recesses;
on looking round, they saw that each of the three young men was
surrounded by a party of Indians busied in tying his arms behind his
back. They ran through the wood to the river, swam across it, and on
reaching the houses, leapt with the other negroes on horses and mules,
fled with the utmost speed toward the south across the prairie, and
reached my Fort before sunset, horrified and half frightened to death.

The terrible news aroused all my people. I at once sent a negro to
Lasar's to tell him of what had happened, and at the same time beg him
to join me as speedily as possible, in order to pursue the Indians, and,
if possible, save the prisoners, during which time we made our
preparations for immediate departure. I had provisions got ready and
packed on a mule, which this time was not faithful Jack, as he had been
galled by a badly fastened saddle; after this a stock of ammunition was
laid in, and we sat down to supper, which meal we had hardly finished
when our friends from Mustang Creek, eight in number, galloped over the
prairie, led by old Lasar himself, who was fire and flame, and vowed
revenge like the youngest of us. Tiger, Antonio, Königstein, and one of
the colonists of the name of Lambert, accompanied me, and we were soon
urging our horses at full speed through the gloomy forest.

Tiger led our party, who trotted on as long as the moonlight lasted, but
then fell into a walk, and towards morning reached the deserted
blockhouses of the prisoners. We expected that the Indians would have
burnt them down, but found them uninjured, which proved to us in what
haste they must have departed with their quarry. We rode through the
river into the wood, and found the spot where the savages had lifted
their prisoners over the fence, and led them to its northern end. Here
we found the traces of numerous horses galloping in the direction of the
northern mountains. Tiger examined all the signs very carefully, and
after we had followed the trail for about an hour, dismounted and sought
about in the grass. Ere long he stretched out his arms and parted
fingers to the north and north-west, and told me that the fellows we
were pursuing had divided here, and were pursuing different routes,
which fact I was also able to recognise after a slight investigation. I
asked Tiger what we were to do, but he laughed, and joining his hands
together and pointing to the north, he stated that the Indians would
come together again on the other side of the mountains in two days.

We now followed a trail which ran along a deeply-trodden buffalo-path,
and reached before sunset a spot in a valley covered with isolated
rocks, trees, and bushes, which was bordered on both sides by steep
hills. Here Tiger suddenly stopped and leapt from his horse. I rode up
to him, and he showed me on the bare rocks that several horses had left
the track and turned off to the left down the glen. He showed me several
pebbles which had been turned over by the horses, and on the rocks the
graze of their hoofs, as well as here and there a trampled leaf or a
broken blade of grass. He followed this trail carefully, and requested
me to follow him, while making a sign to the others to remain on the
path. A few thousand yards farther on the track wound between large
masses of stone till we reached a clearing, on the other side of which
we found signs of an extinguished fire near a spring. Tiger picked up a
blackened bit of wood and showed me by rubbing it with his finger that
the wood was still wet, and hence, as it lay in the open sunshine, must
have gone out shortly before. He now begged me to call up our comrades,
so that we might rest ourselves and our tired horses here for a little
while. I rode up to them, and when we returned to Tiger, he showed us
behind the spring the shambles where one of the unhappy prisoners had
ended his life. On a large flat stone we saw a quantity of curdled,
half-dry blood, and behind it lay the entrails of a man. Round the stone
we found marks of boot-heels, which had probably belonged to the
murdered man, and had been put on by one of the savages. Our fury
against them was terrible, and we would gladly have pursued them without
resting had our horses been able to carry us, but they were too tired,
and greatly required a rest.

We supped, and slept till near day, and by dawn we were following the
trail again, along the path which we had quitted on the previous
evening. Without halting longer than was necessary, we rode hard all day
through the most impassable regions of the San Saba mountains, and
reached in the evening the prairies on their north side. We were still
on the same trail, which had been made by five or six horses, and
unsaddled when the sun had long disappeared behind the hill, and Tiger
was unable to follow the trail. We had ridden very sharply, so that our
horses would hardly touch the good fodder here offered them, and we had
no sooner watered them in an adjacent stream, than they lay down in the
grass with a long breath and fell asleep. We did not tie them up, so
that they might graze directly they awoke, but kept up a good fire the
whole night, and posted a sentinel.

At daybreak we were _en route_ again and hurrying after Tiger, who led
us along the foot of the mountains. About noon we rode through one of
the streams that flow into the Colorado, and found in the wood on its
bank a deserted camp, from which the fugitives could not be gone long,
as the bushes and weeds trampled by the horses were not dry yet. We
merely watered our horses and then urged them on, for Tiger believed
that we must catch up the Indians that same evening, as their horses
were tired and did not raise their feet high from the ground. Evening
arrived, and in the distance another forest rose out of the prairie,
which we reached with night; but our foe had gone farther on, and we
were compelled to halt again, as we could not follow their trail. Our
guide consoled us with the morrow, and said their horses could not last
out any longer. We rode the whole day, however, without seeing anything
of the Indians, save the track of their horses. About sunset we rode
into another forest, in which we hoped to find running water: we soon
halted on its bank and noticed on the other side the last camping-place
of the Indians, for several of their fires were still burning, and Tiger
said that they now supposed themselves out of danger and would not ride
so fast. We crossed the stream, in order to occupy the deserted camp,
but had scarce reached it when Tiger called to me and pointed to a young
tree, with a smooth shining bark, the lower part of which was dyed with
blood. He told me that one of the white men had been murdered here: the
Indians had tied him up to the tree and fired arrows at him, and the
bark displayed numerous marks of their points. At the height of a man
the tree was sprinkled with blood, and over it we found a deep cut,
which appeared to have been made by a tomahawk. The Indians seemed to
have come together again here, for a number of fires had been lighted,
and the trampled ground indicated a large troop of horses. We all
insisted on riding on at once, but Tiger reminded us that it was
impossible to follow the trail, and by overriding it we might easily
lose much time, and give the cannibals a chance of escape.

Our impatience had attained the highest pitch, all were ready to start,
but it was still too dark: we stood by our grazing cattle and counted
the minutes till dawn appeared, and allowed us to see the track of our
enemies once more. Then we hastened on, and joyfully greeted every
thicket in front of us, as we hoped to find the cannibals in it and be
able to take vengeance on them for our friends. Our hopes were
frequently disappointed, and the sun was approaching the western hills
when we still urged on our awfully tired horses, following the trail of
the Indian horses, which could not possibly be far from us, as their
excreta on the path plainly indicated. Once again a wood rose before us
on the prairie, but it was still so distant that we could not hope to
reach it before dark. Tiger told me that we must either ride very
sharply so as to reach the wood by daylight, or camp on this side and
approach the wood at dawn, as we should get the worst of it if we came
upon the savages in the darkness. We resolved on the former course, and
collected the last strength of our animals. Spurring and flogging we
went on at a trot or a gallop, as if certain of reaching our destination
to-day. One of our friends might possibly be saved by a few minutes'
sharp riding, and so we paid no heed to the fatigue and pace of our
horses. We rapidly approached the wood, but so did the sun the hills,
which soon spread their lengthened shadow over the plain. The country
before us became more uneven and covered with large blocks of stones,
and here and there rose an isolated clump of trees and bushes, while the
forest appeared to be half an hour's ride distant. The darker it grew
the sharper we rode, and we dashed at a gallop between the rocks toward
a patch of young oaks, with Tiger some distance ahead of us. While
galloping round some rocks I saw him suddenly turn his piebald towards
us and halt in the clump of trees, which we reached in a few minutes,
and Tiger informed us that the savages were sleeping no great distance
ahead on the barren bank of a river.

Our excitement was frightful; trembling with eagerness we fastened our
steaming horses to the long branches of the young oaks, thrust our
holster pistols in our belts, and advanced, leaving Antonio with the
horses, silently and noiselessly after Tiger, when it had been arranged
that I should give the signal for a general attack by firing first. The
moon was high but lighted us poorly; the daylight, however, had not
quite faded away when we emerged from the rocks and reached a small
knoll, over which we saw almost invisible columns of smoke rising at
various points. We spread out here in a long line, and crept up the
hill, covered by some isolated rocks. When we reached the top, we saw
the savages about thirty yards from us collected round several fires. A
deadly silence brooded over the slightly illumined landscape, which was
only broken by the rustling of the rapid stream, on whose banks the
Indians were encamped. The glow of the fires cast a dark red reflection
over the brown bodies of the reclining savages sufficient to enable us
to see them more distinctly, while the light of the moon illumined the
sights on our rifles.

All our barrels were pointed at the cannibals, and we could hear our
hearts beating, while they did not suspect the approaching vengeance,
and were most of them asleep. The wide chest of one of the ruffians was
lit up by the fire right in front of me, while he was gazing into the
ashes with his head resting on his right arm. The sight of my rifle was
pointed at his heart when I pulled trigger. At the same moment the
rifles of all my comrades cracked, and directly after we fired our
second barrels among the rising Indians, who for a moment raised their
war yell, but then fled in great confusion and dashed into the river,
beneath the fire of our revolvers and pistols. In this faintly lighted
scene of fury and terror, the long red and white striped silk
handkerchief on Tiger's head waved, the broad blade of his heavy knife
glistened in his right hand, his shrill voice filled the ears of the
cannibals with the war cry of the Delawares, and immediately after the
first shot he flew, worthy of his name, among them, and spread death
among their ranks. Trusty, too, forgot his usual obedience, and pinned
one of the savages by the throat who had fired an arrow at him; he
killed the Indian in a few minutes, and then dragged him about in the
grass, satiating his fury. In a short time the battle field was deserted
by the enemy, with the exception of two-and-twenty killed and wounded
they left on it, the latter of whom Tiger soon sent to join the former
with his tomahawk. His war axe flew from skull to skull, and with every
blow drove a soul out of its earthly tenement, after which he raised the
hair of several whom he had killed in action.

The fight was hardly over, when a familiar voice called several of our
names, especially Lasar's, mine, and Tiger's. It came from a little way
off the camp and reached us but faintly. We ran in the direction, and to
our joyful surprise found MacDonnell bound hand and foot lying on the
grass behind a rock. His bonds were quickly cut, but he was unable to
get up; we bore him to the nearest fire, blew it into a bright flame,
and now looked at the death-like face of our poor friend, who since his
captivity had endured death in a thousand shapes, and envied his two
comrades their release from torture. He was so fatigued that he was
unable to sit up. The joy at our appearance, and the fear lest we might
go away again without finding him, had given him the strength to raise
his voice, but now a greater faintness naturally set in, and he could
scarce make signs to us to give him water. The fresh draught was handed
him, then we laid him on a bed made of buffalo skin and left him to
sleep, which, with the consciousness that he was saved and among
friends, did him more good than anything else we could have offered him.
The large fire lit up the plain around us, and displayed the victims we
had sacrificed to the blood of our friends: farther on it shone on the
great number of utterly exhausted Indian horses, most of which were
lying fastened to lassos among the large stones in the grass. Although
we did not apprehend any attack from the fugitive savages, many of whom
had doubtless killed themselves by leaping off the high banks into the
river which dashed over rocks, and who too possessed no weapons that
could be dangerous to us, we still posted sentries on both sides of the
camp, and lit large fires in order to be able to watch the horses, as it
was very probable that the Indians would attempt to recover them toward
morning, after the moon had gone down. Our own horses we tied up in the
grass close to camp, and then lay down by turns to rest as far as our
state of excitement permitted it.

Morning dawned without our having been disturbed, and with the growing
light we began to survey the field of battle and investigate the details
of the events of last evening. The savages were a tribe of Mescaleros,
and as we afterwards learned the same who had made the attack on Mrs.
White a few months before. Among the dead was their chief, who had been
killed by the first shot fired, which was the principal reason why the
assailed did not offer a greater resistance, for they only discharged a
few arrows, one of which hit Trusty, while another passed through
Königstein's thigh. The weapons lay scattered about the battle-field. On
the lofty bank were distinct signs where the fugitives had leapt off it;
but we found below no signs of them on the rocks jutting out of the
river, as they had apparently fallen into the deep water between them.
For all that, there was no doubt but that many had not reached the
opposite bank alive, for the stream was too rapid for a man to swim
across it.

Our friend MacDonnell still lay motionless asleep, and we did not
disturb him. It was bright daylight when John Lasar summoned us to the
fires of the savages, where we found the roasted and partially-gnawn
bones of one of the murdered men, while Königstein discovered other
remains of the dead bodies behind a rock. At about ten o'clock,
MacDonnell woke and felt greatly strengthened; we gave him food and a
cup of wine to drink, but he was very weak and terribly excited, so that
we prohibited him from talking about his own sufferings or those of his
own comrades. About noon, we prepared to start and carry off the horses,
of which we had captured forty-six, among them being several first-rate
animals. Tiger at once sought out the leader of the troop, an old mare,
whose head and tail were hung with all sorts of ornaments, and so soon
as he led it away all the others would follow it. He bound the mare to a
tree, let loose the other horses and wound the lassos round their necks,
upon which they all collected round the old mare. We then saddled our
horses, selected the best saddle of the savages, very handsome Mexican
one, for MacDonnell, put it on one of the captured horses which appeared
good-tempered and safe, and covered it with a buffalo hide, a large
quantity of which we also found, then we lifted our suffering friend on
the horse. Tiger marched ahead of us, leading the mare behind us by a
lasso and followed by all the Indian horses, while we rode behind and
drove on the laggards. Thus we rode slowly to the south, and camped at
sunset in a narrow strip of wood on a stream, where we found good
pasture for the numerous horses. We merely fastened up the leading mare
and our own cattle near the fire. MacDonnell rapidly recovered; the ride
had done him good, and he was now able to walk again. We made him a soft
bed by the side of the fire, and he told us the chief events of his
captivity.

No sooner had the savages seized the three young men in the field than
they bound them, lifted them over the fence, and then carried them to
their horses. Here three Indians took them before them, and the whole
band flew out of the wood into the prairie, where the savages soon
halted and went off in different directions. MacDonnell was taken off to
the right with ten horsemen, while Lyons followed the path, and Clifton
was carried to the left. The savages rode without halting all that day
and the next night with MacDonnell, without giving him water or food,
until they allowed their horses to graze for a few hours the next
morning, when they gave him some roast meat. Then they hurried on with
him again, and only stopped to water their horses, until the latter,
toward evening, refused to go any farther, in spite of the incessant
blows. They unsaddled in a wood by a stream, and roasted meat at a fire,
after laying him with his feet bound among the bushes. His hands had
swollen through the bonds, and pained him terribly, but his complaints
and groans were unheeded by the cannibals, and it was only after long
entreaty that they gave him a drink of water. Toward morning, they rode
on, and reached in a few hours a river, on whose bank they unsaddled in
a thick wood, and rested with the utmost carelessness, while he was
placed with his back against a tree near the fire.

Soon after, another troop of Indians came up, and MacDonnell recognised
the man who had given orders at the outset, and whom he took for the
chief. He was now wearing a portion of Lyons' clothes and had put on his
boots. This savage brought his horse to the fire, and to his horror,
MacDonnell saw the severed limbs of his unhappy companion hanging from
the saddle, which the Indians now unfastened and threw near the fire.
The savages then gathered together and the chief placed bits of the
flesh of the unfortunate Lyons on spits and devoured them when roasted.
The Indians seemed to pay no attention to MacDonnell, but to listen to
every sound, and several times the chief laid his ear on the ground in
order to hear more distinctly. Ere long, other Indians arrived, and at
noon the last of them with Clifton. He looked at MacDonnell inquiringly,
but neither had the heart to utter a word. Clifton's feet were also
bound, and he was placed against a tree, while all the savages lay
around the fire and talked with much animation, pointing first to Mac
and then to Clifton. At last the chief stretched out his hand toward
Clifton and said several words in a commanding voice, upon which several
men leaped up, carried the prisoner to a tree a little lower down the
wood, and fastened him to it in a standing position with leathern
thongs. Most of the young Indians, in the meanwhile, assembled with bows
and arrows about fifty yards from Clifton, and awaited the chief's
signal to commence firing. The signal was given, and the first arrow was
buried in the entrails of the unhappy victim, whose cries of agony made
the forest ring. Thus one fired after the other, till Clifton's whole
body was pierced with arrows and his head hung down. Upon which the
chief leapt up, swung his tomahawk over his head, and hurled it at the
murdered man. It flew into the tree close to Clifton's head and remained
imbedded. The chief went up to Clifton, plucked the hatchet out of the
tree, and buried it deeply in the unhappy man's skull. After this the
cannibals fell upon the corpse, which they cut up and each carried a
piece to the fire. MacDonnell witnessed the whole fearful scene, and now
the chief came up to him and said something he did not understand, while
pointing to the north, whence Mac assumed that the same fate awaited him
farther on in that direction. The savages started again ere long and
rode by shorter stages to the camp where we surprised them, and where
they had arrived but a few hours before us.

This description had recalled to Mac's mind all the scenes of horror,
and he fell back exhausted on his bed. We restored him with a little
wine-and-water, and begged him to hold his tongue and rest while we got
supper ready and looked after the horses. During the night we posted
four sentries and lit up the Indian horses with large fires. It passed
without disturbance, and the next morning we continued our progress to
the south. We now made but short marches, as our own horses were very
tired, but the captured ones were so exhausted that we could hardly
drive them on with long sticks. We on several occasions unsaddled at
noon because we found good pasturage on water, and rested till the next
morning, so that we might not have to spend the night at a worse spot.

[Illustration: THE TORTURE. _p. 422._]

One evening we found ourselves in the middle of an open prairie, on
which only isolated mosquito trees could be seen, and camped at a spot
where there were several ponds, and an old fallen mosquito-tree lay,
which, judging from the fire marks, had offered burning materials to
earlier travellers across this plain. The nearest woods to the south lay
on the remotest horizon on the San Saba Mountains, and we did not
calculate on reaching them till the next day. We lay in a hollow of the
prairie, between two small elevations, and fastened our riding-horses
and the leading mare to lassos driven into the ground, while the
captured horses grazed on the bottom. The evening was splendid, and as
Mac was all right again, we were in the best spirits. After supper the
conversation turned on the captured horses, and we resolved to throw
dice for them. The mare was allotted to me without throwing, as I gave
up my chance of all the rest. Ere long all the horses had owners.
Antonio and Lambert resolved to try theirs the next morning, as they
were not very well mounted, and everybody praised the good qualities of
his horse, and expounded how the animals must be treated and ridden to
make first-raters of them. Thus the night arrived, during which we again
posted sentries on the nearest mounds, but it passed without any alarm.
Day dawned; we blew up our fire and got breakfast ready, while the
horses were grazing around us. The sun rose while we were lying
carelessly on our buffalo robes round the fire and drinking coffee, when
suddenly a fearful yell reached our ears over the next height, and a
band of thirty horse Indians thundered down the hill-side towards us,
waving in one hand their buffalo-robes over their heads, shaking in the
other tin pots, gourds, and buffalo-bladders filled with pebbles, and
uttering the strangest and most awful yells. In an instant the troop
passed us, and dashed right through our fire and camp. They went over us
like a tornado, and our terrified horses, which had torn themselves
loose, dashed over the prairie in front of them, trailing the broken
lassos after them. Before we had seized our rifles, the Indians were so
far off that the bullets we sent after them produced no effect, and we
silently stared after them till they disappeared from sight over the
last rising ground on the prairie. We asked each other, with our eyes,
what was to be done, but no one was yet able to speak, the fright and
the heavy loss had fallen upon us too unexpectedly, and it was long ere
we could think of the immediate future: at length all eyes were turned
to me, as if I could help them. This confidence restored my power of
speech, and I told my companions in misfortune that I was able to lead
them home without horses, and that MacDonnell's life was worth more than
our animals.

I had hardly spoken to this effect, when Königstein shouted to me, and
pointed in the direction where the horses had disappeared; and though it
was so far off, I recognised Czar and the cream colour flying over the
prairie, pursued by five Indians. I ran towards them as fast as my legs
would carry me, and fired a bullet at the Indians long out of range, but
which they must have heard "pinging," for they gave up their pursuit and
merely fired a few harmless arrows after the horses, which now dashed up
to me and stopped panting and snorting. Czar came up to me and laid his
head on my shoulders while looking round in wild terror after his
pursuers. I led him into camp, where both the horses were greeted with
loud shouts of joy. We now held a grand council, and soon agreed to
cache our baggage in a hollow near at hand, cover it with turf, and then
start for home on foot, in which, of course, we could only cover short
distances; at the same time we arranged that Mr. Lasar should ride the
cream colour, and Mac Czar, while we also packed our food on the
animals.

The whole day passed before we had cached our baggage, so that we slept
another night at this inhospitable spot. The next morning we saddled and
packed, and after carefully taking the direction of the nearest tree
with the compass, we began our wearisome journey. On reaching the tree
we blazed it with a knife, and then started for another, and so on,
carefully marking each, so that we might be able to find our way back to
our traps from tree to tree. The road to the San Saba Mountains through
the tall prairie grass was one of the unpleasantest I ever followed.
There, however, the ground, though hilly and stony, was still adapted
for human feet, and we soon grew accustomed to walking. Tiger had not a
word to say for himself, he was revolving vengeance on the Lepans, who
had stolen his faithful piebald, and swore that the Delawares should
take many of their scalps in return.

After several weeks of unspeakable fatigue and privation, we at length
arrived one evening at Widow White's, who received us with great
cordiality and delight. We at once sent her son to the Fort to fetch
riding horses for all of us, as we had had quite enough walking, and
stopped the while with our kind hostess. Late the next evening the
long-looked-for horses arrived from the Leone; we let them rest for the
night, and on the next morning said good-bye to the widow, and started
for home, which we reached at an early hour and found horses there for
Lasar and his companions to carry them at once to Mustang River. The
loss of Lasar's handsome horse and of John's mare again caused fresh
sorrow in the family, with whom they had been favourites; but I
willingly put up with the loss of my two horses and mules, and
considered myself remarkably fortunate in recovering Czar and the cream
colour. The last lesson which we gave the Mescaleros seemed to have had
an intimidating effect on the Indians generally, as we neither saw nor
heard anything of them for several months.

Tiger, during this period, rode a splendid black horse of mine, which I
had been always obliged to leave at home, as it was too timid and
impetuous for hunting purposes. Now that it was ridden daily, it became
a first-rate horse, and Tiger often said that it was better than his
piebald. Great was my surprise when Tiger knocked me up early one
morning, and on going out of my house I saw the piebald quietly
grazing: on waking Tiger had found it tied up in front of his tent, and
told me that the Lepans were frightened, because his tribe would come in
the autumn and learn their hostile behaviour. With a sad look he
remarked that he would now be obliged to give me back the black horse,
he supposed, and was quite beside himself with joy when I told him that
I made him a present of it.

In the course of the summer friendly Indians visited me, but never
stopped long, and gave me to understand that I lived too much among the
white men. It would be much better for me to move nearer to them and
then they would visit me more frequently. Thus arrived one evening just
before sunset my old friend Pahajuka, accompanied by his good old squaw,
and his granddaughter, and a few Comanches. The joy of the old folk was
great, and they said that had not the white men blocked the road to me,
they would willingly stay some time with me, but as it was we were daily
more separated. Tahtoweja said nothing, but her black eyes plainly
expressed that she too felt happy at being with me again. She could not
in her silent admiration gaze sufficiently at the decorations of my
room; and for hours she would gaze at the pictures on the walls, or turn
over the sketches in my portfolio, when business prevented me from being
with her. Music seemed to be her delight, and she often came late at
night into the gallery and begged me to play the guitar, when she seemed
to fall into a happy dreamy state and entirely forget the world. She too
begged me to come away from among the pale faces and settle nearer to
them: the Comanches loved me more than they did. The people remained
some weeks with me, but one morning they came into my room, and the old
lady said with tears, that this was the last visit they would pay me, as
the road to me was growing too narrow. I was obliged to promise them a
visit at the parts where the buffalo still grazed, and the antelopes and
stags had not so many feet as here.

After breakfast I saddled Czar and rode with my guests to the mountain
springs, where we spent the night, and the next morning we took leave of
one another. I promised to join them the next winter on the Puerco, when
a great council of the Comanches was to take place. They often looked
with tears in their eyes in the direction of the Fort: then they offered
me their hand once again and rode off, never again to cross the
threshold of my house, to which they were so attached.

Tiger too seemed dissatisfied at the new settlements, and could not
understand how people could have an objection to his pulling down the
fences and riding across the fields to save distance. They had also
forbidden him taking dry corn leaves for his horse out of the stacks, or
fastening his piebald to the grand stockade in front of the house, while
he went in to beg a drink of water. What I had long foreseen happened,
he was beginning to feel the trammels of civilization and wrestled
against them, while its comforts still attracted him. Shortly after
Pahajuka's departure Tiger's tribe arrived in the neighbourhood of the
Fort, and the chief paid me a visit with several of his warriors. He
told me that Tiger wished to go home with them, in order to see his
relations and return to me in the following spring. Though I felt sorry
for it, I saw that he could not remain much longer in our settlement
without parting from us on unfriendly terms: hence I offered no
objection, and on the day of their departure I accompanied them as far
as Widow White's, as I wanted to pay a visit to Mac on Mustang River. I
took a hearty farewell of Tiger, as I was really attached to him, and he
was obliged to promise me a visit ere long.

The next day I rode to MacDonnell's, when I found everything prospering.
His field had produced a rich maize crop, and was now covered with
beans, potatoes, melons, gourds, &c. His orchard already contained fine
young trees; his garden supplied him and his negroes with magnificent
vegetables. The yard round his house was crowded with poultry of every
description, and the interior of his blockhouse was very neat and tidy.
A large new patchwork quilt was thrown on his bed; over the mantelpiece
was a handsome looking-glass, and by its side hung the framed portraits
of three men, which are very frequently found in frontier houses, and by
which the Americans do not pay themselves the worst compliment. They
represent the greatest, the best, and the most useful men of our
century--Washington, Alexander von Humboldt and Liebig.

The now frequently traversed road from Turkey Creek to the Leone
shortened the distance between the two rivers much, as the greater
portion of it could be galloped over. I reached the Fort again at an
early hour, and helped Königstein in his preparations for a start on the
next morning. He was going with Antonio, Lambert, and several pack
animals to fetch our saddles and traps, which we cached after the loss
of our cattle in the prairie to the north of the San Saba Mountains.

Although we are still living on the frontier of the desert, we have now
in front of us a line of settlements facing the Indians, which keep off
us the ordinary dangers of a frontier life; and we are rarely reminded
by the personal appearance of these savages in our vicinity, that their
hunting-grounds are not a great distance from us.

[Illustration]



Transcriber's Note


Illustrations have been moved near the relevant section of the text.

I have used "=" in the text to denote use of an ornamental font.

The square brackets before page numbers in illustrations have been
removed.

Inconsistencies have been retained in capitalization, punctuation,
spelling, hyphenation and grammar, except where indicated in the
list below:

  - Period added after "use" on Page 25
  - Period added after "p" on image following Page 26
  - "ree" changed to "tree" on Page 56
  - Period removed after "valley" on Page 91
  - "splended" changed to "splendid" on Page 100
  - "roar sand" changed to "roars and" on Page 147
  - Period added after "MOUNTAINS" on Page 151
  - "apple-grey" changed to "dapple-grey" on Page 215
  - "He" added before "was" on Page 230
  - "backs everal" changed to "back several" on Page 257
  - "unbeams" changed to "sunbeams" on Page 278
  - "Norte" changed to "Norté" on Page 364
  - "lianas" changed to "llianas" on Page 370
  - "Macdonnell" changed to "MacDonnell" on Page 419
  - Comma removed after "We" on Page 422
  - Period added after "TORTURE" on Page 422
  - "Macdonnell's" changed to "MacDonnell's" on Page 424
  - "Macdonnell's" changed to "MacDonnell's" on Page 427





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Backwoodsman - or, Life on the Indian Frontier" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home