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Title: A Woman Tenderfoot
Author: Seton-Thompson, Grace Gallatin
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 "A Woman Tenderfoot" ***

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made available by the Canadian Institute for Historical
Microreproductions



A WOMAN TENDERFOOT

By Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson


1900



In this Book the full-page Drawings were made by Ernest Seton-Thompson,
G. Wright and E.M. Ashe, and the Marginals by S.N. Abbott. The cover,
title-page and general make-up were designed by the Author. Thanks are
due to Miller Christy for proof revision, and to A.A. Anderson for
valuable suggestions on camp outfitting. (No illustrations are included
in this file.)



THIS BOOK IS A TRIBUTE TO THE WEST.


I have used many Western phrases as necessary to the Western setting.

I can only add that the events related really happened in the Rocky
Mountains of the United States and Canada; and this is why, being a
woman, I wanted to tell about them, in the hope that some
going-to-Europe-in-the-summer-woman may be tempted to go West instead.

G.G.S.-T.

New York City, September 1st, 1900.



CONTENTS

     I The Why of It

    II Outfit and Advice for the Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband

   III The First Plunge of the Woman Tenderfoot

    IV Which Treats of the Imps and My Elk

     V Lost in the Mountains

    VI The Cook

   VII Among the Clouds

  VIII At Yeddars

    IX My Antelope

     X A Mountain Drama

    XI What I Know about Wahb of the Bighorn Basin

   XII The Dead Hunt

  XIII Just Rattlesnakes

   XIV As Cowgirl

    XV The Sweet Pea Lady Someone Else's Mountain Sheep

   XVI In which the Tenderfoot Learns a New Trick

  XVII _Our_ Mine

 XVIII The Last Word



A LIST OF FULL-PAGE DRAWINGS.

Costume for cross saddle riding

Tears starting from your smoke-inflamed eyes

Saddle cover for wet weather Policeman's equestrian rain coat

She was postmistress twice a week

The trail was lost in a gully

Whetted one to a razor edge and threw it into a tree where it stuck
quivering

Not three hundred yards away ... were two bull elk in deadly combat

Down the path came two of the prettiest Blacktails

A misstep would have sent us flying over the cliff

Thus I fought through the afternoon

We whizzed across the railroad track in front of the Day Express

Five feet full in front of us, they pulled their horses to a dead stop

The coyotes made savage music

The horrid thing was ready for me I started on a gallop, swinging one
arm

The warm beating heart of a mountain sheep

I could not keep away from his hoofs

We started forward, just as the rear wheels were hovering over the edge

"You better not sit down on that kaig ... It's nitroglycerine"

The tunnel caused its roof to cave in close behind me

A mountain lion sneaked past my saddle-pillowed head



I.

THE WHY OF IT.


Theoretically, I have always agreed with the Quaker wife who reformed her
husband--"Whither thou goest, I go also, Dicky dear." What thou doest, I
do also, Dicky dear. So when, the year after our marriage, Nimrod
announced that the mountain madness was again working in his blood, and
that he must go West and take up the trail for his holiday, I tucked my
summer-watering-place-and-Europe-flying-trip mind away (not without
regret, I confess) and cautiously tried to acquire a new vocabulary and
some new ideas.

Of course, plenty of women have handled guns and have gone to the Rocky
Mountains on hunting trips--but they were not among my friends. However,
my imagination was good, and the outfit I got together for my first trip
appalled that good man, my husband, while the number of things I had to
learn appalled me.

In fact, the first four months spent 'Out West' were taken up in
learning how to ride, how to dress for it, how to shoot, and how
to philosophise, each of which lessons is a story in itself. But briefly,
in order to come to this story, I must have a side talk with the
Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband. Those not interested please omit
the next chapter.



II.

OUTFIT AND ADVICE FOR THE WOMAN-WHO-GOES-HUNTING-WITH-HER-HUSBAND.


Is it really so that most women say no to camp life because they are
afraid of being uncomfortable and looking unbeautiful? There is no reason
why a woman should make a freak of herself even if she is going to rough
it; as a matter of fact I do not rough it, I go for enjoyment and leave
out all possible discomforts. There is no reason why a woman should be
more uncomfortable out in the mountains, with the wild west wind for
companion and the big blue sky for a roof, than sitting in a 10 by 12
whitewashed bedroom of the summer hotel variety, with the tin roof to
keep out what air might be passing. A possible mosquito or gnat in the
mountains is no more irritating than the objectionable personality that
is sure to be forced upon you every hour at the summer hotel. The usual
walk, the usual drive, the usual hop, the usual novel, the usual
scandal,--in a word, the continual consciousness of self as related to
dress, to manners, to position, which the gregarious living of a hotel
enforces--are all right enough once in a while; but do you not get enough
of such life in the winter to last for all the year?

Is one never to forget that it is not proper to wear gold beads with
crape? Understand, I am not to be set down as having any charity for the
ignoramus who would wear that combination, but I wish to record the fact
that there are times, under the spell of the West, when I simply do not
_care_ whether there are such things as gold beads and crape; when the
whole business of city life, the music, arts, drama, the pleasant
friends, equally with the platitudes of things and people you care not
about--civilization, in a word--when all these fade away from my thoughts
as far as geographically they are, and in their place comes the joy of
being at least a healthy, if not an intelligent, animal. It is a pleasure
to eat when the time comes around, a good old-fashioned pleasure, and you
need no dainty serving to tempt you. It is another pleasure to use your
muscles, to buffet with the elements, to endure long hours of riding, to
run where walking would do, to jump an obstacle instead of going around
it, to return, physically at least, to your pinafore days when you
played with your brother Willie. Red blood means a rose-colored world.
Did you feel like that last summer at Newport or Narragansett?

So enough; come with me and learn how to be vulgarly robust.

Of course one must have clothes and personal comforts, so, while we are
still in the city humor, let us order a habit suitable for riding
astride. Whipcord, or a closely woven homespun, in some shade of grayish
brown that harmonizes with the landscape, is best. Corduroy is pretty, if
you like it, but rather clumsy. Denham will do, but it wrinkles and
becomes untidy. Indeed it has been my experience that it is economy to
buy the best quality of cloth you can afford, for then the garment always
keeps its shape, even after hard wear, and can be cleaned and made ready
for another year, and another, and another. You will need it, never
fear. Once you have opened your ears, "the Red Gods" will not cease to
"call for you."

In Western life you are on and off your horse at the change of a thought.
Your horse is not an animate exercise-maker that John brings around for a
couple of hours each morning; he is your companion, and shares the
vicissitudes of your life. You even consult him on occasion, especially
on matters relating to the road. Therefore your costume must look equally
well on and off the horse. In meeting this requirement, my woes were
many. I struggled valiantly with everything in the market, and finally,
from five varieties of divided skirts and bloomers, the following
practical and becoming habit was evolved.

I speak thus modestly, as there is now a trail of patterns of this habit
from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. Wherever it goes, it makes
converts, especially among the wives of army officers at the various
Western posts where we have been--for the majority of women in the West,
and I nearly said all the sensible ones, now ride astride.

When off the horse, there is nothing about this habit to distinguish it
from any trim golf suit, with the stitching up the left front which is
now so popular. When on the horse, it looks, as some one phrased it, as
though one were riding side saddle on both sides. This is accomplished by
having the fronts of the skirt double, free nearly to the waist, and,
when off the horse, fastened by patent hooks. The back seam is also open,
faced for several inches, stitched and closed by patent fasteners. Snug
bloomers of the same material are worn underneath. The simplicity of
this habit is its chief charm; there is no superfluous material to sit
upon--oh, the torture of wrinkled cloth in the divided skirt!--and it
does not fly up even in a strong wind, if one knows how to ride. The
skirt is four inches from the ground--it should not bell much on the
sides--and about three and a half yards at the bottom, which is finished
with a five-inch stitched hem.

[Illustration: COSTUME FOR CROSS SADDLE RIDING. Designed by the Author.]

Any style of jacket is of course suitable. One that looks well on the
horse is tight fitting, with postilion back, short on hips, sharp pointed
in front, with single-breasted vest of reddish leather (the habit
material of brown whipcord), fastened by brass buttons, leather collar
and revers, and a narrow leather band on the close-fitting sleeves. A
touch of leather on the skirt in the form of a patch pocket is
harmonious, but any extensive leather trimming on the skirt makes it
unnecessarily heavy.

A suit of this kind should be as irreproachable in fit and finish as a
tailor can make it. This is true economy, for when you return in the
autumn it is ready for use as a rainy-day costume.

Once you have your habit, the next purchase should be stout, heavy soled
boots, 13 or 14 inches high, which will protect the leg in walking and
from the stirrup leather while riding. One needs two felt hats (never
straw), one of good quality for sun or rain, with large firm brim. This
is important, for if the brim be not firm the elements will soon reduce
it to raglike limpness and it will flap up and down in your face as you
ride. This can be borne with composure for five or ten minutes, but not
for days and weeks at a time. The other felt hat may be as small and as
cheap as you like. Only see that it combines the graces of comfort and
becomingness. It is for evenings, and sunless rainless days. A small
brown felt, with a narrow leather band, gilt buckle, and a twist of
orange veiling around the crown, is pretty for the whipcord costume.

One can do a wonderful amount of smartening up with tulle, hat pins,
belts, and fancy neck ribbons, all of which comparatively take up no room
and add no weight, always the first consideration. Be sure you supply
yourself with a reserve of hat pins. Two devices by which they may be
made to stay in the hat are here shown. The spiral can be given to any
hat pin. The chain and small brooch should be used if the hat pin is of
much value.

At this point, if any man, a reviewer perhaps, has delved thus far into
the mysteries of feminine outfit, he will probably remark, "Why take a
hat pin of much value?" to which I reply; "Why not? Can you suggest any
more harmless or useful vent for woman's desire to ornament herself? And
unless you want her to be that horror of horrors, a strong-minded woman,
do you think you can strip her for three months of all her gewgaws and
still have her filled with the proper desire to be pleasing in your eyes?
No; better let her have the hat pins--and you know they really are
useful--and then she will dress up to those hat pins, if it is only with
a fresh neck ribbon and a daisy at her belt."

I had a man's saddle, with a narrow tree and high pommel and cantle, such
as is used out West, and as I had not ridden a horse since the hazy days
of my infancy, I got on the huge creature's back with everything to
learn. Fear enveloped me as in a cloud during my first ride, and the
possibilities of the little cow pony they put me on seemed more
awe-inspiring than those of a locomotive. But I have been reading
Professor William James and acquired from him the idea (I hope I do not
malign him) that the accomplishment of a thing depends largely upon one's
mental attitude, and this was mine all nicely taken--in New York:--

"This thing has been done before, and done well. Good; then I can do it,
and _enjoy_ it too."

I particularly insisted upon the latter clause--in the East. This
formula is applicable in any situation. I never should have gotten
through my Western experiences without it, and I advise you, my dear
Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband, to take a large stock of it made
up and ready for use. There is one other rule for your conduct, if you
want to be a success: think what you like, but unless it is pleasant,
_don't say it_.

Is it better to ride astride? I will not carry the battle ground into the
East, although even here I have my opinion; but in the West, in the
mountains, there can be no question that it is the _only way_. Here is an
example to illustrate: Two New York women, mother and daughter, took a
trip of some three hundred miles over the pathless Wind River Mountains.
The mother rode astride, but the daughter preferred to exhibit her
Durland Academy accomplishment, and rode sidesaddle, according to the
fashion set by an artful queen to hide her deformity. The advantages of
health, youth and strength were all with the daughter; yet in every case
on that long march it was the daughter who gave out first and compelled
the pack train to halt while she and her horse rested. And the daughter
was obliged to change from one horse to another, while the same horse was
able to carry the mother, a slightly heavier woman, through the trip. And
the back of the horse which the daughter had ridden chiefly was in such a
condition from saddle galls that the animal, two months before a
magnificent creature, had to be shot.

I hear you say, "But that was an extreme case." Perhaps it was, but it
supports the verdict of the old mountaineers who refuse to let any horse
they prize be saddled with "those gol-darned woman fripperies."

There is also another side. A woman at best is physically handicapped
when roughing it with husband or brother. Then why increase that handicap
by wearing trailing skirts that catch on every log and bramble, and which
demand the services of at least one hand to hold up (fortunately this
battle is already won), and by choosing to ride side-saddle, thus making
it twice as difficult to mount and dismount by yourself, which in fact
compels you to seek the assistance of a log, or stone, or a friendly hand
for a lift? Western riding is not Central Park riding, nor is it Rotten
Row riding. The cowboy's, or military, seat is much simpler and easier
for both man and beast than the Park seat--though, of course, less
stylish. That is the glory of it; you can go galloping over the prairie
and uplands with never a thought that the trot is more proper, and your
course, untrammelled by fenced-in roads, is straight to the setting sun
or to yonder butte. And if you want a spice of danger, it is there,
sometimes more than you want, in the presence of badger and gopher holes,
to step into which while at high speed may mean a broken leg for your
horse, perhaps a broken neck for yourself. But to return to the
independence of riding astride:

One day I was following a game trail along a very steep bank which ended
a hundred feet below in a granite precipice. It had been raining and
snowing in a fitful fashion, and the clay ground was slippery, making a
most treacherous footing. One of the pack animals just ahead of my horse
slipped, fell to his knees, the heavy pack overbalanced him, and away he
rolled over and over down the slope, to be stopped from the precipice
only by the happy accident of a scrub tree in the way. Frightened by this
sight, my animal plunged, and he, too, lost his footing. Had I been
riding side-saddle, nothing could have saved me, for the downhill was on
the near side; but instead I swung out of the saddle on the off side and
landed in a heap on the uphill, still clutching the bridle. That act
saved my horse's life, probably, as well as my own. For the sudden weight
I put on the upper side as I swung off enabled him to recover his balance
just in time. I do not pretend to say that I can dismount from the off
side as easily as from the near, because I am not accustomed to it. But I
have frequently done it in emergencies, while a side-saddle leaves one
helpless in this case as in many others.

Besides being unable to mount and dismount without assistance it is very
difficult to get side-saddle broken horses, and it usually means a horse
so broken in health and spirits that he does not care what is being
strapped on his back and dangling on one side of him only. And to be on
such an animal means that you are on the worst mount of the outfit, and I
am sure that it requires little imagination on any one's part to know
therein lies misery. Oh! the weariness of being the weakest of the party
and the worst mounted--to be always at the tail end of the line, never to
be able to keep up with the saddle horses when they start off for a
canter, to expend your stock of vitality, which you should husband for
larger matters, in urging your beast by voice and quirt to further
exertion! Never place yourself in such a position. The former you cannot
help, but you can lessen it by making use of such aids to greater
independence as wearing short skirts and riding astride, and having at
least as good a horse as there is in the outfit. Then you will get the
pleasure from your outing that you have the right to expect--that is, if
you adhere to one other bit of advice, or rather two.

The first is: See that for your camping trip is provided a man cook.

I wish that I could put a charm over the next few words so that only the
woman reader could understand, but as I cannot I must repeat boldly: Dear
woman who goes hunting with her husband, be sure that you have it
understood that you do no cooking, or dishwashing. I think that the
reason women so often dislike camping out is because the only really
disagreeable part of it is left to them as a matter of course. Cooking
out of doors at best is trying, and certainly you cannot be care free,
camp-life's greatest charm, when you have on your mind the boiling of
prunes and beans, or when tears are starting from your smoke-inflamed
eyes as you broil the elk steak for dinner. No, indeed! See that your
guide or your horse wrangler knows how to cook, and expects to do it.
He is used to it, and, anyway, is paid for it. He is earning his living,
you are taking a vacation.

Now for the second advice, which is a codicil to the above: In return for
not having to potter with the food and tinware, _never complain about
it_. Eat everything that is set before you, shut your eyes to possible
dirt, or, if you cannot, leave the particular horror in question
untouched, but without comment. Perhaps in desperation you may assume the
role of cook yourself. Oh, foolish woman, if you do, you only exchange
your woes for worse ones.

If you provide yourself with the following articles and insist upon
having them reserved for you, and then let the cook furnish everything
else, you will be all right:--

_An aluminum plate made double for hot water_. This is a very little
trouble to fill, and insures a comfortable meal; otherwise, your meat and
vegetables will be cold before you can eat them, and the gravy will have
a thin coating of ice on it. It is always cold night and morning in the
mountains. And if you do not need the plate heated you do not have to
fill it; that's all. I am sure my hot-water plate often saved me from
indigestion and made my meals things to enjoy instead of to endure.

_Two cups and saucers of white enamel ware_. They always look clean and
do not break.

_One silver-plated knife and fork and two teaspoons_.

_One folding camp chair_.

N.B.--Provide your husband or brother or sister precisely the same; no
more, no less.

_Japanese napkins_, enough to provide two a day for the party.

_Two white enamel vegetable dishes_.

_One folding camp table_.

_One candle lamp, with enough candles_. Then leave all the rest of the
cooking outfit to your cook and trust in Providence. (If you do not
approve of Providence, a full aluminum cooking outfit can be bought so
that one pot or pan nests in the other, the whole very complete, compact
and light.)

Come what may, you have your own particular clean hot plate, cup and
saucer, knife, fork, spoon and napkin, with a table to eat from and a
chair to sit on and a lamp to see by, if you are eating after dark--which
often happens--and nothing else matters, but food.

If you want to be canny you will have somewhere in your own pack a modest
supply of condensed soups and vegetables, a box or two of meat crackers,
and three or four bottles of bouillon, to be brought out on occasions of
famine. Anyway it is a comfort to know that you have provided against the
wolf. So much for your part of the eating; now for the sleeping. If you
do not sleep warm and comfortable at night, the joys of camping are as
dust in the mouth. The most glorious morning that Nature ever produced is
a weariness to the flesh of the owl-eyed. So whatever else you leave
behind, be sure your sleeping arrangements are comfortable. The following
is the result of three years' experience:--

_A piece of waterproof brown canvas_, 7 by 10 feet, bound with tape
and supplied with two heavy leather straps nine feet long, with strong
buckles at one end and fastened to the canvas by means of canvas
loops, and one leather strap six feet long that crosses the other two
at right angles.

_One rubber air bed_, 36 by 76 inches (don't take a narrower size or you
will be uncomfortable), fitted with large size double valve at each end.
This bed is six inches thick when blown full of air. Be sure that sides
are inserted, thus making two seams to join together the top and bottom
six inches apart. If the top and bottom are fastened directly together,
your bed slopes down at the sides, which is always disagreeable.

_A sleeping bag_, with the canvas cover made the full 36 inches wide.
This cover should hold two blanket bags of different weight, and if you
are wise you will have made an eider-down bag to fit inside all of these
for very cold weather. The eider bag costs about $16.00 or $18.00, but
is worth it if you are going to camp out in the mountains after August.
Do without one or two summer hats, but get it, for it is the keynote of
camp comfort.

Then you want a lamb's wool night wrapper, a neutral grey or brown in
color, a set of heavy night flannels, some heavy woollen stockings and a
woollen tam o' shanter large enough to pull down over the ears. A
hot-water bag, also, takes up no room and is heavenly on a freezing
night when the wind is howling through the trees and snow threatens.
N.B.--See that your husband or brother has a similar outfit, or he will
borrow yours.

The sleeping bags should be separated and dried either by sun or fire
every other day.

_Always keep all your sleeping things together in your bed roll_, and
your husband's things together in his bed bundle. It will save you many a
sigh and weary hunt in the dark and cold. The tent and such things, you
can afford to leave to your guide or to luck. If one wishes to provide a
tent, brown canvas is far preferable to white. It does not make a glare
of light, nor does it stand out aggressively in the landscape. You have
your little nightly kingdom waiting for you and can sleep cosily if
nothing else is provided. Whenever possible, get your bed blown up and
your sleeping bags in order on top and your sleeping things together
where you can put your hands on them during the daylight, or if that is
impossible, make it the first thing you do when you make camp, while the
cook is getting supper. Then, as you eat supper and sit near the camp
fire to keep warm, you have the sweet consciousness that over there, in
the blackness is a snug little nest all ready to receive your tired self.
And if some morning you want to see what you have escaped, just unscrew
the air valve to your bed before you rise, and when you come down on the
hard, bumpy ground, in less time than it takes to tell, you will agree
with me that there is nothing so rare as resting on air. Nimrod used to
play this trick on me occasionally when it was time to get up--it is more
efficacious than any alarm clock--but somehow he never seemed to enjoy it
when I did it to him.

For riding, it is better to carry your own saddle and bridle and to buy a
saddle horse upon leaving the railroad. You can look to the guides for
all the rest, such as pack saddles, pack animals, etc.

My saddle is a strong but light-weight California model; that is, with
pommel and cantle on a Whitman tree. It is fitted with gun-carrying case
of the same leather and saddle-bag on the skirt of each side, and has a
leather roll at the back strapped on to carry an extra jacket and a
slicker. (A rain-coat is most important. I use a small size of the New
York mounted policemen's mackintosh, made by Goodyear. It opens front and
back and has a protecting cape for the hands.) The saddle has also small
pommel bags in which are matches, compass, leather thongs, knife and a
whistle (this last in case I get lost), and there are rings and strings
in which other bundles such as lunch can be attached while on the march.
A horsehair army saddle blanket saves the animal's back. Nimrod's saddle
is exactly like mine, only with longer and larger stirrups.


[Illustration: I. SADDLE COVER FOR WET WEATHER. Designed by A.A.
Anderson.]

[Illustration: II. POLICEMAN'S EQUESTRIAN RAIN COAT.]

You have now your personal things for eating, sleeping and riding. It
remains but to clothe yourself and you are ready to start. Provide
yourself with two or three champagne baskets covered with brown
waterproof canvas, with stout handles at each end and two leather straps
going round the basket to buckle the lid down, and a stronger strap going
lengthwise over all. Or if you do not mind a little more expense,
telescopes made of leatheroid, about 22 inches long, 11 inches wide and 9
inches deep, with the lower corners rounded so they will not stick into
the horse, and fitted with straps and handles, make the ideal travelling
case; for they can be shipped from place to place on the railroad and can
be packed, one on each side of a horse. They are much to be preferred to
the usual Klondike bag for convenience in packing and unpacking one's
things and in protecting them.

It is hardly necessary to say that clothes have to be kept down to the
limit of comfort. Into the telescopes or baskets should go warm flannels,
extra pair of heavy boots, several flannel shirt waists, extra riding
habit and bloomers, fancy neck ribbons and a belt or two--for why look
worse than your best at any time?--a long warm cloak and a chamois jacket
for cold weather, snow overshoes, warm gloves and mittens too, and some
woollen stockings. Be sure you take flannels. This is the advice of one
who never wears them at any other time. A veil or two is very useful, as
the wind is often high and biting, and I was much annoyed with wisps of
hair around my eyes, and also with my hair coming down while on
horseback, until I hit upon the device of tying a brown liberty silk veil
over the hair and partially over the ears before putting on a sombrero.
This veil was not at all unbecoming, being the same color as my hair, and
it served the double purpose of keeping unruly locks in order and
keeping my ears warm. A hair net is also useful.

Then you must not forget a rubber bath tub, a rubber wash basin, sponge,
towels, soap, and toilet articles generally, including camphor ice for
chapped lips and pennyroyal vaseline salve for insect bites. A brown
linen case is invaluable to hold all these toilet necessaries, so that
you can find them quickly. A sewing kit should be supplied, a flask of
whiskey, and a small "first-aid" outfit; a bottle of Perry Davis pain
killer or Pond's extract; but no more bottles than must be, as they are
almost sure to be broken. In your husband's box, ammunition takes the
place of toilet articles. I shall pass over the guns with the bare
mention that I use a 30.30 Winchester, smokeless. For railroad purposes
all this outfit for two goes into two trunks and a box--one trunk for all
the bedding and night things: the other for all the clothing, guns,
ammunition, eating things, and incidentals. The box holds the saddles,
bridles, and horse things.

In a pack train, the bed-rolls, weighing about fifty pounds each, go on
either side of one horse, and the telescopes on each side of another
horse--in both cases not a full load, and leaving room on the top of the
pack for a tent and other camp things. The saddles, of course, go on the
saddle horses. The cost of such an outfit, in New York, is about two
hundred dollars each; but it lasts for years and brings you in large
returns in health and consequent happiness.

I am willing to wager my horsehair rope (specially designed for keeping
off snakes) that a summer in the Rockies would enable you to cheat time
of at least two years, and you would come home and join me in the ranks
of converts from the usual summer sort of thing. Will you try it? If you
do, how you will pity your unfortunate friends who have never known what
it is to sleep on the south side of a sage brush, and honestly say in the
morning, "It is wonderful how well I am feeling."

But to begin:--



III.

THE FIRST PLUNGE OF THE WOMAN TENDERFOOT.


It was about midnight in the end of August when Nimrod and I tumbled off
the train at Market Lake, Idaho. Next morning, after a comfortable
night's rest at the "hotel," our rubber beds, sleeping bags, saddles,
guns, clothing, and ourselves were packed into a covered wagon, drawn by
four horses, and we started for Jackson's Hole in charge of a driver who
knew the road perfectly. At least, that was what he said, so of course he
must have known it. But his memory failed him sadly the first day out,
which reduced him to the necessity of inquiring of the neighbours. As
these were unsociably placed from thirty to fifty miles apart, there were
many times when the little blind god of chance ruled our course.

We put up for the night at Rexburgh, after forty long miles of alkali
dust. The Mormon religion has sent a thin arm up into that country, and
the keeper of the log building he called a hotel was of that faith. The
history of our brief stay there belongs properly to the old torture days
of the Inquisition, for the Mormon's possessions of living creatures
were many, and his wives and children were the least of them.

Another day of dust and long hard miles over gradually rising hills, with
the huge mass of the Tetons looming ever nearer, and the next day we
climbed the Teton Pass.

There is nothing extraordinary about climbing the Teton Pass--to tell
about. We just went up, and then we went down. It took six horses half a
day to draw us up the last mile--some twenty thousand seconds of
conviction on my part (unexpressed, of course; see side talk) that the
next second would find us dashed to everlasting splinters. And it took
ten minutes to get us down!

Of the two, I preferred going up. If you have ever climbed a greased pole
during Fourth of July festivities in your grandmother's village, you
will understand.

When we got to the bottom there was something different. Our driver
informed us that in two hours we should be eating dinner at the ranch
house in Jackson's Hole, where we expected to stop for a while to
recuperate from the past year's hard grind and the past two weeks of
travel. This was good news, as it was then five o'clock and our midday
meal had been light--despite the abundance of coffee, soggy potatoes,
salt pork, wafer slices of meat swimming in grease, and evaporated
apricots wherein some nice red ants were banqueting.

"We'll just cross the Snake River, and then it'll be plain sailing," he
said. Perhaps it was so. I was inexperienced in the West. This was what
followed:--Closing the door on the memory of my recent perilous
passage, I prepared to be calm inwardly, as I like to think I was
outwardly. The Snake River is so named because for every mile it goes
ahead it retreats half way alongside to see how well it has been done. I
mention this as a pleasing instance of a name that really describes the
thing named. But this is after knowledge.

About half past five, we came to a rolling tumbling yellow stream where
the road stopped abruptly with a horrid drop into water that covered the
hubs of the wheels. The current was strong, and the horses had to
struggle hard to gain the opposite bank. I began to thank my patron saint
that the Snake River was crossed.

Crossed? Oh, no! A narrow strip of pebbly road, and the high willows
suddenly parted to disclose another stream like the last, but a
little deeper, a little wider, a little worse. We crossed it. I made
no comments.

At the third stream the horses rebelled. There are many things four
horses can do on the edge of a wicked looking river to make it
uncomfortable, but at last they had to go in, plunging madly, and
dragging the wagon into the stream nearly broadside, which made at least
one in the party consider the frailty of human contrivances when matched
against a raging flood.

Soon there was another stream. I shall not describe it. When we
eventually got through it, the driver stopped his horses to rest, wiped
his brow, went around the wagon and pulled a few ropes tighter, cut a
willow stick and mended his broken whip, gave a hitch to his trousers,
and remarked as he started the horses:

"Now, when we get through the Snake River on here a piece, we'll be
all right."

"I thought we had been crossing it for the past hour," I was feminine
enough to gasp.

"Oh, yes, them's forks of it; but the main stream's on ahead, and it's
mighty treacherous, too," was the calm reply.

When we reached the Snake River, there was no doubt that the others were
mere forks. Fortunately, Joe Miller and his two sons live on the opposite
bank, and make a living by helping people escape destruction from the
mighty waters. Two men waved us back from the place where our driver was
lashing his horses into the rushing current, and guided us down stream
some distance. One of them said:

"This yere ford changes every week, but I reckon you might try here."

We did.

Had my hair been of the dramatic kind that realises situations, it would
have turned white in the next ten minutes. The water was over the horses'
backs immediately, the wagon box was afloat, and we were being borne
rapidly down stream in the boiling seething flood, when the wheels struck
a shingly bar which gave the horses a chance to half swim, half plunge.
The two men, who were on horseback, each seized one of the leaders, and
kept his head pointed for a cut in the bank, the only place where we
could get out.

Everything in the wagon was afloat. A leather case with a forty dollar
fishing rod stowed snugly inside slipped quietly off down stream. I
rescued my camera from the same fate just in time. Overshoes, wraps,
field glasses, guns, were suddenly endowed with motion. Another moment
and we should surely have sunk, when the horses, by a supreme effort,
managed to scramble on to the bank, but were too exhausted to draw more
than half of the wagon after them, so that it was practically on end in
the water, our outfit submerged, of course, and ourselves reclining as
gracefully as possible on the backs of the seats.

Had anything given away then, there might have been a tragedy. The two
men immediately fastened a rope to the tongue of the wagon, and each
winding an end around the pommel of his saddle, set his cow pony
pulling. Our horses made another effort, and up we came out of the
water, wet, storm tossed, but calm. Oh, yes--calm! After that, earth
had no terrors for me; the worst road that we could bump over was but an
incident. I was not surprised that it grew dark very soon, and that we
blundered on and on for hours in the night until the near wheeler just
lay down in the dirt, a dark spot in the dark road, and our driver,
after coming back from a tour of inspection on foot, looked worried. I
mildly asked if we would soon cross Snake River, but his reply was an
admission that he was lost. There was nothing visible but the twinkling
stars and a dim outline of the grim Tetons. The prospect was excellent
for passing the rest of the night where we were, famished, freezing, and
so tired I could hardly speak.

But Nimrod now took command. His first duty, of course, being a man, was
to express his opinion of the driver in terms plain and comprehensive;
then he loaded his rifle and fired a shot. If there were any mountaineers
around, they would understand the signal and answer.

We waited. All was silent as before. Two more horses dropped to the
ground. Then he sent another loud report into the darkness. In a few
moments we thought we heard a distant shout, then the report of a gun
not far away.

Nimrod mounted the only standing horse and went in the direction of the
sound. Then followed an interminable silence. I hallooed, but got no
answer. The wildest fears for Nimrod's safety tormented me. He had fallen
into a gully, the horse had thrown him, _he_ was lost.

Then I heard a noise and listened eagerly. The driver said it was a
coyote howling up on the mountain. At last voices did come to me from out
of the blackness, and Nimrod returned with a man and a fresh horse. The
man was no other than the owner of the house for which we were searching,
and in ten minutes I was drying myself by his fireplace, while his
hastily aroused wife was preparing a midnight supper for us.

To this day, I am sure that driver's worst nightmare is when he lives
over again the time when he took a tenderfoot and his wife into Jackson's
Hole, and, but for the tenderfoot, would have made them stay out
overnight, wet, famished, frozen, within a stone's throw of the very
house for which they were looking.



IV.

WHICH TREATS OF THE IMPS AND MY ELK.


"If you want to see elk, you just follow up the road till you strike a
trail on the left, up over that hog's back, and that will bring you in a
mile or so on to a grassy flat, and in two or three miles more you come
to a lake back in the mountains."

Mrs. Cummings, the speaker, was no ordinary woman of Western make. She
had been imported from the East by her husband three years before. She
had been 'forelady in a corset factory,' when matrimony had enticed her
away, and the thought that walked beside her as she baked, and washed,
and fed the calves, was that some day she would go 'back East.' And this
in spite of the fact that for those parts she was very comfortable.

Her log house was the largest in the country, barring Captain Jones's,
her nearest neighbour, ten miles up at Jackson's Lake, and his was a
hotel. Hers could boast of six rooms and two clothes' closets. The
ceilings were white muslin to shut off the rafters, the sitting room had
wall-paper and a rag carpet, and in one corner was the post-office.

The United States Government Post-office of Deer, Wyoming, took up
two compartments of Mrs. Cummings' writing desk, and she was called
upon to be postmistress fifteen minutes twice a week, when the small boy,
mounted on a tough little pony, happened around with the leather bag
which carried the mail to and from Jackson, thirty miles below.

[Illustration: SHE WAS POSTMISTRESS TWICE A WEEK.]

"I'd like some elk meat mighty well for dinner," Mrs. Cummings continued,
as she leaned against the kitchen door and watched us mount our newly
acquired horses, "but you won't find game around here without a
guide--Easterners never do."

Nimrod and I started off in joyous mood. The secret of it, the
fascination of the wild life, was revealed to me. At last I understood
why the birds sing. The glorious exhilaration of the mountains, the
feeling that life is a rosy dream, and that all the worry and the fever
and the fret of man's making is a mere illusion that has faded away into
the past, and is not worth while; that the real life is to be free, to
fly over the grassy mountain meadow with never a limitation of fence or
house, with the eternal peaks towering around you, terrible in their
grandeur and vastness, yet inviting.

We struck the trail all right, we thought, but it soon disappeared and we
had to govern our course by imagination, an uncertain guide at best. We
got into dreadful tangles of timber; the country was all strange, and the
trees spread over the mountain for miles, so that it was like trying to
find the way under a blanket; but we kept on riding our horses over
fallen logs and squeezing them between trees, all the time keeping a
sharp watch over them, for they were fresh and scary.

Finally, after three hours' hard climbing, we emerged from the forest on
to a great bare shoulder of the mountain, from which the whole country
around, vast and beautiful, could be seen. We took bearings and tried to
locate that lake, and we finally decided that a wooded basin three miles
away looked likely to contain it.

In order to get to it, we had to cross a wooded ravine, very steep and
torn out by a recent cloudburst. We rode the horses down places that I
shudder in remembering, and I had great trouble in keeping away from the
front feet of my horse as I led him, especially when there were little
gullies that had to be jumped.

It was exciting enough, and hard work, too, every nerve on a tingle and
one's heart thumping with the unwonted exercise at that altitude; but oh,
the glorious air, the joy of life and motion that was quite unknown to my
reception and theatre-going self in the dim far away East!

We searched for that lake all day, and at nightfall went home confident
that we could find it on the morrow.

Mrs. Cummings' smile clearly expressed 'I told you so,' and she remarked
as she served supper: "When my husband comes home next week, he will take
you where you can find game."

The next morning we again took some lunch in the saddle bag and started
for that elusive spot we had christened Cummings' Lake. About three
o'clock we found it--a beautiful patch of water in the heart of the
forest, nestling like a jewel, back in the mountains.

We picketed the horses at a safe distance, so that they could not be seen
or heard from the lake. At one end the shore sloped gradually into the
water, and here Nimrod discovered many tracks of elk, a few deer, and one
set of black bear. He said the lake was evidently a favourite drinking
place, that a band of elk had been coming daily to water, and that,
according to their habits, they ought to come again before dusk.

So we concealed ourselves on a little bluff to the right and waited. The
sun had begun to cast long lines on the earth, and the little circle of
water was already in shadow when Nimrod held up his finger as a warning
for silence. We listened. We were so still that the whole world seemed to
be holding its breath.

I heard a faint noise as of a snapping branch, then some light thuds
along the ground, and to the left of us out of the dark forest, a dainty
creature flitted along the trail and playfully splashed into the water.
Six others of her sisters followed her, with two little ones, and they
were all splashing about in the water like so many sportive mermaids when
their lordly master appeared--a fine bull elk who seemed to me, as he
sedately approached the edge of the lake, to be nothing but horns.

I shall never forget the picture of this family at home--the quiet lake
encircled by forest and towered over by mountains; the gentle graceful
creatures full of life playing about in the water, now drinking, now
splashing it in cooling showers upon one another; the solicitude of a
mother that her young one should come to no harm; and then the head of
them all proceeding with dignity to bathe with his harem.

Had I to do again what followed, I hope I should act differently. Nimrod
was watching them with a rapt expression, quite forgetful of the rifle in
his hands, when I, who had never seen anything killed, touched his arm
and whispered: "Shoot, shoot now, if you are going to."

The report of the rifle rang out like a cannon. The does fled away as if
by magic. The stag tried also to get to shore, but the ball had
inflicted a wound which partially paralysed his hindquarters. At the
sight of the blood and the big fellow's struggles to get away, the
horror of the thing swept over me. "Oh, kill him, kill him!" I wailed.
"Don't let him suffer!"

But here the hunter in Nimrod answered: "If I kill him now, I shall never
be able to get him. Wait until he gets out of the water."

The next few seconds, with that struggling thing in the water, seemed an
eternity of agony to me. Then another loud bang caused the proud head
with its weight of antlers to sink to the wet bank never to rise again.

Later, as I dried my tears, I asked Nimrod:

"Where is the place to aim if you want to kill an animal instantly, so
that he will not suffer, and never know what hit him?"

"The best place is the shoulder." He showed me the spot on his elk.

"But wouldn't he suffer at all?"

"Well, of course, if you hit him in the brain, he will never know; but
that is a very fine shot. Your target is only an inch or two, here
between the eye and the ear, and the head moves more than the body.
But," he said, "you would not kill an elk after the way you have wept
over this one?"

"If--if I were sure he would not suffer, I might kill just one," I
said, conscious of my inconsistencies. My woman's soul revolted, and yet
I was out West for all the experiences that the life could give me, and
I knew, if the chance came just right, that one elk would be sacrificed
to that end.

The next day, much to Mrs. Cummings' surprise, we had elk steak, the most
delicious of meat when properly cooked. The next few days slipped by. We
were always in the open air, riding about in those glorious mountains,
and it was the end of the week when a turn of the wheel brought my day.

First, it becomes necessary to confide in you. Fear is a very wicked
companion who, since nursery days, had troubled me very little; but when
I arrived out West, he was waiting for me, and, so that I need never be
without him, he divided himself into a band of little imps.

Each imp had a special duty, and never left me until he had been crushed
in silent but terrible combat. There was the imp who did not like to be
alone in the mountains, and the imp who was sure he was going to be lost
in those wildernesses, and the imp who quaked at the sight of a gun, and
the imp who danced a mad fierce dance when on a horse. All these had been
conquered, or at least partially reduced to subjection, but the imp who
sat on the saddle pommel when there was a ditch or stream to be jumped
had hitherto obliged me to dismount and get over the space on foot.

This morning, when we came to a nasty boggy place, with several small
water cuts running through it, I obeyed the imp with reluctance. Well, we
got over it--Blondey, the imp, and I--with nothing worse than wet feet
and shattered nerves.

I attempted to mount, and had one foot in the stirrup and one hand on the
pommel, when Blondey started. Like the girl in the song, I could not get
up, I could not get down, and although I had hold of the reins, I had no
free hand to pull them in tighter, and you may be sure the imp did not
help me. Blondey, realising there was something wrong, broke into a wild
gallop across country, but I clung on, expecting every moment the saddle
would turn, until I got my foot clear from the stirrup. Then I let go
just as Blondey was gathering himself together for another ditch.

I was stunned, but escaped any serious hurt. Nimrod was a great deal more
undone than I. He had not dared to go fast for fear of making Blondey go
faster, and he now came rushing up, with the fear of death upon his face
and the most terrible swears on his lips.

Although a good deal shaken, I began to laugh, the combination was so
incongruous. Nimrod rarely swears, and was now quite unconscious what his
tongue was doing. Upon being assured that all was well, he started after
Blondey and soon brought him back to me; but while he was gone the imp
and I had a mortal combat.

I did up my hair, rearranged my habit, and, rejecting Nimrod's offer of
his quieter horse, remounted Blondey. We all jumped the next ditch, but
the shock was too much for the imp in his weakened condition; he tumbled
off the pommel, and I have never seen him since.

Our course lay along the hills on the east bank of Snake River that day.
We discovered another beautiful sapphire lake in a setting of green
hills. Several ducks were gliding over its surface. We watched them, in
concealment of course, and we saw a fish hawk capture his dinner. Then we
quietly continued along the ridge of a high bluff until we came to an
outstretched point, where beneath us lay the Snake Valley with its
fickle-minded river winding through.

The sun was just dropping behind the great Tetons, massed in front of us
across the valley. We sat on our horses motionless, looking at the
peaceful and majestic scene, when out from the shadows on the sandy
flats far below us came a dark shadow, and then leisurely another and
another. They were elk, two bulls and a doe, grazing placidly in a little
meadow surrounded by trees.

We kept as still as statues.

Nimrod said. "There is your chance."

"Yes," I echoed, "here is my chance."

We waited until they passed into the trees again. Then we dismounted.
Nimrod handed me the rifle, saying:

"There are seven shots in it. I will stay behind with the horses."

I took the gun without a word and crept down the mountain side, keeping
under cover as much as possible. The sunset quiet surrounded me; the
deadly quiet of but one idea--to creep upon that elk and kill
him--possessed me. That gradual painful drawing nearer to my prey seemed
a lifetime. I was conscious of nothing to the right, or to the left of
me; only of what I was going to do. There were pine woods and scrub brush
and more woods. Then, suddenly, I saw him standing by the river about to
drink. I crawled nearer until I was within one hundred and fifty yards of
him, when at the snapping of a twig he raised his head with its crown of
branching horn. He saw nothing, so turned again to drink.

Now was the time. I crawled a few feet nearer and raised the deadly
weapon. The stag turned partly away from me. In another moment he would
be gone. I sighted along the metal barrel and a terrible bang went
booming through the dim secluded spot. The elk raised his proud, antlered
head and looked in my direction. Another shot tore through the air.
Without another move the animal dropped where he stood. He lay as still
as the stones beside him, and all was quiet again in the twilight.

I sat on the ground where I was and made no attempt to go near him.
So that was all. One instant a magnificent breathing thing, the
next--nothing.

Death had been so sudden. I had no regret, I had no triumph--just a sort
of wonder at what I had done--a surprise that the breath of life could be
taken away so easily.

Meanwhile, Nimrod had become alarmed at the long silence, and, tying the
horses, had followed me down the mountain. He was nearly down when he
heard the shots, and now came rushing up.

"I have done it," I said in a dull tone, pointing at the dark, quiet
object on the bank.

"You surely have."

Nimrod paced the distance--it was one hundred and thirty-five yards--as
we went up to the elk. How beautiful his coat was, glossy and shaded in
browns, and those great horns--eleven points--that did not seem so big
now to my eyes.

Nimrod examined the carcass.

"You are an apt pupil," he said. "You put a bullet through his heart and
another through his brain."

"Yes," I said; "he never knew what killed him." But I felt no glory in
the achievement.



V.

LOST IN THE MOUNTAINS.


Have you ever been lost in the mountains?--not the peaceful, cultivated
child hills of the Catskills, but in real mountains, where the first
outpost of civilisation, a lonely ranch house, is two weeks' travel away,
and where that stream on your left is bound for the Pacific Ocean, and
that stream on your right over there will, after four thousand miles,
find its way into the Atlantic Ocean, and where the air you breathe is
twelve thousand feet above those seas? I have.

The situation is naturally one you would not fish out of the grab bag of
fate if you could avoid it. When you suddenly find it on your hands,
however, there is only one thing to do--keep your nerve, grasp it firmly,
and look at it closely. If you have a horse and a gun and a cartridge,
it is not so bad. I had these and I had better than all these, I had
Nimrod--but only half of Nimrod. The working half was chained up by my
fears, for such is the power of a woman. I will explain. In crossing
over the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains, we were guests in the
pack train of a man who was equally at home in a New York drawing-room or
on a Wyoming bear hunt, and he had made mountain travelling a fine art.
Besides ourselves, there were the horse wrangler, the cook (of whom you
shall hear later), and sixteen horses, and we started from Jackson's Lake
for the Big Horn Basin, several hundred miles over the pathless
uninhabited mountains.

No one who has not tried it knows how difficult it is for two or three
men to keep so many pack animals in line, with no pathway to guide; and
once they are started going nicely, it is nothing short of a calamity to
stop them, especially when it is necessary to cover a certain number of
miles before nightfall in order that they may have feed.

We were on the Pacific side of the Wind River Divide, and must get to the
top that night. The horses were travelling nicely up the difficult
ascent, so when Nimrod got his feet wet crossing a stream about noon, he
and I thought we would just stop and have a little lunch, dry the shoes,
and catch up with the pack train in half an hour.

From the minute the last horse vanished out of sight behind a rock,
desolation settled upon me. That slender line of living beings somewhere
on ahead was the only link between us and civilisation--civilisation
which I understood, which was human and touchable--and the awful vastness
of those endless peaks, wherein lurked a hundred dangers, and which
seemed made but to annihilate me.

Of course, the fire would not burn, and the shoes would not dry. Blondey
wandered off and had to be brought back, and it seemed an age before we
were again in the saddle, following the trail the animals had made.

But Nimrod was blithe and unconcerned, so I made no sign of the craven
soul within me. For an hour or two we followed the trail, urging our
horses as much as possible, but the ascent was difficult, and we could
not gain on the speed of the pack train. Then the trail was lost in a
gully where the animals had gone in every direction to get through. My
nerves were now on the rack of suspense.

Where were they? Surely, we must have passed them! We were on the wrong
trail, perhaps going away from them at every step!

The screws of fear grew tighter every moment during the following hours.
Nimrod soon found what he considered to be the trail, and we proceeded.

At last we got to the top. No sign of them. I could have screamed aloud;
a great wave of soul destroying fear encompassed me--wild black fear. I
could not reason it out. We were lost!

Nimrod scoffed at me. The track was still plain, he said; but I could not
read the hieroglyphics at my feet, and there was no room in my mind for
confidence or hope. Fear filled it all.

There we were with the mighty forces of the insensate world around, so
pitiless, so silently cruel, it seemed to my city-bred soul. It was the
spot where Nature spread her wonders before us, one tiny spring dividing
its waters east and west for the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, for this
was the highest point.

We attempted to cross that hateful divide, that at another time might
have looked so beautiful, when suddenly Nimrod's horse plunged withers
deep in a bog, and in his struggles to get out threw Nimrod head first
from the saddle into the mud, where he lay quite still.

I faced the horror of death at that moment. Of course, this was what I
had been expecting, but had not been able to put into words. Nimrod
killed! My other fears dwindled away before this one, or, rather, it
seemed to wrap them in itself, as in a cloak. For an instant I could not
move--there alone with a dead or wounded man on that awful mountain top.

But here was an emergency where I could do something besides blindly
follow another's lead. I caught the frightened animal as it dashed out of
the treacherous place (to be horseless is almost a worse fate than to be
wounded), and Nimrod, who was little hurt, quickly recovered and managed
to scramble to dry ground, and again into the saddle.

Forcing our tired horses onward, we again found a trail, supposedly the
right one, but there was that haunting fear that it was not. For the only
signs were the bending of the grass and the occasional rubbing of the
trees where the animals had passed. And these might have been done by a
band of elk.

It was growing dusk and still no pack train in sight. No criminal on
trial for his life could have felt more wretchedly apprehensive than I.
At last we came to a stream. Nimrod, who had dismounted to examine more
closely, said:

"The trail turns off here, but it is very dim in the grass."

"Where?" I asked, anxiously.

He pointed to the ground. I could make out nothing. "Oh, let us hurry!
They must have gone on."

"I think it would be safer to follow these tracks for a time at least, to
see where they come out. There are some tracks across the stream there,
but they are older and dimmer and might have been made by elk."

"Oh, do go on! Surely the tracks across the stream must be the ones." To
go on, on, and hurry, was my one thought, my one cry.

Nimrod yielded. Thus I and my wild fear betrayed the hunter's instinct.
We went on for many weary minutes. We lost all tracks. Then Nimrod fired
a shot into the air. He would not do it before, because he said we were
not lost, and that there was no need for worry--worry, when for hours
blind fear had held me in torture!

There was no answer to the shot.

In five minutes he fired again. Then we heard a report, very faint. I
would not believe that I had heard it at all. I raised my gun and fired.
This time a shot rattled through the branches overhead, unpleasantly
near. It was clearly from behind us. We turned, and after another
interchange of shots, the cook appeared.

I was too exhausted to be glad, but a feeling of relief glided over me.
He led us to the stream where Nimrod had wanted to turn off, and from
there we were quickly in camp, very much to our host's relief. I dropped
at the foot of a tree, and said nothing for an hour--my companions were
men, so I did not have to talk if I could not--then I arose as usual and
was ready for supper.

Of course, Nimrod was blamed for not being a better mountaineer. 'He
ought to have seen that broken turf by the trail,' or those 'blades of
fresh pulled grass in the pine fork.' How could they know that a woman
and her fears had hampered him at every step, especially as you see there
was no need?

Always regulate your fears according to the situation, and then you will
not go into the valley of the shadow of death, when you are only lost in
the mountains.



VI.

THE COOK.


I had but a bare speaking acquaintance with the grim silent mountaineer
who was cook to our party. Two days after he had appeared like an angel
of heaven on our gloomy path I had an opportunity of knowing him better.
I quote from my journal:

Camp Jim, Shoshone Range, September 23: They left me alone in camp today.
No, the cook was there. They left me the cook for protection against the
vast solitude, the mighty grandeur of the mountains, and the possible,
but improbable, bear. Nice man, that cook--he confessed with pride to
many robberies and three murders! Only a month before engaging as cook on
this trip, he had been serving a life term for murder; but had been
released through some political 'pull.'

Our host, in company with another game warden, had discovered him in the
mountains, where he had gone immediately from the penitentiary and
resumed his unlawful life of killing game. But he had hidden his prizes
so effectively that there was no evidence but his own, which, of course,
is not accepted in law. Thus he welcomed these two men of justice to his
camp, told graphically of his killing--then offered them a smoke, smiling
the while at their discomfiture.

Both his face and hands were scarred from many bar room encounters, and
he unblushingly dated most of his remarks by the period when he 'was
rusticatin' in the Pen.' He had brought his own bed and saddle and pack
horses on the trip so that he could 'cut loose' from the party in case
'things got too hot' for him.

Such was the cook.

Immediately after breakfast Nimrod and our host equipped themselves for
the day's hunt, and went off in opposite directions, like _Huck Finn_ and
_Tom Sawyer_ on the occasion of their memorable first smoke.

Our camp was beside a rushing brook in a little glade that was tucked at
the foot of towering mountains where no man track had been for years, if
ever. Around us sighed the mighty pines of the limitless forest.
Hundreds of miles away, beyond the barrier of nature, were human hives
weary of the noise and strife of their own making. Here, alone in the
solitudes, were two human atoms wandering on the trail of the hunted,
and--the cook and I.

I sat on my rubber bed in the tent and thought--there was nothing else to
do--and was cold, cold from the outside in, and from the inside out.
There wasn't a thing alive, not even myself--no one but the cook.

Outside, I could hear him washing the breakfast tinware, and whistling
some kind of a jiggling tune that ran up and down me like a shiver. This
went on for an eternity.

Suddenly it stopped, and I heard the faintest crunch on the thin layer of
snow and the rattling of more snow as it slid off my tent from a blow
that had been struck on the outside.

I jumped to the door of the tent. It was the cook.

"Purty cold in there, ain't it? You'd a good sight better come to the
fire. Ain't you got a slicker?"

I put on a mackintosh and overshoes and went to the fire. The weather
was now indulging in a big flake snow that slid stealthily to the ground
and disappeared into water on whatever obstacle it found there. It found
me. The cook was cleaning knives--the cooking knives, the eating knives,
and a full set of hunting knives, long and short, slim and broad, all
sharp and efficacious.

He handled them lovingly, rubbed off some blood rust here and there, and
occasionally whetted one to a still more razor edge and threw it into a
near by tree, where it stuck, quivering.

There was no conversation, but I did not feel forgotten.

I turned my back on the cook and gazed into the fire, a miserable
smouldering affair, and speculated on why I had never before noticed how
much spare time there was in a minute. It may have been five of these
spacious minutes, it may have been fifteen, that had passed away when the
cook approached me. I could _feel_ him coming. He came very close to
me--and to the fire.

He put on some beans.

Then he went away, and there were many more minutes, many more.

Then something touched my arm. At last it had come (what we expect, if it
be disagreeable, usually does come). I never moved a muscle. This time
the pressure on my arm was unmistakable. I turned quickly and saw--the
cook--with a gun!

The cook, gun, knives, fire, snow, and stars danced a mad jig before me
for an instant. Then the cook suddenly resumed his proper position, and I
saw that his disengaged hand was held in an attitude of warning for
silence. He pointed off into the woods and appeared to be listening. Soon
I thought I heard a snapping of a branch away off up the mountain.

"Bear," the cook whispered. "Follow me."

I followed. It was hard work to get over logs and stones without noise,
in a long mackintosh, and, besides, I wished that I had brought a gun. I
should have felt more comfortable about both man and beast. I struggled
on for a while, when the thought suddenly struck home that if I went
farther I should not be able to find my way back to camp. Everything is
relative, and those empty tents and smouldering fire seemed a haven of
security compared to the situation of being unarmed, and lost in the
wilderness--with the cook.

I watched my chance and sneaked back to camp to get a gun. I was willing
to believe the cook's bear story, but I wanted a gun. When I got to camp
there were many good reasons for not going back.

After a time I heard two shots close at hand, and soon the cook appeared.
He said he could not find the bear's track, and lost me, so thought he
had better look me up and be on hand in case I had returned to camp, and
the bear should come.

I thanked the cook for his solicitude.

To while away the time, I put up a target and commenced practising with a
30-30 rifle at fifty yards range.

I shot very badly.

The cook obligingly interested himself in my performance and kept tally
on my aim, pointing out to me when it was high, when it was low, to the
right or to the left.

Then he took his six shooter and put a half dozen bullets in the
bull's-eye offhand.

I lost my interest in shooting.

The cook gave me some lunch, and while I was eating he stood before the
fire looking at it through the fingers of his. Outstretched hand, with a
queer squint in his cold gray eyes, as though sighting along a rifle
barrel, while a cigarette hung limply from his mouth.

Then in response to a winning smile (after all, a woman's best weapon) he
opened the floodgates of his thoughts and poured into my ears a
succession of bloodcurdling adventures over which the big, big 'I' had
dominated. "Yes," he said musingly of his _second_ murder, as he
removed his squint from the fire to me, and a ghost of a smile played
around his lips; "yes, it took six shots to keep him quiet, and you could
have covered all the holes with a cap box--and his pard nearly got me."

"That was the year I lost my pard, Dick Elsen. We was at camp near Fort
Fetterman. We called a man 'Red'--his name was Jim Capse. Drink was at
the bottom of it. Red he sees my pard passing a saloon, and he says,
'Hello, where did you come from? Come and have a drink!' Pard says, 'No,
I don't want nothing!' 'Oh, come along and have a drink!' Dick says, 'No,
thanks, pard, I'm not drinking to-night.' 'Well, I guess you'll have a
drink with me'; and Red pulls out his six shooter. Dick wasn't quick
enough about throwing up his hands, and he gets killed. Then Irish Mike
says to Red, 'You better hit the breeze,' but we ketched him--a telegraph
pole was handy--I says, 'Have you got anything to say?' 'You write to my
mother and tell her that, a horse fell on me. Don't tell her that I got
hung,' Red says; and we swung him."

By the time he had thus proudly stretched out his three dead men before
my imagination, in a setting of innumerable shooting scraps and horse
stealings, the hunters returned--my day with the multi-murderous cook was
over--and nothing had happened.

It is only fair to quote Nimrod's reply to one who criticised him for
leaving me thus:

"Humph! Do you think I don't know those wild mountaineers? They are
perfectly chivalrous, and I could feel a great deal safer in leaving my
wife in care of that desperado than with one of your Eastern dudes."



VII.

AMONG THE CLOUDS.


Many a time as a child I used to lie on my back in the grass and stare
far into the wide blue sky above. It seemed so soft, so caressing, so far
away, and yet so near. Then, perhaps, a tiny woolly cloud would drift
across its face, meet another of its kind, then another and another,
until the massed up curtain hid the playful blue, and amid grayness and
chill, where all had been so bright, I would hurry under shelter to avoid
the storm. That, outside of fairy books, an earthbound being could
actually be in a cloud, was beyond my imagination. Indeed, it seems
strange now, and were it not for the absence of a cherished quirt, I
should be ready to think that my cloud experience had been a dream.

The day before, we had been in a great hurry to cross the Wind River
Divide before a heavy snowfall made travel difficult, if not impossible.
We had no wish to be snowbound for the winter in those wilds, with only
two weeks' supply of food, and it was for this same reason we had not
stopped to hunt that grizzly who had left a fourteen inch track over on
Wiggins' Creek--the same being Wahb of the Big Horn Basin, about whom I
shall have something to say later.

We were now camped in a little valley whose creek bubbled pleasantly
under the ice. Having cleared away three feet of snow for our tents, we
decided to rest a day or two and hunt, as we were within two days' easy
travel of the first ranch house.

It was cold and snowy when Nimrod and I started out next morning to look
for mountain sheep. I followed Nimrod's horse for several miles as in a
trance, the white flakes falling silently around me, and wondered how it
would be possible for any human being to find his way back to camp; but
I had been taught my lesson, and kept silent.

I even tried to make mental notes of various rocks and trees we passed,
but it was hopeless. They all looked alike to me. In a city, no matter
how big or how strange, I can find home unerringly, and Nimrod is
helpless as a babe. In the mountains it is different. When I finally
raised my eyes from the horse's tail in front, it was because the tail
and the horse belonging to it had stopped suddenly.

We were in the middle of a brook. It is highly unpleasant to be stopped
in the middle of an icy brook when your horse's feet break through the
ice at each step, and you cannot be sure how deep the water is, nor how
firm the bottom he is going to strike, especially as ice-covered
brooks are Blondey's pet abhorrence, and the uncertainty of my
progress, was emphasised by Blondey's attempts to cross on one or two
feet instead of four.

However, I looked dutifully in the direction Nimrod indicated and saw a
long line of elk heads peering over the ridge in front and showing darkly
against the snow. They were not startled.

Those inquisitive heads, with ears alert, looked at us for some time, and
then leisurely moved out of sight. We scrambled out of the stream and
commenced ascending the mountain after them. The damp snow packed on
Blondey's hoofs, so that he was walking on snowballs. When these got
about five inches high, they would drop off and begin again. It is
needless to say that these varying snowballs did not help Blondey's
sure-footedness, especially as the snow was just thick enough to conceal
the treacherous slaty rocks beneath. For the first time I understood the
phrase, to be 'all balled up.'

Between being ready to clear myself from the saddle and jump off on the
up side, in case Blondey should fall, and keeping in sight of the tail of
the other horse, I had given no attention to the landscape.

Suddenly I lost Nimrod, and everything was swallowed up in a dark misty
vapour that cut me off from every object. Even Blondey's nose and the
ground at my feet were blurred. Regardless of possibly near-by elk, I
raised a frightened, yell. My voice swirled around me and dropped. I
tried again, but the sound would not carry.

The icy vapour swept through me--a very lonely forlorn little being
indeed. I just clung to the saddle, trusting to Blondey's instinct to
follow the other animal, and tried to enjoy the fact that I was getting a
new sensation. Even when one could see, every step was treacherous, but
in that black fog I might as well have been blind and deaf. Then Blondey
dislodged some loose rock, and went sliding down the mountain with it.
There was not a thing I could do, so I shut my eyes for an instant. We
brought up against a boulder, fortunately, with no special damage--except
to my nerves. Not being a man, I don't pretend to having enjoyed that
experience--and there, not six feet away, was a ghostly figure that I
knew must be Nimrod.

He did not greet me as a long lost, for such I surely felt, but merely
remarked in a whisper:

"We are in a cloud cap. It is settling down. The elk are over there.
Keep close to me." And he started along the ridge. I felt it was so
thoughtful of him to give me this admonition. I would much rather have
been returned safely to camp without further injury and before I froze to
the saddle; but I grimly kept Blondey's nose overlapping his mate's back
and said nothing--not even when I discovered that my cherished riding
whip had left me. It probably was not fifty feet away, on that toboggan
slide, but it seemed quite hopeless to find anything in the freezing
misty grayness that surrounded us.

We continued our perilous passage. Then I was rewarded by a sight seldom
accorded to humans. It was worth all the fatigue, cold, and bruises, for
that appallingly illogical cloud cap took a new vagary. It split and
lifted a little, and there, not three hundred yards away, in the
twilight of that cold wet cloud, on that mountain in the sky, were two
bull elk in deadly combat. Their far branching horns were locked
together, and they swayed now this way, now that, as they wrestled for
the supremacy of the herd of does, which doubtless was not far away. We
could not see clearly: all was as in a dream. There was not a sound, only
the blurred outlines through the blank mist of two mighty creatures
struggling for victory. One brief glimpse of this mountain drama; then
they sank out of sight, and the numbing grayness and darkness once more
closed around us.

On the way back to camp, Blondey shied at a heap of decaying bones that
were still attached to a magnificent pair of antlers. They were at the
foot of a cliff, over which the animal had probably fallen. The gruesome
sight was suggestive of the end of one of those shadowy creatures,
fighting back there high up on the mountain in the mist and the darkness.

We saw no mountain sheep, but oh, the joy of our camp fire that night!
For we got back in due time all right--Nimrod and the gods know how. To
feel the cheery dancing warmth from the pine needles driving away cold
and misery was pure bliss. One thing is certain about roughing it for a
woman:--there is no compromise. She either sits in the lap of happiness
or of misery. The two are side by side, and toss her about a dozen times
a day--but happiness never lets her go for long.



VIII.

AT YEDDAR'S.


Life at Yeddar's ranch on Green River, where Nimrod and I left the pack
train, is different from life in New York; likewise the people are
different. And as every Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband is sure
to go through a Yeddar experience, I offer a few observations by way of
enlightenment before telling how I killed my antelope. (If you wish to
be proper, always use the possessive for animals you have killed. It is a
Western abbreviation in great favour.)

A two-story log house, a one-room log office, a log barn, and, across the
creek, the log shack we occupied, fifty miles from the railroad, and no
end of miles from anything else, but wilderness--that was Yeddar's.

Old Yeddar--Uncle John, the guides and trappers and teamsters called
him--had solved the problem of ideal existence. He ran this rough road
house without any personal expenditure of labour or money. He sold whisky
in his office to the passing teamsters and guides, and relied upon the
same to do the chores around the place, for which he gave them grub, the
money for which came from the occasional summer tourist, such as we.

Mrs. Spiker 'did' for him in the summer for her board and that of her
little girl, and in the winter he and a pard or two rustled for
themselves, on bacon, coffee, and that delectable compound of bread and
water known as camp sinkers. He got some money for letting the horses
from two Eastern outfits run over the surrounding country and eat up the
Wyoming government hay. Thus he loafs on through the years, outside or
inside his office, without a care beyond the getting of his whisky and
his tobacco. Of course he has a history. He claims to be from a 'high up'
Southern family, but has been a plainsman since 1851. He has lived among
the Indians, has several red-skinned children somewhere on this planet,
and seems to have known all the wild tribe of stage drivers, miners, and
frontiersmen with rapid-firing histories.

Once a week, if the weather were fine, Uncle John would tie a towel and a
clean shirt to his saddle, throw one leg across the back of Jim, his cow
pony, blind in one eye and weighted with years unknown, and the two would
jog a mile or so back in the mountains, to a hot sulphur spring, where
Yeddar would perform his weekly toilet. He was not known to take off his
clothes at any other time, and if the weather were disagreeable the
pilgrimage was omitted.

The cheapest thing at Yeddar's, except time, was advice. You could not
tie up a dog without the entire establishment of loafers bossing the job.
A little active co-operation was not so easy to get, however. One day I
watched a freighter get stuck in the mud down the road 'a piece.' One by
one, the whole number of freighters, mountaineers and guides then at
Yeddar's lounged to the place, until there were nine able-bodied men
ranged in a row watching the freighter dig out his wagon. No one offered
to help him, but all contented themselves with criticising his methods
freely and inquiring after his politics.

During the third week of our stay, Uncle John raised the price of our
board--and such board!--giving as an excuse that when we came he did not
know that we were going to like it so well, or stay so long! Please place
this joke where it belongs.

The charm that held us to this rough place was the abundance of game. The
very night we got there, I was standing quietly by the cabin door at
dusk, when down the path came two of the prettiest does that the whole
of the Blacktail tribe could muster. Shoulder to shoulder, with their big
ears alert, they picked their way along, and under cover of the deepening
twilight advanced to examine the dwelling of the white man.

I watched them with silent breath. They were not ten yards away. Then
they saw me and, wheeling around, stopped, the boldest a little in
advance of her companion, with the right forefoot raised for action. I
made no move. The graceful things eyed me suspiciously for several
seconds and then advanced a little in a one-sided fashion.

A laugh from Yeddar's office, across the creek, where Uncle John and Dave
were having a quiet game of pinochle, caused a short retreat up the
road. About fifty yards away, they stopped, and there, in the twilight,
in that wild glen, they put themselves through a series of poses so
graceful, so unstudied, so tender, so deer-like, that my heart was
thrilled with joy at the mere artistic beauty of the scene. Then the
loudmouthed alarm of a dog sent them silently into the forest gloom.

Nimrod wanted some photographs of animals from life, and the energy which
we put forth to obtain these was a constant surprise and disturbance to
Uncle John and his co-loafers. They could understand why one might trap
an animal, but to let it go again unhurt, after spending hours over it
with a camera, was a problem that required many drinks and much quiet
cogitation in the shade of the office.

For days we tried to get a wood-chuck. At last we succeeded, and I find
this note written in my journal for that date:--

"Oct. 15th: Nimrod caught a woodchuck to-day, a baby one, and we called
him Johnny. Johnny stayed with us all day in his cage, while Nimrod made
a sketch of him and I took his picture. Then, in the late afternoon, we
took him back to his home in the stone-clad hill, and put him among his
brothers and sisters, who peeped cautiously at us from various rocky
niches, higher up the hill."

Little Johnny must have had a great deal to say of the strange ways and
food of the big white animal. It must have been hard, too, for him to
have found suitable woodchuck language to express his sensations when he
was carried, oh! such a long way, in a big sack that grew on the side of
his captor; and of the taste of peppermint candy, which he ate in his
prettiest style, sitting on his haunches and clutching the morsel in both
forepaws like any well-bred baby woodchuck. And then those delicious
sugar cookies that Mrs. Spiker had just baked! How could he make his
ignorant brother chuckies appreciate those cookies! Poor little Johnny is
a marked woodchuck. He has seen the world.

When Nimrod went hunting skunks, the group at the office gave us up.
"Locoed, plumb locoed," was the verdict.

Have you ever been on a skunk hunt? But perhaps you have no prejudices. I
had. My code of action for a skunk was, if you see a black and white
animal, don't stop to admire its beautiful bushy tail, but give a good
imitation of a young woman running for her life. This did not suit
Nimrod. He assured me that there was no danger if we treated his
skunkship respectfully, and, as I was the photographer, I put on my old
clothes and meekly fell in line. Nimrod set several box traps in places
where skunks had been. These traps were merely soap boxes raised at one
end by a figure four arrangement of sticks, so that when the animal goes
inside and touches the bait the sticks fall apart, down comes the box,
and the animal is caged unhurt. The next morning we went the rounds. The
first trap was unsprung. The second one was down. Of course we could not
see inside. Was it empty? Was the occupant a rat or a skunk, and if so,
_what_ was he going to do?

Nimrod approached the trap. Just then a big tree chanced to get between
me and it. I stopped, thinking that as good a place as any to await
developments.

"It's a skunk all right," Nimrod announced gleefully.

The box was rather heavy, so Nimrod went to Yeddar's, which was not far
away, to see if he could get one of the loungers to help carry the
captive to a large wire cage that we had rigged up near our shack.

There were six men near the office, bronzed mountaineers, men of guns and
grit, men who had spent their lives facing danger; but, when it came to
facing a skunk, each looked at Nimrod as one would at a crazy man and had
important business elsewhere. For once I thoroughly appreciated their
point of view, but as there was no one else I took one end of the box,
and we started. It was a precarious pilgrimage, but we moved gently and
managed not to outrage the little animal's feelings.

When the men saw us coming across the creek, with one accord they all
went in and took a drink.

We gingerly urged Mr. Skunk into the big cage, and with the greatest
caution, never making a sudden move, I took his picture. All was as merry
as a marriage bell, and might have continued so but for that puppy Sim.
That is the trouble with skunks; they will lose their manners if
startled, and _dogs startle skunks_.

Of course the puppy barked; of course the skunk did not like it. He
ruffled up his cold black nose, and elevated his bushy tail--his
beautiful, plumy tail. I opened the door of his cage and, snatching
the puppy, fled. The skunk was a wise and good animal, really a
gentleman, if treated politely. He appreciated my efforts on his
behalf. He forbearingly lowered his tail, composed his fur, and walked
out of the cage and into the near-by woods as tamely as a house tabby
out for a stroll.



IX.

MY ANTELOPE.


It was a week later when I did something which those old guides could
understand and appreciate--I made a dead shot. I committed a murder, and
from that time, the brotherhood of pards was open to us, had we cared to
join. It was all because I killed an antelope.

Nimrod and I started out that morning with the understanding that, if we
saw antelope, I was to have a chance.

In about six miles, Nimrod spied two white specks moving along the rocky
ridge to the east of us, which rose abruptly from the plain where we
were. I was soon able to make out that they were antelope. But the
antelope had also seen us, and there was as much chance of getting near
to them, by direct pursuit, as of a snail catching a hare. So we rode on
calmly northward for half a mile, making believe we had not seen them,
until we passed out of sight behind a long hill. Then we began an
elaborate detour up the mountain, keeping well out of sight, until we
judged that the animals, providing they had not moved, were below us,
under the rocky ledge nearly a mile back.

We tied up the horses on that dizzy height, and stole, Nimrod with a
carbine, I with the rifle, along a treacherous, shaly bank which ended,
twenty feet below, in the steep rocky bluffs that formed the face of the
cliff. Every step was an agony of uncertainty as to how far one would
slide, and how much loose shale one would dislodge to rattle down over
the cliff and startle the antelope we hoped were there. To move about on
a squeaking floor without disturbing a light sleeper is child's play
compared with our progress. A misstep would have sent us flying over the
cliff, but I did not think of that--my only care was not to startle the
shy fleet-footed creatures we were pursuing. I hardly dared to breathe;
every muscle and nerve was tense with the long suspense.

[Illustration: A MISSTEP WOULD HAVE SENT US FLYING OVER THE CLIFF.]

Suddenly I clutched Nimrod's arm and pointed at an oblong tan coloured
bulk fifty yards above us on the mountain.

"Antelope! Lying down!" I whispered in his ear. He nodded and motioned me
to go ahead. I crawled nearer, inch by inch, my gaze riveted on that
object. It did not move. I grew more elated the nearer it allowed me to
approach. It was not so very hard to get at an antelope, after all. I
felt astonishingly pleased with my performance. Then--rattle, crash--and
a stone went bounding down. What a pity, after all my painful contortions
not to do it! I instantly raised the rifle to get a shot before the swift
animal went flying away.

But it was strangely quiet. I stole a little nearer--and then turned and
went gently back to Nimrod. He was convulsed with silent and unnecessary
laughter. My elaborate stalk had been made on--a nice buff stone.

We continued our precarious journey for another quarter of a mile, when
I motioned that I was going to try to get a sight of the antelope, which,
according to my notion, were under the rock some hundred feet below, and
signed to Nimrod to stay behind.

Surely my guardian angel attended that descent. I slid down a crack in
the rock three feet wide, which gave me a purchase on the sides with my
elbows and left hand. The right hand grasped the rifle, to my notion an
abominably heavy awkward thing. One of these drops was eight feet,
another twelve. A slip would probably have cost me my life. Then I
crawled along a narrow ledge for about the width of a town-house front,
and, making another perilous slide, landed on a ledge so close to the
creatures I was hunting that I was as much startled as they.

Away those two beautiful animals bounded, their necks proudly arched and
their tiny feet hitting the only safe places with unerring aim. They were
far out of range before I thought to get my rifle in position, and my
random shot only sent them farther out on the plain, like drifting leaves
on autumn wind.

It was impossible to return the way I had come; so I rolled and jumped
and generally tumbled to the grassy hill below, and waited for Nimrod to
go back along the shaly stretch, and bring down the horses the way they
had gone up.

Then we took some lunch from the saddle bags and sat down in the waving,
yellow grass of the foot hill with a sweep of miles before us, miles of
grassy tableland shimmering in the clear air like cloth of gold in the
sun, where cattle grow fat and the wild things still are at home.

During lunch Nimrod tried to convince me that he knew all the time that
the antelope I stalked on the mountainside was a stone. Of course wives
should believe their husbands. The economy of State and Church would
collapse otherwise. However, the appearance of a large band of antelope,
a sight now very rare even in the Rockies, caused the profitless
discussion to be engulfed in the pursuit of the real thing.

The antelope were two miles away, mere specks of white. We could not
tell them from the twinkling plain until they moved. We mounted
immediately and went after those antelope--by pretending to go away
from them. For three hours, we drew nearer to the quietly browsing
animals. We hid behind low hills, and crawled down a water-course, and
finally dismounted behind the very mound of prairie on the other side of
which they were resting, a happy, peaceful family. There were twenty
does, and proudly in their midst moved the king of the harem, a powerful
buck with royal horns.

The crowning point of my long day's hunt was before me. That I should
have my chance to get one of the finest bucks ever hunted was clear. What
should I do, should I hit or miss? Fail! What a thought--never!

Just then a drumming of hoofs which rapidly faded away showed that
the wind had betrayed us, and the whole band was off like a flight
of arrows.

"Shoot! Shoot!" cried Nimrod, but my gun was already up and levelled on
the flying buck--now nearly a hundred yards away.

Bang! The deadly thing went forth to do its work. Sliding another
cartridge into the chamber, I held ready for another shot.

There was no need. The fleet-footed monarch's reign was over, and already
he had gone to his happy hunting ground. The bullet had gone straight to
his heart, and he had not suffered. But the does, the twenty beating
hearts of his harem! There they were, not one hundred yards away, huddled
together with ears erect, tiny feet alert for the next bound--yet waiting
for their lord and master, the proud tyrant, so strangely still on the
ground. Why did he not come? And those two creatures whose smell they
feared--why did he stay so near?

They took a few steps nearer and again waited, eyes and ears and
uplifted hoofs asking the question, "Why doesn't he come? Why does he
let those dreadful creatures go so close?" Then, as we bent over their
fallen hero, they knew he was forever lost to them, and fear sent them
speeding out of sight.



X.

A MOUNTAIN DRAMA.


But hunting does not make one wholly a brute, crying, 'Kill, kill!' at
every chance. In fact I have no more to confess in that line. Another
side to it is shown by an incident that happened about a week later.

We were riding leisurely along, a mile or so from the spot where my
antelope had yielded his life to my vanity, when we saw, several
miles away in the low hills, two moving flecks of white which might
mean antelope.

We watched. The two spots came rapidly nearer, and were clearly antelope.
We were soon able to make out that one was being chased by the other;
then that they were both bucks, the one in the rear much the heavier and
evidently the aggressor. Then from behind a hill came the cause of it
all--a bunch of lady antelope, who kept modestly together and to one
side, and watched the contest that should decide their master. Surely
this unclaimed harem was my doing!

All at once, the two on-coming figures saw us. The first one paused,
doubtful which of the two dangers to choose. His foe caught up with him.
He wheeled and charged in self-defence, their horns met with a crash,
and the smaller was thrown to the ground. He was clearly no match for
his opponent.

He sprang to his feet. His only safety was in flight, but where? His
strength was nearly gone. He ran a short distance away from us, circling
our cavalcade. His foe was nearly up to him again. He stopped an instant
with uplifted foot, then turned and made directly for _us_. Three loaded
guns hung at our saddles, but no hand went towards them. Not thirty feet
away from our motionless horses the buck dropped, exhausted. We could
easily have lassoed him. His adversary kept beyond gunshot, not daring to
follow him into the power of an enemy all wild things fear; and an eagle
who had perched on a rock near by, in hopes of a coming feast, flapped
his wings and slowly flew away to search elsewhere for his dinner. The
conquering buck walked back to his spoils of war, and soon marshalled
them out of sight behind a hill.

The young buck almost at our feet quickly recovered. He was not seriously
hurt, only frightened and winded. He rose to his feet and stood for an
instant looking directly at us, his head with its growing horns held high
in the air, as if to thank us for the protection from a lesser foe he had
so boldly asked and so freely received of an all powerful enemy. Then,
turning, he lightly sped over the plain in an opposite direction, and the
eagle, who had kept us in sight until now, perhaps with a lingering hope,
rose swiftly upwards and was lost to sight.

One elk with an eleven-point crown, and one antelope, of the finest ever
brought down, is the tax I levied on the wild things. Of the many, many
times I have watched them and left them unmolested, and of the lessons
they have taught me, under Nimrod's guidance, I have not space to tell,
for the real fascination of hunting is not in the killing but in seeing
the creature at home amid his glorious surroundings, and feeling the
freely rushing blood, the health-giving air, the gleeful sense of joy and
life in nature, both within and without.



XI.

WHAT I KNOW ABOUT WAHB OF THE BIGHORN BASIN.


A fourteen-inch track is big, even for a grizzly. That was the size of
Wahb's. The first time I saw it, the hole looked big enough for a
baby's bath tub.

We were travelling in Mr. A.'s pack train across the Shoshones from Idaho
to Wyoming. It was the first of October, and by then, in that region,
winter is shaking hands with you--pleasant hands to be sure, but a bit
cool. The night before we had made a picturesque camp on the lee side of
a rock cliff which was honeycombed with caves. A blazing camp fire was
built at the mouth of one of these and we lounged on the rock ledges
inside, thoroughly protected from the wind and cold. A storm was brewing.
We could hear the pine trees whistle and shriek as they were lashed about
in the forest across the brook. The lurid light of the fire showed us
ourselves in distorted shadows. The whole place seemed wild and wicked,
like a robber camp, and under its spell one thought things and felt
things that would have been impossible in the sun shine, where everything
is revealed. It began to snow, but we laughed at that. What did it matter
in the shelter of the cave? For the first time in days I was thoroughly
toasted on all sides at once. We had changed abruptly from the
steam-heated Pullman to camping in snow, and it takes a few days to get
used to such a shock. We told tales as weird as the scene, until far into
the night. The next morning the sun was bright, but the cook had to cut a
hole in the ice blanket over the brook to get water. We dared not linger
at our robber camp, for at any time a big snowstorm might come that would
cover the Wind River Divide, which we had to cross, with snow too deep
for the horses to travel.

Two days later, the weather still promising well, we decided to camp for
a few days on the Upper Wiggin's Fork to hunt. It was a lovely spot; one
of those little grassy parks which but for the uprising masses of
mountains and towering trees might have surrounded your country home.

That first night as we sat around the camp fire there came out of the
blackness behind us a faint greeting--_Wheres Who_--_Wheres Who_--from a
denizen of this mountain park, the great horned owl. The next morning we
packed biscuits into our saddle-bags and separated for the day into two
parties, Nimrod and the Horsewrangler, the Host and myself, leaving the
Cook to take care of camp. We were hunting for elk, mountain lion, or
bear. Nimrod had his camera, as well as his gun, a combination which the
Horsewrangler eyed with scant tolerance.

The Host led me down the Wiggin's Fork for two miles, when we came out
upon a sandy, pebbly stretch which in spring the torrents entirely
covered, but now had been dried up for months. I was following
mechanically, guiding Blondey's feet among the cobblestones, for nature
had paved the place very badly, without much thought for anything beyond
the pleasure of being alive, when the Host suddenly stopped and pointed
to the ground. There I made out the track of a huge bear going the way we
were, and beyond was another, and another. Then they disappeared like a
row of post-holes into the distance. The Host said there was only one
bear in that region that could make a track like that; in spite of the
fact that this was beyond his range, it must be Meeteetsee Wahb. He got
off his horse and measured the track. Yes, the hind foot tracked fourteen
inches. What a hole in the ground it looked!

The Host said the maker of it was probably far away, as he judged the
track to be several weeks old. I had heard so many tales of this monster
that when I gazed upon his track I felt as though I were looking at the
autograph of a hero.

We saw other smaller grizzly and black bear tracks that day, so it was
decided to set a bear bait. Our Host was a cattle king, and could wage
war on bears with a good conscience. The usual three-cornered affair of
logs was fixed, the trap in the centre and elk meat as a decoy. Horse
meat is more alluring, but we deemed we would not need that, since we had
with us "a never-failing bear charm." Its object was to suggest a lady
bear, and thus attract some gallant to her side. The secret of the
preparation of this charm had been confided to Nimrod by an old hunter
the year before. It was a liquid composed of rancid fish oil, and--but I
suppose I must not tell. A more ungodly odour I have never known. Nimrod
put a few drops of it on his horse's feet, and all the other horses
straightway ostracised him for several days till the worst of it wore
away. Even the cook allowed "it was all-fired nasty." So some of this
bear charm went on the bait.

The next morning, as we started out for the day to roam the mountains, we
first inspected the bear pen. Nothing had been near it. Indeed that charm
would keep everything else away, if not the bear himself.

The next day it was the same story, but this really was no argument for
or against the charm, because, as I was told, bears in feeding usually
make about a two weeks' circuit, and although we had seen many tracks
they were all stale, demonstrating in a rough way that if we could linger
for a week or two we would be sure to catch some one of the trackers on
the return trip.

This we could not do, as the expected snow-storm was now threatening,
and we were still two days from the Divide. To be snowed up there would
be serious. Before we could get packed up the snow began, falling
steadily and quietly as though reserving its forces for later violence.
We had been travelling about an hour from where we broke camp, when
Nimrod beckoned me to join him where he had halted with the Horsewrangler
a little off the line the pack train was following. I rode up quietly,
thinking it might be game. But no; Horsewrangler pointed to a little bank
where there was a circular opening in the trees. I looked, but did not
understand.

"Do you see that dip in the ground there where the snow melts as fast as
it drops?"

"Yes."

"Wal, that there's a bear bath."

"A bear's bath!" I exclaimed, suspecting a hoax.

"Yes, a sulphur spring. I reckon this here one belongs to the Big
Grizzly."

We examined the place with much interest, but found no fresh tracks, and
the snow had covered most of the stale ones, as "of course he ain't got
no call for it in winter. Like as not, he's denned up somewheres near,
though it's a mite early."

This was thrilling. Perhaps we might pass within a few feet of Wahb and
never know it. It was like being told that the ghost of the dear departed
is watching you. Nimrod pointed out to me a tree with the bark scratched
and torn off for several feet--one of Wahb's rubbing trees. He located
the sunning ledge for me, and then we reluctantly hurried on, for the
journey ahead promised to be long and hard. Indeed I found it so.

There were many indications that the storm was a serious one, and not the
least of these was the behaviour of the little chief hare, or pika. As we
ascended the rocky mountain-side we saw many of these little creatures
scurrying hither and thither with bundles of hay in their mouths, which
they deposited in tiny hay-cocks in sheltered places under rocks. So hard
were they working that they could not even stop to be afraid of us. As
all the party, but myself, knew, this meant bad weather and winter; for
these cute, overgrown rats are reliable barometers, and they gave every
indication that they were belated in getting their food supply, which had
been garnered in the autumn after the manner of their kind, properly
housed for winter use.

All that day we worked our way through the forest with the silent snow
deepening around us, ever up and up, eight thousand, nine thousand, ten
thousand feet. It was an endless day of freezing in the saddle, and of
snow showers in one's face from the overladen branches. I was frightfully
cold and miserable. Every minute seemed the last I could endure without
screeching. But still our Host pushed on. It was necessary to get near
enough to the top of the Continental Divide so that we could cross it the
next day. It began to grow dark about three o'clock; the storm increased.
I kept saying over and over to myself what I was determined I should not
say out loud:

"Oh, please stop and make camp! I cannot stay in this saddle another
minute. My left foot is frozen. I know it is, and the saddle cramp is
unbearable. I am so hungry, so cold, so exhausted; oh, please stop!"
Then, having wailed this out under my breath, I would answer it harshly:
"You little fool, stop your whimpering. The others are made of flesh and
blood too. We should be snowbound if we stopped here. Don't be a
cry-baby. There is lots of good stuff in you yet. This only seems
terrible because you are not used to it, so brace up."

[Illustration: THUS I FOUGHT THROUGH THE AFTERNOON.]

Then I would even smile at Nimrod who kept keen watch on me, or wave my
hand at the Host, who was in front. This appearance of unconcern helped
me for a few seconds, and then I would begin the weary round: "Oh, my
foot, my back, my head; I cannot endure it another moment; I can't, I
can't." Yet all the while knowing that I could and would. Thus I fought
through the afternoon, and at last became just a numb thing on the horse
with but one thought, "I can and will do it." So at last when the order
came to camp in four feet of snow ten thousand feet above the sea, with
the wind and snow blowing a high gale, I just drew rein and sat there on
my tired beast.

We disturbed a band of mountain sheep that got over the deep snow with
incredible swiftness. It was my first view of these animals, but it
aroused no enthusiasm in me, only a vague wonder that they seemed to be
enjoying themselves. Finally Nimrod came and pulled me off, I was too
stiff and numb to get down myself. Then I found that the snow was so deep
I could not go four feet. Not to be able to move about seemed to me the
end of all things. I simply dropped in the snow--it was impossible to
ever be warm and happy again--and prepared at last to weep.

But I looked around first--Nimrod was coaxing a pack animal through the
snow to a comparatively level place where our tent and bed things could
be placed. The Host was shovelling a pathway between me and the spot
where the Cook was coaxing a fire. The Horsewrangler was unpacking the
horses alone (so that I might have a fire the sooner). They were all
grim--doubtless as weary as I--but they were all working for my ultimate
comfort, while I was about to repay them by sitting in the snow and
weeping. I pictured them in four separate heaps in the snow, all weeping.
This was too much; I did not weep. Instead by great effort I managed to
get my horse near the fire, and after thawing out a moment unsaddled the
tired animal, who galloped off gladly to join his comrades, and thus I
became once more a unit in the economic force. But bad luck had
crossed its fingers at me that day without doubt, and I had to be taught
another lesson. I tell of it briefly as a warning to other women; of
course--men always know better, instinctively, as they know how to fight.
I presume you will agree that ignorance is punished more cruelly than any
other thing, and that in most cases good intentions do not lighten the
offence. My ignorance that time was of the effect of eating snow on an
empty stomach. My intentions were of the best, for, being thirsty, I ate
several handfuls of snow in order to save the cook from getting water out
of a brook that was frozen. But my punishment was the same--a severe
chill which made me very ill.

I had been cold all day, but that is a very different thing from having a
chill. I felt stuffed with snow; snow water ran in my veins, snow
covered the earth, the peaks around me. I was mad with snow. They gave me
snow whisky and put me beside a snow fire. I had not told any one what I
had done, not realising what was the mischief maker, and it really looked
as though I had heart disease, or something dreadful.

They put rugs and coats around me till I could not move with their
weight; but they were putting them around a snow woman. The only thing I
felt was the icy wind, and that went through my shivering, shaking self.
The snow was falling quietly and steadily, as it had fallen all day. We
_must_ cross yonder divide to-morrow. It was no time to be ill. Every one
felt that, and big, black gloom was settling over the camp, when I by way
of being cheerful remarked to the Host: "Do you-ou kno-ow, I feel as
though there was n-nothing of me b-but the sno-ow I ate an hour ago."

"Snow!" he exclaimed. "Did you eat much? Well, no wonder you are ill."

The effect was instantaneous. Everybody looked relieved; I was not even
a heroine.

"I will soon cure you," said the Host, as he poured out more whisky, and
the Cook reheated some soup and chocolate. The hot drinks soon succeeded
in thawing me from a snow woman back to shivering flesh and blood which
was supportable.

Nimrod looked pleasant again and began studying the mountain sheep
tracks. The cook fell to whistling softly from one side of his mouth,
while a cigarette dangled from the other, as was his wont when he
puttered about the fire. The Horsewrangler was making everything tight
for the night against wind and snow. The Host lighted a cigarette, a calm
expression glided over his face, and he became chatty, and, although the
storm was just as fierce and the thermometer just as low, peace was
restored to Camp Snow.

The next day we crossed the divide, and not a day too soon. The snow was
so deep that the trail breaker in front was in danger of going over a
precipice or into a rock crevice at any time. After him came the pack,
animals, so that they could make a path for us. The path was just the
width of the horse, and in some places the walls of it rose above my
head. In such places I had to keep my feet high up in the saddle to
prevent them from being crushed. For a half day we struggled upwards
with danger stalking by our sides, then on the very ridge of the divide
itself, 11,500 feet in the air, with the icy wind blowing a hurricane of
blinding snow, we skirted along a precipice the edge of which the snow
covered so that we could not be sure when a misstep might send us over
into whatever is waiting for us in the next world.

But fortunately we did not even lose a horse. Then came the plunging
down, down, with no chance to pick steps because of the all-concealing
snow. Those, indeed, were "stirring times," but we made camp that night
in clear weather and good spirits. We were on the right side of the
barrier and only two days from the Palette Ranch--and safety, not to
say luxury.

If you had Aladdin's lamp and asked for a shooting box, you could hardly
expect to find anything more ideal than the Palette Ranch. There is no
spot in the world more beautiful or more health giving. It is tucked away
by itself in the heart of the Rockies, 150 miles from the railroad, 40
miles from the stage route, and surrounded on the three sides by a
wilderness of mountains. And when after travelling over these for three
weeks with compass as guide, one dark, stormy night we stumbled and
slipped down a mountain side and across an icy brook to its front lawn,
the message of good cheer that streamed in rosy light from its windows
seemed like an opiate dream.

We entered a large living room, hung with tapestries and hunting trophies
where a perfectly appointed table was set opposite a huge stone
fireplace, blazing with logs. Then came a delicious course dinner with
rare wines, and served by a French chef. The surprise and delight of it
in that wilderness--but the crowning delight was the guestroom. As we
entered, it was a wealth of colour in Japanese effect, soft glowing
lanterns, polished floors, fur rugs, silk-furnished beds and a crystal
mantelpiece (brought from Japan) which reflected the fire-light in a
hundred tints. Beyond, through an open door, could be seen the tiled
bath-room. It was a room that would be charming anywhere, but in that
region a veritable fairy's chamber. Truly it is a canny Host who can thus
blend harmoniously the human luxuries of the East and the natural glories
of the West.

In our rides around the Palette I saw Wahb's tracks once again. The Host
had taken us to a far away part of his possessions. Three beautiful wolf
hounds frisked along beside us, when all at once they became much excited
about something they smelt in a little scrub-pine clump on the right. We
looked about for some track or sign that would explain their behaviour. I
spied a huge bear track.

"Hah!" I thought, "Wahb at last," and my heart went pit-a-pat as I
pointed it out to Nimrod. He recognised it but remained far too calm
for my fancy. I pointed into the bushes with signs of "Hurrah, it's
Wahb." I received in reply a shake of the head and a pitying smile. How
was I to know that the dogs were saying as plainly as dogs need to "A
bobcat treed"?

So I followed meekly and soon saw the bobcat's eyes glaring at us from
the topmost branches. The Host took a shot at it with the camera which
the lynx did not seem to mind, and calling off the disappointed dogs we
went on our way. The Host allows no shooting within a radius of twelve
miles of the Palette. Any living thing can find protection there and the
result is that any time you choose to ride forth you can see perfectly
wild game in their homeland.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not till the next year that I really saw Wahb. It was at his
summer haunt, the Fountain Hotel in the Yellowstone National Park. If
you were to ask Nimrod to describe the Fountain geyser or Hell Hole,
or any of the other tourist sights thereabouts, I am sure he would
shake his head and tell you there was nothing but bears around the
hotel. For this was the occasion when Nimrod spent the entire day in
the garbage heap watching the bears, while I did the conventional
thing and saw the sights.

About sunset I got back to the hotel. Much to my surprise I could not
find Nimrod; and neither had he been seen since morning, when he had
started in the direction of the garbage heap in the woods some quarter of
a mile back from the hotel. Anxiously I hurried there, but could see no
Nimrod. Instead I saw the outline of a Grizzly feeding quietly on the
hillside. It was very lonely and gruesome. Under other circumstances I
certainly would have departed quickly the way I came, but now I must find
Nimrod. It was growing dark, and the bear looked a shocking size, as big
as a whale. Dear me, perhaps Nimrod was inside--Jonah style. Just then I
heard a sepulchral whisper from the earth.

"Keep quiet, don't move, it's the Big Grizzly."

I looked about for the owner of the whisper and discovered Nimrod not
far away in a nest he had made for himself in a pile of rubbish. I
edged nearer.

"See, over there in the woods are two black bears. You scared them away.
Isn't he a monster?" indicating Wahb.

I responded with appropriate enthusiasm. Then after a respectful silence
I ventured to say:

"How long have you been here?"

"All day--and such a day--thirteen bears at one time. It is worth all
your geysers rolled into one.

"H'm--Have you had anything to eat?"

"No." Another silence, then I began again.

"Aren't you hungry? Don't you want to come to dinner?"

He nodded yes. Then I sneaked away and came back as soon as possible with
a change of clothes. The scene was as I had left it, but duskier. I stood
waiting for the next move. The Grizzly made it. He evidently had finished
his meal for the night, and now moved majestically off up the hill
towards the pine woods. At the edge of these he stood for a moment,
Wahb's last appearance, so far as I am concerned, for, as he posed, the
fading, light dropped its curtain of darkness between us, and I was able
to get Nimrod away.



XII.

THE DEAD HUNT.


To hunt the wily puma, the wary elk, or the fleet-footed antelope is to
have experiences strange and varied, but for the largest assortment of
thrills in an equal time the 'dead hunt' is the most productive. My
acquaintance with a 'dead hunt'--which is by no means a 'still
hunt'--began and ended at Raven Agency. It included horses, bicycles, and
Indians, and followed none of the customary rules laid down for a hunt,
either in progress or result.

And, not to antagonise the reader, I will say now that it was very
naughty to do what I did, an impolite and ungenerous thing to do, on a
par with the making up of slumming parties to pry into the secrets of the
poor. It was the act of a vandal, and at times--in the gray dawn and on
the first day of January--I am sorry about it; but then I should not have
had that carved bead armlet, and as that is the tail of my story, I will
put it in the mouth and properly begin.

Nimrod and I went to the United States agency for the Asrapako or Raven
Indians in--well, never mind, not such a far cry from the Rockies, unless
you are one of those uncomfortable persons who carry a map of the United
States in your mind's eye--because Burfield was there painting Many
Whacks, the famous chief; because Nimrod wanted to know what kind of
beasties lived in that region; and because I wanted a face to face
encounter with the Indian at home. I got it.

The first duty of a stranger at Raven Agency is to visit the famous
battlefield, three miles away; and the Agent, an army officer, very
charmingly made up a horseback party to escort us there. He put me on a
rawboned bay who, he said, was a "great goer." It was no merry jest. I
was nearly the last to mount and quite the first to go flying down the
road. The Great Goer galloped all the way there. His mouth was as hard as
nails, and I could not check him; still, the ride was no worse than being
tossed in a blanket for half an hour. On the very spot, I heard the
story of the tragic Indian fight by one who claimed to have been an
eye-witness. Every place where each member of that heroic band fell,
doing his duty, is marked by a small marble monument, and as I looked
over the battle ground and saw these symbols of beating hearts, long
still in death, clustered in twos and threes and a dozen where each had
made the last stand, every pillar seemed to become a shadowy soldier; the
whole awful shame of the massacre swept over me, and I was glad to head
my horse abruptly for home. And then there were other things to think
about, things more intimate and real. No sooner did the Great Goer's nose
point in the direction of his stable than he gave a great bound, as
though a bee had stung him; then he lowered his head, laid back his ears,
and--gallopped home.

[Illustration: WE WHIZZED ACROSS THE RAILROAD TRACK IN FRONT OF THE
DAY EXPRESS.]

I yanked and tugged at the bit. It was as a wisp of hay in his mouth. I
might as well have been a monkey or a straw woman bobbing up and down on
his back. Pound, pound, thump, thump, gaily sped on the Great Goer.
There were dim shouts far behind me for a while, then no more. The
roadside whipped by, two long streaks of green. We whizzed across the
railroad track in front of the day express, accompanied by the engine's
frantic shriek of "down brakes." If a shoe had caught in the track--ah!
I lost my hat, my gold hatpin, every hairpin, and brown locks flew out
two feet behind.

Away went my watch, then the all in two pockets, knife, purse,
match-box--surely this trail was an improvement on Tom Thumb's' bread
crumbs. One foot was out of the stirrup. I wrapped the reins around the
pommel and clung on. There is a gopher hole--that means a broken leg for
him, a clavicle and a few ribs for me. No; on we go. Ah, that stony brook
ahead we soon must cross! Ye gods, so young and so fair! To perish thus,
the toy of a raw-boned Great Goer!

Pound, pound, pound, the hard road rang with the thunder of hoofs. Could
I endure it longer? Oh, there is the stream--surely he will stop. No! He
is going to jump! It's an awful distance! With a frantic effort I got my
feet in the stirrups. He gathered himself together. I shut my eyes. Oh!
We missed the bank and landed in the water--an awful mess. But the Great
Goer scrambled out, with me still on top somehow, and started on. I
pulled on the reins again with every muscle, trying to break his pace, or
his neck anything that was his. Then there was a flapping noise below. We
both heard it, we both knew what it was--the cinch worked loose, that
meant the saddle loose.

In desperation I clutched the Great Goer's mane with both hands and,
leaning forward, yelled wildly in his ears:

"Whoa, whoa! The saddle's turning! Whoa! Do you wa-ant to _ki-ill_ me?"

Do not tell me that the horse is not a noble, intelligent animal with a
vast comprehension of human talk and sympathy for human woe. For the
Great Goer pulled up so suddenly that I nearly went on without him in
the line of the least resistance. Then he stood still and went to
nibbling grass as placidly as though he had not been doing racing time
for three miles, and I should have gone on forever believing in his
wondrous wit had I not turned and realised that he was standing in his
own pasture lot.

Seeking to console my dishevelled self as I got off, I murmured, "Well,
it was a sensation any way--an absolutely new one," just as Nimrod
gallopped up, and seeing I was all right, called out:

"Hello, John Gilpin!" That is the way with men.

My scattered belongings were gathered up by the rest of the party, and
each as he arrived with the relic he had gathered, made haste to explain
that his horse had no chance with my mount.

I thanked the Agent for the Great Goer without much comment. (See advice
to Woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband.) But that is why, the next
day, when Burfield confided to me that he knew where there were some
'Dead-trees' (not dead trees) that could be examined without fear of
detection, I preferred to borrow the doctor's wife's bicycle.

Dead-trees? Very likely you know what I did not until I saw for myself,
that the Asrapako, in common with several Indian tribes, place their dead
in trees instead of in the ground. As the trees are very scarce in that
arid country, and only to be found in gullies and along the banks of the
Little Big Buck River, nearly every tree has its burden of one or more
swathed-up bodies bound to its branches, half hidden by the leaves, like
great cocoons--most ghastly reminders of the end of all human things.

It was to a cluster of these "deadtrees," five miles away, that Burfield
guided me, and it was on this ride that the wily wheel, stripped of all
its glamour of shady roads, tête-à-têtes, down grades, and asphalts,
appeared as its true, heavy, small seated, stubborn self.

I can undertake to cure any bicycle enthusiast. The receipt is simple and
here given away. First, take two months of Rocky Mountains with a living
sentient creature to pull you up and down their rock-ribbed sides, to
help out with his sagacity when your own fails, and to carry you at a
long easy lope over the grassy uplands some eight or ten thousand feet
above the sea in that glorious bracing air. Secondly, descend rapidly to
the Montana plains--hot, oppressive, enervating--or to the Raven Agency,
if you will, and attempt to ride a wheel up the only hill in all that
arid stretch of semi desert, a rise of perhaps three hundred feet.

It is enough. You will find that your head is a sea of dizziness, that
your lungs have refused to work, that your heart is pounding aloud in
agony, and you will then and there pronounce the wheel an instrument of
torture, devised for the undoing of woman.

I tried it. It cured me, and, once cured, the charms of the wheel are as
vapid as the defence of a vigilant committee to the man it means to hang.
Stubborn--it would not go a step without being pushed. It would not even
stand up by itself, and I literally had to push it--it, as well as myself
on it--in toil and dust and heat the whole way. Nimrod said his bicycle
betrayed itself, too, only not so badly. Of course, that was because he
was stronger. The weaker one is, the more stubbornly bicycles behave.
Every one knows that. And they are so narrow minded. They needs must
stick to the travelled road, and they behave viciously when they get in a
rut. Imagine hunting antelope across sage-brush country on a bicycle! I
know a surveyor who tried it once. They brought him home with sixteen
broken bones and really quite a few pieces of the wheel, improved to
Rococo. Bah! Away with it and its limitations, and those of its big
brother, the automobile! Sing me no death knell of the horse companion.

At last, with the assistance of trail and muscle, the five miles were
covered, and we came to a dip in the earth which some bygone torrent had
hollowed out, and so given a chance for a little moisture to be retained
to feed the half-dozen cottonwoods and rank grass, that dared to struggle
for existence in that baked up sage-brush waste which the government has
set aside for the Raven paradise.

We jumped--no, that is horse talk--we sprawled off our wheels and left
the stupid things, lying supinely on their sides, like the dead lumpish
things they are, and descended a steep bank some ten feet into the gully.

It was a gruesome sight, in the hour before sunset, with not a soul but
ourselves for miles around. The lowering sun lighted up the under side of
the leaves and branches and their strange burdens, giving an effect
uncanny and weird, as though caused by unseen footlights. Not a sound
disturbed the oppressive quiet, not the quiver of a twig. Five of the six
trees bore oblong bundles, wrapped in comforters and blankets, and bound
with buckskin to the branches near the trunk, fifteen or twenty feet from
the ground, too high for coyotes, too tight for vultures. But what caught
our attention as we dropped into the gully was one of the bundles that
had slipped from its fastenings and was hanging by a thong.

It needed but a tug to pull it to the ground. Burfield supplied that tug,
and we all got a shock when the wrappings, dislodged by the fall, parted
at one end and disclosed the face of a mummy. I had retreated to the
other end of the little dip, not caring to witness some awful spectacle
of disintegration; but a mummy--no museum-cased specimen, labelled 'hands
off', but a real mummy of one's own finding--was worth a few shudders
to examine.

I looked into the shrivelled, but otherwise normal, face of the Indian
woman. What had been her life, her heart history, now as completely gone
as though it had never been--thirty years of life struggle in snow and
sun, with, perhaps, a little joy, and then what?

Seven brass rings were on her thumb and a carved wooden armlet encircled
the wrist. These I was vandal enough to accept from Burfield. There were
more rings and armlets, but enough is enough. As the gew-gaws had a
peculiar, gaseous, left-over smell, I wrapped them in my gloves, and
surely if trifles determine destiny, that act was one of the trifles that
determined the fact that I was to be spared to this life for yet a while
longer. For, as I was carelessly wrapping up my spoil, with a nose very
much turned up, Burfield suddenly started and then began bundling the
wrappings around the mummy at great speed. Something was serious. I
stooped to help him, and he whispered:

"Thought I heard a noise. If the Indians catch us, there'll be trouble,
I'm afraid."

We hastily stood the mummy on end, head down, against the tree, and tried
to make it look as though the coyotes had torn it down, after it had
fallen within reach, as indeed they had, originally. Then we crawled to
the other end of the gully, scrambled up the bank, and emerged
unconcernedly.

There was nothing in sight but long stretches of sage brush, touched
here and there by the sun's last gleams. We were much relieved.
Said Burfield:

"The Indians are mighty ugly over that Spotted Tail fight, and if they
had caught us touching their dead, it might have been unhealthy for us."

"Why, what would they do?" I asked, suddenly realising what many white
men never do--that Indians are emotional creatures like ourselves. The
brass rings became uncomfortably conspicuous in my mind.

"Well, I don't suppose they would dare to kill us so close to the agency,
but I don't know; a mad Injun's a bad Injun."

Nevertheless, this opinion did not deter him from climbing a tree where
three bodies lay side by side in a curious fashion; but I had no more
interest in 'dead-trees,' and fidgeted. Nimrod had wandered off some
distance and was watching a gopher hole-up for the night. The place in
the fading light was spooky, but it was of live Indians, not dead ones,
that I was thinking.

There is a time for all things, and clearly this was the time to go
back to Severin's dollar-a-day Palace Hotel. I started for the
bicycles when two black specks appeared on the horizon and grew
rapidly larger. They could be nothing but two men on horseback
approaching at a furious gallop. It was but yaller-covered-novel
justice that they should be Indians.

"Quick, Burfield, get out of that tree on the other side!" It did not
take a second for man and tree to be quit of each other, at the imminent
risk of broken bones. I started again for the wheels.

"Stay where, you are," said Burfield; "we could never get away on those
things. If they are after us, we must bluff it out."

There was no doubt about their being after us. The two galloping figures
were pointed straight at us and were soon close enough to show that they
were Indians. We stood like posts and awaited them. Thud, thud--ta-thud,
thud--on they charged at a furious pace directly at us. They were five
hundred feet away--one hundred feet--fifty.

Now, I always take proper pride in my self possession, and to show how
calm I was, I got out my camera, and as the two warriors came chasing up
to the fifty-foot limit, I snapped it. I had taken a landscape a minute
before, and I do not think that the fact that that landscape and those
Indians appeared on the same plate is any proof that I was in the least
upset by the red men's onset. Forty feet, thirty--on they came--ten--were
they going to run us down?

Five feet, full in front of us they pulled in their horses to a dead
stop--unpleasantly, close, unpleasantly sudden. Then there was an
electric silence, such as comes between the lightning's flash and the
thunder's crack. The Indians glared at us. We stared at the Indians, each
measuring the other. Not a sound broke the stillness of that desolate
spot, save the noisy panting of the horses as they stood, still braced
from the shock of the sudden stop.

For three interminable minutes we faced each other without a move. Then
one of the Indians slowly roved his eyes all over the place, searching
suspiciously. From where he stood the tell-tale mummy was hidden by the
bank and some bushes, and the tell-tale brass rings and armlet were in my
gloves which I held as jauntily as possible. He saw nothing wrong. He
turned again to us. We betrayed no signs of agitation. Then he spoke
grimly, with a deep scowl on his ugly face:

[Illustration: FIVE FEET FULL IN FRONT OF US, THEY PULLED THEIR HORSES TO
A DEAD STOP.]

"No touch 'em; savey?" giving a significant jerk of the head towards
the trees.

We responded by a negative shake of the head. Oh, those brass rings! Why
did I want to steal brass rings from the left thumb of an Indian woman
mummy! Me! I should be carving my name on roadside trees next!

There was another silence as before. None of us had changed positions,
so much as a leaf's thickness. Then the second Indian, grim and ugly as
the first, spoke sullenly:

"No touch 'em; savey?" He laid his hand suggestively on something in his
belt.

Again we shook our heads in a way that deprecated the very idea of such a
thing. They gave another dissatisfied look around, and slowly turned
their horses.

We waited breathless to see which way they would go. If they went on the
other side of the gully, they must surely see that bundle on the ground
and--who can tell what might happen? But they did not. With many a look
backwards, they slowly rode away, and with them the passive elements of
a tragedy.

I tied my ill-gotten, ill-smelling pelt on the handle bar of the doctor's
wife's bicycle, and we hurried home like spanked children. That night,
after I had delivered unto the doctor's wife her own, and disinfected the
gewgaws in carbolic, I added two more subjects to my Never-again
list--bicycling in Montana and 'dead hunts.'



XIII.

JUST RATTLESNAKES.


It is a blessing that a rattlesnake has to coil before it can spring. No
one has ever written up life from a rattler's point of view, although it
has been unfeelingly stated that fear of snakes is an inheritance from
our simian ancestors.

To me, I acknowledge, a rattler is just a horrid snake; so, when we were
told at Markham that rattlers were more common than the cattle which
grazed on every hill, I discovered that there were yet new imps to
conquer in my world of fear. Shakspere has said some nice things about
fear--"Of all the wonders, ... it seems to me most strange that men
should fear"--but he never knew anything about squirming rattlesnakes.

The Cuttle Fish ranch is five miles from Markham. That thriving
metropolis has ten houses and eleven saloons, in spite of Dakota being
'prohibition.' Markham is in the heart of the Bad Lands, the wonderful
freakish Bad Lands, where great herds of cattle range over all the
possible, and some of the impossible, places, while the rest of
it--black, green, and red peaks, hills of powdered coal, wicked land cuts
that no plumb can fathom, treacherous clay crust over boiling lava, arid
horrid miles of impish whimsical Nature--is Bad indeed.

Nimrod and I had been lured to the Cuttle Fish ranch to go on a wolf
hunt. The house was a large two storey affair of logs, with a long tail
of one storey log outbuildings like a train of box cars. We sat down to
dinner the first night with twenty others, a queer lot truly to find in
that wild uncivilised place. There was an ex-mayor and his wife from a
large Eastern city; a United States Senator--the toughest of the
party--who appeared at table in his undershirt; four cowboys, who were
better mannered than the two New York millionaires' sons who had been
sent there to spend their college vacation and get toughened (the process
was obviously succeeding); they made Nimrod apologise for keeping his
coat on during dinner; the three brothers who owned the ranch, and the
wife of one of them; several children; a prim and proper spinster from
Washington--how she got there, who can tell?--and Miss Belle Hadley, the
servant girl.

In studying the case of Belle I at last appreciated the age-old teaching
that the greatest dignity belongs to the one who serves. Else why did
the ex-mayor's wife bake doughnuts, and the rotund Senator toil at the
ice cream freezer with the thermometer at 112 degrees, and the
millionaires' sons call Belle "Miss Hadley," and I make bows for her
organdie dress, while she curled her hair for a dance to be held that
evening ten miles away, and to which she went complacently with her pick
of the cowboys and her employers' two best horses, while they stayed at
home and did her work! Else why did this one fetch wood for her, that
one peel the potatoes, another wash the dishes? And when she and the
rest of us were seated at meals, and something was needed from the
kitchen, why did the unlucky one nearest the door jump up and forage?
Belle was never nearest the door. She sat at the middle of the long
table, so that she could be handy to everything that was 'circulating.'
But I refer this case to the author of those delightful papers on the
"Unquiet Sex," and hark back to my story.

That night the moon was full, and the coyotes made savage music around
the lonely ranch house. First from the hill across the creek came a
snappy _wow-wow, yac-yac_, and then a long drawn out _ooo-oo_; then
another voice, a soprano, joined in, followed by a baritone, and then the
star voice of them all--loud, clear, vicious, mournful. For an instant I
saw him silhouetted against the rising moon on the hill ridge, head
thrown back and muzzle raised, as he gave to the peaceful night his
long, howling bark, his "talk at moon" as the Indians put it. The
ranchman remarked that there were "two or three out there," but I knew
better. There were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of them; I am not deaf.

The next morning we were up with the dawn and started by eight to run
down Mountain Billy, the grey wolf who lived on the ranchmen of the Bad
Lands. Our outfit was as symmetrical as a pine cone;--dogs, horses, mess
wagon, food, guns and men. All we needed was the grey wolf. I was the
only woman in the party, and, like "Weary Waddles," tagged behind.

[Illustration: THE COYOTES MADE SAVAGE MUSIC.]

It was the middle of September, and the weather should have known
better. But it was the Bad Lands, and there was a hot spell on. By three
o'clock the thermometer showed 116-1/2 in the shade, and I believed it.
The heat and glare simmered around us like fire. The dogs' tongues nearly
trailed in the baked dust, the horses' heads hung low, an iron band
seemed ever tightening around my head, as the sun beat down upon all
alike with pitiless force.

When we came to the Little Missoula, even its brackish muddy water was
welcome, and I shut my eyes to the dirt in the uninviting brown fluid,
and my mind to the knowledge of the horrid things it would do to me, and
drank; Tepid, gritty, foul--was it water I had swallowed? The horse
assigned to me, a small, white, benevolent animal named 'Whiskers,'
waded in knee deep and did the same. Whiskers was a 'lady's horse,'
which, being interpreted, meant aged eighteen or twenty, with all spirit
knocked out by hard work; a broken down cow pony, in fact, or, in local
parlance, a 'skate,' a 'goat.' He had lagged considerably behind the
rest of the party.

However, Whiskers did not matter; nothing mattered but the waves on
waves of heat that quivered before my eyes. I shut them and began
repeating cooling rhymes, such as 'twin peaks snow clad,' 'From
Greenland's Icy Mountains,' and the 'Frozen North,' by way of living up
to Professor James' teachings. Whiskers was ambling on, half-stupefied
with the heat, as I was, when from the road just in front came a
peculiar sound. I did not know what it was, but Whiskers did, and he
immediately executed a demi volte (see Webster) with an energy I had
not thought him capable of.

Again came the noise, yes, surely, just as it had been described--like
dried peas in a pod--and gliding across the road was a big rattlesnake. I
confess had Whiskers been so inclined, I should have been content to have
passed on with haughty disdain. But Whiskers performed a left flank
movement so nearly unseating me that I deemed it expedient to drop to the
ground, and Whiskers, without waiting for orders, retreated down the road
at what he meant for a gallop. The rattler stopped his pretty gliding
motion away from me, and seemed in doubt. Then he began to take on a few
quirks. "He is going to coil and then to strike," said I, recalling a
paragraph from my school reader. It was an unhappy moment! I knew that
tradition had fixed the proper weapons to be used against rattlesnakes:
a stone (more if necessary), a stick (forked one preferred), and in rare
cases a revolver (when it is that kind of a story). I had no revolver.
There was not a stick in sight, and not a stone bigger than a hazelnut;
but there was the rattler. I cast another despairing glance around and
saw, almost at my feet and half hidden by sage brush, several inches of
rusty iron--blessed be the passing teamster who had thrown it there. I
darted towards it and, despite tradition, turned on the rattler armed
with the goodly remains of--a frying pan.

[Illustration: THE HORRID THING WAS READY FOR ME.]

The horrid thing was ready for me with darting tongue and flattened
head--another instant it would have sprung. _Smash_ on its head went my
valiant frying pan and struck a deadly blow, although the thing managed
to get from under it. I recaptured my weapon and again it descended upon
the reptile's head, settling it this time. Feeling safe, I now took hold
of the handle to finish it more quickly. Oh, that tail--that awful,
writhing, lashing tail! I can stand Indians, bears, wolves, anything but
that tail, and a rattler is all tail, except its head. If that tail
touches me I shall let go. It did touch me, I did not let go. Pride held
me there, for I heard the sound of galloping hoofs. Whiskers' empty
saddle had alarmed the rest of the party.

My snake was dead now, so I put one foot on him to take his scalp--his
rattles, I mean--when horrid thrills coursed through me. The uncanny
thing began to wriggle and rattle with old-time vigour. I do not like to
think of that simian inheritance. But, fortified by Nimrod's assurance
that it was 'purely reflex neuro-ganglionic movement,' I hardened my
heart and captured his 'pod of dry peas.'

Oh, about the wolf hunt! That was all, just heat and rattlesnakes.

The hounds could not run; one died from sunstroke while chasing a jack
rabbit. No one lifted a finger if it could be avoided. All the world was
an oven, and after three days we gave up the chase, and leaving Mountain
Billy panting triumphantly somewhere in his lair, trailed back to the
ranch house with drooping heads and fifteen rattle-snakes' tails. Oh, no,
the hunt was not a failure--for Mountain Billy.



XIV.

AS COWGIRL.


Till the time of the "WB" round-up all cows looked alike to me. We were
still at the Cuttle Fish ranch, which was in a state of great activity
because of the fall roundup. Belle, the servant girl, had received less
attention of late and had been worked harder, a combination of
disagreeables which caused her to threaten imminent departure. The
cowboys, who had been away for several days gathering in the stragglers
that had wandered into the wild recesses of those uncanny Bad Land hills,
assembled in full force for the evening meal, and announced, between
mouthfuls, that the morrow was to be branding day for the several
outfits, about two thousand head of cattle in all, the 'WB' included,
which were rounded up on the Big Flat two miles distant from the ranch.

This was the chance for me to be relieved of my crass ignorance
concerning round-ups, really to have a definite conception of the term
instead of the sea of vagueness and conjecture into which I was plunged
by the usual description--"Oh, just a whole lot of cattle driven to one
place, and those that need it are cut out and frescoed." How many was a
whole lot, how were they driven, where were they driven from, what were
they cut out with, how were they branded, and when did they need it? My
ignorance was hopeless and pathetic, and those to whom I applied were all
too familiar with the process to be able to describe it. I might as well
have asked for a full description of how a man ate his dinner.

"Will you take me to the round-up to-morrow?" I asked of the 'WB' boss.

"Well, I could have a team hitched up, and Bob could drive you to the
Black Nob Hill, where you can get a good view," was the tolerant reply.

Bob had wrenched his foot the day before, when roping a steer, and was
therefore incapacitated for anything but 'woman's work'--'a soft job.'

"Oh, but I do not want to be so far away and look on; I want to
be _in_ it."

He looked at me out of the angle of his eye to make sure that I was in
earnest. "Tain't safe," he said.

"Then you mean to say that every cowboy risks his life in a round-up?"

"Oh, well, they're men and take their chances. Besides, it's their
business."

I never yet have been able to have a direct question answered by a true
mountaineer or plainsman by a simple yes or no. Is there something in the
bigness of their surroundings that causes the mind to spread over an
idea and lose directness like a meadow brook?

However, by various wiles known to my kind, the next morning at daybreak
I was mounted upon the surest-footed animal in the 'bunch.'

"She's a trained cow pony and won't lose her head," the boss remarked.

Thus equipped, I was allowed to accompany the cowboys to their work, with
the understanding that I was to keep at a safe distance from the herd.
Van Anden, a famous 'cutter out,' whatever that meant, was deputed to
have an especially watchful eye upon me. Van Anden was a surprisingly
graceful fellow, who got his six foot of stature in more places during
the day than any of the smaller men. He was evidently a cowboy because he
wanted to be one. There were many traces of a college education and a
thorough drilling in good manners in an Eastern home, which report said
could still be his if he so wished; and report also stated that he
remained a bachelor in spite of being the most popular man in the
country, because of a certain faithless siren who with gay unconcern
casts languishing glances and spends papa's dollars at Newport.

But this was no Beau Brummel day. There was work to do, and hard work,
as I soon discovered. We had ridden perhaps a mile; my teeth were
still chattering in the early morning cold (breaking ice on one's bath
water and blowing on one's fingers to enable one to lace heavy boots
may suit a cowboy: I do not pretend to like it), when we began to
notice a loud bellowing in the distance. Instantly my companions
spurred their horses and we went speeding over the Little Missoula
bottom lands, around scrub willows and under low hanging branches of
oak, one of which captured my hat, after breaking both of the hat pins,
and nearly swept me from the saddle.

On I rushed with the rest, hatless, and as in a cloud of fury. Van Anden
took a turn around that tree and was at my side again with the hat before
I realised what, he was doing. I jerked out a "thank you" between lopes,
and of course forbore to remark that a hat without pins was hollow
mockery. I dodged the next low branch so successfully that the pommel in
some miraculous way jumped up and smashed the crystal in my watch, the
same being carried in that mysterious place, the shirt waist front, where
most women carry their watches, pocket books, and love letters.

When we got into the open the terrible bellowing--a combination of
shriek, groan, and roar in varying pitch--grew louder, and I could just
discern a waving ghostly mass in the gray morning mist. I wondered if
this were the herd, but found it was only the cloud of dust in which it
was enveloped.

Four of the cowboys had already disappeared in different directions. I
heard the 'WB' boss say, "Billy, to the left flank. Van, them blamed
heifers," as he flew past them.

Van dashed forward, I gave my black mare a cut with the quirt and
followed. Van's face, as he turned around to remonstrate, was a study of
surprise, distress, and disgust, for I was undoubtedly breaking rules.

"Don't bother about me," I called as airily as possible, as I shot past
him. He had checked his horse's speed, but now there was nothing to do
but to follow me as fast as he could. I shall have to record that he
swore, as he turned sharply to the right into a group of cattle. Poor
man, it was dreadful to saddle him with a woman at such a juncture, but
I was not a woman just then. I was a green cowboy and frightened to
death, as the cattle closed around me, a heavy mass of ponderous forms,
here wedged in tightly and bellowing, some with the pain of being
crushed, some for their calves. I expected every instant to be trampled
under foot.

"Stick to your horse, whatever you do, and work to the left," I heard Van
shouting to me over the backs of a dozen cows. The dust, the noise, and
the smell of those struggling creatures appalled and sickened me. How was
I ever going to work to the left in that jam? I could see nothing but
backs and heads and horns. I allowed myself one terrified groan which was
fortunately lost in the general uproar. But the pony had been in such a
situation before, if I had not, and she taught me what to do. She gave a
sudden spring forward when a space just big enough for her appeared, then
wove her way a few paces forward between two animals who had room enough
on the other side of them to give way a little, while the space I had
just left had closed up, a tight mass of groaning creatures.

Thus we worked our way to the left whenever there was a chance, and at
last through the dust I could see the heavenly open space beyond.
Forgetting my tactics, I made straight for it, and was caught in one of
those terrible waves of tightly pressed creatures which is caused by
those on the outside pressing towards the centre, and the centre giving
until there is no more space, when comes the crush. Fortunately I was on
the outskirts of this crush, and by holding my feet up high we managed to
squeeze through that dreadful, dust covered, stamping, snorting bedlam
into the glorious free air and sunshine. Already I had a much better
conception of what a 'whole lot' of cattle meant.

From the vantage ground of a little hill I could see the whole herd, and
realised that I had been in only a small bunch of it, composed of cows
and calves. Had I gone to the right I should soon have gotten into a
raging mass of some thousand head of bulls. They were pawing and tearing
up the ground that but a little before had been covered with grass and
late flowers, and occasionally goring one another. The cowboys were
riding on the outskirts of this life-destroying horde, forcing the
stragglers back into line, and by many a sudden dash forward, then to the
right, sharp wheel about, and more spurts this way and that, were slowly
driving it toward another mass of cattle, a half mile further on, which
could be distinguished only by the clouds of dust which enveloped it.

Van Anden, meanwhile, in the small bunch with which I had had such an
intimate acquaintance, was acting as though he had lost his wits, or so
it seemed to me until I began to understand what he was doing. He would
dart into the bunch, scattering cattle right and left, and would weave
in and out, out and in, waving his arms, shouting, throwing his rope,
occasionally hitting an animal across the nose or the flank, sometimes
twisting their tails, dodging blows and kicks, and finally emerge driving
before him a cow followed by her calf. These another cowboy would take
charge of and drive to a small bunch of cows and calves which I now
noticed for the first time, separating them from their relations, who
remonstrated in loud bellowings, stampings and freakish, brief, ill
judged attacks. And then I understood what it meant to 'cut out' cattle
from 'a whole lot.'

When the calves and cows were finally separated, it was necessary to
drive them also to the Big Flat for the afternoon's work of branding
those that 'needed it.' Van guarded the rear of the bunch and of course
I rode with him, that is as near as I could, for he was as restless as a
blue bottle fly in a glass jar, dashing hither and thither, keeping those
crazy creatures together, and ever pushing them forward. The dust and
heat and noise and smell and continual action made my head ache. So this
was cowboy life, Van's choice! I thought of a certain far away, well
ordered home, with perhaps a sweet voiced mother and well groomed sister,
and wondered, even while I knew the answer. On the one hand, peace,
comfort, affection, and the eternal sameness; on the other, effort,
hardship, fighting sometimes, but ever with the new day a whole world of
unlived possibilities, change, action, and bondage to no one.

A particularly fractious heifer at this point suddenly changed my
contemplation of Van Anden's character into a lively share of Van
Anden's job. The creature was making good time straight towards me, and
as I had dropped considerably behind the herd in order to breathe some
fresh air and to be free from the dust, I knew that it meant a long hard
chase for Van and his tired horse if I did not head off that heifer; I
felt I owed him that much. I had seen the cowboys do that very thing a
hundred times that morning, but you cannot stand on your toe by watching
a ballet dancer do it. However, I started on a gallop, slanting
diagonally towards the creature, swinging one arm frantically (I really
could not let go with both) and yelling "Hi, hi!" I wondered what would
happen next, for to be honest, I was exquisitely scared. Why scared? It
is not for me to explain a woman's dread of the unknown and untried.

[Illustration: I STARTED ON A GALLOP, SWINGING ONE ARM.]

I heard Van shouting, but could not understand. To know you are right and
then go ahead is a pretty plan, but how to know? The animal did not stop
or swerve from its course. We would surely collide. What was I to do? Oh,
for a precedent! Evidently the mare was aware of one, for she wheeled to
the right just in time to miss the oncoming heifer, and we raced
alongside for a few seconds. I had so nearly parted company with my mount
in the last manoeuvre (centaurs would have an enormous advantage as
cowboys) that I had lost all desire to help Van and only wanted to get
away from that heifer, to make an honourable dismount, and go somewhere
by myself where a little brook babbled nothings, and the forget-me-nots
placidly slept. Rough riding and adventures of the Calamity Jane order
tempted me no more.

Whether now the heifer did the proper thing or not, I cannot say, but
she circled around with me on the outer side (I suspect my cow pony knew
how it was done) and was half way back to the herd when Van took it in
charge. His face bore a broad grin for the first time that day, from
what emotions caused I have never been able to determine. I, of course,
said nothing.

Then, oh, the joy of that round up dinner! The 'WB' outfit had a meal
tent, a mess wagon, and a cook for the men, and a rope corral, food and
water for the horses. Everybody was happy for the noon hour, save the
unlucky ones whose turn it was to guard the herd. Bob had driven the
ex-mayor's wife, the sad eyed spinster, and Nimrod over to join us at
dinner. The boss greeted Nimrod with the assurance that I was 'all right'
and could apply any time for a job. I may as well say that Nimrod had
allowed me to go without him in the morning, because the cattle business
was no novelty to him; because daybreak rising did not appeal to him as a
pastime; and because, at the time I broached the subject, being engaged
in writing a story, he had removed but one-eighth of his mind for the
consideration of mundane affairs, and that, as any one knows, is
insufficient to judge fairly whether the winged thing I was reaching out
for was a fly or a bumble bee. In the morning, the story being finished
and the other seven-eights of brain at liberty to dwell upon the same
question, he decided to follow me, with the result that in the afternoon
I rode in the wagon.

The cowboy meal, which I believe was not elaborated for us, was a healthy
solid affair of meat, vegetables, hot biscuit, coffee, and prunes,
appetisingly cooked and unstintingly served, for the Bad Land appetite is
like unto that of the Rocky Mountains, lusty and big. The saddling of
fresh horses made a lively scene for a few moments in the corral; then
the men rode off for the afternoon's business of branding.

The ranch party packed itself into a three-seated buckboard and we
followed behind. We went at a wide safe distance from the half-crazed
herds, which had been driven this way and that until they knew not what
they wanted, nor what was wanted of them, to where a huge fire was
blazing and rapidly turning cold black iron to red hot. These irons were
fashioned in curious shapes, from six to ten inches long and fastened to
a four foot iron handle. The smell of burning flesh was in the air, and
horrid shrieks. Beyond was the ceaseless bellowing and stamping and
weaving of the herds.

From the time I got into the wagon and became a mere onlooker, my point
of view changed. The exhilaration of action had disappeared. I was a
cowboy no longer. The cattle in the morning had been stupid foolish
creatures, dangerous in their blind strength, which must be made to do
what one willed. Now they were poor, dumb, persecuted beasts which must
be tormented, even tortured (for who shall say that red hot iron on
tender flesh is not torture?) and eventually butchered for the swelling
of man's purse. I saw the riders dash towards an animal who 'needed
branding'--which I discovered to mean one that had hitherto escaped the
iron, or that had changed owners--throw a rope over its head or horns,
fasten the other end to the pommel, and drag it to the fire, where it was
thrown and tied. Then it was seized by several men who sat on its head
and legs to hold it comparatively still while another took the hot brand
from the fire and pressed it against the quivering side of the animal. It
was then released and, bawling with pain and fright, allowed to return to
its mother, who had been kept off by another rider. A sound at my side
informed me that the little old maid was weeping copiously.

It is a pity I could not have had the cowboy's point of view, for mine
was most unpleasant, but my little glimpse of the other side was gone,
and gladly I drove away from the mighty smells and sounds of that
unfortunate mass of seething life, subjected to the will of a dozen men,
Van Anden the worst of the lot. And as we went silently through the sweet
cool air, crisp as an October leaf, where a bluebird was twittering a
wing-free song on the poplar yonder, where silver-turned willows were
gently swaying, and a jolly chipmunk was rippling from log to stone, I
wondered whether the Newport girl had really done so wrong after all.



XV.

THE SWEET PEA LADY SOMEONE ELSE'S MOUNTAIN SHEEP.


It was at Winnipeg (you do not want to know how we got there) that I
first walked into the aura of the Sweet Pea Lady, and by so doing
prepared the way for the shatterment of another illusion--namely, that
'little deeds of kindness' always result in mutual pleasure.

Flowers and fruit in Manitoba are treasured as sunshine in London, for
you must remember that Manitoba is a very new country, that it is only a
paltry few thousands of years since its thousands of miles were scraped
flat as a floor. Everything even yet looks so immodest on those vast
stretches. The clumps of trees stand out in such a bold brazen fashion.
The houses appear as though stuck on to the landscape. Even an honest
brown cow can not manage to melt herself into the endless stretch of
prairies. In fact, the little scenic accidents of trees and hollows,
which mean fruit and flowers, are mainly due to man.

So, when our friends who saw us off on the west-bound Canadian Pacific
left in our sleeper two huge bouquets of sweet peas and ten pounds of
blackberries, we knew that the finest garden in Winnipeg had been rifled
to do us pleasure. Now, I dearly love flowers and fruit, as I did the
giver, but ten pounds of great, fat blackberries and an armful of sweet
peas in a cramped stuffy Pullman caused my heart to resound in the minor
chords. We rallied again and again to demolish the fruit as we voyaged,
and sat with one foot on top of the other to avoid crushing the lovely
pea blossoms as we fidgeted about, but the results of our efforts, messy
fruit in hopeless abundance and withering leaves in dreary profusion,
were discouraging.

When the noon hour came, Nimrod carried the fruit basket into the
Diner and set it down on the table. The waiter eyed us askance.
"It's a dollar each for dinner, sah." It was clear we were emigrants.
We paid the waiter's demand and then from soup to coffee ate
blackberries--blackberries until we were black in the mouth and pale in
the face. Then we picked up our basket, upon the contents of which our
labours had apparently made no impression, and, hastily pushing a plate
over the rich red stain it had left on the table cloth, departed with our
fruit and a grieved feeling in the region of our hearts. It may not be
amiss to remark that I have never eaten a blackberry since. To get to our
car it was necessary to pass through another sleeper, where I noticed a
made up berth in which was reclining a young woman, and hovering over her
solicitously a man, evidently the husband.

Hope and joy awoke within me--perhaps she would like some blackberries!
No, she would not venture to eat fruit, and with many thanks, oh, many,
many thanks, she declined it. But the blessedness of giving I felt must
be mine, so I bribed the porter to take as many sweet peas as he could
carry and present them to the sick lady in the next car, and on no
account to tell where he got them. I did not want the thanks, neither did
I want the sweet peas, but I was illogical enough to hope that the
Recording Angel would be busy and accept the act at its face value as a
"deed of kindness."

It must have been a slack day with the angel, for this is a brief but
accurate account of what followed, and I am willing to leave it to any
human, whether my punishment was not out of all proportion to the offense
committed:

_One hour later_. Train stops for ten minutes. I got out for fresh air
and promenade on platform. Behold, the first object that meets my gaze is
the sick lady, miraculously recovered. She swooped down upon me with the
deadly light of determination in her eyes. I was discovered. There was no
escape. I was going to be thanked--and I was thanked. Up and down,
backwards and forwards, inside and out, and all hands around. And when
she paused breathless her husband took up the theme. It seems she was a
semi invalid, and the sweet peas were quite the most heavenly thing that
could have happened to her. Nimrod joined me at this moment and he was
thanked separately and dually, for being the husband of his wife, I
suppose. At last we were able to retire with profuse bows, tired but
exceedingly thankful that the incident, though trying, was ended.

_Three minutes later_. Have been driven indoors by the sweet pea woman,
as each turn of the walk brought us face to face, when it immediately
became necessary to nod and smile, and for our husbands to lift hats and
smile, until we looked like loose-necked manikins. At least, the sleeper
is tranquil, if stuffy.

_Supper time_. Have been thanked again by the Sweet Pea Lady, who sat at
our table. She had sweet peas in her hair, and at her belt. The husband
had a boutonnière of them.

_Next morning, Carberry_. Bade an elaborate farewell to the Sweet Pea
Lady. She is going straight to the coast where they catch steamer for
Japan. Praise be to Allah! I shall see her no more. The heavy polite
is wearing.

_Next day, Banff Hot Springs_. First person on the hotel steps I see
is the S.P. Lady. She rushed up and assured me that the S.P.'s were
still fresh, and that she and her husband had unexpectedly stopped
over for a day.

_Next day_. Spent the day avoiding S.P.L. Left for Glacier House in the
evening. At least, I shall not see S.P.L. there, as they have to go right
through to catch steamer.

_Two days later, Glacier House_. Had horrid shock. Found apparition of
S.P. Lady sitting beside me at breakfast table. She began to speak, then
I knew it was the real thing. She assured me that many of the S.P.'s were
still fresh, as she had clipped their stems night and morning. I again
said good by to her, and to those ghastly flowers. She just has time to
catch her steamer.

_Three days later: Vancouver_. Ran across the S.P. Lady in hotel
corridor. She saw me first. There was another weary interchange of the
heavy polite. Her steamer had been delayed from sailing for two days--in
order that we might meet again, I have no doubt.

_Next morning. She's gone_. Ring the bells, boom the cannon! I saw the
Japan steamer bear the Sweet Pea Lady rapidly into deep water. At last
easeful peace may again dream on my shoulder. When I returned to the
hotel the clerk handed me an envelope enclosing a lady's visiting card
(kind fate, she lives in Japan) on which was written "In grateful
appreciation of your kindness," and with the card were two sprays of
Pressed Sweet Peas.

After this when it comes to "scattering deeds of kindness on the weary
way," I shall be the woman who didn't, and who shall say me nay?
However, all this flower and fruit piece was but an episode; the event of
that journey was the intimate acquaintance we made of the Great Glacier
of the Selkirks, and the nice opportunity I had to lose my life. And the
only reason this tale is not more tragic is because, given the choice, I
preferred to lose the opportunity rather than the life.

I wonder if I can give any idea to one who has not seen it what a snow
slide really is; how it sweeps away every vestige of trees, grass, and
roots, and leaves a surface of shirting, unstable earth almost as
treacherous as quicksand.

Nimrod and I had paid a superficial visit to the Glacier the day before:
that is, we had gone as far as its forefoot, a hard but thoroughly safe
climb, and had explored with awe the green glass ice caves with which the
Great Glacier has seen fit to decorate its lower line, wonderful rooms of
ice, emerald in the shadows, with glacial streams for floors.

[Illustration: THE WARM BEATING HEART OF A MOUNTAIN SHEEP.]

So the next morning we started out, intending a little bit to further
explore the vast, cold, heartless ice sheet (vaster than all the Swiss
glaciers together), but more to hunt for the warm beating heart of a
mountain sheep, whose home is here. We had been travelling for miles in
the wildest kind of earth upheavals, for the Selkirks are still hard and
fast in the grip of the ice king; huge boulders, uprooted trees, mighty
mountains, released but recently from the glacial wet blanket, when
Nimrod discovered the stale track of a mountain sheep. We followed it
eagerly till it brought us across the path of a snow slide. At that point
it was about five hundred feet across, at an angle of forty-five
degrees; below us a thousand feet was a vicious looking glacial torrent;
above, an equal distance, was the lower edge of the glacier, the mother
of all this devastation.

The fearless-footed mountain sheep had crossed this sliding crumbling
earth and gravel incline with apparent ease. For us it was go on or go
back. There was no middle course. The row of tiny hoof marks running
straight across from one safe bank to the other deceived us. It could not
be so very difficult. We dismounted; Nimrod threw the bridle over his
horse's head and started across, leading his beast. The animal snorted as
he felt the foot-hold giving way beneath him, but Nimrod pulled him
along. It was impossible to stand still. It would have been as easy for
quicksilver to remain at the top of an incline. Amid rattling stones and
sliding earth they landed on the firm bank beyond, fully three hundred
feet below me.

It was a shivery sight, but I started expecting the horse would follow.
He, however, jerked back snorting and trembling, which unexpected move
upset my equilibrium, uncertain at best, and I fell. Nothing but the
happy chance of a tight grip on the reins kept me from sliding down that
dreadful bank, over the rock into the water, and so into eternity (Please
pardon the Salvation Army metaphor).

I had barely time to right myself and get out of the way of my horse,
which now plunged forward upon the sliding rock with me. The terrified
animal lost his head completely. I could not keep away from his hoofs. He
would not let me keep in front, I dare not get above for fear I should
slip under his feet, or below him for fear he should slide upon me. I
lost my balance again while dodging away from him as he plunged and
balked, but managed to grab his mane and we both slid a horrible
distance. I could hear Nimrod shouting on the bank, but did not seem to
understand him. I had the stage, centre front, and it was all I could
attend to.

We were now opposite to Nimrod, but only half way across. Such an ominous
rolling and tumbling of stones and tons of earth sliding down over the
low precipice into the water! I expected to be with it each instant.
Nimrod had started out after me.

[Illustration: I COULD NOT KEEP AWAY FROM HIS HOOFS.]

Then I understood what he was shouting: "Let go that horse." Why, of
course! Why had I not thought of that? I did let go and, thus freed,
managed to get across, falling, slipping, but still making progress
until I reached the safe ground one hundred feet lower in a decidedly
dilapidated condition. My animal followed me instinctively for a short
distance, and Nimrod got him the rest of the way--I do not know how. It
did not interest me then.

And the saddest of all, the mountain sheep had vanished into the unknown,
taking his little tracks with him, so we had to go back in a roundabout
way, without sheep, without joy--and without a tragedy.



XVI.

IN WHICH THE TENDERFOOT LEARNS A NEW TRICK.


For those who have driven four-in-hand, this will have no message. But as
four-in-hand literature seems to be somewhat limited and my first lesson
was somewhat drastic, I shall venture to tell you how it felt.

Of coaching there are two kinds: Eastern coaching, with well-groomed
full-fed horses, who are never worked harder than is good for them; with
silver-plated harness, and coach with the latest springs and running
gear, umbrella rack, horn, lunch larder, and what not; with footmen or
postilions, according to the degree of style, to run to the horses' heads
at the first hitch; with the gentleman driver in cream box coat and
beribboned whip; with everything down to the pole pin correct and
immaculate.

Then there is Western coaching, which is more properly termed staging,
for which is used any vehicle that will hold together and whose wheels
will turn round. This is pulled by half-broken shaggy horses which would
kick any man who ventured near them with brush or currycomb, and which
are sometimes made to travel until they drop in the road. The harness on
such coaching trips is an assortment of single, double, leaders and
wheelers sets, mended with buckskin or wire and thrown on irrespective of
fit. Lucky the cayuse who happens to be the right size for his harness.

And the driver! No cream box coat for him--provident the one who owns a
slicker and a coat of weather green (the same being the result of sun and
rain on any given color). And the people in the stage hoist no white and
red silk parasols. They are there because they are "going somewhere." My
multi-murderous cook taught me the distinction between "just travellin'"
and "going somewhere."

As for the roads--oh, those Rocky Mountain roads! They make coaching
quite a different thing from that on the smooth boulevards around New
York. I have twice made seventy-five miles in twelve hours, by having
four relays, but the average rate of travel is about twenty miles in
eight hours. And the day when I first took the ribbons in my hands to
guide--four horses we were from nine in the morning till five at night
going twelve miles. This was the way of it: Nimrod and I were on a
hunting trip in the Canadian Rockies, and as the government map said
there was a road, though not a good one, we decided to carry our
belongings in a four-horse wagon, in which we could also ride if we
liked, and to have saddle horses besides.

Green, a man of the region, was the driver and cook, and we had as guest
a famous bear hunter from the Sierra Nevadas. On the first two days out
from the little mountain town where we started, we saw many tracks of
black bear, which encouraged the hunters to think that they might find a
grizzly (which, by the way, they did not).

The dust was thick and red, enveloping us all day long like some horrible
insistent monster that had resolved itself into atoms to choke, blind and
strangle us. Nimrod looked like a clay man--hair, eyebrows, mustache,
skin, and clothes were all one solid coating of red dust. We were all
alike. Even the sugar, paper-wrapped in the bottom of a box, covered by
other boxes, bags and a canvas, became adulterated almost past use.

On the fourth day this changed, and we camped at the foot of a granite
mountain. It made one think of the Glass Mountain of fable, with its
smooth stretches of polished rock shining in the sun. That a human being
should dare to take a wagon over such a place seemed incredible. Yet
there the road was, zigzagging up the rocky slope, while here and there
the jagged outlines of blasted rock showed where the all-powerful
dynamite had been used to make a resting place for straining horses.

That morning excitement surrounded our out-of-door breakfast table. We
had had strange visitors during the night, while we slept. A mountain
lion, the beautiful tan-coated vibrant-tailed puma, had nosed within ten
feet of me and then, not liking the camp-fire glow and unalarmed by my
inert form, had silently retreated.

It made me feel creepy to see how easily that lithe-limbed powerful
creature might have had me for a midnight meal. But I was not trying to
do him harm, and so he granted me the same tolerance. Then, too, not
far away was a bear track, and the canned peaches were fewer than the
night before.

All of this caused Nimrod and the bear-hunter to saddle their horses
early; and agreeing to meet us at night on the other side of the
mountain, where the map showed a stream, they set out for a day's hunt.
Nimrod's horse having gone slightly lame, I offered mine, a swift-footed
intelligent dear, and agreed to ride in the wagon.

It was the same old story. Virtue is somebody else's reward. I never had
a worse day in the mountains. Green and I started blithely enough by
nine, which had meant a 5:30 rising in the cold gray dawn. The horses had
been worked every day since the start, and were jaded.

We went slowly along the only level road in our journey that day; but the
load did not seem to be riding well, and at the beginning of the ascent
Green got out to investigate. He said the spring was out of order. The
wagon was what is known as a thorough-brace, which means that there are
two large loopy steel bands on which the wagon box rests; the loops are
filled in with countless strips of leather, forming a pad for the springs
to play on. (The Century Dictionary will please not copy this
definition.) The Deadwood stage coach was a thorough-brace, I believe.
Another interesting out-of-date detail in the construction of this wagon
was that the brake had no mechanical device for holding it in position
when it was put on hard, and the driver had to rely upon his strength of
limb to keep it in place. It seems that Green, in pounding these bits of
leather in the spring, had badly crushed his left hand. He said nothing
to me, and I did not notice that, contrary to custom, he was driving with
his right hand, which he usually reserved for the whip and the brake.

We crossed the shallow brook and started up the very steep and very
rocky road, when everything happened at once. Two of the horses refused
to pull and danced up and down in the one spot, a sickening thing for a
horse to do. This meant the instant application of the brake. We had
already begun to slip backward (the most uncomfortable sensation I know,
barring actual pain). Nimrod's horse, tied on behind, gave a frightened
snort and broke his rope. Green attempted to take the reins with his
left hand. They dropped from his grasp, and I saw that his fingers were
purple and black.

"Grab the lines, can you?" he said, as he seized the whip and put both
feet on the brake. The leaders were curveting back on the wheelers in a
way which meant imminent mix up, their legs over traces and behind
whiffle-trees. On the right, of us was solid rock up, on the left solid
rock down, one hundred feet to the stream, and just ahead was the sharp
turn the road made to a higher ledge in its zigzag up the mountain. I
had always intended to learn to drive four-in-hand, but this first lesson
left me no pleasure in the learning. There were no little triumphs of
difficulties mastered, no gentle surprises, no long, smooth, broad, and
level stretches with plenty of room to pull a rein and see what would
happen. I had to spring into the situation with knowledge, as Minerva did
into life, full grown. It was no kindergarten way of learning to drive
four-in-hand.

I grabbed the reins in both hands. There were yards of them, rods of
them, miles of them--they belonged to a six or sixteen horse set. I do
not know which. I sat on them. They writhed in my lap, wrapped around my
feet, and around the gun against my knee, in a hopeless and dangerous
muddle. Of course the reins were twisted. I did not know one from the
other. I gave a desperate jerk which sent the leaders plunging to the
right, where fortunately they brought up against the rock wall. Had they
gone the other way nothing but our destiny could have saved us from going
over the edge. _Crack_ went the whip in the right place.

"Slack the lines!" Green cried, as he eased the brake. A lash of the whip
for each wheeler, and we started forward, the horses disentangling
themselves from the harness as by a miracle, just as the rear wheels were
hovering over the bluff. Green dropped the whip (his left hand was quite
useless) and straightened out the reins for me.

"Can you do it?" he asked, grasping the whip, as the horses showed signs
of stopping again. To attend to the brake was physically impossible.
Green could not do it and drive with one hand.

"Yes," I said, "but watch me"--an injunction scarcely necessary.

[Illustration: WE STARTED FORWARD, JUST AS THE REAR WHEELS WERE HOVERING
OVER THE EDGE.]

If ever a woman put her whole mind to a thing, I did on that
four-in-hand. There was no place for mistakes. There was no place for
anything but the right thing, and do it I must or run the risk of
breaking my very dusty, very brown, but none the less precious neck.

A sharp turn in a steep road with rocks a foot high disputing the right
of way with the wheels, a heavy load, horses that do not want to pull,
and a green driver--that was the situation. If it does not appeal to you
as one of the horribles in life, try it once.

"Run your leaders farther up the bank--left, left! _Get up, Milo!
Frank, get out of that_! Now sharp to the right. _Whoa! Steady_!
Left--left, I say! _Milo, whoa_! Now to the right, quick! Let 'em on
the bank more. _Nellie, easy_--_Whoa! Steady, George_!" Crack went the
whip on the leaders.

"Hold your lines tighter. Pull that nigh leader. _Get out of that, Frank!
Now steady, boys_! Don't pull--there!"

Down went the brake; we were safely round the turn, and all hands rested
for a moment.

Thus we worked all that morning, Green with the brake, the whip, and his
tongue; I with the lines, what strength I had and mother wit in lieu of
experience.

There were stretches of two hundred feet of granite, smooth and polished
as a floor, where the horses repeatedly slipped and fell, and where the
wheels brought forth hollow mocking rumbles.

There were sections where the rocky ledges succeeded one another in
steps, and the animals had to pull the heavy wagon up rises from a foot
to eighteen inches high by sheer strength--as easy to drive up a flight
of brownstone steps on Fifth Avenue. There were places between huge
boulders where a swerve of a foot to the right or to the left would have
sent us crashing into the unyielding granite.

When we got to the top there was no place to rest--only rock, rock
everywhere. No water, no food for the exhausted horses, nothing to do but
to push on to the bottom--and such going! Have you ever felt the
shuddering of a wagon with brake hard on, as it poised in air the
instant before it dropped a foot or two to the next level, from hard rock
to hard rock? Have you ever tried to keep four horses away from under a
wagon, and yet sufficiently near it not to precipitate the crash? Have
you ever at the same time tried to keep them from falling on the rocks
ahead and from plunging over the bank as you turn a sharp curve on a
steep down grade? If you have, then you know the nature of my first
lesson in four-in-hand driving.

We got to the bottom at dusk. I was too tired to speak. Every muscle set
up a separate complaint and I had had nothing to eat since morning, as we
had expected to make camp by noon. The world seemed indeed a very drab
place. We found the hunters careering around searching for us. They
thought they had missed us--as they had done the bear.

I have driven, and been driven, hundreds of miles since, but there never
was a ride like those twelve, cruel, mocking, pitiless miles over
Granite Mountain, when necessity taught me a very pretty trick, which,
however, I have not yet been tempted to display at the Madison Square
Garden in November.



XVII.

_OUR_ MINE.


It now behooves me to state that, between the events of the last chapter
and this, Nimrod and I heard the hum, the wail, and the shriek that make
the song of the Westinghouse brake before we found ourselves deposited at
the flourishing mining camp of Red Ridge in the Arizona Rockies, nine
thousand feet in the air.

Did ever a tenderfoot escape from the mountains without at least having a
try at making his or her fortune in a mine--gold one preferred? We, of
course, had the chance of our lives, and who knows what might have
happened if only the fat woman and the lean woman had not gotten jealous
of each other, and thereby wrecked the company?

The gold is, or is not, in the fastnesses of the earth as before, but
where, oh, where, is the lean woman of lineage and the fat woman of
money? The lean woman had quality. She was the daughter of somebody
who had done something, but, unlike _Becky Sharp_, she had not been
successful in living richly in San Francisco on nothing a year. Nobody
knows whose daughter the fat woman was, but in her very comfortable
home in Kansas that had not mattered, and, besides, she had saved a
few hundreds.

These two women had husbands, who had entered into a mining scheme
together. The man from Frisco was a good-looking, well-educated, jovial
fellow, with the purses of several rich friends to back him up, and with
a great desire to replenish his purse with the yellow metal direct,
rather than to acquire it by the sweat of his brow. He was many other
things, but, to be brief, he was a promoter. The man from Kansas had the
pride of the uneducated, and a little money, and was also not averse to
getting rich fast.

Nimrod, the third partner, likewise encumbered with a wife on the spot,
desired to make _his_ everlasting fortune, retire from the painting of
pictures and the making of books, and grub in the field of science and
live happily ever after.

For two weeks we were all together at the only hotel at Cartersville, a
hamlet of perhaps thirty souls. It took only two weeks to wreck the
company. The mine was a mile and a half away, over a very up-and-down
mountain road which on the first day the fat woman and I walked with
our husbands, and which Mrs. Frisco and her husband had travelled in
Mrs. Kansas' phaeton--the result of a little way Mrs. Frisco had of
getting the best.

Three days of this calm appropriation of her carriage while she walked
ruffled Mrs. Kansas' temper. When she heard a rumour that Mrs. Frisco had
stated disdainfully to the landlady that there could be no thought of
recognising Mrs. Kansas socially, but that she must be tolerated because
of her money in the enterprise, her politeness grew frigid and the
trouble began to brew.

While perfectly willing to watch the logomachy when it should arrive, I
had no wish to take part. I was willing to make money, but not to make
enemies, so Nimrod and I removed ourselves as much as possible from the
Cartersville Hotel, took long walks and rides over the glorious Chihuahua
Mountains, poked around the abandoned mines, spied out the deer and
mountain lion and the ubiquitous coyote and all the indigenous beasts and
birds of the air thereof. We usually managed to arrive at the mine when
the partners and their wives were elsewhere.

The mine, _our_ mine, was a long horizontal hole in the mountain, with a
tiny leaf-choked stream trickling past the entrance, heavy timbers
propping up the inert mass of dirt and stone just above our heads, piles
of uninteresting rock dumped to one side, the "pay dirt." I had seen such
things before, and they had said nothing to me. But this was _our_ mine,
_our_ stream, _our_ dump.

McCaffrey, the foreman, put rubber boots on me in the little smithy which
formed a part of the entrance of the tunnel, and thus equipped I entered
the tunnel. The day shift, represented by two dancing lights far off in
the blackness, was preparing to blast.

I advanced uncertainly, my own candle blinding me. Water trickled from
the roof and walls of this rock-bound passage seven feet high and four
feet wide. A stream of it flowed by the tiny tram track. The hollow sound
of the mallet on the crowbar forcing its way into the stubborn wall grew
louder as we approached, until we stood with the miners in a foot or so
of water which showed yellow and shining in the flickering light of four
candles. Then we went back to the smithy to wait the result of the blast.

There was a horrid jarring booming sound. The miners listened intently.
McCaffrey said, "One." Another explosion in the tunnel followed--"Two."
Another--"Three." Then a silence. "That's bad," said McCaffrey, shaking
his head. "An unexploded cap."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"There were four charges and should have been four explosions. It's
liable to go off when we go in there."

"Oh!" I said.

The miners waited a while for the fumes of the dynamite to be dissipated
and kept me away from the tunnel mouth, saying:

"If you ever get a dynamite headache you will never want to come near the
mine again. And, besides, that unexploded cap may do damage yet."

I went back to the smithy to wait, for it was the last of October, and
snow in the mountains at ten thousand feet is cold. I attempted to sit
down on a keg behind the little sheet-iron stove, which was nearly red
hot.

"You better not sit down on that kaig," said one of the men calmly,
without pausing in his work.

"Why?"

"Well, it's dirty, and, besides, it's nitro-glycerine."

"Nitro-glycerine! Why is it in _here_, and so close to the stove? Won't
it explode?" and I checked a desire to retreat in disorder.

"No, 't'ain't no danger, if it don't get too hot and ain't jarred. You
see, it won't go off if it's too cold, so we keep a little in here and
kind o' watch it."

The keg was within two feet of the stove. Suppose that a dog or something
were to knock it over! But miners do not suppose.

Just then a tremendous explosion in the tunnel seemed to make the whole
earth vibrate. It was followed by a rattling and crashing of rocks, which
told us that the last cap had gone off and had done good work.

Half an hour later, when it was safe from dynamite fumes, I went back to
our hole in the ground. Nimrod had left me, lured away by some fox tracks
trailing up the mountain. The weird scene was too interesting for me to
leave until the arrival of the fat and lean women (Mrs. Frisco had
persuaded Mrs. Kansas to drive her over) caused me to remember that the
parlour fire at the Cartersville Hotel must be very comfortable, and that
it was a mile and a half of tiresome snow away.

Evidently the wives of my husband's partners had disagreed on the way,
for the air was electric as they greeted me, and to avoid another
tête-à-tête they at once turned to accompany me out of the tunnel. I
was the last.

The scene was now properly set for a mining accident, so there was
nothing for a self respecting tunnel to do but to accordingly, which it
did. Just as the fat woman and the lean woman passed into the open air,
and I was nearly at the mouth of the tunnel, it caused its roof to cave
in so close behind me that, had I not instinctively rushed out, some of
the flying stones, timbers, and dirt must have knocked me to the ground.

[Illustration: THE TUNNEL CAUSED ITS ROOF TO CAVE IN CLOSE BEHIND ME.]

As it was, I landed sprawling in the snow outside, sweeping the lean
woman down with me. It was very like a dime novel. Three lone women who,
for purposes of intensification, may be called enemies, staring with
white faces at a wall of dirt, and trying to realise that a minute before
it had been a black hole. And at the other end of that hole now were two
men horribly imprisoned in a rock-walled tomb without air or food,
perhaps dead. We could not tell how much of a cave-in it was.

The lean woman rushed for Mrs. Kansas' horse and wagon and went to alarm
the hamlet. I dashed up the hill a quarter of a mile to awaken the night
shift, who were in their cabin sleeping. And the fat woman at a safe
distance wrung her hands and uttered exclamations of horror and ill
judged advice to our departing forms.

Between the fright, the altitude, and the hill I had no breath left to
speak with as I pounded on the door of the miner's hut. Mountaineers
sleep lightly and do not make toilets, so it was barely ten minutes from
the time of the cave-in when three men were working at the tunnel's mouth
with pickaxes and shovels.

The tunnel had not meant to be malicious, but merely to do the proper
thing (it had not even disturbed the nitro-glycerine in the smithy). Not
much earth had fallen, and in less than an hour we heard the shouts of
the imprisoned men; in two hours they crawled into the air unhurt, and
soon were helping the others to shore up the treacherous entrance, so
that such a stirring thing could not happen again.

There is not much more to tell. I believe that the tunnel is still there,
boring its way into the heart of the mountain, where, perhaps, the lovely
yellow gold is; but we no longer refer to it as _ours_, and Nimrod still
has to work for our daily jam. For the insolence of Mrs. Frisco in
leaving Mrs. Kansas stranded in the snow and obliging her to walk home on
the cave-in day developed the brewing storm into such proportions that
the next day their husbands did not speak as we gathered round the
morning coffee. And the Kansases moved away into one of the other five
houses in Cartersville. Mr. Kansas was not "going to see his wife
insulted by an upstart--not he: he'd soon show them," and he did so
effectively that the Red Ridge Mining Company was soon no more. We
docketed our golden dreams 'unusable,' stowed them away, and returned
with tranquil minds, if lighter purse, to milder and slower ways of
getting rich.



XVIII.

THE LAST WORD.


Now this is the end. It is three years since I first became a
woman-who-goes-hunting-with-her-husband. I have lived on jerked deer
and alkali water, and bathed in dark-eyed pools, nestling among vast
pines where none but the four footed had been before. I have been sung
asleep a hundred times by the coyotes' evening lullaby, have felt the
spell of their wild nightly cry, long and mournful, coming just as the
darkness has fully come, lasting but a few seconds, and then heard no
more till the night gives place to the fresh sheet of dawn. I have
pored in the morning over the big round footprints of a mountain lion
where he had sneaked in hours of darkness, past my saddle pillowed
head. I have hunted much, and killed a little, the wary, the beautiful,
the fleet-footed big game. I have driven a four-in-hand over corduroy
roads and ridden horseback over the pathless vasty wilds of the
continent's backbone.

I have been nearly frozen eleven thousand feet in air in blinding snow,
I have baked on the Dakota plains with the thermometer at 116 degrees,
and I have met characters as diverse as the climate. I know what it
means to be a miner and a cowboy, and have risked my life when need be,
_but_, best of all, I have felt the charm of the glorious freedom, the
quick rushing blood, the bounding motion, of the wild life, the joy of
the living and of the doing, of the mountain and the plain; I have
learned to know and feel some, at least, of the secrets of the Wild Ones.
In short, though I am still a woman and may be tender, I am a Woman
Tenderfoot no longer.

[Illustration: A MOUNTAIN LION SNEAKED PAST MY SADDLE-PILLOWED HEAD.]





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