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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: In the Old West
Author: Ruxton, George Frederick
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 "In the Old West" ***

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



IN THE OLD WEST

By George Frederick Ruxton

As it was in the Days of Kit Carson and The "Mountain Men"

Edited by Horace Kephart

Copyright 1915, Outing Publishing Company



INTRODUCTION

|When we bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon, in 1803, it was
not from any pressing need of land, for we still had millions of fertile
acres east of the Mississippi. The purchase was made to forestall
complications with foreign powers, either with the arch-conqueror
himself, whose ambition was supposed to be the mastery of the whole
world, or with Great Britain, to which the western country was sure
to fall in case France should be defeated. Possession of Louisiana was
essential to our free navigation of the Mississippi.

The vast domain thus added to our boundaries was _terra incognita_.
Aside from, its strategic importance no one knew what it was good for.
So Lewis and Clark were sent out from the frontier post of St. Louis to
find a route to the Pacific and to report on what the new country was
like.

The only commercial asset that these explorers found which was
immediately available was an abundance of fur-bearing animals. Fur may
be called the gold of that period, and the news that there was plenty of
it in the Rocky Mountains lured many an intrepid spirit of the border.
Companies of traders proceeded at once up the Missouri to barter for
peltries with the Indians.

They established posts and arranged rendezvous in remote fastnesses
of the mountains where they carried on a perilous but very profitable
traffic. At the same time there went into the Far West many independent
adventurers to hunt and trap on their own account.

In the motley ranks of these soldiers of fortune the boldest and most
romantic characters were the free trappers--those who went, as they
expressed it; "on their own hook." The employees of the fur companies
were under strict discipline that checked personal initiative. They were
of the class who work for hire and see no compensation for an arduous
life save the wages earned from their taskmasters. But the free trappers
were accountable to nobody. Each of them fought his own fight and won
the full fruit of his endeavors. Going alone, or in small bands who
acknowledged no captain and would split up whenever the humor moved
them, everyone a law unto himself and relying upon his own strong arm,
they were men picked by nature for great enterprises and great deeds.

It was not love of gain for its own sake that drew the free trappers
into the wilderness. To them a pack of beaver skins was a mere gambler's
stake, to be squandered riotously after the fashion of Jack ashore. What
did compel them to a life of endless wandering and extreme hazard
was the sheer lust of adventure, and a passion for that absolute,
irresponsible freedom that can be enjoyed only in a state of nature.
Never in our history have there been pioneers who took greater risks
than they, or endured harsher vicissitudes, or severed themselves so
completely from the civilization in which they were born. Nowhere, and
at no time, have men of our race been thrown more upon their individual
resources in unknown regions, and through periods of great peril, nor
have there ever been characters more fitly developed to stand such
strain.

Cut off from the repressing and refining influences of civilization,
forever warring with this Indian tribe and cohabiting with that, it was
inevitable that most of these men should revert toward the status of
white barbarians. And yet it would be a grave error, an injustice, to
rate them with mere renegades and desperadoes. The trapper, whatever his
faults, was still every inch a man. Bravest of the brave, yet cool
and sagacious in the strategy of border war, capable in any emergency,
faithful to his own code of honor, generous without limit to everyone
but his foes, loyal to the death, frankly contemptuous of luxury and
caste and affectation, imperial in his self-respect but granting equal
rights to others, there was something heroic in this fierce and uncouth
figure who dominated for a time the vast plains and mountains of the
wild West. And it should not be forgotten that the early traders and
trappers performed an indispensable service to their country that no
other men of their time were able, or at least willing, to do: they were
the explorers, the trail-makers, for western civilization.

General Chittenden, our first authority on the history of the fur trade,
says of the mountain men: "It was the roving trader and the solitary
trapper who first sought out these inhospitable wilds, traced the
streams to their sources, scaled the mountain passes, and explored a
boundless expanse of territory where the foot of the white man had never
trodden before. The Far West became a field of romantic adventure, and
developed a class of men who loved the wandering career of the native
inhabitant rather than the toilsome lot of the industrious colonist.
The type of life thus developed, though essentially evanescent, and
not representing any profound national movement, was a distinct
and necessary phase in the growth of this new country. Abounding in
incidents picturesque and heroic, its annals inspire an interest akin to
that which belongs to the age of knight-errantry. For the free hunter
of the Far West was, in his rough way, a good deal of a knight-errant.
Caparisoned in the wild attire of the Indian, and armed _cap-a-pie_
for instant combat, he roamed far and wide over deserts and mountains,
gathering the scattered wealth of those regions, slaying ferocious
beasts and savage men, and leading a life in which every footstep
was beset with enemies and every moment pregnant of peril. The great
proportion of these intrepid spirits who laid down their lives in that
far country is impressive proof of the jeopardy of their existence. All
in all, the period of this adventurous business may justly be considered
the romantic era of the history of the West....

"It was the trader and trapper who first explored and established the
routes of travel which are now, and always will be, the avenues of
commerce in that region. _They_ were the 'pathfinders' of the West,
and not those later official explorers whom posterity so recognizes.
No feature of western geography was ever _discovered_ by Government
explorers after 1840. Everything was already known, and had been for
fully a decade. It is true that many features, like the Yellowstone
wonderland, with which these restless rovers were familiar, were
afterward forgotten and were re-discovered in later years; but there has
never been a time until very recently when the geography of the West was
so thoroughly understood as it was by the trader and trapper from 1830
to 1840.

"This minute knowledge was of practical use in many ways. When Brigham
Young selected the valley of Great Salt Lake as the future home of his
people, he did so largely upon information derived from the traders.
When the War with Mexico came, the military forces of the United
States invaded New Mexico under the guidance of men who knew every trail
and mountain pass better than the most thorough reconnaissance could
have taught them. When the national troops appeared before the gates of
Santa Fé they were met by a people who had already been virtually won to
the American cause through long intercourse with the traders. When the
rush of emigration to California and Oregon followed, the emigrants
found a highway across the continent already established. When the
Government entered in earnest upon the work of exploration, it was the
veteran mountaineer who was always sought to do service as guide."

It is most unfortunate that there exists in American literature no
intimate and vivid account of the western hunters and trappers by one
who had shared their camps and accompanied them on trail and warpath.
We have many stories of their exploits, written in narrative form, with
scarce any dialogue or characterization. The men themselves figure in
such stories as little more than lay figures in a historical museum. It
is one thing to describe events; it is another thing to make the actors
in those events live and speak in the reader's presence. Generally the
contemporary annals of the fur trade are as dry as a ship's log-book.
The participants in those stirring scenes could not write, and the men
of their time who could write lacked the experience.

What American authors failed to do was accomplished by a young English
sportsman and explorer who lived among the trappers as one of themselves
and acquired their point of view. Although not a professional writer,
he was blest with a knack of putting his experiences, and those of his
companions, so clearly before his readers that one can visualize both
men and deeds without conscious effort. This man was George Frederick
Ruxton, formerly a lieutenant in her Majesty's 89th Regiment.

In _Blackwood's Magazine_ of 1848 there appeared a serial by Ruxton
entitled "Life in the Far West." This story excited so much interest
that it was reprinted in book form, and went through two editions. These
are out of print, and so the work is practically unknown to our reading
public.

"Life in the Far West" * is written in the form of a thinly veiled
romance; but the actors were real, the incidents were real, and they
were strung together in a connected plot simply because that was
the most effective way to show character in action. The story is not
history, of course, but neither is it fable. Nearly every page gives
convincing evidence of the author's intimate personal knowledge of
the scenes and characters portrayed. He had scoured the continent from
Canada to Mexico, from the Mississippi to the Pacific coast. He had
associated with many redoubtable characters of the old West--with men
like Kit Carson, Bill Williams, the Bents, the Sublettes, Joe Meek, St.
Vrain, Fitzpatrick, Killbuck, and La Bonté. Pie was equally at home
among Americans, Canadians, Creoles, Mexicans, Spanish Californians, and
Indians. Each of these picturesque types he has shown to the life. No
narrative or formal history of that time has described the pioneers of
the Far West with such actual truth and fidelity.

     * Here published as "In the Old West."

The wildness of the adventures related by Ruxton led many readers to
suspect that they were mere romance. The author replied, in a letter to
his publishers:--

"I think it would be well to correct a misapprehension as to the truth
or fiction of the paper. It is _no fiction_. There is no incident in it
which has not actually occurred, nor one character who is not well
known in the Rocky Mountains, with the exception of two whose names are
changed." Fully half of the names of Americans mentioned in his book can
be identified today with the men who bore them. Again he wrote:--

"I have brought out a few more softening traits in the characters of the
mountaineers--but not at the sacrifice of truth--for some of them have
their good points; which, as they are rarely allowed to rise to
the surface, must be laid hold of at once before they sink again.
Killbuck--that 'old hoss' _par exemple_, was really pretty much of a
gentleman, as was La Bonté. Bill Williams, another 'hard case,' and Rube
Herring, were 'some' too.

"The scene where La Bonté joins the Chase family is so far true, that he
did make a sudden appearance; but, in reality, a day before the Indian
attack. The Chases (and I wish I had not given the proper name *) did
start for the Platte alone, and were stampeded upon the waters of the
Platte.

"The Mexican fandango _is true to the letter_. It does seem difficult to
understand how they contrived to keep their knives out of the hump-ribs
of the mountaineers; but how can you account for the fact, that, the
other day, 4000 Mexicans, with 13 pieces of artillery, behind strong
intrenchments and two lines of parapets, were routed by 900 raw
Missourians; 300 killed, as many more wounded, all their artillery
captured, as well as several hundred prisoners; and that not one
American was killed in the affair? _This is positive fact_.

"I myself, with three trappers, cleared a fandango at Taos, armed only
with bowie-knives--some score Mexicans, at least, being in the room.

     * In accordance with this suggestion, the name was changed
     to Brand. The mountaineers, it seems, are more sensitive to
     type than to tomahawks; and poor Ruxton, who always
     contemplated another expedition among them, would sometimes
     jestingly speculate upon his reception, should they learn
     that he had shown them up in print.

"With regard to the incidents of Indian attacks, starvation,
cannibalism, &c., I have invented not one out of my own head. They are
all matters of history in the mountains; but I have no doubt jumbled
the _dramatis persono_ one with another, and may have committed
anachronisms." Scholars may detect some inaccuracies here and there,
such as scarcely could be avoided by one who wrote, as we may say, in
the saddle; but these detract nothing from the essential verity of the
book. Ruxton's purpose was not to write a chronicle, but to exhibit
vividly the mountain men and the natives in relation to their
environment. If he wrought disconnected incidents into a continuous
story, and staged men together who may have been a thousand miles apart
at the time, it was only because, to this extent, "fiction is the most
convincing way of telling the truth."

As the author of this book was himself a true knight of the wilderness
whose brief life was filled with thrilling adventures, we append the
following memoir by one of his friends:--

"The London newspapers of October, 1848, contained the mournful tidings
of the death, at St. Louis on the Mississippi, and at the early age of
twenty-eight, of Lieutenant George Frederick Ruxton, formerly of her
Majesty's 89th Regiment, the author of the following sketches:

"Many men, even in the most enterprising periods of our history, have
been made the subjects of elaborate biography with far less title to
the honor than this lamented young officer. Time was not granted him
to embody in a permanent shape a tithe of his personal experiences and
strange adventures in three quarters of the globe. Considering, indeed,
the amount of physical labor he underwent, and the extent of the fields
over which his wanderings spread, it is almost surprising he found
leisure to write so much.

"At the early age of seventeen, Mr. Ruxton quitted Sandhurst, to learn
the practical part of a soldier's profession in the civil wars of Spain.
He obtained a commission in a squadron of lancers then attached to the
division of General Diego Leon, and was actively engaged in several of
the most important combats of the campaign. For his marked gallantry
on these occasions he received from Queen Isabella II. the cross of the
first class of the Order of St. Fernando, an honor which has seldom been
awarded to one so young.

"On his return from Spain he found himself gazetted to a commission in
the 89th Regiment; and it was whilst serving with that distinguished
corps in Canada that he first became acquainted with the stirring scenes
of Indian life, which he has since so graphically portrayed. His eager
and enthusiastic spirit soon became wearied with the monotony of
the barrack-room; and, yielding to that impulse which in him was
irresistibly developed, he resigned his commission, and directed his
steps towards the stupendous wilds tenanted only by the Red Indian, or
by the solitary American trapper.

"Those familiar with Mr. Ruxton's writings cannot fail to have remarked
the singular delight with which he dwells upon the recollections of this
portion of his career, and the longing which he carried with him, to the
hour of his death, for a return to those scenes of primitive freedom.
'Although liable to an accusation of barbarism,' he writes, 'I must
confess that the very happiest moments of my life have been spent in
the wilderness of the Far West; and I never recall but with pleasure the
remembrance of my solitary camp in the Bayou Salade, with no friend near
me more faithful than my rifle, and no companions more sociable than my
good horse and mules, or the attendant cayute which nightly serenaded
us. With a plentiful supply of dry pine-logs on the fire, and its
cheerful blaze streaming far up into the sky, illuminating the valley
far and near, and exhibiting the animals, with well-filled bellies,
standing contentedly at rest over their picket-fire, I would sit
cross-legged, enjoying the genial warmth, and, pipe in mouth, watch the
blue smoke as it curled upwards, building castles in its vapory wreaths,
and, in the fantastic shapes it assumed, peopling the solitude with
figures of those far away. Scarcely, however, did I ever wish to change
such hours of freedom for all the luxuries of civilized life;
and unnatural and extraordinary as it may appear, yet such is the
fascination of the life of the mountain hunter, that I believe not one
instance could be adduced of even the most polished and civilized
of men, who had once tasted the sweets of its attendant liberty, and
freedom from every worldly care, not regretting the moment when he
exchanged it for the monotonous life of the settlements, nor sighing and
sighing again once more to partake of its pleasures and allurements.'

"On his return to Europe from the Far West, Mr. Ruxton, animated with a
spirit as enterprising and fearless as that of Raleigh, planned a scheme
for the exploration of Central Africa, which was thus characterized
by the President of the Royal Geographical Society, in his anniversary
address for 1845: 'To my great surprise, I recently conversed with
an ardent and accomplished youth, Lieutenant Ruxton, late of the 89th
Regiment, who had formed the daring project of traversing Africa in
the parallel of the southern tropic, and has actually started for this
purpose. Preparing himself by previous excursions on foot in North
Africa and Algeria, he sailed from Liverpool early in December last, in
the _Royalist_, for Ichaboe. From that spot he was to repair to Walvish
Bay, where we have already mercantile establishments. The intrepid
traveler had received from the agents of these establishments such
favorable accounts of the nations towards the interior, as also of the
nature of the climate, that he has the most sanguine hopes of being
able to penetrate to the central region, if not of traversing it to the
Portuguese colonies of Mozambique. If this be accomplished, then indeed
will Lieutenant Ruxton have acquired for himself a permanent name among
British travelers, by making us acquainted with the nature of the axis
of the great continent of which we possess the southern extremity.'

"In pursuance of this hazardous scheme, Ruxton, with a single companion,
landed on the coast, of Africa, a little to the south of Ichaboe, and
commenced his journey of exploration. But it seemed as if both nature
and man had combined to baffle the execution of his design. The course
of their travel lay along a desert of moving sand, where no water was
to be found, and little herbage, save a coarse tufted grass and twigs of
the resinous myrrh. The immediate place of their destination was Angra
Peguena, on the coast, described as a frequented station, but which in
reality was deserted. One ship only was in the offing when the travelers
arrived, and to their inexpressible mortification they discovered that
she was outward bound. No trace was visible of the river or streams laid
down in the maps as falling into the sea at this point, and no resource
was left to the travelers save that of retracing their steps--a labor
for which their strength was hardly adequate. But for the opportune
assistance of a body of natives, who encountered them at the very moment
when they were sinking from fatigue and thirst, Ruxton and his companion
would have been added to the long catalogue of those whose lives have
been sacrificed in the attempt to explore the interior of that fatal
country.

"The jealousy of the traders, and of the missionaries settled on the
African coast, who constantly withheld or perverted that information
which was absolutely necessary for the successful prosecution of the
journey, induced Ruxton to abandon the attempt for the present. He made,
however, several interesting excursions towards the interior, and more
especially in the country of the Bosjesmans.

"Finding his own resources inadequate for the accomplishment of his
favorite project, Mr. Ruxton, on his return to England, made application
for Government assistance. But though this demand was not altogether
refused, it having been referred to the Council of the Royal
Geographical Society, and favorably reported upon by that body, so many
delays interposed that Ruxton, in disgust, resolved to withdraw from
the scheme, and to abandon the field of African research which he had
already contemplated from its borders.

"He next bent his steps to Mexico; and, fortunately, has presented
to the world his reminiscences of that country, in one of the most
fascinating volumes which of late years has issued from the press.

"It would however appear that the African scheme, the darling project of
his life, had again recurred to him at a later period; for in the course
of the present spring, before setting out on that journey which was
destined to be his last, the following expressions occur in one of his
letters:--"'My movements are uncertain, for I am trying to get up a
yacht voyage to Borneo and the Indian Archipelago; have volunteered
to Government to explore Central Africa; and the Aborigenes Protection
Society wish me to go out to Canada to organize the Indian tribes;
whilst, for my own part and inclination, I wish to go to all parts of
the world at once.'

"His last letter, written just before his departure from England, a few
weeks previous to his death, will hardly be read by anyone who ever
knew the writer without a tear of sympathy for the sad fate of this
fine young man, dying miserably in a strange land, before he had well
commenced the hazardous journey whose excitement and dangers he so
joyously anticipated:--

"'As you say, human nature can't go on feeding on civilized fixings in
this big village; and this child has felt like going west for many a
month, being "half froze for buffler-meat and mountain doin's." My route
takes me _via_ New York, the Lakes, and St. Louis, to Fort Leavenworth
or Independence, on the Indian frontier. Thence, packing my "possibles"
on a mule, and mounting a buffalo horse (Panchito, if he is alive),
I strike the Santa Fé trail to the Arkansa, away up that river to the
mountains, winter in the Bayou Salade, where Killbuck and La Bonté
joined the Yutes, cross the mountains next spring to Great Salt
Lake--and that's far enough to look forward to--always supposing my hair
is not lifted by Comanche or Pawnee on the scalping route of the Coon
Creeks and Pawnee Fork.'

"Poor fellow! he spoke lightly, in the buoyancy of youth and a confident
spirit, of the fate he little thought to meet, but which too surely
overtook him--not indeed by Indian blade, but by the no less deadly
stroke of disease. Another motive, besides that love of rambling
and adventure which, once conceived and indulged, is so difficult to
eradicate, impelled him across the Atlantic. He had for some time
been out of health at intervals, and he thought the air of his beloved
prairies would be efficacious to work a cure. In a letter to a friend,
in the month of May last, he thus referred to the probable origin of the
evil:--

"'I have been confined to my room for many days, from the effects of an
accident I met with in the Rocky Mountains, having been spilt from the
bare back of a mule, and falling on the sharp picket of an Indian lodge
on the small of my back. I fear I injured my spine, for I have never
felt altogether the thing since, and, shortly after I saw you, the
symptoms became rather ugly. However, I am now getting round again.'

"His medical advisers shared his opinion that he had sustained internal
injury from this ugly fall; and it is not improbable that it was the
remote, but real cause of his dissolution. From whatsoever this ensued,
it will be a source of deep and lasting regret to all who ever enjoyed
opportunities of appreciating the high and sterling qualities of George
Frederick Ruxton. Few men, so prepossessing on first acquaintance,
gained so much by being better known. With great natural abilities
and the most dauntless bravery, he united a modesty and gentleness
peculiarly pleasing.

"Had he lived, and resisted his friends' repeated solicitations to
abandon a roving life and settle down in England, there can be little
doubt that he would have made his name eminent on the lists of those
daring and persevering men, whose travels in distant and dangerous lands
have accumulated for England, and for the world, so rich a store of
scientific and general information. And although the few words it has
been thought right and becoming here to devote to his memory, will
doubtless be more particularly welcome to his personal friends, we are
persuaded that none will peruse without interest this brief tribute to
the merits of a gallant soldier and accomplished English gentleman."

In the present edition no liberties have been taken with the text except
by correcting a few obvious errors, and making the spelling conform to
American usage. Footnotes by the present editor are marked (Ed); those
unsigned are by Ruxton himself.

One useful purpose that this book may serve is to give professional
hunters and trappers their due as hard working men. From time immemorial
it has been the fashion to look down upon their ilk as lazy vagabonds
"too trifling to work for a living." Such is the almost universal
opinion of people who never have taken a big game hunt themselves, never
even have seen hunters at work in the wilderness, but know them only as
they take their well-earned ease after an exhausting chase.

"The lazy hunter" is the most misjudged of men; for really there is
no harder labor than the pursuit of wild animals for a livelihood. The
libelous epithet perhaps came in vogue from the fact that hunting and
trapping are apt to unfit a man for _settled_ habits of industry. Or it
may have come from observing the whole-souled enjoyment with which the
hunter pursues his occupation. We have not yet got rid of the Puritan
notion that no effort is worthy unless it is painful to the spirit.
The freeman of the woods calls his labor sport, and he laughs, in
retrospect, at all the cruel toil, the starving and freezing and broken
bones. Being utterly independent he seldom does things that "go against
the grain," save as he is driven by necessity. But how sharp was the
lash of that necessity, how often it stung body and soul, how many a
hunter "went under," even in the old days when game was in the greatest
abundance, is shown with perfect fidelity to truth in this picture of
"Life in the Far West."

Horace Kephart.



IN THE OLD WEST



CHAPTER I

|AWAY to the head-waters of the Platte, where several small streams run
into the south fork of that river, and head in the broken ridges of the
"Divide" which separates the valleys of the Platte and the Arkansa, were
camped a band of trappers on a creek called Bijou. It was the month of
October, when the early frosts of the coming winter had crisped and dyed
with sober brown the leaves of the cherry and quaking ash belting the
brooks; and the ridges and peaks of the Rocky Mountains were already
covered with a glittering mantle of snow, sparkling in the still
powerful rays of the autumn sun.

The camp had all the appearance of permanency; for not only did it
comprise one or two unusually comfortable shanties, but the numerous
stages on which huge strips of buffalo-meat were hanging in process of
cure, showed that the party had settled themselves here in order to lay
in a store of provisions, or, as it is termed in the language of the
mountains, "to make meat." Round the camp fed twelve or fifteen mules
and horses, their fore-legs confined by hobbles of rawhide; and,
guarding these animals, two men paced backwards and forwards, driving
in the stragglers, ascending ever and anon the bluffs which overhung the
river, and leaning on their long rifles, whilst they swept with
their eyes the surrounding prairie. Three or four fires burned in
the encampment, at some of which Indian women carefully tended sundry
steaming pots; whilst round one, which was in the center of it, four
or five stalwart hunters, clad in buckskin, sat cross-legged, pipe in
mouth.

They were a trapping party from the north fork of Platte, on their way
to wintering-ground in the more southern valley of the Arkansa; some,
indeed, meditating a more extended trip, even to the distant settlements
of New Mexico, the paradise of mountaineers. The elder of the company
was a tall gaunt man, with a face browned by twenty years' exposure
to the extreme climate of the mountains; his long black hair, as yet
scarcely tinged with gray, hanging almost to his shoulders, but his
cheeks and chin clean shaven, after the fashion of the mountain-men. His
dress was the usual hunting-frock of buckskin, with long fringes down
the seams, with pantaloons similarly ornamented, and moccasins of Indian
make. Whilst his companions puffed their pipes in silence, he narrated
a few of his former experiences of western life; and whilst the buffalo
hump-ribs and tenderloin are singing away in the pot, preparing for the
hunters' supper, we will note down the yarn as it spins from his lips,
giving it in the language spoken in the "Far West":--

"'Twas about calf-time, maybe a little later, and not a hundred year ago
by a long chalk, that the biggest kind of rendezvous was held 'to' to
Independence, a mighty handsome little location away up on old Missoura.
A pretty smart lot of boys was camped thar, about a quarter from the
town, and the way the whisky flowed that time was some now, _I_ can tell
you. Thar was old Sam Owins--him as got rubbed out * by the Spaniards
at Sacramenty, or Chihuahuy, this hoss doesn't know which, but he went
under ** anyhow. Well, Sam had his train along, ready to hitch up for
the Mexican country--twenty thunderin' big Pittsburgh wagons; and the
way his Santa Fé boys took in the liquor beat all--eh, Bill?"

     * Killed,  adapted from the Indian figurative language

     ** Died.

"_Well_, it did."

"Bill Bent--his boys camped the other side the trail, and they was all
mountain-men, wagh!--and Bill Williams, and Bill Tharpe (the Pawnees
took his hair on Pawnee Fork last spring): three Bills, and them three's
all gone under. Surely Hatcher went out that time; and, adapted from the
Indian figurative language, wasn't Bill Garey along, too? Didn't him and
Chabonard sit in camp for twenty hours at a deck of euker? Them was
Bent's Indian traders up on Arkansa. Poor Bill Bent! them Spaniards made
meat of him. He lost his topknot to Taos. A clever man was Bill Bent as
I ever know'd trade a robe or throw a bufler in his tracks. Old St.
Vrain could knock the hind-sight off him though, when it came to
shootin', and old Silverheels spoke true, she did: 'plumcenter' she was,
eh?"

"Well, she wasn't nothin' else."

"The Greasers * paid for Bent's scalp, they tell me. Old St. Vrain went
out of Santa Fé with a company of mountain-men, and the way they made'em
sing out was slick as shootin'. He 'counted a coup,' did St. Vrain. He
throwed a Pueblo as had on poor Bent's shirt. I guess he tickled that
nigger's hump-ribs. Fort William ** ain't the lodge it was, an' never
will be agin, now he's gone under; but St. Vrain's 'pretty much of a
gentleman,' too; if he ain't, I'll be dog-gone--eh, Bill?"

     * The Mexicans are called "Spaniards" or "Greasers" (from
     their greasy appearance) by the Western people.

     ** Bent's Indian trading fort on the Arkansa.

"He is so-o."

"Chavez had his wagons along. He was only a Spaniard anyhow, and some of
his teamsters put a ball into him his next trip, and made a raise of his
dollars, wagh! Uncle Sam hung'em for it, I heard, but can't b'lieve it,
nohow. If them Spaniards wasn't born for shootin', why was beaver made?
You was with us that spree, Jemmy?"

"No _sirre-e_; I went out when Spiers lost his animals on Cimmaron: a
hundred and forty mules and oxen was froze that night, wagh!"

"Surely Black Harris was thar; and the darndest liar was Black
Harris--for lies tumbled out of his mouth like boudins out of a buffer's
stomach. He was the child as saw the putrefied forest in the Black
Hills. Black Harris come in from Laramie; he'd been trapping three year
an' more on Platte and the other side; and, when he got into Liberty, he
fixed himself right off like a Saint Louiy dandy. Well, he sat to dinner
one day in the tavern, and a lady says to him--

"'Well, Mister Harris, I hear you're a great trav'ler.'

"'Trav'ler, marm,' says Black Harris, 'this nigger's no trav'ler; I ar'
a trapper, marm, a mountain-man, wagh!'

"'Well, Mister Harris, trappers are great trav'lers, and you goes over a
sight of ground in your perishinations, I'll be bound to say.'

"'A sight, marm, this coon's gone over, if that's the way your stick
floats. * I've trapped beaver on Platte and Arkansa, and away up on
Missoura and Yaller Stone; I've trapped on Columbia, on Lewis Fork, and
Green River; I've trapped, marm, on Grand River and the Heely (Gila).
I've fout the Blackfoot (and d------d bad Injuns they are); I've raised
the hair * of more than one Apach, and made a Rapaho 'come' afore now;
I've trapped in heav'n, in airth, and h----; and scalp my old head,
marm, but I've seen a putrefied forest.'

     * Meaning--if that's what you mean. The "stick" is tied to
     the beaver-trap by a string, and, floating on the water,
     points out its position, should a beaver have carried it
     away.

"'La, Mister Harris, a what?'

"'A putrefied forest, marm, as sure as my rifle's got hind-sights, and
_she_ shoots center. I was out on the Black Hills, Bill Sublette knows
the time--the year it rained fire--and everybody knows when that was. If
thar wasn't cold doins about that time, this child wouldn't say so. The
snow was about fifty foot deep, and the bufler lay dead on the ground
like bees after a beein'; not whar we was tho', for thar was no bufler,
and no meat, and me and my band had been livin' on our moccasins
(leastwise the parflesh **) for six weeks; and poor doins that feedin'
is, marm, as you'll never know. One day we crossed a canyon and over a
divide, and got into a peraira, whar was green grass, and green trees,
and green leaves on the trees, and birds singing in the green leaves,
and this in Febrary, wagh! Our animals was like to die when they see the
green grass, and we all sung out, "Hurraw for summer doins."

     * Scalped.

     ** Soles made of buffalo hide.

"'"Hyar goes for meat," says I, and I jest ups old Ginger at one of
them singing-birds, and down come the crittur elegant; its darned head
spinning away from the body, but never stops singing; and when I takes
up the meat, I finds it stone, wagh! "Hyar's damp powder and no fire to
dry it," I says, quite skeared.

"'"Fire be dogged," says old Rube. "Hyar's a hoss, as'll make fire
come," and with that he takes his axe and lets drive at a cotton wood.
Schr-u-k--goes the axe agin the tree, and out comes a bit of the blade
as big as my hand. We looks at the animals, and thar they stood shaking
over the grass, which I'm dog-gone if it wasn't stone, too. Young
Sublette comes up, and he'd been clerking down to the fort on Platte, so
he know'd something. He looks and looks, and scrapes the trees with
his butcher knife, and snaps the grass like pipe-stems, and breaks the
leaves a-snappin' like Californy shells.

"'"What's all this, boy?" I asks.

"'"Putrefactions," says he, looking smart; "putrefactions, or I'm a
nigger."'

"'La, Mister Harris,' says the lady, 'putrefactions! why, did the leaves
and the trees and the grass smell badly?'

"'Smell badly, marm!' says Black Harris; 'would a skunk stink if he was
froze to stone? No, marm, this child didn't know what putrefaction was,
and young Sublette's varsion wouldn't shine nohow, so I chips a piece
out of a tree and puts it in my trap-sack, and carries it in safe to
Laramie. Well, old Captain Stewart (a clever man was that, though he was
an Englishman), he comes along next spring, and a Dutch doctor chap
was along too. I shows him the piece I chipped out of the tree, and he
called it a putrefaction too; and so, marm, if that wasn't a putrefied
peraira, what was it? For this hoss doesn't know, and he knows fat cow
from poor bull, anyhow.'

"Well, old Black Harris is gone under too, I believe. He went to the
Parks trapping with a Vide Poche Frenchman, who shot him for his bacca
and traps. Darn them Frenchmen, they're no account any way you lays your
sight. (Any bacca in your bag, Bill? this beaver feels like chawing.)

"Well, anyhow, thar was the camp, and they was goin' to put out the
next morning; and the last as come out of Independence was that ar
Englishman. He'd a nor-west * capote on, and a two-shoot gun rifled.
Well, them English are darned fools; they can't fix a rifle any ways;
but that one did shoot some; leastwise he made it throw plum-center. He
made the bufler come, he did, and fout well at Pawnee Fork too. What was
his name? All the boys called him Cap'en, and he got his fixings from
old Choteau; but what he wanted out thar in the mountains, I never jest
rightly know'd. He was no trader, nor a trapper, and flung about his
dollars right smart. Thar was old grit in him, too, and a hair of the
black b'ar at that. ** They say he took the bark off the Shians when
he cleared out of the village with old Beavertail's squaw. He'd been on
Yaller Stone afore that: Leclerc know'd him in the Blackfoot, and up
in the Chippeway country; and he had the best powder as ever I flashed
through life, and his gun was handsome, that's a fact. Them thar locks
was grand; and old Jake Hawken's nephey (him as trapped on Heeley that
time) told me, the other day, as he saw an English gun on Arkansa last
winter as beat all off hand.

     * The Hudson's Bay Company, having amalgamated with the
     American North-West Company, is known by the name "North-
     West" to the southern trappers. Their employés usually wear
     Canadian capotes.

     ** A spice of the devil.

"Nigh upon two hundred dollars I had in my possibles, when I went to
that camp to see the boys afore they put out; and you know, Bill, as I
sat to euchre and seven up till every cent was gone.

"'Take back twenty, old coon,' says Big John.

"'H--'s full of such takes back,' says I; and I puts back to town and
fetches the rifle and the old mule, puts my traps into the sack, gets
credit for a couple of pounds of powder at Owin's store, and hyar I ar
on Bijou, with half a pack of beaver, and running meat yet, old hoss; so
put a log on, and let's have a smoke.

"Hurraw, Jake, old coon, bear a hand, and let the squaw put them tails
in the pot; for sun's down, and we'll have to put out pretty early to
reach Black Tail by this time to-morrow. Who's fust guard, boys? them
cussed Rapahos will be after the animals to-night, or I'm no judge of
Injun sign. How many did you see, Maurice?"

"Enfant de gârce, me see bout honderd, when I pass Squirrel Creek, one
dam water-party, parceque they no hosses, and have de lariats for steal
des animaux. Maybe de Yutas in Bayou Salade."

"We'll be having trouble to-night, I'm thinking, if the devils are
about. Whose band was it, Maurice?"

"Slim-Face---I see him ver close--is out; mais I think it White
Wolf's."

"White Wolf, maybe, will lose his hair if he and his band knock round
here too often. That Injun put me afoot when we was out on Sandy that
fall. This nigger owes him one, anyhow."

"H----'s full of White Wolves: go ahead, and roll out some of your doins
across the plains that time."

"You seed sights that spree, eh, boy?"

"_Well_, we did. Some of 'em got their flints fixed this side of Pawnee
Fork, and a heap of mule-meat went wolfing. Just by Little Arkansa we
saw the first Injun. Me and young Somes was ahead for meat, and I had
hobbled the old mule and was approaching some goats, * when I see the
critturs turn back their heads and jump right away from me. 'Hurraw,
Dick!' I shouts, 'hyar's brown-skin acomin', and off I makes for the
mule. The young greenhorn sees the goats runnin' up to him, and not
being up to Injun ways, blazes at the first and knocks him over. Jest
then seven darned red heads top the bluff, and seven Pawnees come
a-screechin' upon us. I cuts the hobbles and jumps on the mule, and,
when I looks back, there was Dick Somes ramming a ball down his gun like
mad, and the Injuns flinging their arrows at him pretty smart, I tell
you.

     * Antelope are frequently called "goats" by the
     mountaineers.

'Hurraw, Dick, mind your hair,' and I ups old Greaser and let one Injun
'have it,' as was going plum into the boy with his lance. _He_ turned on
his back handsome, and Dick gets the ball down at last, blazes away, and
drops another. Then we charged on 'em, and they clears off like runnin'
cows; and I takes the hair off the heads of the two we made meat of; and
I do b'lieve thar's some of them scalps on my old leggings yet.

"Well, Dick was as full of arrows as a porky-pine; one was sticking
right through his cheek, one in his meat-bag, and two more 'bout his
hump-ribs. I tuk'em all out slick, and away we go to camp (for they was
jost a-campin' when we went ahead), and carryin' the goat too. Thar
was a hurroo when we rode in with the scalps at the end of our guns.
'Injuns! Injuns!' was the cry from the greenhorns; 'we'll be 'tacked
to-night, that's certain.'

"''Tacked be--------. says old Bill; 'ain't we men too, and white at
that? Look to your guns, boys; send out a strong hoss-guard with the
animals, and keep your eyes skinned.'

"Well, as soon as the animals were unhitched from the wagons, the guvner
sends out a strong guard, seven boys, and old hands at that. It was
pretty nigh upon sundown, and Bill had just sung out to corral. The boys
were drivin' in the animals, and we were all standing round to get'em
in slick, when, 'howgh-owgh-owgh-owgh,' we hears right behind the bluff,
and 'bout a minute and a perfect crowd of Injuns gallops down upon the
animals. Wagh! warn't thar hoopin'! We jump for the guns, but before we
get to the fires, the Injuns were among the cavayard. I saw Ned Collyer
and his brother, who were in the hoss-guard, let drive at'em; but twenty
Pawnees were round'em before the smoke cleared from their rifles; and
when the crowd broke, the two boys were on the ground and their hair
gone. Well, that ar Englishman just saved the cavayard. He had his
horse, a regular buffalo-runner, picketed round the fire quite handy,
and as soon as he sees the fix, he jumps upon her and rides right into
the thick of the mules, and passes through'em, firing his two-shoot
gun at the Injuns; and, by gor, he made two come. The mules, which was
a-snortin' with funk and running before the Injuns, as soon as they
see the Englishman's mare (mules'll go to h---- after a horse, you all
know), followed her right into the Corral, and thar they was safe. Fifty
Pawnees came screechin' after'em, but we was ready that time, and the
way we throw'd'em was something handsome, I tell you. But three of the
hoss-guard got skeared--leastwise their mules did, and carried'em off
into the peraira, and the Injuns, having enough of us, dashed after 'em
right away. Them poor devils looked back miserable now, with about a
hundred red varmints tearin' after their hair, and whooping like mad.
Young Jem Bulcher was the last; and when he seed it was no use, and his
time was nigh, he throw'd himself off the mule, and standing as upright
as a hickory wiping-stick, he waves his hand to us, and blazes away at
the first Injun as come up, and dropped him slick; but the moment after,
you may guess, _he_ died.

"We could do nothin', for, before our guns were loaded, all three were
dead and their scalps gone. Five of our boys got rubbed out that time,
and seven Injuns lay wolf's meat, while a many more went away gut-shot,
I'll lay. Hows'ever, five of us went under, and the Pawnees made a raise
of a dozen mules, wagh!"

Thus far, in his own words, we have accompanied the old hunter in his
tale; and probably he would have taken us, by the time that the Squaw
Chilipat had pronounced the beaver-tails cooked, safely across the grand
prairies--fording Cotton Wood, Turkey Creek, Little Arkansa, Walnut
Creek, and Pawnee Fork--passed the fireless route of the Coon Creeks,
through a sea of fat buffalo-meat, without fuel to cook it; have struck
the big river, and, leaving at the Crossing the wagons destined for
Santa Fé, have trailed us up the Arkansa to Bent's Fort; thence up
Boiling Spring, across the divide over to the southern fork of the
Platte, away up to the Black Hills, and finally camped us, with hair
still preserved, in the beaver-abounding valleys of the Sweet Water, and
Cache la Poudre, under the rugged shadow of the Wind River Mountains;
if it had not so happened, at this juncture, as all our mountaineers
sat cross-legged round the fire, pipe in mouth, and with Indian gravity
listened to the yarn of the old trapper, interrupting him only with an
occasional wagh! or with the exclamations of some participator in the
events then under narration, who would every now and then put in a
corroborative,--"This child remembers that fix," or, "hyar's a nigger
lifted hair that spree," &c.--that a whizzing noise was heard in the
air, followed by a sharp but suppressed cry from one of the hunters.

In an instant the mountaineers had sprung from their seats, and, seizing
the ever-ready rifle, each one had thrown himself on the ground a few
paces beyond the light of the fire (for it was now nightfall); but not
a word escaped them, as, lying close, with their keen eyes directed
towards the gloom of the thicket, near which the camp was placed, with
rifles cocked, they waited a renewal of the attack. Presently the leader
of the band, no other than Killbuck, who had so lately been recounting
some of his experiences across the plains, and than whom no more
crafty woodsman or more expert trapper ever tracked a deer or grained
a beaver-skin, raised his tall leather-clad form, and, placing his hand
over his mouth, made the prairie ring with the wild protracted note
of an Indian war-whoop. This was instantly repeated from the direction
where the animals belonging to the camp were grazing, under the charge
of the horse-guard. Three shrill whoops answered the warning of the
leader, and showed that the guard was on the watch, and understood the
signal. However, with the manifestation of their presence, the Indians
appeared to be satisfied; or, what is more probable, the act of
aggression had been committed by some daring young warrior, who, being
out on his first expedition, desired to strike the first _coup_, and
thus signalize himself at the outset of the campaign. After waiting some
few minutes, expecting a renewal of the attack, the mountaineers in a
body rose from the ground and made towards the animals, with which
they presently returned to the camp; and after carefully hobbling and
securing them to pickets firmly driven into the ground, mounting an
additional guard, and examining the neighboring thicket, they once
more assembled round the fire, relit their pipes, and puffed away the
cheering weed as composedly as if no such being as a Redskin, thirsting
for their lives, was within a thousand miles of their perilous
encampment.

"If ever thar was bad Injuns on these plains," at last growled Killbuck,
biting hard the pipestem between his teeth, "it's these Rapahos, and the
meanest kind at that."

"Can't beat the Blackfeet, anyhow," chimed in one La Bonté, from
the Yellow Stone country, a fine handsome specimen of a mountaineer.
"However, one of you quit this arrow out of my hump," he continued,
bending forwards to the fire, and exhibiting an arrow sticking out
under his right shoulder-blade, and a stream of blood trickling down his
buckskin coat from the wound.

This his nearest neighbor essayed to do; but finding, after a tug, that
it "would not come," expressed his opinion that the offending weapon
would have to be "butchered" out. This was accordingly effected with the
ready blade of a scalp-knife; and a handful of beaver-fur being placed
on the wound, and secured by a strap of buckskin round the body, the
wounded man donned his hunting-shirt once more, and coolly set about
lighting his pipe, his rifle lying across his lap cocked and ready for
use.

It was now near midnight--dark and misty; and the clouds, rolling away
to the eastward from the lofty ridges of the Rocky Mountains, were
gradually obscuring the dim starlight. As the lighter vapors faded from
the mountains, a thick black cloud succeeded them, and settled over the
loftier peaks of the chain, faintly visible through the gloom of night,
whilst a mass of fleecy scud soon overspread the whole sky. A hollow
moaning sound crept through the valley, and the upper branches of the
cotton woods, with their withered leaves, began to rustle with the
first breath of the coming storm. Huge drops of rain fell at intervals,
hissing as they dropped into the blazing fires, and pattering on the
skins with which the hunters hurriedly covered the exposed baggage. The
mules near the camp cropped the grass with quick and greedy bites round
the circuit of their pickets, as if conscious that the storm would soon
prevent their feeding, and already humped their backs as the chilling
rain fell upon their flanks. The prairie wolves crept closer to the
camp, and in the confusion that ensued from the hurry of the trappers
to cover the perishable portions of their equipment, contrived more than
once to dart off with a piece of meat, when their peculiar and mournful
chiding would be heard as they fought for the possession of the ravished
morsel.

When everything was duly protected, the men set to work to spread their
beds; those who had not troubled themselves to erect a shelter, getting
under the lee of the piles of packs and saddles; whilst Killbuck,
disdaining even such care of his carcass, threw his buffalo robe on the
bare ground, declaring his intention to "take" what was coming at all
hazards, and "anyhow." Selecting a high spot, he drew his knife and
proceeded to cut drains round it, to prevent the water running into him
as he lay; then taking a single robe, he carefully spread it, placing
under the end furthest from the fire a large stone brought from the
creek. Having satisfactorily adjusted this pillow, he added another robe
to the one already laid, and placed over all a Navajo blanket, supposed
to be impervious to rain. Then he divested himself of his pouch and
powder-horn, which, with his rifle, he placed inside his bed, and
quickly covered up lest the wet should reach them. Having performed
these operations to his satisfaction, he lighted his pipe by the hissing
embers of the half-extinguished fire (for by this time the rain poured
in torrents), and went the rounds of the picketed animals, cautioning
the guard round the camp to keep their "eyes skinned, for there would be
powder burned before morning." Then returning to the fire, and kicking
with his moccasined foot the slumbering ashes, he squatted down before
it, and thus soliloquized:--

"Thirty year have I been knocking about these mountains from Missoura's
head as far sothe as the starving Gila. I've trapped a heap, * and many
a hundred pack of beaver I've traded in my time, wagh! What has come of
it, and whar's the dollars as ought to be in my possibles? Whar's the
ind of this, I say? Is a man to be hunted by Injuns all his days? Many's
the time I've said I'd strike for Taos, and trap a squaw, for this
child's getting old, and feels like wanting a woman's face about his
lodge for the balance of his days; but when it comes to caching of the
old traps, I've the smallest kind of heart, I have. Certain, the old
State comes across my mind now and again, but who's thar to remember my
old body? But them diggings gets too overcrowded nowadays, and it's
hard to fetch breath amongst them big bands of corncrackers to Missoura.
Beside, it goes against natur' to leave bufler-meat and feed on hog;
and them white gals are too much like picturs, and a deal too 'fofarraw'
(fanfaron). No; darn the settlements, I say. It won't shine, and whar's
the dollars? Hows'ever, beaver's bound to rise; human natur' can't go
on selling beaver a dollar a pound; no, no, that arn't a going to shine
much longer, I know. Them was the times when this child first went to
the mountains: six dollars the plew--old'un or kitten! Wagh! but it's
bound to rise, I says agin; and hyar's a coon knows whar to lay his hand
on a dozen pack right handy, and then he'll take the Taos trail, wagh!"

     * An Indian is always "a heap" hungry or thirsty--loves "a
     heap"--is "a heap" brave; in fact, "a heap" is tantamount to
     very much.

Thus soliloquizing, Killbuck knocked the ashes from his pipe, and placed
it in the gaily ornamented case that hung round his neck, drew his
knife-belt a couple of holes tighter, resumed his pouch and powder-horn,
took his rifle, which he carefully covered with the folds of his Navajo
blanket, and, striding into the darkness, cautiously reconnoitered the
vicinity of the camp. When he returned to the fire he sat himself down
as before, but this time with his rifle across his lap; and at intervals
his keen gray eyes glanced piercingly around, particularly towards an
old weatherbeaten and grizzled mule, who now, old stager as she was,
having filled her belly, stood lazily over her picket-pin, with her head
bent down and her long ears flapping over her face, her limbs gathered
under her, and her back arched to throw off the rain, tottering from
side to side as she rested and slept.

"Yep, old gal!" cried Killbuck to the animal, at the same time picking
a piece of burnt wood from the fire and throwing it at her, at which
the mule gathered itself up and cocked her ears as she recognized her
master's voice. "Yep, old gal! and keep your nose open; thar's brown
skin about, I'm thinkin', and maybe you'll get roped (lasso'd) by a
Rapaho afore mornin'." Again the old trapper settled himself before
the fire; and soon his head began to nod, as drowsiness stole over him.
Already he was in the land of dreams; revelling amongst bands of "fat
cow," or hunting along a stream well peopled with beaver; with no Indian
"sign" to disturb him, and the merry rendezvous in close perspective,
and his peltry selling briskly at six dollars the plew, and galore of
alcohol to ratify the trade. Or, perhaps, threading the back trail of
his memory, he passed rapidly through the perilous vicissitudes of his
hard, hard life--starving one day, reveling in abundance the next; now
beset by whooping savages thirsting for his blood, baying his enemies
like the hunted deer, but with the unflinching courage of a man; now,
all care thrown aside, secure and forgetful of the past, a welcome guest
in the hospitable trading fort; or back, as the trail gets fainter, to
his childhood's home in the brown forests of old Kentuck, tended and
cared for--his only thought to enjoy the hominy and johnny cakes of his
thrifty mother. Once more, in warm and well-remembered homespun, he sits
on the snake-fence round the old clearing, and, munching his hoe-cake at
set of sun, listens to the mournful note of the whip-poor-will, or the
harsh cry of the noisy catbird, or watches the agile gambols of the
squirrels as they chase each other, chattering the while, from branch to
branch of the lofty tamarisks, wondering how long it will be before he
will be able to lift his father's heavy rifle, and use it against the
tempting game. Sleep, however, sat lightly on the eyes of the wary
mountaineer, and a snort from the old mule in an instant stretched his
every nerve. Without a movement of his body, his keen eye fixed itself
upon the mule, which now stood with head bent round, and eyes and ears
pointed in one direction, snuffing the night air and snorting with
apparent fear. A low sound from the wakeful hunter roused the others
from their sleep; and raising their bodies from their well-soaked beds,
a single word apprised them of their danger.

"Injuns!"

Scarcely was the word out of Killbuck's lips, when, above the howling of
the furious wind and the pattering of the rain, a hundred savage yells
broke suddenly upon their ears from all directions round the camp; a
score of rifle-shots rattled from the thicket, and a cloud of arrows
whistled through the air, whilst a crowd of Indians charged upon the
picketed animals. "Owgh! owgh--owgh--owgh--g-h-h!"

"A foot, by gor!" shouted Killbuck, "and the old mule gone at that.
On'em, boys, for old Kentuck!" And he rushed towards his mule, which
jumped and snorted mad with fright, as a naked Indian strove to fasten a
lariat round her nose, having already cut the rope which fastened her to
the picket-pin.

"Quit that, you cussed devil!" roared the trapper, as he jumped upon
the savage, and, without raising his rifle to his shoulder, made a
deliberate thrust with the muzzle at his naked breast, striking him
full, and at the same time pulling the trigger, actually driving the
Indian two paces backwards with the shock, when he fell in a heap, and
dead. But at the same moment, an Indian, sweeping his club round his
head, brought it with frightful force down upon Killbuck. For a moment
the hunter staggered, threw out his arms wildly into the air, and fell
headlong to the ground.

"Owgh! owgh, owgh-h-h!" cried the Rapaho, and, striding over the
prostrate body, he seized with his left hand the middle lock of the
trapper's long hair, and drew his knife round the head to separate the
scalp from the skull. As he bent over to his work, the trapper named La
Bonté saw his companion's peril, rushed quick as thought at the Indian,
and buried his knife to the hilt between his shoulders. With a gasping
shudder the Rapaho fell dead upon the prostrate body of his foe.

The attack, however, lasted but a few seconds. The dash at the animals
had been entirely successful, and, driving them before them with loud
cries, the Indians disappeared quickly in the darkness. Without waiting
for daylight, two of the three trappers who alone were to be seen,
and who had been within the shanties at the time of attack, without a
moment's delay commenced packing two horses, which having been fastened
to the shanties had escaped the Indians, and, placing their squaws upon
them, showering curses and imprecations on their enemies, left the camp,
fearful of another onset, and resolved to retreat and câche themselves
until the danger was over. Not so La Bonté, who, stout and true, had
done his best in the fight, and now sought the body of his old comrade,
from which, before he could examine the wounds, he had first to remove
the corpse of the Indian he had slain. Killbuck still breathed. He had
been stunned; but, revived by the cold rain beating upon his face, he
soon opened his eyes, and recognized his trusty friend, who, sitting
down, lifted his head into his lap, and wiped away the blood that
streamed from the wounded scalp.

"Is the top-knot gone, boy?" asked Killbuck; "for my head feels
queersome, I tell you."

"Thar's the Injun as felt like lifting it," answered the other, kicking
the dead body with his foot.

"Wagh! boy, you've struck a coup; so scalp the nigger right off, and
then fetch me a drink."

The morning broke clear and cold. With the exception of a light cloud
which hung over Pike's Peak, the sky was spotless; and a perfect calm
had succeeded the boisterous storm of the previous night. The creek was
swollen and turbid with the rains; and as La Bonté proceeded a little
distance down the bank to find a passage to the water, he suddenly
stopped short, and an involuntary cry escaped him. Within a few feet of
the bank lay the body of one of his companions, who had formed the guard
at the time of the Indians' attack. It was lying on the face, pierced
through the chest with an arrow which was buried to the very feathers,
and the scalp torn from the bloody skull. Beyond, but all within a
hundred yards, lay the three others, dead, and similarly mutilated. So
certain had been the aim, and so close the enemy, that each had died
without a struggle, and consequently had been unable to alarm the camp.
La Bonté, with a glance at the bank, saw at once that the wily Indians
had crept along the creek, the noise of the storm facilitating their
approach undiscovered, and, crawling up the bank, had watched their
opportunity to shoot simultaneously the four hunters on guard.

Returning to Killbuck, he apprised him of the melancholy fate of their
companions, and held a council of war as to their proceedings. The old
hunter's mind was soon made up. "First," said he, "I get back my old
mule; she's carried me and my traps these twelve years, and I ain't
a-goin' to lose her yet. Second, I feel like taking hair, and some
Rapahos has to go under for this night's work. Third, we have got to
câche the beaver. Fourth, we take the Injun trail, wharever it leads."

No more daring mountaineer than La Bonté ever trapped a beaver, and no
counsel could have more exactly tallied with his own inclination than
the law laid down by old Killbuck.

"Agreed," was his answer, and forthwith he set about forming a câche. In
this instance they had not sufficient time to construct a regular one,
so they contented themselves with securing their packs of beaver in
buffalo robes, and tying them in the forks of several cotton-woods,
under which the camp had been made. This done, they lit a fire, and
cooked some buffalo-meat; and, whilst smoking a pipe, carefully cleaned
their rifles, and filled their horns and pouches with good store of
ammunition.

A prominent feature in the character of the hunters of the Far West is
their quick determination and resolve in cases of extreme difficulty and
peril, and their fixedness of purpose, when any plan of operations has
been laid requiring bold and instant action in carrying out. It is
here that they so infinitely surpass the savage Indian in bringing to a
successful issue their numerous hostile expeditions against the natural
foe of the white man in the wild and barbarous regions of the West.
Ready to resolve as they are prompt to execute, and combining far
greater dash and daring with equal subtlety and caution, they, possess
great advantage over the vacillating Indian, whose superstitious mind
in a great degree paralyzes the physical energy of his active body; and
who, by waiting for propitious signs and seasons before he undertakes
an enterprise, often loses the opportunity by which his white and more
civilized enemy knows so well how to profit.

Killbuck and La Bonté were no exceptions to this characteristic rule;
and before the sun was a hand's-breadth above the eastern horizon,
the two hunters were running on the trail of the victorious Indians.
Striking from the creek where the night attack was made, they crossed to
another known as Kioway, running parallel to Bijou, a few hours' journey
westward, and likewise heading in the divide. Following this to its
forks, they struck into the upland prairies lying at the foot of the
mountains; and crossing to the numerous watercourses which feed the
creek called Vermillion or Cherry, they pursued the trail over the
mountain-spurs until it reached a fork of the Boiling Spring. Here the
war-party had halted and held a consultation, for from this point the
trail turned at a tangent to the westward, and entered the rugged gorges
of the mountains. It was now evident to the two trappers that their
destination was the Bayou Salade, *--a mountain valley which is a
favorite resort of the buffalo in the winter season, and which, and for
this reason, is often frequented by the Yuta Indians as their wintering
ground. That the Rapahos were on a war expedition against the Yutas,
there was little doubt; and Killbuck, who knew every inch of the ground,
saw at once, by the direction the trail had taken, that they were making
for the Bayou in order to surprise their enemies, and, therefore, were
not following the usual Indian trail up the canon of the Boiling Spring
river. Having made up his mind to this, he at once struck across the
broken ground lying at the foot of the mountains, steering a course a
little to the eastward of north, or almost in the direction whence
he had come; and then, pointing westward, about noon he crossed a
mountain-chain, and descending into a ravine through which a little
rivulet tumbled over its rocky bed, he at once proved the correctness of
his judgment by striking the Indian trail, now quite fresh, as it
wound through the canon along the bank of the stream. The route he had
followed, impracticable to pack-animals, had saved at least half-a-day's
journey, and brought them within a short distance of the object of their
pursuit; for, at the head of the gorge, a lofty bluff presenting itself,
the hunters ascended to the summit, and, looking down, descried at
their very feet the Indian camp, with their own stolen cavallada feeding
quietly round.

     * The old name of South Park, Colorado. (Ed.)

"Wagh!" exclaimed both the hunters in a breath. "And thar's the old
gal at that," chuckled Killbuck, as he recognized his old grizzled mule
making good play at the rich buffalo grass with which these mountain
valleys abound.

"If we don't make a raise afore long, I wouldn't say so. Thar plans is
plain to this child as beaver sign. They're after Yuta hair, as certain
as this gun has got hind-sights; but they arn't a-goin' to pack them
animals after'em, and have crawled like rattlers along this bottom to
cache'em till they come back from the Bayou,--and maybe they'll leave
half-a-dozen soldiers * with'em."

     * The young untried warriors of the Indians are thus called.

How right the wily trapper was in his conjectures will be shortly
proved. Meanwhile, with his companion, he descended the bluff, and
pushing his way into a thicket of dwarf pine and cedar, sat down on a
log, and drew from an end of the blanket strapped on his shoulder, a
portion of a buffalo's liver, which they both discussed, _raw_, with
infinite relish; eating in lieu of bread (an unknown luxury in these
parts) sundry strips of dried fat. To have kindled a fire would have
been dangerous, since it was not impossible that some of the Indians
might leave their camp to hunt, when the smoke would at once have
betrayed the presence of enemies. A light was struck, however, for their
pipes; and after enjoying this true consolation for some time, they laid
a blanket on the ground, and, side by side, soon fell asleep.

If Killbuck had been a prophet, or the most prescient of medicine-men,
he could not have more exactly predicted the movements in the Indian
camp. About three hours before sundown he rose and shook himself, which
movement was sufficient to awaken his companion. Telling La Bonté to
lie down again and rest, he gave him to understand that he was about to
reconnoiter the enemy's camp; and after carefully examining his rifle,
and drawing his knife-belt a hole or two tighter, he proceeded on
his dangerous errand. Ascending the same bluff whence he had first
discovered the Indian camp, he glanced rapidly around, and made himself
master of the features of the ground--choosing a ravine by which
he might approach the camp more closely, and without danger of being
discovered. This was soon effected; and in half an hour the trapper
was lying on his belly on the summit of a pine-covered bluff which
overlooked the Indians within easy rifle-shot, and so perfectly
concealed by the low spreading branches of the cedar and arbor-vitæ,
that not a particle of his person could be detected; unless, indeed, his
sharp twinkling gray eye contrasted too strongly with the green boughs
that covered the rest of his face.

Moreover, there was no danger of their hitting upon his trail, for he
had been careful to pick his steps on the rock-covered ground, so
that not a track of his moccasin was visible. Here he lay, still as a
carcajou in wait for a deer, only now and then shaking the boughs as his
body quivered with a suppressed chuckle, when any movement in the
Indian camp caused him to laugh inwardly at his (if they had known
it) unwelcome propinquity. He was not a little surprised, however, to
discover that the party was much smaller than he had imagined, counting
only forty warriors; and this assured him that the band had divided,
one half taking the Yuta trail by the Boiling Spring, the other (the
one before him) taking a longer circuit in order to reach the Bayou, and
make the attack on the Yutas, in a different direction.

At this moment the Indians were in deliberation. Seated in a large
circle round a very small fire, * the smoke from which ascended in a
thin straight column, they each in turn puffed a huge cloud of smoke
from three or four long cherry-stemmed pipes, which went the round of the
party; each warrior touching the ground with the heel of the pipe-bowl,
and turning the stem upwards and away from him as medicine to the Great
Spirit, before he himself inhaled the fragrant kin-nik-kinnik. The
council, however, was not general, for only fifteen of the older
warriors took part in it, the others sitting outside, and at some little
distance from the circle. Behind each were his arms--bow and quiver,
and shield--hanging from a spear stuck in the ground; and a few guns in
ornamented covers of buckskin were added to some of the equipments.

     * There is a great difference between an Indian's fire and a
     white's. The former places the ends of logs to burn
     gradually; the latter, the center, besides making such a
     bonfire that the Indians truly say, "The white makes a fire
     so hot that he cannot approach to warm himself by it."

Near the fire, and in the center of the inner circle, a spear was
fixed upright in the ground, and on this dangled the four scalps of the
trappers killed the preceding night; and underneath them, affixed to the
same spear, was the mystic medicine-bag, by which Killbuck knew that the
band before him was under the command of the chief of the tribe.

Towards the grim trophies on the spear, the warriors, who in turn
addressed the council, frequently pointed--more than one, as he did so,
making the gyratory motion of the right hand and arm which the Indians
use in describing that they have gained an advantage by skill or
cunning. Then pointing westward, the speaker would thrust out his arm,
extending his fingers at the same time, and closing and reopening them
repeatedly--meaning, that although four scalps already ornamented the
medicine pole, they were as nothing compared to the numerous trophies
they would bring from the Salt Valley, where they expected to find their
hereditary enemies the Yutas. "That now was not the time to count their
coups" (for at this moment one of the warriors rose from his seat, and,
swelling with pride, advanced towards the spear, pointing to one of the
scalps, and then striking his open hand on his naked breast, jumped into
the air, as if about to go through the ceremony); "that before many suns
all their spears together would not hold the scalps they had taken; and
that they would return to their village, and spend a moon relating their
achievements and counting coups."

All this Killbuck learned,--thanks to his knowledge of the language of
signs--a master of which, if even he have no ears or tongue, never fails
to understand, and be understood by, any of the hundred tribes whose
languages are perfectly distinct and different. He learned, moreover,
that at sundown the greater part of the band would resume the trail, in
order to reach the Bayou by the earliest dawn; and also, that no more
than four or five of the younger warriors would remain with the captured
animals. Still the hunter remained in his position until the sun had
disappeared behind the ridge; when, taking up their arms, and throwing
their buffalo-robes on their shoulders, the war-party of Rapahos, one
behind the other, with noiseless step and silent as the dumb, moved away
from the camp. When the last dusky form had disappeared behind a point
of rocks which shut in the northern end of the little valley or ravine,
Killbuck withdrew his head from its screen, crawled backwards on his
stomach from the edge of the bluff, and, rising from the ground,
shook and stretched himself; then gave one cautious look around, and
immediately proceeded to rejoin his companion.

"_Lave_ (get up), boy," said Killbuck, as soon as he reached him.
"Hyar's grainin' to do afore long--and sun's about down, I'm thinking."

"Ready, old hoss," answered La Bonté, giving himself a shake. "What's
the sign like, and how many's the lodge?"

"Fresh, and five, boy. How do you feel?"

"_Half froze for hair_. Wagh!"

"We'll have moon to-night, and as soon as she gets up, we'll make'em
come."

Killbuck then described to his companion what he had seen, and detailed
his plan. This was simply to wait until the moon afforded sufficient
light, then to approach the Indian camp and charge into it, "lift" as
much "hair" as they could, recover their animals, and start at once
to the Bayou and join the friendly Yutas, warning them of the coming
danger. The risk of falling in with either of the Rapaho bands was
hardly considered; to avoid this they trusted to their own foresight,
and the legs of their mules, should they encounter them.

Between sundown and the rising of the moon they had leisure to eat
their supper, which, as before, consisted of raw buffalo-liver; after
discussing which, Killbuck pronounced himself "a heap" better, and ready
for "huggin'."

In the short interval of almost perfect darkness which preceded the
moonlight, and taking advantage of one of the frequent squalls of wind
which howl down the narrow gorges of the mountains, these two determined
men, with footsteps noiseless as the panther's, crawled to the edge of
the little plateau of some hundred yards square, where the five
Indians in charge of the animals were seated round the fire, perfectly
unconscious of the vicinity of danger. Several clumps of cedar-bushes
dotted the small prairie, and amongst these the well-hobbled mules
and horses were feeding. These animals, accustomed to the presence of
whites, would not notice the two hunters as they crept from clump to
clump nearer to the fire, and also served, even if the Indians should be
on the watch, to conceal their movements from them.

This the two men at once perceived; but old Killbuck knew that if he
passed within sight or smell of his mule, he would be received with a
whinny of recognition, which would at once alarm the enemy. He therefore
first ascertained where his own animal was feeding, which luckily was
at the farther side of the prairie, and would not interfere with his
proceedings.

Threading their way amongst the feeding mules, they approached a clump
of bushes about forty yards from the spot where the unconscious savages
were seated smoking round the fire; and here they awaited, scarcely
drawing breath the while, the moment when the moon rose above the
mountain into the clear cold sky, and gave them light sufficient to make
sure their work of bloody retribution. Not a pulsation in the hearts of
these stem determined men beat higher than its wont; not the tremor of a
nerve disturbed their frame. They stood with lips compressed and rifles
ready, their pistols loosened in their belts, their scalp-knives handy
to their grip. The lurid glow of the coming moon already shot into the
sky above the ridge, which stood out in bold relief against the light;
and the luminary herself just peered over the mountain, illuminating
its pine-clad summit, and throwing her beams on an opposite peak, when
Killbuck touched his companion's arm, and whispered, "Wait for the full
light, boy.",

At this moment, however, unseen by the trapper, the old grizzled mule
had gradually approached, as she fed along the plateau; and, when within
a few paces of their retreat, a gleam of moonshine revealed to the
animal the erect forms of the two whites. Suddenly she stood still and
pricked her ears, and stretching out her neck and nose, snuffed the air.
Well she knew her old master.

Killbuck, with eyes fixed upon the Indians, was on the point of giving
the signal of attack to his comrade, when the shrill whinny of his mule
reverberated through the gorge. The Indians jumped to their feet and
seized their arms, when Killbuck, with a loud shout of "At'em, boy; give
the niggers h----!" rushed from his concealment, and with La Bonté by
his side, yelling a fierce war-whoop, sprang upon the startled savages.

Panic-struck with the suddenness of the attack, the Indians scarcely
knew where to run, and for a moment stood huddled together like sheep.
Down dropped Killbuck on his knee, and stretching out his wiping-stick,
planted it on the ground at the extreme length of his arm. As
methodically and as coolly as if about to aim at a deer, he raised his
rifle to this rest and pulled the trigger. At the report an Indian
fell forward on his face, at the same moment that La Bonté, with equal
certainty of aim, and like effect, discharged his own rifle.

The three surviving Indians, seeing that their assailants were but two,
and knowing that their guns were empty, came on with loud yells. With
the left hand grasping a bunch of arrows, and holding the bow already
bent, and arrow fixed, they steadily advanced, bending low to the ground
to get their objects between them and the light, and thus render their
aim more certain. The trappers, however, did not care to wait for them.
Drawing their pistols, they charged at once; and although the bows
twanged, and the three arrows struck their mark, on they rushed,
discharging their pistols at close quarters. La Bonté threw his empty
one at the head of an Indian who was pulling his second arrow to its
head at a yard's distance, drew his knife at the same moment, and made
at him.

But the Indian broke and ran, followed by his surviving companion; and
as soon as Killbuck could ram home another ball, he sent a shot flying
after them as they scrambled up the mountain-side, leaving in their
fright and hurry their bows and shields on the ground.

The fight was over, and the two trappers confronted each other: "We've
given'em h----!" laughed Killbuck.

"_Well_, we have," answered the other, pulling an arrow out of his arm.
"Wagh!"

"We'll lift the hair, anyhow," continued the first, "afore the scalp's
cold."

Taking his whetstone from the little sheath on his knife-belt, the
trapper proceeded to "edge" his knife, and then stepping to the first
prostrate body, he turned it over to examine if any symptom of vitality
remained. "Thrown cold!" he exclaimed, as he dropped the lifeless arm he
had lifted. "I sighted him about the long ribs, but the light was bad,
and I couldn't get a bead offhand anyhow."

Seizing with his left hand the long and braided lock on the center of
the Indian's head, he passed the point edge of his keen butcher-knife
round the parting, turning it at the same time under the skin to
separate the scalp from the skull; then with a quick and sudden jerk of
his hand, he removed it entirely from the head, and giving the reeking
trophy a wring upon the grass to free it from the blood, he coolly
hitched it under his belt, and proceeded to the next; but seeing La
Bonté operating upon this, he sought the third, who lay some little
distance from the others. This one was still alive, a pistol-ball having
passed through his body without touching a vital spot.

"Gut-shot is this nigger," exclaimed the trapper; "them pistols never
throws'em in their tracks;" and thrusting his knife, for mercy's sake,
into the bosom of the Indian, he likewise tore the scalp-lock from his
head, and placed it with the other.

La Bonté had received two trivial wounds, and Killbuck till now had
been walking about with an arrow sticking through the fleshy part of his
thigh, the point being perceptible near the surface of the other side.
To free his leg from the painful encumbrance, he thrust the weapon
completely through, and then, cutting off the arrowhead below the barb,
he drew it out, the blood flowing freely from the wound. A tourniquet
of buckskin soon stopped this, and, heedless of the pain, the hardy
mountaineer sought for his old mule, and quickly brought it to the
fire (which La Bonté had rekindled), lavishing many a caress, and
most comical terms of endearment, upon the faithful companion of his
wanderings. They found all the animals safe and well; and after eating
heartily of some venison which the Indians had been cooking at the
moment of the attack, made instant preparations to quit the scene of
their exploit, not wishing to trust to the chance of the Rapahos being
too frightened to again molest them.

Having no saddles, they secured buffalo-robes on the backs of two
mules--Killbuck, of course, riding his own--and lost no time in
proceeding on their way. They followed the course of the Indians up the
stream, and found that it kept the canons and gorges of the mountains,
where the road was better; but it was with no little difficulty that
they made their way, the ground being much broken, and covered with
rocks. Kill-buck's wound became very painful, and his leg stiffened
and swelled distressingly, but he still pushed on all night, and at
daybreak, recognizing their position, he left the Indian trail, and
followed a little creek which rose in a mountain-chain of moderate
elevation, and above which, and to the south, Pike's Peak towered high
into the clouds. With great difficulty they crossed this ridge, and
ascending and descending several smaller ones, which gradually smoothed
away as they met the valley, about three hours after sunrise they found
themselves in the south-east corner of the Bayou Salade.

The Bayou Salade, or Salt Valley, is the most southern of three very
extensive valleys, forming a series of tablelands in the very center of
the main chain of the Rocky Mountains, known to the trappers by the name
of the "Parks." The numerous streams by which they are watered abound in
the valuable fur-bearing beaver, whilst every species of game common to
the West is found here in great abundance. The Bayou Salade especially,
owing to the salitrose nature of the soil and springs, is the favorite
resort of all the larger animals common to the mountains; and in the
sheltered prairies of the Bayou, the buffalo, forsaking the barren and
inclement regions of the exposed plains, frequent these upland valleys
in the winter months; and feeding upon the rich and nutritious buffalo
grass, which on the bare prairies at that season is either dry and
rotten or entirely exhausted, not only sustain life, but retain a great
portion of the "condition" that the abundant fall and summer pasture of
the lowlands has laid upon their bones, Therefore is this valley sought
by the Indians as a wintering-ground. Its occupancy has been disputed by
most of the mountain tribes, and long and bloody wars have been waged
to make good the claims set forth by Yuta, Rapaho, Sioux, and Shians. *
However, to the first of these it may be said now to belong, since their
"big village" has wintered there for many successive years; whilst the
Rapahos seldom visit it unless on war expeditions against the Yutas.

     * Utahs, Arapahoes, Sioux, and Cheyennes. (Ed.)

Judging, from the direction the Rapahos were taking, that the friendly
tribe of Yutas were there already, the trappers had resolved to join
them as soon as possible; and therefore, without resting, pushed
on through the uplands, and, towards the middle of the day, had the
satisfaction of descrying the conical lodges of the village, situated on
a large level plateau, through which ran a mountain stream. A numerous
band of mules and horses were scattered over the pasture, and round them
several mounted Indians kept guard. As the trappers descended the
bluffs into the plain, some straggling Indians caught sight of them;
and instantly one of them, lassoing a horse from the herd, mounted it,
barebacked, and flew like wind to the village to spread the news. Soon
the lodges disgorged their inmates; first the women and children rushed
to the side of the strangers' approach; then the younger Indians, unable
to restrain their curiosity, mounted their horses, and galloped forth
to meet them. The old chiefs, enveloped in buffalo-robes (softly and
delicately dressed as the Yutas alone know how), and with tomahawk held
in one hand and resting in the hollow of the other arm, sallied last of
all from their lodges; and, squatting in a row on a sunny bank outside
the village, awaited, with dignified composure, the arrival of the
whites. Killbuck was well known to most of them, having trapped in their
country and traded with them years before at Roubideau's fort at
the head waters of the Rio Grande. After shaking hands with all who
presented themselves, he at once gave them to understand that their
enemies, the Rapahos, were at hand, with a hundred warriors at least,
elated by the coup they had just struck against the whites, bringing,
moreover, four white scalps to incite them to brave deeds.

At this news the whole village was speedily in commotion: the war-shout
was taken up from lodge to lodge; the squaws began to lament and tear
their hair; the warriors to paint and arm themselves. The elder chiefs
immediately met in council, and, over the medicine-pipe, debated as to
the best course to pursue--whether to wait the attack, or sally out and
meet the enemy. In the meantime, the braves were collected together by
the chiefs of their respective bands; and scouts, mounted on the fastest
horses, despatched in every direction to procure intelligence of the
enemy.

The two whites, after watering their mules and picketing them in some
good grass near the village, drew near the council fire, without,
however, joining in the "talk," until they were invited to take their
seats by the eldest chief. Then Killbuck was called upon to give
his opinion as to the direction in which he judged the Rapahos to be
approaching, which he delivered in their own language, with which he was
well acquainted. In a short time the council broke up; and without noise
or confusion, a band of one hundred chosen warriors left the village,
immediately after one of the scouts had galloped in and communicated
some intelligence to the chiefs. Killbuck and La Bonté volunteered to
accompany the war-party, weak and exhausted as they were; but this was
negatived by the chiefs, who left their white brothers to the care of
the women, who tended their wounds, now stiff and painful; and spreading
their buffalo-robes in a warm and roomy lodge, left them to the repose
they so much needed.



CHAPTER II

|THE next morning Killbuck's leg was greatly inflamed, and he was unable
to leave the lodge; but he made his companion bring the old mule to the
door, that he might give her a couple of ears of Indian corn, the last
remains of the slender store brought by the Indians from the Navajo
country. The day passed, and sundown brought no tidings of the
war-party. This caused no little wailing on the part of the squaws,
but was interpreted by the whites as a favorable augury. A little after
sunrise on the second morning, the long line of the returning warriors
was discerned winding over the prairie, and a scout having galloped in
to bring the news of a great victory, the whole village was soon in a
ferment of paint and drumming. A short distance from the lodges, the
warriors halted to await the approach of the people. Old men, children,
and squaws sitting astride their horses, sallied out to escort the
victorious party in triumph to the village. With loud shouts and
songs, and drums beating the monotonous Indian time, they advanced and
encircled the returning braves, one of whom, his face covered with black
paint, carried a pole on which dangled thirteen scalps, the trophies
of the expedition. As he lifted these on high they were saluted with
deafening whoops, and cries of exultation and savage joy. In this manner
they entered the village, almost before the friends of those fallen in
the fight had ascertained their losses. Then the shouts of delight were
converted into yells of grief; the mothers and wives of those braves
who had been killed (and seven had "gone under") presently returned with
their faces, necks, and hands blackened, and danced and howled round the
scalp-pole, which had been deposited in the center of the village, in
front of the lodge of the great chief.

Killbuck now learned that a scout having brought intelligence that the
two band's of Rapa-hos were hastening to form a junction, as soon
as they learned that their approach was discovered, the Yutas had
successfully prevented it; and attacking one party, had entirely
defeated it, killing thirteen of the Rapaho braves. The other party had
fled on seeing the issue of the fight, and a few of the Yuta warriors
were now pursuing them.

To celebrate so signal a victory, great preparations sounded their notes
through the village. Paints--vermilion and ochres, red and yellow--were
in great request; whilst the scrapings of charred wood, mixed with
gunpowder, were used as substitute for black, the medicine color.

The lodges of the village, numbering some two hundred or more, were
erected in parallel lines, and covered a large space of the level
prairie in shape of a parallelogram. In the center, however, the
space which half-a-dozen lodges in length would have taken up was
left unoccupied, save by one large one, of red-painted buffalo-skins,
tattooed with the mystic totems of the medicine peculiar to the nation.
In front of this stood the grim scalp-pole, like a decayed tree-trunk,
its bloody fruit tossing in the wind; and on another pole, at a few feet
distance, was hung the bag with its mysterious contents. Before each
lodge a tripod of spears supported the arms and shields of the Yuta
chivalry, and on many of them smoke-dried scalps rattled in the wind,
former trophies of the dusky knights who were arming themselves within.
Heraldic devices were not wanting--not, however, graved upon the
shield, but hanging from the spear-head, the actual totem of the warrior
it distinguished. The rattlesnake, the otter, the carcajou, the mountain
badger, the war-eagle, the konqua-kish, the porcupine, the fox, &c.,
dangled their well-stuffed skins, displaying the guardian medicine
of the warriors they pertained to, and representing the mental and
corporeal qualities which were supposed to characterize the braves to
whom they belonged.

From the center lodge, two or three medicinemen, fantastically attired
in the skins of wolves and bears, and bearing long peeled wands of
cherry in their hands, occasionally emerged to tend a very small fire
which they had kindled in the center of the open space; and when a thin
column of smoke arose, one of them planted the scalp-pole obliquely
across the fire. Squaws in robes of white dressed buckskin, garnished
with beads and porcupines' quills, and their faces painted bright red
and black, then appeared. These ranged themselves round the outside of
the square, the boys and children of all ages, mounted on barebacked
horses, galloping round and round, and screaming with eagerness,
excitement, and curiosity.

Presently the braves and warriors made their appearance, and squatted
round the fire in two circles, those who had been engaged on the
expedition being in the first or smaller one. One medicine-man sat under
the scalp-pole, having a drum between his knees, which he tapped
at intervals with his hand, eliciting from the instrument a hollow
monotonous sound. A bevy of women, shoulder to shoulder, then advanced
from the four sides of the square, and some, shaking a rattle-drum in
time with their steps, commenced a jumping, jerking dance, now lifting
one foot from the ground, and now rising with both, accompanying the
dance with a chant, which swelled from a low whisper to the utmost
extent of their voices--now dying away, and again bursting into
vociferous measure. Thus they advanced to the center and retreated to
their former positions; when six squaws, with their faces painted a dead
black, made their appearance from the crowd, chanting, in soft and sweet
measure, a lament for the braves the nation had lost in the late battle:
but soon as they drew near the scalp-pole, their melancholy note changed
to the music (to them) of gratified revenge. In a succession of jumps,
raising the feet alternately but a little distance from the ground, they
made their way, through an interval left in the circle of warriors, to
the grim pole, and encircling it, danced in perfect silence round it for
a few moments. Then they burst forth with an extempore song, laudatory
of the achievements of their victorious braves. They addressed the
scalps as "sisters" (to be called a squaw is the greatest insult that
can be offered to an Indian), and, spitting at them, upbraided them with
their rashness in leaving their lodges to seek for Yuta husbands; "that
the Yuta warriors and young men despised them, and chastised them for
their forwardness and presumption, bringing back their scalps to their
own women."

After sufficiently proving that they had anything but lost the use of
their tongues, but possessed, on the contrary, as fair a length of that
formidable weapon as any of their sex, they withdrew, and left the field
in undisputed possession of the men; who, accompanied by tap of drum,
and by the noise of many rattles, broke out into a war-song, in which
their own valor was by no means hidden in a bushel, or modestly refused
the light of day. After this came the more interesting ceremony of
a warrior "counting his coups." A young brave, with his face painted
black, mounted on a white horse mysteriously marked with red clay, and
naked to the breech-clout, holding in his hand a long taper lance, rode
into the circle, and paced slowly round it; then, flourishing his spear
on high, he darted to the scalp-pole, round which the warriors were
now seated in a semicircle; and in a loud voice, and with furious
gesticulations, related his exploits, the drums tapping at the
conclusion of each. On his spear hung seven scalps, and holding it
vertically above his head, and commencing with the top one, he told the
feats in which he had raised the trophy hair. When he had run through
these the drums tapped loudly, and several of the old chiefs shook their
rattles, in corroboration of the truth of his achievements. The brave,
swelling with pride, then pointed to the fresh and bloody scalps hanging
on the pole. Two of these had been torn from the heads of Rapahos struck
by his own hand, and this feat, _the_ exploit of the day, had entitled
him to the honor of counting his coups. Then, sticking his spear into
the ground by the side of the pole, he struck his hand twice on his
brawny and naked chest, turned short round, and, swift as the antelope,
galloped into the plain, as if overcome by the shock his modesty had
received in being obliged to recount his own high-sounding deeds.

"Wagh!" exclaimed old Killbuck, as he left the circle, pointing his
pipe-stem towards the fast-fading figure of the brave, "that Injun's
heart's about as big as ever it will be, I'm thinking."

With the Yutas, Killbuck and La Bonté remained during the winter; and
when the spring sun had opened the icebound creeks, and melted the
snow on the mountains, and its genial warmth had expanded the earth
and permitted the roots of the grass to "live" once more, and throw out
green and tender shoots, the two trappers bade adieu to the hospitable
Indians, who broke up their village in order to start for the valleys
of the Del Norte. As they followed the trail from the Bayou, at sundown,
just as they thought of camping, they observed ahead of them a solitary
horseman * riding along, followed by three mules. His hunting-frock of
fringed buckskin, and the rifle resting across the horn of his saddle,
at once proclaimed him white; but as he saw the mountaineers winding
through the canon, driving before them half-a-dozen horses, he judged
they might possibly be Indians and enemies, the more so as their dress
was not the usual costume of the whites. The trappers, therefore, saw
the stranger raise the rifle in the hollow of his arm, and gathering up
his horse, ride steadily to meet them, as soon as he observed they were
but two; two to one in mountain calculation being scarcely considered
odds, if red skin to white.

     * Evidently Ruxton himself. (Ed.)

However, on nearing them, the stranger discovered his mistake, and
throwing his rifle across the saddle once more reined in his horse and
waited their approach; for the spot where he then stood presented an
excellent camping-ground, with abundance of dry wood and convenient
water.

"Where from, stranger?"

"The divide, and to the Bayou for meat; and you are from there, I see.
Any buffalo come in yet?"

"Heap, and seal-fat at that. What's the sign out on the plains?"

"War-party of Rapahos passed Squirrel at sundown yesterday, and nearly
raised my animals. Sign, too, of more on left fork of Boiling Spring. No
buffalo between this and Bijou. Do you feel like camping?"

"_Well_, we do. But whar's your campan-yeros?"

"I'm alone."

"Alone? Wagh! how do you get your animals along?"

"I go ahead, and they follow the horse."

"Well, that beats all! That's a smart-looking hoss, now; and runs some,
I'm thinking."

"Well, it does."

"Whar's them mules from? They look like Californy."

"Mexican country--away down south."

"H----! Whar's yourself from?"

"There away, too."

"What's beaver worth in Taos?"

"Dollar."

"In Saint Louiy?"

"Same."

"H--! Any call for buckskin?"

"A heap! The soldiers in Santa Fé are half froze for leather; and
moccasins fetch two dollars easy."

"Wagh! How's trade on Arkansa, and what's doin' to the Fort?"

"Shians at Big Timber, and Bent's people trading smart. On North Fork,
Jim Waters got a hundred pack right off, and Sioux making more."

"Whar's Bill Williams?"

"Gone under, they say: the Diggers took his hair."

"How's powder goin'?"

"Two dollars a pint."

"Bacca?"

"A plew a plug."

"Got any about you?"

"Have _so_."

"Give us a chaw; and now let's camp."

Whilst unpacking their own animals, the two trappers could not refrain
from glancing, every now and then, with no little astonishment, at the
solitary stranger they had so unexpectedly encountered. If truth be
told, his appearance not a little perplexed them. His hunting-frock of
buckskin, shining with grease, and fringed pantaloons, over which the
well-greased butcher-knife had evidently been often wiped after cutting
his food or butchering the carcass of deer and buffalo, were of genuine
mountain-make. His face, clean shaved, exhibited, in its well-tanned and
weatherbeaten complexion, the effects of such natural cosmetics as sun
and wind; and under the mountain-hat of felt which covered his head,
long uncut hair hung in Indian fashion on his shoulders. All this would
have passed muster, had it not been for the most extraordinary equipment
of a double-barreled rifle, which, when it had attracted the eyes of the
mountaineers, elicited no little astonishment, not to say derision. But
perhaps nothing excited their admiration so much as the perfect docility
of the stranger's animals, which, almost like dogs, obeyed his voice
and call; and albeit that one, in a small sharp head and pointed ears,
expanded nostrils, and eye twinkling and malicious, exhibited the
personification of a lurking devil, yet they could not but admire
the perfect ease with which even this one, in common with the rest,
permitted herself to be handled.

Dismounting, and unhitching from the horn of his saddle the coil of
skin rope, one end of which was secured round the neck of the horse, he
proceeded to unsaddle; and whilst so engaged, the three mules, two of
which were packed, one with the unbutchered carcass of a deer, the other
with a pack of skins, &c., followed leisurely into the space chosen for
the camp, and, cropping the grass at their ease, waited until a whistle
called them to be unpacked.

The horse was a strong square-built bay; and although the severities of
a prolonged winter, with scanty pasture and long and trying travel, had
robbed his bones of fat and flesh, tucked up his flank, and "ewed" his
neck, still his clean and well-set legs, oblique shoulder, and withers
fine as a deer's, in spite of his gaunt half-starved appearance, bore
ample testimony as to what he _had_ been; while his clear cheerful eye,
and the hearty appetite with which he fell to work on the coarse grass
of the bottom, proved that he had something in him still, and was game
as ever. His tail, gnawed by the mules in days of strait, attracted the
observant mountaineers.

"Hard doin's when it come to that," remarked La Bonté.

Between the horse and two of the mules a mutual and great affection
appeared to subsist, which was no more than natural, when their master
observed to his companions that they had traveled together upwards of
two thousand miles.

One of these mules was a short, thick-set, stumpy animal, with an
enormous head surmounted by proportionable ears, and a pair of unusually
large eyes, beaming the most perfect good temper and docility (most
uncommon qualities in a mule). Her neck was thick, and rendered more so
in appearance by reason of her mane not being roached (or, in English,
hogged), which privilege she alone, enjoyed of the trio; and her short
strong legs, ending in small, round, cat-like hoofs, were feathered with
a profusion of dark-brown hair.

As she stood stock-still whilst the stranger removed the awkwardly
packed deer from her back, she flapped her huge ears backward and
forward, occasionally turning her head, and laying her cold nose against
her master's cheek. When the pack was removed he advanced to her head,
and resting it on his shoulder, rubbed her broad and grizzled cheeks
with both his hands for several minutes, the old mule laying her ears,
like a rabbit, back upon her neck, and with half-closed eyes enjoyed
mightily the manipulation. Then, giving her a smack upon the haunch,
and a "hep-a" well known to the mule kind, the old favorite threw up her
heels and cantered off to the horse, who was busily cropping the buffalo
grass on the bluff above the stream.

Great was the contrast between the one just described and the next
which came up to be divested of her pack. She, a tall beautifully-shaped
Mexican mule, of a light mouse color, with a head like a deer's, and
long springy legs, trotted up obedient to the call, but with ears bent
back and curled-up nose, and tail compressed between her legs. As her
pack was being removed, she groaned and whined like a dog as a thong or
loosened strap touched her ticklish body, lifting her hind quarters in
a succession of jumps or preparatory kicks, and looked wicked as a
panther. When nothing but the fore pack-saddle remained, she had worked
herself into the last stage; and as the stranger cast loose the girth of
buffalo-hide, and was about to lift the saddle and draw the crupper from
the tail, she drew her hind legs under her, more tightly compressed her
tail, and almost shrieked with rage.

"Stand clear," he roared (knowing what was coming), and raised the
saddle, when out went her hind legs, up went the pack into the air,
and, with it dangling at her heels, away she tore, kicking the offending
saddle as she ran. Her master, however, took this as matter of course,
followed her and brought back the saddle, which he piled on the others
to windward of the fire one of the trappers was kindling. Fire-making
is a simple process with the mountaineers. Their bullet-pouches always
contain a flint and steel, and sundry pieces of "punk" * or tinder; and
pulling a handful of dry grass, which they screw into a nest, they place
the lighted punk in this, and, closing the grass over it, wave it in the
air, when it soon ignites, and readily kindles the dry sticks forming
the foundation of the fire.

     * A pithy substance found in dead trees.

The tidbits of the deer the stranger had brought in were soon roasting
over the fire; whilst, as soon as the burning logs had deposited a
sufficiency of ashes, a hole was raked in them, and the head of the
deer, skin, hair, and all, placed in this primitive oven, and carefully
covered with the hot ashes.

A "heap" of fat meat in perspective, our mountaineers enjoyed their
anteprandial pipes, recounting the news of the respective regions whence
they came; and so well did they like each other's company, so sweet
was the honeydew tobacco of which the strange hunter had good store,
so plentiful the game about the creek, and so abundant the pasture for
their winter-starved animals, that before the carcass of the two-year
buck had been more than four-fifths consumed--and although rib after rib
had been picked and chucked over their shoulders to the wolves, and
one fore leg and _the_ "bit" of all, the head, were still cooked before
them--the three had come to the resolution to join company, and hunt
in their present locality for a few days at least--the owner of the
"two-shoot" gun volunteering to fill their horns with powder, and find
tobacco for their pipes.

Here, on plenty of meat, of venison, bear, and antelope, they merrily
luxuriated; returning after their daily hunts to the brightly-burning
campfire, where one always remained to guard the animals, and unloading
their packs of meat (all choicest portions), ate late into the
night, and, smoking, wiled away the time in narrating scenes in their
hard-spent lives, and fighting their battles o'er again.

The younger of the trappers, he who has figured under the name of La
Bonté, had excited, by scraps and patches from his history, no little
curiosity in the stranger's mind to learn the ups and downs of his
career; and one night, when they assembled earlier than usual at the
fire, he prevailed upon the modest trapper to "unpack" some passages in
his wild adventurous life.

"Maybe," commenced the mountaineer, "you both remember when old
Ashley went out with the biggest kind of band to trap the Columbia and
head-waters of Missoura and Yellow Stone. Well, that was the time this
nigger first felt like taking to the mountains."

This brings us back to the year of our Lord 1825; and perhaps it will be
as well, in order to render La Bonté's mountain language intelligible,
to translate it at once into tolerable English, and to tell in the third
person, but from his own lips, the scrapes which befell him in a sojourn
of more than twenty years in the Far West, and the causes that impelled
him to quit the comfort and civilization of his home, to seek the
perilous but engaging life of a trapper of the Rocky Mountains.

La Bonté * was raised in the state of Mississippi, not far from Memphis,
on the left bank of that huge and snag-filled river. His father was a
Saint Louis Frenchman, his mother a native of Tennessee. When a boy, our
trapper was "some," he said, with the rifle, and always had a hankering
for the West; particularly when, on accompanying his father to Saint
Louis every spring, he saw the different bands of traders and hunters
start upon their annual expeditions to the mountains. Greatly did he
envy the independent _insouciant_ trappers, as, in all the glory of
beads and buckskin, they shouldered their rifles at Jake Hawk-en's
door (the rifle-maker of Saint Louis), and bade adieu to the cares and
trammels of civilized life.

However, like a thoughtless beaver-kitten, he put his foot into a trap
one fine day, set by Mary Brand, ** a neighbor's daughter, and esteemed
"some punkins"--or, in other words, toasted as the beauty of the
county--by the susceptible Mississippians. From that moment he was "gone
beaver;" "he felt queer," he said, "all over, like a buffalo shot in the
lights; he had no relish for mush and molasses; hominy and johnny cakes
failed to excite his appetite. Deer and turkeys ran by him unscathed; he
didn't know, he said, whether his rifle had hind-sights or not. He felt
bad, that was a fact; but what ailed him he didn't know."

     * The name of this trapper is perpetuated in La Bonté Creek,
     which enters the Platte River 66 miles above the mouth of
     the Laramie, on the old Oregon trail. (Ed.)

     ** Mary Chase. See introduction to this volume. (Ed.)

Mary Brand--Mary Brand--Mary Brand! the old Dutch clock ticked it. Mary
Brand! his head throbbed it when he lay down to sleep. Mary Brand! his
riflelock spoke it plainly when he cocked it, to raise a shaking sight
at a deer. Mary Brand, Mary Brand! the whip-poor-will sang it instead
of her own well-known note; the bull-frogs croaked it in the swamp, and
mosquitoes droned it in his ear as he tossed about his bed at night,
wakeful, and striving to think what ailed him.

Who could that strapping young fellow who passed the door just now be
going to see? Mary Brand: Mary Brand. And who can big Pete Herring be
dressing that silver-fox skin so carefully for? For whom but Mary Brand?
And who is it that jokes and laughs and dances with all the "boys" but
him; and why?

Who but Mary Brand: and because the lovesick booby carefully avoids her.

"And Mary Brand herself--what is she like?"

"She's some now; that _is_ a fact, and the biggest kind of punkin at
that," would have been the answer from any man, woman, or child in the
county, and truly spoken too; always understanding that the pumpkin is
the fruit by which the _ne plus ultra_ of female perfection is expressed
amongst the figuratively-speaking westerns.

Being an American woman, of course she was tall, and straight and slim
as a hickory sapling, well, formed withal, with rounded bust, and neck
white and slender as the swan's. Her features were small, but finely
chiselled: and in this, it may be remarked, the lower orders of the
American woman differ from and far surpass the same class in England,
or elsewhere, where the features, although far prettier, are more vulgar
and commonplace. Mary Brand had the bright blue eye, thin nose, and
small but sweetly-formed mouth, the too fair complexion and dark-brown
hair, which characterize the beauty of the Anglo-American, the heavy
masses (hardly curls) that fell over her face and neck contrasting with
her polished whiteness. Such was Mary Brand; and when to her good looks
are added a sweet disposition and all the best qualities of a thrifty
housewife, it must be allowed that she fully justified the eulogiums of
the good people of Memphis.

Well, to cut a love-story short, in doing which not a little moral
courage is shown, young La Bonté fell desperately in love with the
pretty Mary, and she with him; and small blame to her, for he was a
proper lad of twenty--six feet in his moccasins--the best hunter and
rifle-shot in the country, with many other advantages too numerous to
mention. But when did the course, &c., e'er run smooth? When the affair
had become a recognized "courting" (and Americans alone know the horrors
of such prolonged purgatory), they became, to use La Bonté's words,
"awful fond," and consequently about once a-week had their tiffs and
make-ups.

However, on one occasion, at a husking, and during one of these tiffs,
Mary, every inch a woman, to gratify some indescribable feeling, brought
to her aid jealousy--that old serpent who has caused such mischief in
this world; and by a flirtation over the corn-cobs with big Pete, La
Bonté's former and only rival, struck so hard a blow at the latter's
heart, that on the moment his brain caught fire, blood danced before his
eyes, and he became like one possessed. Pete observed and enjoyed his
struggling emotion--better for him had he minded his corn-shelling
alone;--and the more to annoy his rival, paid the most sedulous
attention to pretty Mary.

Young La Bonté stood it as long as human nature, at boiling heat,
could endure; but when Pete, in the exultation of his apparent triumph,
crowned his success by encircling the slender waist of the girl with his
arm, and snatching a sudden kiss, he jumped upright from his seat,
and seizing a small whiskey-keg which stood in the center of the
corn-shellers, he hurled it at his rival, and crying to him, hoarse with
passion, "to follow if he was a man," he left the house.

At that time, and even now, in the remoter States of the western
country, rifles settled even the most trivial differences between the
hot-blooded youths; and of such frequent occurrence and invariably
bloody termination did these encounters become, that they scarcely
produced sufficient excitement to draw together half-a-dozen spectators.

In the present case, however, so public was the quarrel and so well
known the parties concerned, that not only the people who had witnessed
the affair, but all the neighborhood, thronged to the scene of action,
in a large field in front of the house, where the preliminaries of a
duel between Pete and La Bonté were being arranged by their respective
friends.

Mary, when she discovered the mischief her thoughtlessness was likely to
occasion, was almost beside herself with grief, but she knew how vain it
would be to attempt to interfere. The poor girl, who was most ardently
attached to La Bonté, was carried swooning into the house, where all the
women congregated, and were locked in by old Brand, who, himself an old
pioneer, thought but little of bloodshed, but refused to let the women
folk witness the affray.

Preliminaries arranged, the combatants took up their respective
positions at either end of a space marked for the purpose, at forty
paces from each other. They were both armed with heavy rifles, and
had the usual hunting pouches, containing ammunition, hanging over the
shoulder. Standing with the butts of their rifles on the ground, they
confronted each other; and the crowd, drawing away a few paces only
on each side, left one man to give the word. This was the single word
"fire;" and after this signal was given, the combatants were at liberty
to fire away until one or the other dropped.

At the word, both the men quickly raised their rifles to the shoulder;
and whilst the sharp cracks instantaneously rang, they were seen to
flinch, as either felt the pinging sensation of a bullet entering
his flesh. Regarding each other steadily for a few moments, the blood
running down La Bonté's neck from a wound under the left jaw, whilst his
opponent was seen to place his hand once to his right breast, as if to
feel the position of his wound, they commenced reloading their rifles.
But as Pete was in the act of forcing down the ball with his long
hickory wiping-stick, he suddenly dropped his right arm--the rifle
slipped from his grasp--and, reeling for a moment like a drunken man, he
fell dead to the ground.

Even here, however, there was law of some kind or another; and the
consequences of the duel were, that the constables were soon on the
trail of La Bonté to arrest him. He easily avoided them; and, taking to
the woods, lived for several days in as wild a state as the beasts he
hunted and killed for his support.

Tired of this, he at last resolved to quit the country and betake
himself to the mountains, for which life he had ever felt an
inclination.

When, therefore, he thought the officers of justice had grown slack
in their search of him, and that the coast was comparatively clear, he
determined to start on his distant expedition to the Far West.

Once more, before he carried his project into execution, he sought and
obtained a last interview with Mary Brand.

"Mary," said he, "I'm about to break. They're hunting me like a fall
buck, and I'm bound to quit. Don't think any more about me, for I shall
never come back."

Poor Mary burst into tears, and bent her head on the table near which
she sat. When she again raised it, she saw La Bonté, his long rifle upon
his shoulder, striding with rapid steps from the house. Year after year
rolled on, and he did not return.



CHAPTER III

|A FEW days after his departure, La Bonté found himself at St. Louis,
the emporium of the fur-trade, and the fast-rising metropolis of the
precocious settlements of the West. Here, a prey to the agony of mind
which jealousy, remorse, and blighted love mix into a very puchero of
misery, he got into the company of certain rowdies, a class that every
western city particularly abounds in; and anxious to drown his sorrows
in any way, and quite unscrupulous as to the means, he plunged into all
the vicious excitements of drinking, gambling, and fighting, which form
the every-day amusements of the ris-. ing generation of St. Louis.

Perhaps in no other part of the United States--where, indeed, humanity
is frequently to be seen in many curious and unusual phases--is there
a population so marked in its general character, and at the same time
divided into such distinct classes, as in the above-named city. Dating,
as it does, its foundation from yesterday, *--for what are forty years
in the growth of a metropolis?--its founders are now scarcely past
middle life, regarding with astonishment the growing works of their
hands; and whilst gazing upon its busy quays, piled with grain and other
produce of the West, its fleets of huge steamboats lying tier upon tier
alongside the wharves, its well-stored warehouses, and all the bustling
concomitants of a great commercial depot, they can scarcely realize the
memory of a few short years, when on the same spot nothing was to be
seen but the miserable hovels of a French village--the only sign of
commerce being the unwieldy bateaux of the Indian traders, laden with
peltries from the distant regions of the Platte and Upper Missouri.

     * He means as an American city. St. Louis was founded by the
     French in 1764; transferred to the United States in 1804.
     (Ed.) 1804. (Ed.)

Where now intelligent and wealthy merchants walk erect, in conscious
substantiality of purse and credit, and direct the commerce of a vast
and well-peopled region, there stalked but the other day, in dress of
buckskin, the Indian trader of the West; and all the evidences of life,
mayhap, consisted of the eccentric vagaries of the different bands of
trappers and hardy mountaineers who accompanied, some for pleasure
and some as escort, the periodically arriving bateaux, laden with
the beaver-skins and buffalo-robes collected during the season at the
different trading-posts in the Far West. *

     * Written in 1848. (Ed.)

These, nevertheless, were the men whose hardy enterprise opened to
commerce and the plow the vast and fertile regions of the West. Rough
and savage though they were, they were the true pioneers of that
extraordinary tide of civilization which has poured its resistless
current through tracts large enough for kings to govern, over a country
now teeming with cultivation, where, a few short years ago, countless
herds of buffalo roamed unmolested, where the bear and deer abounded,
and the savage Indian skulked through the woods and prairies, lord of
the unappreciated soil that now yields its prolific treasures to the
spade and plow of civilized man. To the wild and half-savage trapper,
who may be said to exemplify the energy, enterprise, and hardihood
characteristic of the American people, divested of all the false and
vicious glare with which a high state of civilization, too rapidly
attained, has obscured their real and genuine character, in which the
above traits are eminently prominent--to these men alone is due the
empire of the West, destined in a few short years to become the most
important of those confederated States composing the mighty Union of
North America.

Sprung, then, out of the wild and adventurous fur-trade, St. Louis,
still the emporium of that species of commerce, preserves even now,
in the character of its population, many of the marked peculiarities
distinguishing its early founders, who were identified with the
primitive Indian in hardihood and instinctive wisdom. Whilst the French
portion of the population retain the thoughtless levity and frivolous
disposition of their original source, the Americans of St. Louis, who
may lay claim to be native, as it were, are as strongly distinguished
for determination and energy of character as they are for physical
strength and animal courage; and are remarkable, at the same time, for
a singular aptitude in carrying out commercial enterprises to successful
terminations, apparently incompatible with the thirst of adventure and
excitement which forms so prominent a feature in their character. In St.
Louis and with her merchants have originated many commercial enterprises
of gigantic speculation, not confined to the immediate locality or to
the distant Indian fur-trade, but embracing all parts of the continent,
and even a portion of the Old World. And here it must be remembered that
St. Louis is situated inland, at a distance of upwards of one thousand
miles from the sea.

Besides her merchants and upper class, who form a little aristocracy
even here, a large portion of her population, still connected with
the Indian and fur trade, preserve all their original characteristics,
unacted upon by the influence of advancing civilization. There is,
moreover, a large floating population of foreigners of all nations, who
must possess no little amount of enterprise to be tempted to this spot,
whence they spread over the remote western tracts, still infested by
the savage; so that, if any of their blood is infused into the native
population, the characteristic energy and enterprise is increased, and
not tempered down by the foreign cross.

But perhaps the most singular of the casual population are the
mountaineers, who, after several seasons spent in trapping, and with
good store of dollars, arrive from the scene of their adventures, wild
as savages, determined to enjoy themselves, for a time, in all the
gayety and dissipation of the western city. In one of the back streets
of the town is a tavern well known as the Rocky-Mountain House; and
hither the trappers resort, drinking and fighting as long as their money
lasts, which, as they are generous and lavish as Jack Tars, is for a
few days only. Such scenes, both tragic and comic, as are enacted in the
Rocky-Mountain House, are beyond the powers of pen to describe; and when
a fandango is in progress, to which congregate the coquettish belles
from "Vide Poche," * as the French portion of the suburb is nicknamed,
the grotesque endeavors of the bear-like mountaineers to sport a figure
on the light fantastic toe, and their insertions into the dance of the
mystic jumps of Terpsichorean Indians when engaged in the "medicine"
dances in honor of bear, of buffalo, or ravished scalp, are such
startling innovations on the choreographic art as would make the shade
of Gallini quake and gibber in his pumps.

     * Empty Pocket: A humorous nickname that the old French
     bestowed upon Carondelet. (Ed.)

Passing the open doors and windows of the Mountain House, the stranger
stops short as the sounds of violin and banjo twang upon his ears,
accompanied by extraordinary noises--sounding unearthly to the greenhorn
listener, but recognized by the initiated as an Indian song roared out
of the stentorian lungs of a mountaineer, who, patting his stomach
with open hands to improve the necessary shake, choruses the well-known
Indian chant:--

               Hi--Hi--Hi--Hi

                   Hi-i--Hi-i--Hi-i--Hi-i

               Hi-ya--hi-ya--hi-ya--hi-ya

                   Hi-ya--hi-ya--hi-ya--hi-ya

               Hi-ya--hi-ya--hi--hi,

                   &c., &c., &c.

and polishes off the high notes with a whoop which makes the old wooden
houses shake again, as it rattles and echoes down the street.

Here, over fiery "monaghahela," Jean Batiste, the sallow half-breed
voyageur from the North--and who, deserting the service of the
"North West" (the Hudson's Bay Company), has come down the
Mississippi, from the "Falls," to try the sweets and liberty of "free"
trapping--hobnobs with a stalwart leather-clad "boy," just returned
from trapping on the waters of Grand River, on the western side the
mountains, who interlards his mountain jargon with Spanish words picked
up in Taos and California. In one corner a trapper, lean and gaunt from
the starving regions of the Yellow Stone, has just recognized an old
campanyero, with whom he hunted years before in the perilous country of
the Blackfeet.

"Why, John, old hoss, how do you come on?"

"What! Meek, old coon! I thought you were under?"

One from Arkansa stalks into the center of the room, with a pack
of cards in his hand and a handful of dollars in his hat. Squatting
crosslegged on a buffalo-robe, he smacks down the money and cries out
"Ho, boys! hyar's a deck, and hyar's the beaver" (rattling the coin);
"who dar set his hoss? Wagh!"

Tough are the yarns of wondrous hunts and Indian perils, of
hairbreadth'scapes and curious "fixes." Transcendent are the qualities
of sundry rifles which call these hunters masters; "plum" is the
"center" each vaunted barrel shoots; sufficing for a hundred wigs is the
"hair" each hunter has "lifted" from Indians' scalps; multitudinous the
"coups" he has "struck." As they drink so do they brag, first of their
guns, their horses, and their squaws, and lastly of themselves: and when
it comes to that, "ware steel." La Bonté, on his arrival at St. Louis,
found himself one day in no less a place than this; and here he made
acquaintance with an old trapper about to start for the mountains in
a few days, to hunt on the head-waters of Platte and Green River. With
this man he resolved to start, and, having still some hundred dollars in
cash, he immediately set about equipping himself for the expedition.
To effect this, he first of all visited the gun-store of Hawken, whose
rifles are renowned in the mountains, and exchanged his own piece, which
was of very small bore, for a regular mountain rifle. This was of very
heavy metal, carrying about thirty-two balls to the pound, stocked to
the muzzle, and mounted with brass; its only ornament being a buffalo
bull, looking exceedingly ferocious, which was not very artistically
engraved upon the trap in the stock. Here, too, he laid in a few pounds
of powder and lead, and all the necessaries for a long hunt.

His next visit was to a smith's store, which smith was black by trade
and black by nature, for he was a nigger, and, moreover, celebrated
as being the best maker of beaver-traps in St. Louis; and of him he
purchased six new traps, paying for the same twenty dollars--procuring,
at the same time, an old trap-sack made of stout buffalo-skin in which
to carry them.

We next find La Bonté and his companion--one Luke, better known as
Gouge-Eye, one of his eyes having been "gouged" in a mountain fray--at
Independence, a little town situated on the Missouri, several hundred
miles above St. Louis, and within a short distance of the Indian
frontier.

Independence may be termed the prairie port of the western country. Here
the caravans destined for Santa Fé, and the interior of Mexico, assemble
to complete their necessary equipment. Mules and oxen are purchased,
teamsters hired, and all stores and outfit laid in here for the long
journey over the wide expanse of prairie ocean. Here, too, the Indian
traders and the Rocky-Mountain trappers rendezvous, collecting in
sufficient force to insure their safe passage through the Indian
country. At the seasons of departure and arrival of these bands, the
little town presents a lively scene of bustle and confusion. The wild
and dissipated mountaineers get rid of their last dollars in furious
orgies, treating all comers to galore of drink, and pledging each other,
in horns of potent whisky, to successful hunts and "heaps of beaver."
When every cent has disappeared from their pouches, the free trapper
often makes away with rifle, traps, and animals, to gratify his "dry"
(for-your mountaineer is never "thirsty"); and then, "hoss and beaver"
gone, is necessitated to hire himself to one of the leaders of big
bands, and hypothecate his services for an equipment of traps and
animals. Thus La Bonté picked up three excellent mules for a mere song,
with their accompanying pack-saddles, _apishamores_, * and lariats, and
the next day, with Luke, "put out" for Platte.

     * Saddle-blanket made of buffalo-calf skin.

As they passed through the rendezvous, which was encamped on a little
stream beyond the town, even our young Mississippian was struck with
the novelty of the scene. Upwards of forty huge wagons, of Conestoga and
Pittsburgh build, and covered with snow-white tilts, were ranged in a
semicircle, or rather a horse-shoe form, on the flat open prairie, their
long tongues (poles) pointing outwards; with the necessary harness for
four pairs of mules, or eight yoke of oxen, lying on the ground beside
them, spread in ready order for hitching up. Round the wagons groups
of teamsters, tall, stalwart, young Missourians, were engaged in busy
preparation for the start, greasing the wheels, fitting or repairing
harness, smoothing ox-bows or overhauling their own moderate kits
or "possibles." They were all dressed in the same fashion: a pair of
homespun pantaloons, tucked into thick boots reaching nearly to the
knee, and confined round the waist by a broad leathern belt, which
supported a strong butcher-knife in a sheath. A coarse checked shirt was
their only other covering, with a fur cap on the head.

Numerous camp-fires surrounded the wagons, and near them lounged
wild-looking mountaineers, easily distinguished from the "greenhorn"
teamsters by their dresses of buckskin and their weather-beaten faces.
Without an exception, these were under the influence of the rosy god;
and one, who sat, the picture of misery, at a fire by himself--staring
into the blaze with vacant countenance, his long matted hair hanging
in unkempt masses over his face, begrimed with the dirt of a week, and
pallid with the effects of ardent drink--was suffering from the usual
consequences of having "kept it up" beyond the usual point, paying the
penalty in a fit of "horrors"--as _delirium tremens_ is most aptly
termed by sailors and the unprofessional.

In another part, the merchants of the caravan and the Indian traders
superintended the lading of the wagons or mule-packs. They were dressed
in civilized attire, and some were even bedizened in St. Louis or
eastern city dandyism, to the infinite disgust of the mountain men, who
look upon a "bourge-way" (bourgeois) with most undisguised contempt,
despising the very simplest forms of civilization. The picturesque
appearance of the encampment was not a little heightened by the addition
of several Indians from the neighboring Shawnee settlement, who, mounted
on their small active horses, on which they reclined rather than sat in
negligent attitudes, quietly looked on at the novel scene, indifferent
to the chaff in which the thoughtless teamsters indulged at their
expense. Numbers of mules and horses were picketed at hand, whilst a
large herd of noble oxen were being driven towards the camp--the _wo-ha_
of the teamsters sounding far and near, as they collected the scattered
beasts in order to yoke up.

As most of the mountain-men were utterly unable to move from camp, Luke
and La Bonté, with three or four of the most sober, started in company,
intending to wait on Blue, a stream which runs into the Caw or Kanzas
River, until the "balance" of the band came up. Mounting their mules,
and leading the loose animals, they struck at once into the park-like
prairie, and were speedily out of sight of civilization.

It was the latter end of May, towards the close of the season of heavy
rains, which in early spring render the climate of this country almost
intolerable, at the same time that they fertilize and thaw the soil,
so long bound up by the winter's frosts. The grass was everywhere
luxuriantly green, and gaudy flowers dotted the surface of the prairie.
This term, however, should hardly be applied to the beautiful undulating
scenery of this park-like country. Unlike the flat monotony of the Grand
Plains, here well-wooded uplands, clothed with forest-trees of every
species, and picturesque dells, through which run clear bubbling streams
belted with gay-blossomed shrubs, everywhere present themselves; whilst
on the level meadow-land, topes of trees with spreading foliage afford
a shelter to the game and cattle, and well-timbered knolls rise at
intervals from the plain.

Many clear streams dashing over their pebbly beds intersect the country,
from which, in the noonday's heat, the red-deer jump, shaking their wet
sides as the noise of approaching man disturbs them; and booming grouse
rise from the tall luxuriant herbage at every step. Where the deep
escarpments of the river-banks exhibit the section of the earth, a rich
alluvial soil of surpassing depth courts the cultivation of civilized
man; and in every feature it is evident that here nature has worked with
kindliest and most bountiful hand.

For hundreds of miles along the western or right bank of the Missouri
does a country extend, with which, for fertility and natural resources,
no part of Europe can stand comparison. Sufficiently large to contain an
enormous population, it has, besides, every advantage of position, and
all the natural capabilities which should make it the happy abode of
civilized man. Through this unpeopled country the United States pours
her greedy thousands, to seize upon the barren territories of her feeble
neighbor.

Camping the first night on Black Jack, our mountaineers here cut each
man a spare hickory wiping-stick for his rifle; and La Bonté, who was
the only greenhorn of the party, witnessed a savage ebullition of rage
on the part of one of his companions, exhibiting the perfect unrestraint
which these men impose upon their passions, and the barbarous anger
which the slightest opposition to their will excites. One of the
trappers, on arriving at the camping-place, dismounted from his horse,
and, after divesting it of the saddle, endeavored to lead his mule by
the rope up to the spot where he wished to deposit his pack. Mulelike,
however, the more he pulled the more stubbornly she remained in her
tracks, planting her fore legs firmly, and stretching out her neck with
provoking obstinacy. Truth to tell, it does require the temper of
a thousand Jobs to manage a mule; and in no case does the willful
mulishness of the animal stir up one's choler more than in the very
trick this one played, and which is a daily occurrence. After tugging
ineffectually for several minutes, winding the rope round his body, and
throwing himself suddenly forward with all his strength, the trapper
actually foamed with passion; and although he might have subdued the
animal at once by fastening the rope with a halfhitch round its nose,
this, with an obstinacy equal to that of the mule itself, he refused to
attempt, preferring to vanquish her by main strength. Failing so to do,
the mountaineer, with a volley of blasphemous imprecations, suddenly
seized his rifle, and, leveling it at the mule's head, shot her dead.

Passing the Wa-ka-rasha, * a well-timbered stream, they met a band of
Osages going "to buffalo." These Indians, in common with some tribes
of the Pawnees, shave the head, with the exception of a ridge from the
forehead to the center of the scalp, which is roached or hogged like
the mane of a mule, and stands erect, plastered with unguents, and
ornamented with feathers of the hawk and turkey. The naked scalp is
often painted in mosaic with black and red, the face with shining
vermilion. This band were all naked to the breech-clout, the warmth
of the sun having made them throw their dirty blankets from their
shoulders. These Indians not unfrequently levy contributions on the
strangers they accidentally meet; but they easily distinguish the
determined mountaineer from the incautious greenhorn, and think it
better to let the former alone.

     * Wakarusa. (Ed.)

Crossing Vermilion, the trappers arrived on the fifth day at Blue, where
they encamped in the broad timber belting the creek, and there awaited
the arrival of the remainder of the party.

It was two days before they came up; but the following day they started
for the mountains, fourteen in number, striking a trail which follows
the Big Blue in its course through the prairies, which, as they advanced
to the westward, gradually smoothed away into a vast unbroken expanse of
rolling plain. Herds of antelope began to show themselves, and some
of the hunters, leaving the trail, soon returned with plenty of their
tender meat. The luxuriant but coarse grass they had hitherto seen now
changed into the nutritious and curly buffalo grass, and their animals
soon improved in appearance on the excellent pasture. In a few days,
without any adventure, they struck the Platte River, its shallow waters
(from which it derives its name) spreading over a wide and sandy
bed, numerous sand-bars obstructing the sluggish current, nowhere
sufficiently deep to wet the forder's knee.

By this time, but few antelope having been seen, the party ran entirely
out of meat; and one whole day and part of another having passed without
so much as a stray rabbit presenting itself, not a few objurgations on
the buffalo grumbled from the lips of the hunters, who expected ere
this to have reached the land of plenty. La Bonté killed a fine deer,
however, in the river bottom, after they had encamped, not one particle
of which remained after supper that night, but which hardly took the
rough edge off their keen appetites. Although already in the buffalo
range, no traces of these animals had yet been seen-; and as the country
afforded but little game, and the party did not care to halt and lose
time in hunting for it, they moved along hungry and sulky, the theme of
conversation being the well-remembered merits of good buffalo-meat,--
of fat fleece, hump-rib, and tenderloin; of delicious "boudins," and
marrowbones too good to think of. La Bonté had never seen the lordly
animal, and consequently but half believed the accounts of the
mountaineers, who described their countless bands as covering the
prairie far as the eye could reach, and requiring days of travel to pass
through; but the visions of such dainty and abundant feeding as they
descanted on set his mouth watering, and danced before his eyes as he
slept supperless, night after night, on the banks of the hungry Platte.

One morning he had packed his animals before the rest, and was riding a
mile in advance of the party, when he saw on one side the trail, looming
in the refracted glare which mirages the plains, three large dark
objects without shape or form, which rose and fell in the exaggerated
light like ships at sea. Doubting what it could be, he approached the
strange objects; and as the refraction disappeared before him, the dark
masses assumed a more distinct form, and clearly moved with life. A
little nearer, and he made them out: they were buffalo. Thinking to
distinguish himself, the greenhorn dismounted from his mule and quickly
hobbled her, throwing his lasso on the ground to trail behind when
he wished to catch her. Then, rifle in hand, he approached the huge
animals, and, being a good hunter, knew well to take advantage of the
inequalities of the ground and face the wind; by which means he crawled
at length to within forty yards of the buffalo, which quietly cropped
the grass, unconscious of danger. Now, for the first time, he gazed upon
the noble beast he had so often heard of and longed to see.

With coal-black beard sweeping the ground as he fed, an enormous bull
was in advance of the others, his wild brilliant eyes peering from an
immense mass of shaggy hair, which covered his neck and shoulder. From
this point his skin was smooth as one's hand, a sleek and shining dun,
and his ribs were well covered with shaking flesh. Whilst leisurely
cropping the short curly grass, he occasionally lifted his tail into the
air, and stamped his foot as a fly or mosquito annoyed him--flapping
the intruder with his tail, or snatching at the itching part with his
ponderous head.

When La Bonté had sufficiently admired the buffalo, he lifted his rifle,
and, taking steady aim, and certain of his mark, pulled the trigger,
expecting to see the huge beast fall over at the report. What was his
surprise and consternation, however, to see the animal only flinch
when the ball struck him, and then gallop off, followed by the others,
apparently unhurt. As is generally the case with greenhorns, he had
fired too high, ignorant that the only certain spot to strike a buffalo
is but a few inches above the brisket, and that a higher shot is rarely
fatal. When he rose from the ground he saw all the party halting in full
view of his discomfiture; and when he joined them, loud were the laughs,
and deep the regrets of the hungry at his first attempt.

However, they now knew that they were in the country of meat; and a few
miles farther, another band of stragglers presenting themselves, three
of the hunters went in pursuit, La Bonté taking a mule to pack in the
meat. He soon saw them crawling towards the band, and shortly two puffs
of smoke, and the sharp cracks of their rifles, showed that they had got
within shot; and when he rode up, two fine buffaloes were stretched upon
the ground. Now, for the first time, he was initiated in the mysteries
of butchering. He watched the hunters as they turned the carcass on the
belly, stretching out the legs to support it on each side. A transverse
cut was then made at the nape of the neck, and, gathering the long hair
of the boss in one hand, the skin was separated from the shoulder. It
was then laid open from this point to the tail, along the spine, and
then, freed from the sides and pulled down to the brisket, but still
attached to it, was stretched upon the ground to receive the dissected
portions. Then the shoulder was severed, the fleece removed from along
the backbone, and the hump-ribs cut off with a tomahawk. All this was
placed upon the skin; and after the "boudins" had been withdrawn from
the stomach, and the tongue--a great dainty--taken from the head, the
meat was packed upon the mule, and the whole party hurried to camp
rejoicing.

There was merry-making in the camp that night, and the way they indulged
their appetites--or, in their own language, "throwed" the meat "cold"--
would have made the heart of a dyspeptic leap for joy or burst with
envy. Far into the "still watches of the tranquil night," the fat-clad
"dépouillé" saw its fleshy mass grow small by degrees and beautifully
less before the trenchant blades of the hungry mountaineers; appetizing
yards of well-browned "boudin" slipped glibly down their throats; rib
after rib of tender hump was picked and flung to the wolves; and when
human nature, with helpless gratitude, and confident that nothing of
superexcellent comestibility remained, was lazily wiping the greasy
knife that had done such good service, a skillful hunter was seen to
chuckle to himself as he raked the deep ashes of the fire, and drew
therefrom a pair of tongues so admirably baked, so soft, so sweet, and
of such exquisite flavor, that a veil is considerately drawn over the
effects their discussion produced in the mind of our greenhorn La
Bonté, and the raptures they excited in the bosom of that, as yet,
most ignorant mountaineer. Still, as he ate he wondered, and wondering
admired, that nature, in giving him such profound gastronomic powers,
and such transcendent capabilities of digestion, had yet bountifully
provided an edible so peculiarly adapted to his ostrich-like appetite,
that after consuming nearly his own weight in rich and fat buffalo-meat,
he felt as easy and as little incommoded as if he had lightly supped on
strawberries and cream.

Sweet was the digestive pipe after such a feast; soft was the sleep and
deep, which sealed the eyes of the contented trappers that night. It
felt like the old thing, they said, to be once more amongst the "meat";
and, as they were drawing near the dangerous portion of the trail, they
felt at home; although they now could never be confident, when they lay
down at night upon their buffalo-robes, of awaking again in this life,
knowing, as they did, full well, that savage men lurked near, thirsting
for their blood.

However, no enemies showed themselves as yet, and they proceeded quietly
up the river, vast herds of buffaloes darkening the plains around them,
affording them more than abundance of the choicest meat; but, to their
credit be it spoken, no more was killed than was absolutely required
--unlike the cruel slaughter made by most of the white travelers across
the plains, who wantonly destroy these noble animals, not even for the
excitement of sport, but in cold-blooded and insane butchery. La Bonté
had practice enough to perfect him in the art, and, before the buffalo
range was passed, he was ranked as a first-rate hunter.

One evening he had left the camp for meat, and was approaching a band
of cows for that purpose, crawling towards them along the bed of a dry
hollow in the prairie, when he observed them suddenly jump towards him,
and immediately afterwards a score of mounted Indians appeared, whom,
by their dress, he at once knew to be Pawnees and enemies. Thinking
they might not discover him, he crouched down in the ravine; but a
noise behind caused him to turn his head, and he saw some five or six
advancing up the bed of the dry creek, whilst several more were riding
on the bluffs. The cunning savages had cut off his retreat to his mule,
which he saw in the possession of one of them. His presence of mind,
however, did not desert him; and seeing at once that to remain where he
was would be like being caught in a trap (as the Indians could advance
to the edge of the bluff and shoot him from above), he made for the open
prairie, determined at least to sell his scalp dearly, and make a good
fight. With a yell the Indians charged, but halted when they saw
the sturdy trapper deliberately kneel, and, resting his rifle on the
wiping-stick, take a steady aim as they advanced. Full well the Pawnees
know, to their cost, that a mountaineer seldom pulls his trigger without
sending a bullet to the mark; and, certain that one at least must fall,
they hesitated to make the onslaught. Steadily the white retreated with
his face to the foe, bringing the rifle to his shoulder the instant that
one advanced within shot, the Indians galloping round, firing the few
guns they had amongst them at long distances, but without effect. One
young brave, more daring than the rest, rode out of the crowd, and
dashed at the hunter, throwing himself, as he passed within a few yards,
from the saddle, and hanging over the opposite side of his horse, thus
presenting no other mark than his left foot. As he crossed La Bonté, he
discharged his bow from under his horse's neck, and with such good
aim, that the arrow, whizzing through the air, struck the stock of the
hunter's rifle, which was at his shoulder, and, glancing off, pierced
his arm, inflicting, luckily, but a slight wound. Again the Indian
turned in his course, the others encouraging him with loud war-whoops,
and once more, passing at still less distance, he drew his arrow to
the head. This time, however, the eagle eye of the white detected the
action, and suddenly rising from his knee as the Indian approached
(hanging by his foot alone over the opposite side of the horse), he
jumped towards the animal with outstretched arms and a loud yell,
causing it to start suddenly, and swerve from its course. The Indian
lost his foot-hold, and, after a fruitless struggle to regain his
position, fell to the ground; but instantly rose upon his feet and
gallantly confronted the mountaineer, striking his hand upon his brawny
chest and shouting a loud whoop of defiance. In another instant the
rifle of La Bonté had poured forth its contents; and the brave savage,
springing into the air, fell dead to the ground, just as the other
trappers, who had heard the firing, galloped up to the spot. At sight
of them the Pawnees, with yells of disappointed vengeance, hastily
retreated.

That night La Bonté first lifted hair!

A few days after, the mountaineers reached the point where the Platte
divides into two great forks: the northern one, stretching to the
north-west, skirts the eastern base of the Black Hills, and, sweeping
round to the south, rises in the vicinity of the mountain valley called
the New Park, receiving the Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Sweetwater
creeks. The other, or South Fork, strikes towards the mountains in a
south-westerly direction, hugging the base of the main chain of the
Rocky Mountains; and, fed by several small creeks, rises in the uplands
of the Bayou Salade, near which is also the source of the Arkansa. To
the forks of the Platte the valley of that river extends from three
to five miles on each side, inclosed by steep sandy bluffs, from the
summits of which the prairies stretch away in broad undulating expanse
to the north and south. The bottom, as it is termed, is but thinly
covered with timber, the cotton woods being scattered only here and
there; but some of the islands in the broad bed of the stream are well
wooded, leading to the inference that the trees on the banks have been
felled by Indians who formerly frequented the neighborhood of this river
as a chosen hunting-ground. As, during the long winters, the pasture in
the vicinity is scarce and withered, the Indians feed their horses on
the bark of the sweet cotton wood, upon which they subsist, and even
fatten. Thus, wherever a village has encamped, the trunks of these trees
strew the ground, their upper limbs and smaller branches peeled of their
bark, and looking as white and smooth as if scraped with a knife.

On the forks, however, the timber is heavier and of greater variety,
some of the creeks being well wooded with ash and cherry, which break
the monotony of the everlasting cotton wood.

Dense masses of buffalo still continued to darken the plains, and
numerous bands of wolves hovered round the outskirts of the vast herds,
singling out the sick and wounded animals, and preying upon such calves
as the rifles and arrows of the hunters had bereaved of their mothers.
The white wolf is the invariable attendant upon the buffalo; and when
one of these persevering animals is seen, it is a certain sign that
buffalo are not far distant. Besides the buffalo wolf, there are four
distinct varieties common to the plains, and all more or less attendant
upon the buffalo. These are, the black, the gray, the brown, and,
last and least, the _coyote or cayeute_ of the mountaineers, the
_wachunkamànet_, or "medicine wolf" of the Indians, who hold the latter
animal in reverential awe. This little wolf, whose fur is of great
thickness and beauty, is of diminutive size, but wonderfully sagacious,
making up by cunning what it wants in physical strength. In bands of
from three to thirty they not unfrequently station themselves along
the "runs" of the deer and the antelope, extending their line for many
miles; and the quarry being started, each wolf follows in pursuit until
tired, when it relinquishes the chase to another relay, following slowly
after until the animal is fairly run down, when all hurry to the spot
and speedily consume the carcass. The cayeute, however, is often made a
tool of by his larger brethren, unless, indeed, he acts from motives of
spontaneous charity. When a hunter has slaughtered game, and is in
the act of butchering it, these little wolves sit patiently at a short
distance from the scene of operations, while at a more respectful one
the larger wolves (the white or gray) lope hungrily around, licking
their chops in hungry expectation. Not unfrequently the hunter throws
a piece of meat towards the smaller one, who seizes it immediately, and
runs off with the morsel in his mouth. Before he gets many yards
with his prize, the large wolf pounces with a growl upon him, and the
cayeute, dropping the meat, returns to his former position, and will
continue his charitable act as long as the hunter pleases to supply him.

Wolves are so common on the plains and in the mountains, that the hunter
never cares to throw away a charge of ammunition upon them, although the
ravenous animals are a constant source of annoyance to him, creeping
to the camp-fire at night, and gnawing his saddles and _apishamores_,
eating the skin ropes which secure the horses and mules to their
pickets, and even their very hobbles, and not unfrequently killing or
entirely disabling the animals themselves.

Round the camp, during the night, the cayeute keeps unremitting watch,
and the traveler not unfrequently starts from his bed with affright, as
the mournful and unearthly chiding of the wolf breaks suddenly upon his
ear: the long-drawn howl being taken up by others of the band, until
it dies away in the distance, or some straggler passing within hearing
answers to the note, and howls as he lopes away.

Our party crossed the south fork about ten miles from its juncture with
the main stream, and then, passing the prairie, struck the north fork a
day's travel from the other. At the mouth of an ash-timbered creek they
came upon Indian "sign," and as now they were in the vicinity of the
treacherous Sioux, they moved along with additional caution, Frapp and
Gonneville, two experienced mountaineers, always heading the advance.

About noon they had crossed over to the left bank of the fork, intending
to camp on a large creek where some fresh beaver sign had attracted the
attention of some of the trappers; and as, on further examination, it
appeared that two or three lodges of that animal were not far distant,
it was determined to remain here a day or two, and set their traps.

Gonneville, old Luke, and La Bonté, had started up the creek, and were
carefully examining the banks for sign, when the former, who was in
front, suddenly paused, and, looking intently up the stream, held up his
hand to his companions to signal them to stop.

Luke and La Bonté both followed the direction of the trapper's intent
and fixed gaze. The former uttered in a suppressed tone the expressive
exclamation, Wagh!--the latter saw nothing but a wood-duck swimming
swiftly down the stream, followed by her downy progeny.

Gonneville turned his head, and, extending his arm twice with a forward
motion up the creek, whispered, "Les sauvages."

"Injuns, sure, and Sioux at that," answered Luke.

Still La Bonté looked, but nothing met his view but the duck with her
brood, now rapidly approaching; and as he gazed, the bird suddenly took
wing, and, flapping on the water, flew a short distance down the stream
and once more settled on it.

"Injuns?" he asked; "where are they?"

"Whar?" repeated old Luke, striking the flint of his rifle, and opening
the pan to examine the priming. "What brings a duck a-streakin' it down
stream if humans ain't behint her? and who's thar in these diggins but
Injuns, and the worst kind? and we'd better push to camp, I'm thinking,
if we mean to save our hair."

"Sign" sufficient, indeed, it was to all the trappers, who, on being
apprised of it, instantly drove in their animals and picketed them; and
hardly had they done so when a band of Indians made their appearance
on the banks of the creek, from whence they galloped to the bluff which
overlooked the camp at the distance of about six hundred yards; and
crowning this in number some forty or more, commenced brandishing their
spears and guns, and whooping loud yells of defiance. The trappers had
formed a little breastwork of their packs, forming a semicircle, the
chord of which was made by the animals standing in a line, side by
side, closely picketed and hobbled. Behind this defense stood the
mountaineers, rifle in hand, and silent and determined. The Indians
presently descended the bluff on foot, leaving their animals in charge
of a few of the party, and, scattering, advanced, under cover of the
sage-bushes which dotted the bottom, to about two hundred yards of the
whites. Then a chief advanced before the rest, and made the sign for
a talk with the Long-knives, which led to a consultation amongst the
latter as to the policy of acceding to it. They were in doubts as to
the nation these Indians belonged to, some bands of the Sioux being
friendly, and others bitterly hostile, to the whites.

Gonneville, who spoke the Sioux language, and was well acquainted with
the nation, affirmed they belonged to a band called the Yanka-taus,
* well known to be the most evil-disposed of that treacherous nation;
another of the party maintained they were Brûlés, and that the chief
advancing towards them was the well-known Tah-sha-tunga or Bull Tail,
a most friendly chief of that tribe. The majority, however, trusted to
Gonneville, and he volunteered to go out to meet the Indian, and
hear what he had to say. Divesting himself of all arms save his
butcher-knife, he advanced towards the savage, who awaited his approach
enveloped in the folds of his blanket. At a glance he knew him to be a
Yanka-tau, from the peculiar make of his moccasins, and the way in which
his face was daubed with paint.

     * Yanktons. (Ed.)

"Howgh!" exclaimed both as they met; and, after a silence of a few
moments, the Indian spoke, asking--"Why the Long-knives hid behind their
packs when his band approached? Were they afraid, or were they preparing
a dog-feast to entertain their friends? The whites were passing through
his country, burning his wood, drinking his water, and killing his game;
but he knew they had now come to pay for the mischief they had done, and
that the mules and horses they had brought with them were intended as a
present to their red friends.

"He was Mah-to-ga-shane," he said, "the Brave Bear: his tongue was
short, but his arm long; and he loved rather to speak with his bow
and his lance than with the weapon of a squaw. He had said it: the
Long-knives had horses with them and mules; and these were for him, he
knew, and for his braves. Let the White-face go back to his people and
return with the animals, or he, the Brave Bear, would have to come and
take them; and his young men would get mad and would feel blood in their
eyes; and then he would have no power over them; and the whites would
have to go under."

The trapper answered shortly. "The Long-knives," he said, "had brought
the horses for themselves--their hearts were big, but not towards the
Yanka-taus; and if they had to give up their animals, it would be to
_men_ and not _squaws_. They were not 'wah-keitcha' * (French engages),
but Long-knives; and, however short were the tongues of the Yanka-taus,
theirs were still shorter, and their rifles longer. The Yanka-taus were
dogs and squaws, and the Long-knives spat upon them."

     * The French Canadians are called wah-keitcha--"bad
     medicine"--by the Indians, who account them treacherous and
     vindictive, and at the same time less daring than the
     American hunters.

Saying this, the trapper turned his back and rejoined his companions;
whilst the Indian slowly proceeded to his people, who, on learning the
contemptuous way in which their threats had been treated, testified
their anger with loud yells; and, seeking whatever cover was afforded,
commenced a scattering volley upon the camp of the mountaineers. The
latter reserved their fire, treating with cool indifference the balls
which began to rattle about them; but as the Indians, emboldened by
this apparent inaction, rushed for a closer position, and exposed their
bodies within a long range, half-a-dozen rifles rang from the assailed,
and two Indians fell dead, one or two more being wounded. As yet, not
one of the whites had been touched, but several of the animals had
received wounds from the enemy's fire of balls and arrows. Indeed, the
Indians remained at too great a distance to render the volleys from
their crazy fusees anything like effectual, and had to raise their
pieces considerably to make their bullets reach as far as the camp.
After three of their band had been killed outright, and many more
wounded, their fire began to slacken, and they drew off to a greater
distance, evidently resolved to beat a retreat. Retiring to the bluff,
they discharged their pieces in a last volley, mounted their horses
and galloped off, carrying their wounded with them. This last volley,
however, although intended as a mere bravado, unfortunately proved fatal
to one of the whites. Gonneville, at the moment, was standing on a pack,
to get an uninterrupted sight for a last shot, when one of the random
bullets struck him in the breast. La Bonté caught him in his arms as he
was about to fall, and laying the wounded trapper gently on the ground,
stripped him of his buckskin hunting-frock, to examine the wound. A
glance was sufficient to convince his companions that the blow was
mortal. The ball had passed through the lungs; and in a few moments the
throat of the wounded man swelled and turned to a livid blue color, as
the choking blood ascended. Only a few drops of purple blood trickled
from the wound--a fatal sign--and the eyes of the mountaineer were
already glazing with death's icy touch. His hand still grasped the
barrel of his rifle, which had done good service in the fray. Anon he
essayed to speak, but, choked with blood, only a few inarticulate words
reached the ears of his companions as they bent over him.

"Rubbed--out--at--last," they heard him say, the words gurgling in his
blood-filled throat; and opening his eyes once more, and turning them
upwards for a last look at the bright sun, the trapper turned gently on
his side and breathed his last sigh.

With no other tools than their scalp-knives, the hunters dug a grave
on the banks of the creek; and whilst some were engaged in this work,
others sought the bodies of the Indians they had slain in the attack,
and presently returned with three reeking scalps, the trophies of the
fight. The body of the mountaineer was wrapped in a buffalo-robe, the
scalps being placed on his breast, and the dead man was then laid in the
shallow grave, and quickly covered--without a word of prayer or sigh of
grief; for however much his companions may have felt, not a word escaped
them. The bitten lip and frowning brow told of anger rather than of
sorrow, as they vowed--what they thought would better please the spirit
of the dead man than vain regrets--bloody and lasting revenge.

Tramping down the earth which filled the grave, they raised upon it a
pile of heavy stones; and packing their mules once more, and taking a
last look at their comrade's lonely resting-place, they turned their
backs upon the stream, which has ever since been known as Gonneville's
Creek.

If the reader casts his eye over any of the recent maps of the western
country which detail the features of the regions embracing the Rocky
Mountains and the vast prairies at their bases, he will not fail to
observe that many of the creeks or smaller streams which feed the larger
rivers--as the Missouri, Platte, and Arkansa--are called by familiar
proper names, both English and French. These are invariably christened
after some unfortunate trapper killed there in Indian fight, or
treacherously slaughtered by the lurking savages, while engaged in
trapping beaver on the stream. Thus alone is the memory of these hardy
men perpetuated, at least of those whose fate is ascertained; for many,
in every season, never return from their hunting expeditions, but meet
a sudden death from Indians, or a more lingering fate from accident or
disease in some lonely gorge of the mountains, where no footfall save
their own, or the heavy tread of the grizzly bear, disturbs the unbroken
silence of the awful solitude. Then, as many winters pass without some
old familiar faces making their appearance at the merry rendezvous,
their long-protracted absence may perhaps elicit a remark, as to where
such and such a mountain worthy can have betaken himself; to which the
casual rejoinder of "Gone under, maybe," too often gives a short but
certain answer.

In all the philosophy of hardened hearts, our hunters turned from the
spot where the unmourned trapper met his death. La Bonté, however, not
yet entirely steeled by mountain life to a perfect indifference to human
feeling, drew his hard hand across his eye, as the unbidden tear rose
from his rough but kindly heart. He could not forget so soon the comrade
he had lost; the companion in the hunt or over the cheerful campfire;
the narrator of many a tale of dangers past--of sufferings from
hunger, cold, thirst, and untended wounds--of Indian perils, and other
vicissitudes. One tear dropped from the young hunter's eye, and rolled
down his cheek--the last for many a long year.

In the forks of the northern branch of the Platte, formed by the
junction of the Laramie, they found a big village of the Sioux encamped
near the station of one of the fur companies. Here the party broke up;
many, finding the alcohol of the traders an impediment to their further
progress, remained some time in the vicinity, while La Bonté, Luke, and
a trapper named Marcelline, started in a few days to the mountains,
to trap on Sweetwater and Medicine Bow. They had leisure, however, to
observe all the rascalities connected with the Indian trade, although at
this season (August) hardly commenced. However, a band of Indians having
come in with several packs of last year's robes, and being anxious
to start speedily on their return, a trader from one of the forts had
erected his lodge in the village.

Here he set to work immediately to induce the Indians to trade. First,
a chief appoints three "soldiers" to guard the trader's lodge from
intrusion; and these sentries amongst the thieving fraternity can be
invariably trusted. Then the Indians are invited to have a drink--a
taste of the fire-water being given to all to incite them to trade.
As the crowd presses upon the entrance to the lodge, and those in rear
become impatient, some large-mouthed savage who has received a portion
of the spirit makes his way, with his mouth full of the liquor and
cheeks distended, through the throng, and is instantly surrounded by his
particular friends. Drawing the face of each, by turns, near his own,
he squirts a small quantity into his open mouth, until the supply
is exhausted, when he returns for more, and repeats the generous
distribution.

When paying for the robes, the traders, in measuring out the liquor in
a tin half-pint cup, thrust their thumbs or the four fingers of the
hand into the measure, in order that it may contain the less, or not
unfrequently fill the bottom with melted buffalo fat, with the same
object. So greedy are the Indians that they never discover the cheat,
and, once under the influence of the liquor, cannot distinguish between
the first cup of comparatively strong spirit, and the following ones
diluted five hundred per cent., and poisonously drugged to boot.

Scenes of drunkenness, riot, and bloodshed last until the trade is over.
In the winter it occupies several weeks, during which period the Indians
present the appearance, under the demoralizing influence of the liquor,
of demons rather than of men.



CHAPTER IV

|LA BONTE and his companions proceeded up the river, the Black Hills on
their left hand, from which several small creeks or feeders swell the
waters of the North Fork. Along these they hunted unsuccessfully for
beaver sign, and it was evident the spring hunt had almost exterminated
the animal in this vicinity. Following Deer Creek to the ridge of the
Black Hills, they crossed the mountain on to the waters of the Medicine
Bow, and here they discovered a few lodges, and La Bonté set his first
trap. He and old Luke finding cuttings near the camp, followed the
sign along the bank, until the practiced eye of the latter discovered
a slide, where the beaver had ascended the bank to chop the trunk of
a cottonwood, and convey the bark to its lodge. Taking a trap from his
sack, the old hunter, after setting the trigger, placed it carefully
under the water, where the slide entered the stream, securing the chain
to the stem of a sapling on the bank; while a stick, also attached to
the trap by a thong, floated down the stream, to mark the position of
the trap should the animal carry it away. A little further on, and near
another run, three traps were set; and over these Luke placed a little
stick, which he first dipped into a mysterious-looking phial containing
his "medicine." *

     * A substance obtained from a gland in the scrotum of the
     beaver, and used to attract that animal to the trap.


The next morning they visited the traps, and had the satisfaction of
finding three fine beaver secured in the first three they visited,
and the fourth, which had been carried away, they discovered by the
float-stick a little distance down the stream, with a large drowned
beaver between its teeth.

The animals being carefully skinned, they returned to camp with the
choicest portions of the meat, and the tails, on which they most
luxuriously supped; and La Bonté was fain to confess that all his
ideas of the superexcellence of buffalo were thrown in the shade by the
delicious beaver-tail, the rich meat of which he was compelled to allow
was "great eating," unsurpassed by tenderloin or "boudin," or other meat
of whatever kind he had eaten of before.

The country where La Bonté and his companions were trapping is very
curiously situated in the extensive bend of the Platte which incloses
the Black Hill range on the north, and which bounds the large expanse of
broken tract known as the Laramie Plains, their southern limit being the
base of the Medicine Bow Mountains. From the north-western corner of
the bend, an inconsiderable range extends to the westward, gradually
increasing in height until it reaches an elevated plain, which forms a
break in the stupendous chain of the Rocky Mountains, and affords the
easy passage now known as the Great, or South Pass. So gradual is the
ascent of this portion of the mountain, that the traveler can scarcely
believe he is crossing the dividing ridge between the waters which flow
into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and that in a few minutes he
can fling two sticks into two neighboring streams, one to be carried
thousands of miles, traversed by the eastern waters in their course to
the Gulf of Mexico, the other to be borne a lesser distance to the Gulf
of California.

The country is frequented by the Crows and Snakes, who are at perpetual
war with the Shians and Sioux, following them often far down the Platte,
where many bloody battles have taken place. The Crows are esteemed
friendly to the whites; but when on war expeditions, and "hair" their
object, it is always dangerous to fall in with Indian war-parties, and
particularly in the remote regions of the mountains, where they do not
anticipate retaliation.

Trapping with tolerable success in this vicinity, the hunters crossed
over, as soon as the premonitory storms of approaching winter warned
them to leave the mountains, to the waters of Green River, one of the
affluents of the Colorado, intending to winter at a rendezvous to be
held in Brown's Hole--an inclosed valley so called--which, abounding
in game, and sheltered on every side by lofty mountains, is a favorite
wintering-ground of the mountaineers. Here they found several trapping
bands already arrived; and a trader from the Uintah country, with store
of powder, lead, and tobacco, prepared to ease them of their hard-earned
peltries.

Singly, and in bands numbering from two to ten, the trappers dropped
into the rendezvous; some with many pack-loads of beaver, others with
greater or less quantity, and more than one on foot, having lost his
animals and peltry by Indian thieving. Here were soon congregated many
mountaineers, whose names are famous in the history of the Far West.
Fitzpatrick and Hatcher, and old Bill Williams, well-known leaders of
trapping parties, soon arrived with their bands. Sublette came in with
his men from Yellow Stone, and many of Wyeth's New Englanders were
there. Chabonard with his half-breeds, Wah-keitchas all, brought his
peltries from the lower country; and half-a-dozen Shawanee and Delaware
Indians, with a Mexican from Taos, one Marcelline, a fine strapping
fellow, the best trapper and hunter in the mountains, and ever first in
the fight. Here, too, arrived the "Bourgeois" traders of the "North West
* Company," with their superior equipments, ready to meet their trappers,
and purchase the beaver at an equitable value; and soon the trade
opened, and the encampment assumed a busy appearance.

     * The Hudson's Bay Company is so called by the American
     trappers.

A curious assemblage did the rendezvous present, and representatives of
many a land met there. A son of _la belle France_ here lit his pipe from
one proffered by a native of New Mexico. An Englishman and a Sandwich
Islander cut a quid from the same plug of tobacco. A Swede and an old
Virginian puffed together. A Shawanee blew a peaceful cloud with a scion
of the Six Nations. One from the Land of Cakes--a canny chiel--sought
to "great round" (in trade) a right "smart" Yankee, but couldn't
"shine."

The beaver went briskly, six dollars being the price paid per lb. in
goods--for money is seldom given in the mountain market, where beaver is
cash, for which the articles supplied by the traders are bartered. In a
very short time peltries of every description had changed hands, either
by trade, or by gambling with cards and betting. With the mountain-men
bets decide every question that is raised, even the most trivial; and if
the editor of "Bell's Life" were to pay one of these rendezvous a winter
visit, he would find the broad sheet of his paper hardly capacious
enough to answer all the questions which would be referred to his
decision.

Before the winter was over, La Bonté had lost all traces of civilized
humanity, and might justly claim to be considered as "hard a case" as
any of the mountaineers then present. Long before the spring opened,
he had lost all the produce of his hunt and both his animals, which,
however, by a stroke of luck, he recovered, and wisely held on to for
the future. Right glad when spring appeared, he started from Brown's
Hole, with four companions, to hunt the Uintah or Snake country, and the
affluents of the larger streams which rise in that region and fall into
the Gulf of California.

In the valley of the Bear River they found beaver abundant, and trapped
their way westward until they came upon the famed locality of the Beer
and Soda Springs--natural fountains of mineral water, renowned amongst
the trappers as being "medicine" of the first order.

Arriving one evening, about sundown, at the Bear Spring, they found a
solitary trapper sitting over the rocky basin, intently regarding, with
no little awe, the curious phenomenon of the bubbling gas. Behind him
were piled his saddles and a pack of skins, and at a little distance a
hobbled Indian pony fed amongst the cedars which formed a grove round
the spring. As the three hunters dismounted from their animals, the lone
trapper scarcely noticed their arrival, his eyes being still intently
fixed upon the water. Looking round at last, he was instantly recognized
by one of La Bonté's companions, and saluted as "Old Rube." Dressed from
head to foot in buckskin, his face, neck, and hands appeared to be of
the same leathery texture, so nearly did they assimilate in color to
the materials of his dress. He was at least six feet two or three in his
moccasins, straight-limbed and wiry, with long arms ending in hands of
tremendous grasp, and a quantity of straight black hair hanging on his
shoulders. His features, which were undeniably good, wore an expression
of comical gravity, never relaxing into a smile, which a broad
good-humored mouth could have grinned from ear to ear.

"What, boys!" he said, "will you be simple enough to camp here alongside
these springs? Nothing good ever came of sleeping here, I tell you, and
the worst kind of devils are in those dancing waters."

"Why, old hoss," cried La Bonté, "what brings you hyar then, and camp at
that?"

"This nigger," answered Rube, solemnly, "has been down'd upon a sight
too often to be skeared by what can come out from them waters; and thar
am't a devil as hisses thar as can shine with this child, I tell you.
I've tried him onest, an' fout him to clawin' away to Eustis; * and if
I draws my knife again on such varmint, I'll raise his hair, as sure as
shootin'."

     * A small lake near the head-waters of the Yellow Stone,
     near which are some curious thermal springs of ink-black
     water.

Spite of the reputed dangers of the locality, the trappers camped on the
spot, and many a draught of the delicious sparkling water they quaffed
in honor of the "medicine" of the fount. Rube, however, sat sulky and
silent, his huge form bending over his legs, which were crossed, Indian
fashion, under him, and his long bony fingers spread over the fire,
which had been made handy to the spring. At last they elicited from
him that he had sought this spot for the purpose of "_making medicine_"
having been persecuted by extraordinary ill-luck, even at this early
period of his hunt--the Indians having stolen two out of his three
animals, and three of his half-dozen traps. He had therefore sought
the springs for the purpose of invoking the fountain spirits, which, a
perfect Indian in his simple heart, he implicitly believed to inhabit
their mysterious waters. When the others had, as he thought, fallen
asleep, La Bonté observed the ill-starred trapper take from his pouch a
curiously-carved red stone pipe, which he carefully charged with tobacco
and kinnik-kinnik. Then approaching the spring, he walked three times
round it, and gravely sat himself down. Striking fire with his flint and
steel, he lit his pipe, and bending the stem three several times towards
the water, he inhaled a vast quantity of smoke, and bending back his
neck and looking upwards, puffed it into the air. He then blew another
puff towards the four points of the compass, and emptying the pipe into
his hand, cast the consecrated contents into the spring, saying a few
Indian "medicine" words of cabalistic import. Having performed the
ceremony to his satisfaction, he returned to the fire, smoked a pipe on
his own hook, and turned into his buffalo-robe, conscious of having done
a most important duty.

In the course of their trapping expedition, and accompanied by Rube,
who knew the country well, they passed near the Great Salt Lake, a vast
inland sea, whose salitrose waters cover an extent of upwards of one
hundred and forty miles in length, by eighty in breadth. Fed by several
streams, of which the Big Bear River is the most considerable, this
lake presents the curious phenomenon of a vast body of water without any
known outlet. According to the trappers, an island, from which rises a
chain of lofty mountains, nearly divides the north-western portion of
the lake, whilst a smaller one, within twelve miles of the northern
shore, rises six hundred feet from the level of the water. Rube declared
to his companions that the larger island was known by the Indians to be
inhabited by a race of giants, with whom no communication had ever been
held by mortal man; and but for the casual wafting to the shores of the
lake of logs of gigantic trees, cut by axes of extraordinary size, the
world would never have known that such a people existed. They were,
moreover, white as themselves, and lived upon corn and fruits, and rode
on elephants, &c.

Whilst following a small creek at the southwest extremity of the lake,
they came upon a band of miserable Indians, who, from the fact of their
subsisting chiefly on roots, are called the Diggers. At first sight
of the whites they immediately fled from their wretched huts, and made
towards the mountains; but one of the trappers, galloping up on his
horse, cut off their retreat, and drove them like sheep before him back
to their village. A few of these wretched creatures came into camp at
sundown, and were regaled with such meat as the larder afforded. They
appeared to have no other food in their village but bags of dried
ants and their larvae, and a few roots of the yampah. Their huts
were constructed of a few bushes of greasewood, piled up as a sort of
windbreak, in which they huddled in their filthy skins. During the night
they crawled up to the camp and stole two of the horses, and the next
morning not a sign of them was visible. Now La Bonté witnessed a case of
mountain law, and the practical effects of the _lex talionis_ of the Far
West.

The trail of the runaway Diggers bore to the north-west, or along the
skirt of a barren waterless desert, which stretches far away from the
southern shores of the Salt Lake to the borders of Upper California.
La Bonté, with three others, determined to follow the thieves, recover
their animals, and then rejoin the other two (Luke and Rube) on a creek
two days' journey from their present camp. Starting at sunrise, they
rode on at a rapid pace all day, closely following the trail, which led
directly to the north-west, through a wretched sandy country, without
game or water. From the appearance of the track, the Indians must still
have been several hours ahead of them, when the fatigue of their horses,
suffering from want of grass and water, compelled them to camp near the
head of a small water-course, where they luckily found a hole containing
a little water, and whence a broad Indian trail passed, apparently
frequently used. Long before daylight they were again in the saddle,
and, after proceeding a few miles, saw the lights of several fires a
short distance ahead of them. Halting here, one of the party advanced on
foot to reconnoiter, and presently returned with the intelligence that
the party they were in pursuit of had joined a village numbering thirty
or forty huts.

Loosening their girths, they permitted their tired animals to feed
on the scanty herbage which presented itself, whilst they refreshed
themselves with a pipe of tobacco--for they had no meat of any
description with them, and the country afforded no game. As the first
streak of dawn appeared in the east, they mounted their horses, after
first examining their rifles, and moved cautiously towards the Indian
village. As it was scarcely light enough for their operations, they
waited behind a sandhill in the vicinity until objects became more
distinct; and then, emerging from their cover with loud war-whoops, they
charged abreast into the midst of the village.

As the frightened Indians were scarcely risen from their beds, no
opposition was given to the daring mountaineers, who, rushing upon
the flying crowd, discharged their rifles at close quarters, and then,
springing from their horses, attacked them knife in hand, and only
ceased the work of butchery when nine Indians lay dead upon the ground.
All this time the women, half dead with fright, were huddled together on
the ground, howling piteously; and the mountaineers, advancing to them,
whirled their lassos round their heads, and, throwing the open nooses
into the midst, hauled out three of them, and securing their arms in the
rope, bound them to a tree, and then proceeded to scalp the dead bodies.
Whilst they were engaged in this work, an old Indian, withered and
grisly, and hardly bigger than an ape, suddenly emerged from a rock,
holding in his left hand a bow and a handful of arrows, whilst one was
already drawn to the head. Running towards them, and almost before the
hunters were aware of his presence, he discharged an arrow at a few
yards' distance, which buried itself in the ground not a foot from La
Bonté's head as he bent over the body of the Indian he was scalping; and
hardly had the whiz ceased, when whirr flew another, striking him in his
right shoulder. Before the Indian could fit a third arrow to his bow, La
Bonté sprang upon him, seized him by the middle, and spinning his pigmy
form round his head as easily as he would have twirled a tomahawk, he
threw him with tremendous force on the ground at the feet of one of
his companions, who, stooping down, coolly thrust his knife into the
Indian's breast, and quickly tore off his scalp.

The slaughter over, without casting an eye to the captive squaws, the
trappers proceeded to search the village for food, of which they stood
much in need. Nothing, however, was found but a few bags of dried ants,
which, after eating voraciously of, but with wry mouths, they threw
aside, saying the food was worse than "poor bull." They found, however,
the animals they had been robbed of, and two more besides--wretched
half-starved creatures; and on these mounting their captives, they
hurried away on their journey back to their companions, the distance
being computed at three days' travel from their present position.
However, they thought, by taking a more direct course, they might find
better pasture for their animals, and water, besides saving at least
half a day by the short cut.

To their cost, they proved the old saying, that "a short cut is always a
long road," as will be presently shown.

It has been said that from the south-western extremity of the Great
Salt Lake a vast desert extends for hundreds of miles, unbroken by the
slightest vegetation, destitute of game and water, and presenting a
cheerless expanse of sandy plain or rugged mountain, thinly covered
with dwarf pine or cedar, the only evidence of vegetable life. Into this
desert, ignorant of the country, the trappers struck, intending to make
their short cut; and, traveling on all day, were compelled to camp
at night without water or pasture for their exhausted animals, and
themselves ravenous with hunger and parched with thirst. The next
day three of their animals gave out, and they were fain to leave them
behind; but imagining that they must soon strike a creek, they pushed on
until noon, but still no water presented itself, nor a sign of game of
any description. The animals were nearly exhausted, and a horse which
could scarcely keep up with the slow pace of the others was killed, and
its blood greedily drunk--a portion of the flesh being eaten raw, and a
supply carried with them for future emergencies.

The next morning two of the horses lay dead at their pickets, and one
only remained, and this in such a miserable state that it could not
possibly have traveled six miles further. It was therefore killed,
and its blood drunk, of which, however, the captive squaws refused to
partake. The men began to feel the effects of their consuming thirst,
which the hot horse's blood only served to increase; their lips became
parched and swollen, their eyes bloodshot, and a giddy sickness seized
them at intervals. About mid-day they came in sight of a mountain
on their right hand, which appeared to be more thickly clothed with
vegetation; and arguing from this that water would be found there, they
left their course and made towards it, although some eight or ten miles
distant. On arriving at the base, the most minute search failed to
discover the slightest traces of water, and the vegetation merely
consisted of dwarf pinon and cedar. With their sufferings increased
by the exertion they had used in reaching the mountain, they once more
sought the trail, but every step told on their exhausted frames. The
sun was very powerful; the sand over which they floundered was deep and
heavy; and, to complete their sufferings, a high wind blew it in their
faces, filling their mouths and noses with its searching particles.

Still they struggled onwards manfully, and not a murmur was heard until
their hunger had entered the _second stage_ upon the road to starvation.
They had now been three days without food or water, under which
privation nature can hardly sustain herself for a much longer period.

On the fourth morning the men looked wolfish, their captives following
behind in sullen and perfect indifference, occasionally stooping down to
catch a beetle if one presented itself, and greedily devouring it. A
man named Forey, * a Canadian half-breed, was the first to complain.
"If this lasted another sundown," he said, "some of them would be rubbed
out; that meat had to be raised anyhow; and for his part, he knew where
to look for a feed, if no game was seen before they put out of camp on
the morrow; and meat was meat, anyhow they fixed it."

     * Also known as Furey. (Ed.)

No answer was made to this, though his companions well understood him:
their natures as yet revolted against the last expedient. As for the
three squaws, all of them young girls, they followed behind their
captors without a word of complaint, and with the stoical indifference
to pain and suffering which alike characterizes the haughty Delaware
of the North and the miserable stunted Digger of the deserts of the
Far West. On the morning of the fifth day the party were seated round a
small fire of pinon, hardly able to rise and commence their journey, the
squaws squatting over another at a little distance, when Forey commenced
again to suggest that, if nothing offered, they must either take the
alternative of starving to death--for they could not hope to last
another day:--or have recourse to the revolting extremity of
sacrificing one of the party to save the lives of all. To this, however,
there was a murmur of dissent, and it was finally resolved that all
should sally out and hunt, for a deer-track had been discovered near the
camp, which, although it was not a fresh one, proved that there must be
game in the vicinity. Weak and exhausted as they were, they took their
rifles and started for the neighboring uplands, each taking a different
direction.

It was nearly sunset when La Bonté returned to the camp, where he
already espied one of his companions engaged in cooking something over
the fire. Hurrying to the spot, overjoyed with the anticipations of a
feast, he observed that the squaws were gone; but, at the same time,
thought it was not improbable they had escaped during their absence.
Approaching the fire, he observed Forey broiling some meat on the
embers, whilst at a little distance lay what he fancied was the carcass
of a deer.

"Hurrah, boy!" he exclaimed, as he drew near the fire. "You've made a
raise, I see."

"_Well_, I have," rejoined the other, turning his meat with the point of
his butcher-knife. "There's the meat, hoss--help yourself."

La Bonté drew his knife from the scabbard, and approached the spot
his companion was pointing to; but what was his horror to see the yet
quivering body of one of the Indian squaws, with a large portion of
the flesh butchered from it, part of which Forey was already greedily
devouring. The knife dropped from his hand, and his heart rose to his
throat.

The next day he and his companion struck the creek where Rube and the
other trapper had agreed to await them, and found them in camp with
plenty of meat, and about to start again on their hunt, having given up
the others for lost. From the day they parted, nothing was ever heard
of La Bonté's other two companions, who doubtless fell a prey to utter
exhaustion, and were unable to return to the camp. And thus ended the
Digger expedition.

It may appear almost incredible that men having civilized blood in their
veins could perpetrate such wanton and cold-blooded acts of aggression
on the wretched Indians as that detailed above; but it is fact that the
mountaineers never lose an opportunity of slaughtering these miserable
Diggers, and attacking their villages, often for the purpose of
capturing women, whom they carry off, and not unfrequently sell to
other tribes, or to each other. In these attacks neither sex nor age
is spared; and your mountaineer has as little compunction in taking
the life of an Indian woman, as he would have in sending his rifle-ball
through the brain of a Crow or Black-foot warrior.

La Bonté now found himself without animals, and fairly afoot;
consequently nothing remained for him but to seek some of the trapping
bands, and hire himself for the hunt. Luckily for him, he soon fell in
with Roubideau, on his way to Uintah, and was supplied by him with a
couple of animals; and thus equipped, he started again with a large band
of trappers, who were going to hunt on the waters of Grand River and
the Gila. Here they fell in with another nation of Indians, from which
branch out the innumerable tribes inhabiting Northern Mexico and part
of California. They were in general friendly, but lost no opportunity
of stealing horses or any articles left lying about the camp. On one
occasion, the trappers being camped on a northern affluent of the Gila,
a volley of arrows was discharged amongst them, severely wounding one or
two of the party as they sat round the camp-fires. The attack, however,
was not renewed, and the next day the camp was moved further down the
stream, where beaver was tolerably abundant. Before sundown a number of
Indians made their appearance, and, making signs of peace, were admitted
into the camp.

The trappers were all sitting at their suppers over the fires, the
Indians looking gravely on, when it was remarked that now would be a
good opportunity to retaliate upon them for the trouble their incessant
attacks had entailed upon the camp. The suggestion was highly approved
of, and instantly acted upon. Springing to their feet, the trappers
seized their rifles, and commenced the slaughter. The Indians,
panic-struck, fled without resistance, and numbers fell before the
death-dealing rifles of the mountaineers. A chief, who had been sitting
on a rock near the fire where the leader of the trappers sat, had been
singled out by the latter as the first mark for his rifle.

Placing the muzzle to his heart, he pulled the trigger, but the
Indian, with extraordinary tenacity of life, rose and grappled with his
assailant. The white was a tall powerful man, but notwithstanding the
deadly wound the Indian had received, he had his equal in strength to
contend against. The naked form of the Indian twisted and writhed in his
grasp as he sought to avoid the trapper's uplifted knife. Many of the
lat-ter's companions advanced to administer the _coup-de-grace_ to the
savage, but the trapper cried to them to keep off: "If he couldn't whip
the Injun," he said "he'd go under."

At length he succeeded in throwing him, and, plunging his knife no
less than seven times into his body, he tore off his scalp, and went in
pursuit of the flying savages. In the course of an hour or two all the
party returned, and, sitting by the fires, resumed their suppers, which
had been interrupted in the manner just described. Walker, the captain
of the band, sat down by the fire where he had been engaged in the
struggle with the Indian chief, whose body was lying within a few paces
of it. He was in the act of fighting the battle over again to one of his
companions, and was saying that the Indian had as much life in him as
a buffalo bull, when, to the horror of all present, the savage, who had
received wounds sufficient for twenty deaths, suddenly rose to a sitting
posture, the fire shedding a glowing light upon the horrid spectacle.
The face was a mass of clotted blood, which flowed from the lacerated
scalp, whilst gouts of blood streamed from eight gaping wounds in the
naked breast.

Slowly this frightful figure rose to a sitting posture, and, bending
slowly forward to the fire, the mouth was seen to open wide, and a
hollow gurgling--owg-h-h--broke from it.

"H--!" exclaimed the trapper--and jumping up, he placed a pistol to the
ghastly head, the eyes of which sternly fixed themselves on his, and,
pulling the trigger, blew the poor wretch's skull to atoms.

The Gila passes through a barren sandy country, with but little game,
and sparsely inhabited by several different tribes of the great nation
of the Apache. Unlike the rivers of this western region, this stream
is, in most parts of its course, particularly towards its upper waters,
entirely bare of timber, and the bottom, through which it runs, affords
but little of the coarsest grass.

Whilst on this stream, the trapping party lost several animals for want
of pasture, and many more from the predatory attacks of the cunning
Indians. These losses, however, they invariably made good whenever they
encountered a native village--taking care, moreover, to repay themselves
with interest whenever occasion offered.

Notwithstanding the sterile nature of the country, the trappers, during
their passage up the Gila, saw with astonishment that the arid and
barren valley had once been peopled by a race of men far superior to
the present nomad tribes who roam over it. With no little awe they gazed
upon the ruined walls of large cities, and the remains of houses, with
their ponderous beams and joists, still testifying to the skill and
industry with which they were constructed: huge ditches and irrigating
canals, now filled with rank vegetation, furrowed the plains in the
vicinity, marking the spot where once green waving maize and smiling
gardens covered what now is a bare and sandy desert. Pieces of broken
pottery, of domestic utensils, stained with bright colors, everywhere
strewed the ground; and spear and arrow heads of stone, and
quaintly-carved idols, and women's ornaments of agate and obsidian,
were picked up often by the wondering trappers, examined with childlike
curiosity, and thrown carelessly aside. *

     * The Aztecs are supposed to have built this city during
     their migration to the south: there is little doubt,
     however, but that the region extending from the Gila to the
     Great Salt Lake, and embracing the province of New Mexico,
     was the locality from which they emigrated.

A Taos Indian, who was amongst the band, was evidently impressed with
a melancholy awe as he regarded these ancient monuments of his fallen
people. At midnight he rose from his blanket and left the camp, which
was in the vicinity of the ruined city, stealthily picking his way
through the line of slumbering forms which lay around; and the watchful
sentinel observed him approach the ruins with a slow and reverential
gait. Entering the moldering walls, he gazed silently around, where in
ages past his ancestors trod proudly, a civilized race, the tradition
of which, well known to his people, served but to make their present
degraded position more galling and apparent. Cowering under the shadow
of a crumbling wall, the Indian drew his blanket over his head,
and conjured to his mind's eye the former power and grandeur of his
race--that warlike people who, forsaking their own country for causes of
which no tradition, however dim, now exists, sought in the fruitful and
teeming valleys of the south a soil and climate which their own lands
did not afford, and, displacing the wild and barbarous hordes
inhabiting the land, raised there a mighty empire, great in riches and
civilization.

The Indian bowed his head, and mourned the fallen greatness of his
tribe. Rising, he slowly drew his tattered blanket round his body, and
prepared to leave the spot, when the shadow of a moving figure, creeping
past a gap in the ruined wall through which the moonbeams played,
suddenly arrested his attention. Rigid as a statue, he stood transfixed
to the spot, thinking a former inhabitant of the city was visiting, in
a ghostly form, the scenes his body once knew so well. The bow in his
right hand shook with fear as he saw the shadow approach, but was as
tightly and steadily grasped when, on the figure emerging from the shade
of the wall, he distinguished the form of a naked Apache, armed with bow
and arrow, crawling stealthily through the gloomy ruins.

Standing undiscovered within the shadow of the wall, the Taos raised his
bow, and drew an arrow to the head, until the other, who was bending low
to keep under cover of the wall, and thus approach the sentinel standing
at a short distance, seeing suddenly the well-defined shadow on the
ground, rose upright on his legs, and, knowing escape was impossible,
threw his arms down his sides, and, drawing himself erect, exclaimed in
a suppressed tone, "Wa-g-h!"

"Wagh!" exclaimed the Taos likewise, but quickly dropped his arrow
point, and eased the bow.

"What does my brother want," he asked, "that he lopes like a wolf round
the fires of the white hunters?"

"Is my brother's skin not red?" returned the Apache, "and yet he asks
question that needs no answer. Why does the medicine-wolf follow the
buffalo and deer? For blood--and for blood the Indian follows the
treacherous white from camp to camp, to strike blow for blow, until the
deaths of those so basely killed are fully avenged."

"My brother speaks with a big heart, and his words are true; and though
the Taos and Pimo (Apache) black their faces towards each other (are
at war), here, on the graves of their common fathers, there is peace
between them. Let my brother go."

The Apache moved quickly away, and the Taos once more sought the
camp-fires of his white companions.

Following the course of the Gila to the eastward, they crossed a range
of the Sierra Madre, which is a continuation of the Rocky Mountains,
and struck the waters of the Rio del Norte below the settlements of
New Mexico. On this stream they fared well; besides trapping a great
quantity of beaver, game of all kinds abounded, and the bluffs near the
well-timbered banks of the river were covered with rich gramma grass, on
which their half-starved animals speedily improved in condition.

They remained for some weeks encamped on the right bank of the stream,
during which period they lost one of their number, shot with an arrow
whilst lying asleep within a few feet of the camp-fire.

The Navajos continually prowl along that portion of the river which
runs through the settlements of New Mexico, preying upon the cowardly
inhabitants, and running off with their cattle whenever they are exposed
in sufficient numbers to tempt them. Whilst ascending the river, the
trappers met a party of these Indians returning to their mountain homes
with a large band of mules and horses, which they had taken from one
of the Mexican towns, besides several women and children, whom they had
captured as slaves. The main body of the trappers halting, ten of the
band followed and charged upon the Indians who numbered at least sixty,
killed seven of them, and retook the prisoners and the whole cavallada
of horses and mules. Great were the rejoicings when they entered
Socorro, the town whence the women and children had been taken, and as
loud the remonstrances when, handing them over to their families, the
trappers rode on, driving fifty of the best of the rescued animals
before them, which they retained as payment for their services.
Messengers were sent on to Albuquerque with intelligence of the
proceeding; and as troops were stationed there, the commandant was
applied to, to chastise the insolent whites.

That warrior, on learning that the trappers numbered less than fifteen,
became alarmingly brave, and ordering out the whole of his disposable
force, some two hundred dragoons, sallied out to intercept the audacious
mountaineers. About noon one day, just as the latter had emerged from a
little town between Socorro and Albuquerque, they descried the imposing
force of the dragoons winding along a plain ahead. As the trappers
advanced, the officer in command halted his men, and sent out a
trumpeter to order the former to await his coming. Treating the herald
to a roar of laughter, on they went, and, as they approached the
soldiers, broke into a trot, ten of the number forming line in front
of the packed and loose animals, and, rifle in hand, charging with loud
whoops. This was enough for the New Mexicans. Before the enemy were
within shooting distance the gallant fellows turned tail, and splashed
into the river, dragging themselves up the opposite bank like half-dr
owned rats, and saluted with loud peals of laughter by the victorious
mountaineers, who, firing a volley into the air in token of supreme
contempt, quietly continued their route up the stream.

Before reaching the capital of the province they struck again to the
westward, and, following a small creek to its junction with the Green
River, ascended that stream, trapping _en route_ to the Uintah or Snake
Fork, and arrived at Roubideau's rendezvous early in the fall, where
they quickly disposed of their peltries, and were once more on "the
loose."

Here La Bonté married a Snake squaw, with whom he crossed the mountains
and proceeded to the Platte through the Bayou Salade, where he purchased
of the Yutas, a commodious lodge, with the necessary poles, &c.; and
being now rich in mules and horses, and in all things necessary for
_otium cum dignitate_, he took unto himself another wife, as by mountain
law allowed; and thus equipped, with both his better halves attired in
all the glory of "fofarraw," he went his way rejoicing.

In a snug little valley lying under the shadow of the mountains, watered
by Vermilion Creek, and in which abundance of buffalo, elk, deer, and
antelope fed and fattened on the rich grass, La Bonté raised his lodge,
employing himself in hunting, and fully occupying his wives' time
in dressing the skins of the many animals he killed. Here he enjoyed
himself amazingly until the commencement of winter, when he determined
to cross to the North Fork and trade his skins, of which he had now as
many packs as his animals could carry. It happened that he one day left
his camp, to spend a couple of days hunting buffalo in the mountains,
whither the bulls were now resorting, intending to "put out" for Platte
on his return. His hunt, however, led him farther into the mountains
than he anticipated, and it was only on the third day that sundown saw
him enter the little valley where his camp was situated.

Crossing the creek, he was not a little disturbed at seeing fresh Indian
sign on the opposite side, which led in the direction of his lodge; and
his worst fears were realized when, on coming within sight of the little
plateau where the conical top of his white lodge had always before met
his view, he saw nothing but a blackened mass strewing the ground, and
the burnt ends of the poles which had once supported it.

Squaws, animals, and peltry, all were gone--an Arapaho moccasin lying on
the ground told him where. He neither fumed nor fretted, but, throwing
the meat off his pack animal, and the saddle from his horse, he
collected the blackened ends of the lodge poles and made a fire--led
his beasts to water and hobbled them, threw a piece of buffalo-meat upon
the coals, squatted down before the fire, and lit his pipe. La Bonté
was a true philosopher. Notwithstanding that his house, his squaws, his
peltries, were gone at one fell swoop, the loss scarcely disturbed his
equanimity; and before the tobacco in his pipe was half smoked out, he
had ceased to think of his misfortune. Certes, as he turned his apolla
of tenderloin, he sighed as he thought of the delicate manipulations
with which his Shoshone squaw, Sah-qua-manish, was wont to beat to
tenderness the toughest bull meat--and missed the tending care of Yute
Chil-co-thë, or the "Reed that Bends," in patching the holes worn in his
neatly-fitting moccasins, the work of her nimble fingers. However, he
ate and smoked, and smoked and ate, and slept none the worse for his
mishap; thought, before he closed his eyes, a little of his lost wives,
and more perhaps of the "Bending Reed" than of Sah-qua-manish, or "She
Who Runs with the Stream"--drew his blanket tightly round him, felt his
rifle handy to his grasp, and was speedily asleep.

Whilst the tired mountaineer breathes heavily in his dream, careless and
unconscious that a living soul is near, his mule on a sudden pricks her
ears and stares into the gloom, whence a figure soon emerges, and with
noiseless steps draws near the sleeping hunter. Taking one look at the
slumbering form, the same figure approaches the fire and adds a log
to the pile; which done, it quietly seats itself at the feet of the
sleeper, and remains motionless as a statue.

Towards morning the hunter awoke, and, rubbing his eyes, was astonished
to feel the glowing warmth of the fire striking on his naked feet,
which, in Indian fashion, were stretched towards it; as by this time,
he knew, the fire he left burning must long since have expired. Lazily
raising himself on his elbow, he saw a figure sitting near it with the
back turned to him, which, although his exclamatory _wagh_ was loud,
enough in all conscience, remained perfectly motionless, until the
trapper, rising, placed his hand upon the shoulder: then, turning up
its face, the features displayed to his wondering eye were those of
Chil-co-thë, his Yuta wife. Yes, indeed, the "Bending Reed" had escaped
from her Arapaho captors, and made her way back to her white husband,
fasting and alone.

The Indian women who follow the fortunes of the white hunters are
remarkable for their affection and fidelity to their husbands, the
which, virtues, it must be remarked, are all on their own side; for,
with very few exceptions, the mountaineers seldom scruple to abandon
their Indian wives whenever the fancy takes them to change their harems;
and on such occasions the squaws, thus cast aside, wild with jealousy
and despair, have been not unfrequently known to take signal vengeance
both on their faithless husbands and on the successful beauties who
have supplanted them in their affections. There are some honorable
exceptions, however, to such cruelty, and many of the mountaineers stick
to their red-skinned wives for better and for worse, often suffering
them to gain the upper hand in the domestic economy of the lodges, and
being ruled by their better halves in all things pertaining to family
affairs; and it may be remarked that, when once the lady dons the
unmentionables, she becomes the veriest termagant that ever henpecked
an unfortunate husband. Your refined trappers, however, who, after many
years of bachelor life, incline to take to themselves a better half,
often undertake an expedition into the settlements of New Mexico, where
not unfrequently they adopt a Young Lochinvar system in procuring the
required rib, and have been known to carry off _vi et armis_, from the
midst of a fandango in Fernandez or El Rancho of Taos, some dark-skinned
beauty--with or without her own consent is a matter of unconcern--and
bear the ravished fair one across the mountains, where she soon becomes
inured to the free and roving life fate has assigned her.

American women are valued at a low figure in the mountains. They are too
fine and "fofarraw."

Neither can they make moccasins, or dress skins; nor are they so
schooled to perfect obedience to their lords and masters as to stand a
"lodge-poling," which the western lords of the creation not unfrequently
deem it their bounden duty to inflict upon their squaws for some
dereliction of domestic duty.

To return, however, to La Bonté. That worthy thought himself a lucky man
to have lost but one of his wives, and she the worst of the two. "Here's
the beauty," he philosophized, "of having two wiping-sticks to your
rifle; if one breaks whilst ramming down a ball, there's still hickory
left to supply its place." Although, with animals and peltry, he had
lost several hundred dollars' worth of "possibles," he never groaned or
grumbled. "There's redskin will pay for this," he once muttered, and was
done.

Packing all that was left on the mule, and mounting Chil-co-thë on his
buffalo horse, he shouldered his rifle and struck the Indian trail for
Platte. On Horse Creek they came upon a party of French * trappers and
hunters, who were encamped with their lodges and Indian squaws, and
formed quite a village. Several old companions were amongst them; and,
to celebrate the arrival of a "camarade," a splendid dog-feast was
prepared in honor of the event. To effect this, the squaws sallied out
of their lodges to seize upon sundry of the younger and plumper of the
pack, to fill the kettles for the approaching feast. With a presentiment
of the fate in store for them, the curs slunk away with tails between
their legs, and declined the pressing invitations of the anxious squaws.
These shouldered their tomahawks and gave chase; but the cunning pups
outstripped them, and would have fairly beaten the kettles, if some of
the mountaineers had not stepped out with their rifles, and quickly laid
half-a-dozen ready to the knife. A cayeute, attracted by the scent of
blood, drew near, unwitting of the canine feast in progress, and was
likewise soon made _dog_ of, and thrust into the boiling kettle with the
rest.

     * Creoles of St. Louis, and French Canadians.

The feast that night was long protracted; and so savory was the stew,
and so agreeable to the palates of the hungry hunters, that at the
moment the last morsel was drawn from the pot, when all were regretting
that a few more dogs had not been slaughtered, a wolfish-looking cur,
who incautiously poked his long nose and head under the lodge skin,
was pounced upon by the nearest hunter, who in a moment drew his knife
across the animal's throat, and threw it to a squaw to skin and prepare
for the pot. The wolf had long since been vigorously discussed, and
voted by all hands to be "good as dog."

"Meat's meat," is a common saying in the mountains, and from the buffalo
down to the rattlesnake, including every quadruped that runs, every fowl
that flies, and every reptile that creeps, nothing comes amiss to the
mountaineer. Throwing aside all the qualms and conscientious scruples of
a fastidious stomach, it must be confessed that _dog-meat_ takes a high
rank in the wonderful variety of cuisine afforded to the gourmand and
the gourmet by the prolific mountains. Now, when the bill of fare offers
such tempting viands as buf-falo-beef, venison, mountain mutton, turkey,
grouse, wild-fowl, hares, rabbits, beaver and their tails, &c., &c.,
the station assigned to dog as No. 2 in the list can be well
appreciated---No. 1. in delicacy of flavor, richness of meat, and other
good qualities, being the flesh of _panthers_, which surpasses every
other, and all put together. *

     * The excellence of panther meat is praised by Hart Merriam
     in his "Mammals of the Adirondacks." (Ed.)

"Painter meat can't 'shine with this," says a hunter, to express the
delicious flavor of an extraordinary cut of tenderloin or delicate
fleece.

La Bonté started with his squaw for the North Fork early in November,
and arrived at the Laramie at the moment that the big village of the
Sioux came up for their winter trade. Two other villages were encamped
lower down the Platte, including the Brûlés and the Yanka-taus, who
were now on more friendly terms with the whites. The first band numbered
several hundred lodges, and presented quite an imposing appearance, the
village being laid out in parallel lines, the lodge of each chief being
marked with his particular totem. The traders had a particular portion
of the village allotted to them, and a line was marked out, which
was strictly kept by the soldiers appointed for the protection of the
whites. As there were many rival traders, and numerous _coureurs des
bois_, or peddling ones, the market promised to be brisk, the more so as
a large quantity of ardent spirits was in their possession, which would
be dealt with no unsparing hand to put down the opposition of so many
competing traders.

In opening a trade, a quantity of liquor is first given "on the
prairie," * as the Indians express it in words, or by signs in rubbing
the palm of one hand quickly across the other, holding both flat.
Having once tasted the pernicious liquid, there is no fear but they will
quickly come to terms; and not unfrequently the spirit is drugged, to
render the unfortunate Indians still more helpless. Sometimes, maddened
and infuriated by drink, they commit the most horrid atrocities on
each other, murdering and mutilating in a barbarous manner, and often
attempting the lives of the traders themselves. On one occasion a
band of Sioux, whilst under the influence of liquor, attacked and took
possession of a trading fort of the American Fur Company, stripping it
of everything it contained, and roasting the trader himself over his own
fire.

     * "On the prairie" is the Indian term for a free gift.

The principle on which the nefarious trade is conducted is this,--that
the Indians, possessing a certain quantity of buffalo-robes, have to
be cheated out of them, and the sooner the better. Although it is
explicitly prohibited by the laws of the United States to convey spirits
across the Indian frontier, and its introduction amongst the Indian
tribes subjects the offender to a heavy penalty, yet the infraction of
this law is of daily occurrence, perpetrated almost in the very presence
of the Government officers, who are stationed along the frontier for the
purpose of enforcing the laws for the protection of the Indians.

The misery entailed upon these unhappy people by the illicit traffic
must be seen to be fully appreciated. Before the effects of the
poisonous "firewater," they disappear from the earth like snow before
the sun. Although aware of the destruction it entails upon them, the
poor wretches have not moral courage to shun the fatal allurement it
holds out to them of wild excitement and a temporary oblivion of their
many sufferings and privations. With such palpable effects, it appears
only likely that the illegal trade is connived at by those whose policy
it has ever been, gradually, but surely, to exterminate the Indians, and
by any means to extinguish their title to the few lands they now own on
the outskirts of civilization. Certain it is that large quantities of
liquor find their way annually into the Indian country, and as certain
are the fatal results of the pernicious system, and that the American
Government takes no steps to prevent it. * There are some tribes who
have as yet withstood the great temptation, and have resolutely
refused to permit liquor to be brought into their villages. The marked
difference between the improved condition of these, and the moral and
physical abasement of those which give way to the fatal passion for
drinking, sufficiently proves the pernicious effects of the liquor-trade
on the unfortunate and abused aborigines; and it is matter of regret
that no philanthropist has sprung up in the United States to do battle
for the rights of the Red Men, and call attention to the wrongs they
endure at the hands of their supplanters in the lands of their fathers.

     * This is an exaggeration. The laws against sale of liquor
     to the Indians were strict, and the chief difficulty of the
     fur companies was to evade Government agents who searched
     their outbound cargoes and often made seizures. Still, there
     doubtless was much collusion. (Ed.)

Robbed of their homes and hunting-grounds, and driven by the
encroachments of the whites to distant regions, which hardly support
existence, the Indians, day by day, gradually decrease before the
accumulating evils of body and soul, which their civilized persecutors
entail upon them. With every man's hand against them, they drag on to
their final destiny; and the day is not far distant when the American
Indian will exist only in the traditions of his pale-faced conquerors.

The Indians trading at this time on the Platte were mostly of the Sioux
nation, including the tribes of Burnt-woods, Yanka-taus, Pian-Kashas,
Assinaboins, Oglallahs, Broken Arrows, all of which belong to the great
Sioux nation, or La-cotahs, as they call themselves, and which means
Cut-throats. There were also some Cheyennes allied to the Sioux, as well
as a small band of Republican Pawnees.

Horse-racing, gambling, and ball-play served to pass away the time
until the trade commenced, and many packs of dressed robes changed
hands amongst themselves. When playing at the usual game of "hand," the
stakes, comprising all the valuables the players possess, are piled
in two heaps close at hand, the winner at the conclusion of the game
sweeping the goods towards him, and often returning a small portion "on
the prairie," with which the loser may again commence operations with
another player.

The game of "hand" is played by two persons. One, who commences, places
a plum or cherry stone in the hollow formed by joining the concaved
palms of the hands together; then, shaking the stone for a few moments,
the hands are suddenly separated, and the other player must guess which
hand now contains the stone.

Large bets are often wagered on the result of this favorite game, which
is also often played by the squaws, the men standing round encouraging
them to bet, and laughing loudly at their grotesque excitement.

A Burnt-wood Sioux, Tah-tunganisha, one of the bravest chiefs of his
tribe, was out, when a young man, on a solitary war expedition against
the Crows. One evening he drew near a certain "medicine" spring,
where, to his astonishment, he encountered a Crow warrior in the act of
quenching his thirst. He was on the point of drawing his bow upon him,
when he remembered the sacred nature of the spot, and making the sign of
peace, he fearlessly drew near his foe, and proceeded likewise to slake
his thirst. A pipe of kinnikkinnik being produced, it was proposed
to pass away the early part of the night in a game of "hand." They
accordingly sat down beside the spring and commenced the game.

Fortune favored the Crow. He won arrow after arrow from the Burnt-wood
brave; then his bow, his club, his knife, his robe, all followed,
and the Sioux sat naked on the plain. Still he proposed another stake
against the other's winnings--his scalp. He played and lost; and
bending forward his head, the Crow warrior drew his knife and quickly
removed the bleeding prize. Without a murmur the luckless Sioux rose to
depart, but first exacted a promise from his antagonist that he would
meet him once more at the same spot, and engage in another trial of
skill.

On the day appointed, the Burnt-wood sought the spot, with a new
equipment, and again the Crow made his appearance, and they sat down
to play. This time fortune changed sides; the Sioux won back his former
losses, and in his turn the Crow was stripped to his skin.

Scalp against scalp was now the stake, and this time the Crow submitted
his head to the victorious Burnt-wood's knife; and both the warriors
stood scalpless on the plain.

And now the Crow had but one single stake of value to offer, and the
offer of it he did not hesitate to make. He staked his life against the
other's winnings. They played; and fortune still being adverse, he lost.
He offered his breast to his adversary. The Burnt-wood plunged his knife
into his heart to the very hilt; and, laden with his spoils, returned to
his village, and to this day wears suspended from his ears his own and
his enemy's scalp.

The village presented the usual scene of confusion as long as the trade
lasted. Fighting, brawling, yelling, dancing, and all the concomitants
of intoxication, continued to the last drop of the liquor-keg, when the
reaction after such excitement was almost worse than the evil itself.
During this time all the work devolved upon the squaws, who, in tending
the horses, and in packing wood and water from a long distance, had
their time sufficiently occupied. As there was little or no grass in
the vicinity, the animals were supported entirely on the bark of the
cottonwood; and to procure this, the women were daily engaged in
felling huge trees, or climbing them fearlessly, chopping off the upper
limbs--springing like squirrels from branch to branch, which, in their
confined costume, appeared matter of considerable difficulty.

The most laughter-provoking scenes, however, were, when a number of
squaws sallied out to the grove with their long-nosed wolfish-looking
dogs harnessed to their _travées_ * or trabogans, on which loads of
cottonwood were piled. The dogs, knowing full well the duty required of
them, refuse to approach the coaxing squaws, and, at the same time,
are fearful of provoking their anger by escaping and running off. They,
therefore, squat on their haunches, with tongues hanging out of their
long mouths, the picture of indecision, removing a short distance as
the irate squaw approaches. When once harnessed to the travée, however,
which is simply a couple of lodge-poles lashed on either side of the
dog, with a couple of cross-bars near the ends to support the freight,
they follow quietly enough, urged by bevies of children who invariably
accompany the women. Once arrived at the scene of their labors, the
reluctance of the curs to draw near the piles of cottonwood is most
comical. They will lie down stubbornly at a little distance, whining
their uneasiness, or sometimes scamper off bodily, with their long poles
trailing after them, pursued by the yelling and half-frantic squaws.

     * Travois. (Ed.)

When the travées are laden, the squaws, bent double under loads of wood
sufficient to break a porter's back, and calling to the dogs, which are
urged on by the buffalo-fed urchins in rear, lead the line of march. The
curs, taking advantage of the helpless state of their mistresses, turn a
deaf ear to their coaxings, lying down every few yards to rest, growling
and fighting with each other, in which encounters every cur joins the
_mêlée_, charging pell-mell into the yelping throng, upsetting the
squalling children, and making confusion worse confounded. Then, armed
with lodge-poles, the squaws, throwing down their loads, rush to the
rescue, dealing stalwart blows on the pugnacious curs, and finally
restoring something like order to the march.

"Tszoo--tszoo!" they cry, "wah, kashne, ceitcha--get on, you devilish
beasts--tszoo--tszoo!" and belaboring them without mercy, they start
them into a gallop, which, once commenced, is generally continued till
they reach their destination.

The Indian dogs are, however, invariably well treated by the squaws,
since they assist materially the everyday labors of these patient
overworked creatures, in hauling firewood to the lodge, and, on the
line of march, carrying many of the household goods and chattels, which
otherwise the squaw herself would have to carry on her back. Every lodge
possesses from half-a-dozen to a score,--some for draught and others
for eating--for dog-meat forms part and parcel of an Indian feast.
The former are stout wiry animals, half wolf half sheep-dog, and are
regularly trained to draught; the latter are of a smaller kind, more
inclined to fat, and embrace every variety of the genus cur. Many of the
southern tribes possess a breed of dogs entirely divested of hair, which
evidently have come from South America, and are highly esteemed for the
kettle. Their meat, in appearance and flavor, resembles young pork, but
far surpasses it in richness and delicacy.

The Sioux are very expert in making their lodges comfortable, taking
more pains in their construction than most Indians. They are all
of conical form: a framework of straight slender poles, resembling
hop-poles, and from twenty to twenty-five feet long, is first erected,
round which is stretched a sheeting of buffalo-robes, softly dressed,
and smoked to render them water-tight. The apex, through which the ends
of the poles protrude, is left open to allow the smoke to escape. A
small opening, sufficient to permit the entrance of a man, is made on
one side, over which is hung a door of buffalo-hide. A lodge of the
common size contains about twelve or fourteen skins, and contains
comfortably a family of twelve in number. The fire is made in the
center, immediately under the aperture in the roof, and a flap of the
upper skins is closed or extended at pleasure, serving as a cowl or
chimney-top to regulate the draught and permit the smoke to escape
freely. Round the fire, with their feet towards it, the inmates sleep on
skins and buf-falo-rugs, which are rolled up during the day, and stowed
at the back of the lodge.

In traveling, the lodge-poles are secured half on each side a horse, and
the skins placed on transversal bars near the ends, which trail along
the ground--two or three squaws or children mounted on the same horse,
or the smallest of the latter borne in the dog travées. A set of
lodge-poles will last from three to seven years, unless the village is
constantly on the move, when they are soon worn out in trailing over the
gravelly prairie. They are usually of ash, which grows on many of the
mountain creeks, and regular expeditions are undertaken when a supply is
required, either for their own lodges, or for trading with those tribes
who inhabit the prairies at a great distance from the locality where the
poles are procured.

There are also certain creeks where the Indians resort to lay in a store
of kinnik-kinnik (the inner bark of the red willow), * which they use
as a substitute for tobacco, and which has an aromatic and very pungent
flavor. It is prepared for smoking by being scraped in thin curly flakes
from the slender saplings, and crisped before the fire, after which it
is rubbed between the hands, into a form resembling leaf-tobacco, and
stored in skin bags for use. It has a highly narcotic effect on
those not habituated to its use, and produces a heaviness sometimes
approaching stupefaction, altogether different from the soothing effects
of tobacco.

     * Red osier dogwood. (Ed.)

Every year, owing to the disappearance of the buffalo from their former
haunts, the Indians are compelled to encroach upon each other's
hunting-grounds, which is a fruitful cause of war between the different
tribes. It is a curious fact that the buffalo retire before the whites,
whilst the presence of Indians in their pastures appears in no degree to
disturb them. Wherever a few white hunters are congregated in a trading
post, or elsewhere, so sure is it that, if they remain in the same
locality, the buffalo will desert the vicinity, and seek pasture
elsewhere. In this, the Indians affirm, the wahkeitcha, or "bad
medicine," of the pale-faces is very apparent; and they ground upon it
their well-founded complaints of the encroachments made upon their
hunting-grounds by the white hunters.

In the winter, many of the tribes are reduced to the very verge of
starvation--the buffalo having passed from their country into that of
their enemies; when no other alternative is offered them but to
remain where they are and starve, or to follow the game into a hostile
region--a move entailing war and all its horrors.

Reckless, moreover, of the future, in order to prepare robes for
the traders, and to procure the pernicious fire-water, they wantonly
slaughter, every year, vast numbers of buffalo cows (the skins of which
sex only are dressed), and thus add to the evils in store for them. When
questioned on this subject, and reproached with such want of foresight,
they answer, that however quickly the buffalo disappears, the Red Man
"goes under" more quickly still; and that the Great Spirit has ordained
that both shall be "rubbed out" from the face of nature at one and the
same time,--"that arrows and bullets are not more fatal to the buffalo
than the small-pox and fire-water to them, and that before many winters'
snows have disappeared, the buffalo and the Red Man will only be
remembered by their bones, which will strew the plains."

"They look forward, however, to a future state, when, after a long
journey, they will reach the happy hunting-grounds, where buffalo will
once more blacken the prairies; where the pale-faces dare not come to
disturb them; where no winter snows cover the ground, and the buffalo
ar'e always plentiful and fat."

As soon as the streams opened, La Bonté, now reduced to two animals and
four traps, sallied forth again, this time seeking the dangerous country
of the Blackfeet, on the head-waters of the Yellow Stone and Upper
Missouri. He was accompanied by three others, a man named Wheeler,
and one Cross-Eagle, a Swede, who had been many years in the western
country. Reaching the forks of a small creek, on both of which appeared
plenty of beaver sign, La Bonté followed the left-hand one alone, whilst
the others trapped the right in company, the former leaving his squaw in
the company of a Sioux woman, who followed the fortunes of Cross-Eagle,
the party agreeing to rendezvous at the junction of the two forks, as
soon as they had trapped to their heads and again descended them. The
larger party were the first to reach the rendezvous, and camped on the
banks of the main stream to await the arrival of La Bonté.

The morning after their return, they had just risen from their blankets,
and were lazily stretching themselves before the fire, when a volley
of firearms rattled from the bank of the creek, and two of their number
fell dead to the ground, whilst at the same moment the deafening yells
of Indians broke upon the ears of the frightened squaws. Cross-Eagle
seized his rifle, and, though severely wounded, rushed to the cover of a
hollow tree which stood near, and crawling into it, defended himself the
whole day with the greatest obstinacy, killing five Indians outright,
and wounding several more. Unable to drive the gallant trapper from his
retreat, the savages took advantage of a favorable wind which suddenly
sprang up, and fired the long dry grass surrounding the tree. The rotten
log catching fire, at length compelled the hunter to leave his retreat.
Clubbing his rifle, he charged amongst the Indians, and fell at last,
pierced through and through with wounds, but not until two more of his
assailants had fallen by his hand.

The two squaws were carried off, and one was sold shortly afterwards to
some white men at the trading ports on the Platte; but La Bonté never
recovered the "Bending Reed," nor even heard of her existence from that
day. So once more was the mountaineer bereft of his better half; and
when he returned to the rendezvous, a troop of wolves were feasting
on the bodies of his late companions, and of the Indians killed in the
affray, of which he only heard the particulars a long time after from a
trapper, who had been present when one of the squaws was offered at the
trading-post for sale, and had heard her recount the miserable fate of
her husband and his companions on the forks of the creek, which, from
the fact of La Bonté being the leader of the party, has since borne his
name.

Undaunted by this misfortune, the trapper continued his solitary
hunt, passing through the midst of the Crow and Blackfeet country;
encountering many perils, often hunted by the Indians, but always
escaping. He had soon loaded both his animals with beaver, and then
thought of bending his steps to some of the trading rendezvous on the
other side of the mountains, where employés of the Great Northwest Fur
Company meet the trappers with the produce of their hunts, on Lewis's
fork of the Columbia, or one of its numerous affluents. His intention
was to pass the winter at some of the company's trading-posts in Oregon,
into which country he had never yet penetrated.



CHAPTER V

|WE have said that La Bonté was a philosopher: he took the streaks of
ill luck which checkered his mountain life with perfect carelessness,
if not with stoical indifference. Nothing ruffled his danger-steeled
equanimity of temper; no sudden emotion disturbed his mind. We have seen
how wives were torn from him without eliciting a groan or grumble, (but
such _contretemps_, it may be said, can scarcely find a place in the
category of ills); how the loss of mules and mustangs, harried by
horse-stealing Indians, left him in the _ne plus ultra_ of mountain
misery--afoot; how packs and peltries, the hard-earned beaver of his
perilous hunts, were "raised" at one fell swoop by freebooting bands of
savages. Hunger and thirst, we know, were commonplace sensations to the
mountaineer. His storm-hardened flesh scarce felt the pinging wounds of
arrow-point or bullet; and when in the midst of Indian fight, it is not
probable that any tender qualms of feeling would allay the itching
of his fingers for his enemy's scalp-lock, nor would any remains of
civilized fastidiousness prevent his burying his knife again and again
in the lifeblood of an Indian savage.

Still, in one dark corner of his heart, there shone at intervals a
faint spark of what was once a fiercely-burning fire. Neither time, that
corroder of all thing's, nor change, that ready abettor of oblivion,
nor scenes of peril and excitement, which act as dampers to more quiet
memories, could smother this little smoldering spark, which now and
again--when rarely-coming calm succeeded some stirring passage in the
hunter's life, and left him, for a brief time, devoid of care, and
victim to his thoughts--would flicker suddenly, and light up all the
nooks and corners of his rugged breast, and discover to his mind's eye
that one deep-rooted memory clung there still, though long neglected;
proving that, spite of time and change, of life and fortune,

               "On revient toujours à ses premiers amours."

Often and often, as La Bonté sat cross-legged before his solitary
camp-fire, and, pipe in mouth, watched the blue smoke curling upwards
in the clear cold sky, a well-remembered form appeared to gaze upon him
from the vapory wreaths. Then would old recollections crowd before him,
and old emotions, long a stranger to his breast, shape themselves, as it
were, into long-forgotten but now familiar pulsations. Again he felt the
soft subduing influence which once, in days gone by, a certain passion
exercised over his mind and body; and often a trembling seized him, the
same he used to experience at the sudden sight of one Mary Brand,
whose dim and dreamy apparition so often watched his lonely bed, or,
unconsciously conjured up, cheered him in the dreary watches of the long
and stormy winter nights.

At first he only knew that one face haunted his dreams by night, and
the few moments by day when he thought of anything, and this face smiled
lovingly upon him and cheered him mightily. Name he had quite forgotten,
or recalled it vaguely, and, setting small store by it, had thought of
it no more.

For many years after he had deserted his home, La Bonté had cherished
the idea of again returning to his country. During this period he had
never forgotten his old flame, and many a choice fur he had carefully
laid by, intended as a present for Mary Brand; and many a _gage d'amour_
of cunning shape and device, worked in stained quills of porcupine and
bright-colored beads--the handiwork of nimble-fingered squaws--he had
packed in his "possible" sack for the same destination, hoping a time
would come when he might lay them at her feet.

Year after year wore on, however, and still found him, with traps and
rifle, following his perilous avocation; and each succeeding one saw
him more and more wedded to the wild mountain-life. He was conscious
how unfitted he had become again to enter the galling harness of
conventionality and civilization. He thought, too, how changed in
manners and appearance he now must be, and could not believe that he
would again find favor in the eyes of his quondam love, who, he judged,
had long since forgotten him; and inexperienced as he was in such
matters, yet he knew enough of womankind to feel assured that time and
absence had long since done the work, if even the natural fickleness of
woman's nature had lain dormant. Thus it was that he came to forget
Mary Brand, but still remembered the all-absorbing feeling she had once
created in his breast, the shadow of which still remained, and often
took form and feature in the smoke-wreaths of his solitary camp-fire.

If truth be told, La Bonté had his failings as a mountaineer, and--sin
unpardonable in hunter law--still possessed, in holes and corners of his
breast seldom explored by his inward eye, much of the leaven of kindly
human nature, which now and again involuntarily peeped out, as greatly
to the contempt of his comrade trappers as it was blushingly repressed
by the mountaineer himself. Thus, in his various matrimonial episodes,
he treated his dusky _sposas_ with all the consideration the sex could
possibly demand from hand of man. No squaw of his ever humped shoulder
to receive a castigatory and martial "lodge-poling" for offense
domestic; but often has his helpmate blushed to see her pale-face lord
and master devote himself to the feminine labor of packing huge piles
of firewood on his back, felling trees, butchering unwieldy buffalo--all
which are included in the Indian category of female duties. Thus he was
esteemed an excellent _parti_ by all the marriageable young squaws of
Blackfoot, Crow, and Shoshone, of Yutah, Shian, and Arapaho; but after
his last connubial catastrophe, he steeled his heart against all the
charms and coquetry of Indian belles, and persevered in unblessed
widowhood for many a long day.

From the point where we left him on his way to the waters of the
Columbia, we must jump with him over a space of nearly two years, during
which time he had a most uninterrupted run of good luck; trapping with
great success on the head-streams of the Columbia and Yellow Stone--the
most dangerous of trapping-ground--and finding good market for his
peltries at the NorthWest posts--beaver fetching as high a price as
five and six dollars a "plew"--the "golden age" of trappers, now,
alas! never to return, and existing only in the fond memory of the
mountaineers. This glorious time, however, was too good to last. In
mountain language, "such heap of fat meat was not going to shine much
longer."

La Bonté was at this time one of a band of eight trappers, whose
hunting-ground was about the head-waters of the Yellow Stone, which
we have before said is in the country of the Blackfeet. With him were
Killbuck, Meek, Marcelline, and three others; and the leader of the
party was Bill Williams, that old "hard case" who had spent forty years
and more in the mountains, until he had become as tough as the parflêche
soles of his moccasins? They were all good men and true, expert hunters,
and well-trained mountaineers. After having trapped all the streams they
were acquainted with, it was determined to strike into the mountains,
at a point where old Williams affirmed, from the run of the hills,
there must be plenty of water, although not one of the party had
before explored the country, or knew anything of its nature, or of the
likelihood of its affording game for themselves or pasture for their
animals. However, they packed their peltry, and put out for the land
in view--a lofty peak, dimly seen above the more regular summit of the
chain, being their landmark.

For the first day or two their route lay between two ridges of
mountains, and by following the little valley which skirted a creek,
they kept on level ground, and saved their animals considerable
labor and fatigue. Williams always rode ahead, his body bent over his
saddle-horn, across which rested a long heavy rifle, his keen gray eyes
peering from under the slouched brim of a flexible felt-hat, black and
shining with grease. His buckskin hunting-shirt, bedaubed until it had
the appearance of polished leather, hung in folds over his bony carcass;
his nether extremities being clothed in pantaloons of the same material
(with scattered fringes down the outside of the leg--which ornaments,
however, had been pretty well thinned to supply whangs for mending
moccasins or pack-saddles), which, shrunk with wet, clung tightly to his
long, spare, sinewy legs. His feet were thrust into a pair of Mexican
stirrups made of wood, and as big as coal-scuttles; and iron spurs of
incredible proportions, with tinkling drops attached to the rowels, were
fastened to his heel--a bead-worked strap, four inches broad, securing
them over the instep. In the shoulder-belt, which sustained his
powder-horn and bullet-pouch, were fastened the various instruments of
one pursuing his mode of life. An awl, with deer-horn handle, and the
point defended by a case of cherry-wood carved by his own hand, hung at
the back of the belt, side by side with a worm for cleaning the rifle;
and under this was a squat and quaint-looking bullet-mold, the handles
guarded by strips of buckskin to save his fingers from burning when
running balls, having for its companion a little bottle made from the
point of an antelope's horn, scraped transparent, which contained the
"medicine" used in baiting the traps. The old coon's face was sharp
and thin, a long nose and chin hob-nobbing each other; and his head was
always bent forward, giving him the appearance of being hump-backed.
He _appeared_ to look neither to the right nor left, but, in fact
his little twinkling eye was everywhere. He looked at no one he was
addressing, always seeming to be thinking of something else than the
subject of his discourse, speaking in a whining, thin, cracked voice,
and in a tone that left the hearer in doubt whether he was laughing or
crying. On the present occasion he had joined this band, and naturally
assumed the leadership (for Bill ever refused to go in harness), in
opposition to his usual practice, which was to hunt alone. His character
was well known. Acquainted with every inch of the Far West, and with all
the Indian tribes who inhabited it, he never failed to outwit his red
enemies, and generally made his appearance at the rendezvous, from his
solitary expeditions, with galore of beaver, when numerous bands of
trappers dropped in on foot, having been despoiled of their packs and
animals by the very Indians through the midst of whom old Williams had
contrived to pass unseen and unmolested. On occasions when he had been
in company with others, and attacked by Indians, Bill invariably fought
manfully, and with all the coolness that perfect indifference to death
or danger could give, but always "on his own hook." His rifle cracked
away merrily, and never spoke in vain; and in a charge--if ever it
came to that--his keen-edged butcher-knife tickled the fleece of many
a Blackfoot. But, at the same time, if he saw that discretion was the
better part of valor, and affairs wore so cloudy an aspect as to render
retreat advisable, he would first express his opinion in curt terms, and
decisively, and, charging up his rifle, would take himself off and cache
* so effectually that to search for him was utterly useless. Thus, when
with a large party of trappers, when anything occurred which gave him
a hint that trouble was coming, or more Indians were about than he
considered good for his animals, Bill was wont to exclaim--"Do'ee hyar
now, boys, thar's sign about? this hoss feels like câching"; and without
more words, and stoically deaf to all remonstrances, he would forthwith
proceed to pack his animals, talking the while to an old crop-eared
raw-boned Nez-percé pony, his own particular saddle-horse, who in dogged
temper and iron hardiness, was a worthy companion of his self-willed
master. This beast, as Bill seized his apishamore to lay upon its galled
back, would express displeasure by humping its back and shaking its
withers with a wincing motion, that always excited the ire of the old
trapper; and no sooner had he laid the apishamore smoothly on the chafed
skin, than a wriggle of the animal shook it off.

    * Hide--from cacher.

"Do'ee hyar now, you darned crittur?" he would whine out, "can't'ee keep
quiet your old fleece now? Isn't this old coon putting out to save yee
from the darned Injuns now, do'ee hyar?" And then, continuing his
work and taking no notice of his comrades, who stood by bantering the
eccentric old trapper, he would soliloquize--"Do'ee hyar now? This
nigger sees sign ahead--he does! he'll be afoot afore long, if he
don't keep his eye skinned--_he_ will. _Injuns_ is all about, they are:
Blackfoot at that. Can't come round this child--they can't, wagh!" And
at last, his pack-animals securely tied to the tail of his horse, he
would mount, and throwing the rifle across the horn of his saddle, and
without noticing his companions, would drive the jingling spurs into his
horse's gaunt sides, and muttering, "Can't come round this child--they
can't!" would ride away; and nothing more would be seen or heard of him
perhaps for months, when they would not unfrequently, themselves bereft
of animals in the scrape he had foreseen, find him located in some
solitary valley, in his lonely camp, with his animals securely picketed
around, and his peltries safe.

However, if he took it into his head to keep company with a party, all
felt perfectly secure under his charge. His iron frame defied fatigue,
and at night, his love for himself and his own animals was sufficient
guarantee that the camp would be well guarded. As he rode ahead, his
spurs jingling and thumping the sides of his old horse at every step, he
managed, with admirable dexterity, to take advantage of the best line
of country to follow--avoiding the gullies and canons and broken ground,
which would otherwise have impeded his advance. This tact appeared
instinctive, for he looked neither right nor left, whilst continuing
a course as straight as possible at the foot of the mountains. In
selecting a camping-site he displayed equal skill: wood, water, and
grass began to fill his thoughts towards sundown; and when these three
requisites for a camping-ground presented themselves, old Bill sprang
from his saddle, unpacked his animals in a twinkling and hobbled them,
struck fire and ignited a few chips (leaving the rest to pack in the
wood), lit his pipe, and enjoyed himself.

On one occasion, when passing through the valley, they had come upon a
band of fine buffalo cows, and, shortly after camping, two of the
party rode in with a good supply of fat fleece. One of the party was a
"greenhorn" on his first hunt, fresh from a fort on Platte, and as yet
uninitiated in the mysteries of mountain cooking. Bill, lazily smoking
his pipe, called to him, as he happened to be nearest, to butcher off
a piece of meat and put it in his pot. Markhead seized the fleece, and
commenced innocently carving off a huge ration, when a gasping roar from
the old trapper caused him to drop his knife. "Ti-ya," growled Bill,
"do'ee hyar, now, you darned greenhorn, do'ee spile fat cow like that
whar you was raised?

"Them doins won't shine in this crowd, boy, do'ee hyar, darn you? What!
butcher meat across the grain! why, whar'll the blood be goin' to, you
precious Spaniard? Down the grain, I say," he continued, in a severe
tone of rebuke, "and let your flaps be long, or out the juice'll run
slick--do'ee hyar, now?" But this heretical error nearly cost the
old trapper his appetite, and all night long he grumbled his horror at
seeing "fat cow spiled in that fashion."

When two or three days' journey brought them to the end of the valley,
and they commenced the passage of the mountain, their march was
obstructed by all kinds of obstacles; although they had chosen what
appeared to be a gap in the chain, and what was in fact the only
practicable passage in that vicinity. They followed the canon of a
branch of the Yellow Stone, where it entered the mountain; but from
this point it became a torrent, and it was only by dint of incredible
exertions that they reached the summit of the ridge. Game was
exceedingly scarce in the vicinity, and they suffered extremely from
hunger, having, on more than one occasion, recourse to the parflêche
soles of their moccasins to allay its pangs. Old Bill, however, never
grumbled; he chewed away at his shoes with relish even, and as long as
he had a pipeful of tobacco in his pouch was a happy man. Starvation
was as yet far off, for all their animals were in existence; but as
they were in a country where it was difficult to procure a remount, each
trapper hesitated to sacrifice one of his horses to his appetite.

From the summit of the ridge, Bill recognized the country on the
opposite side to that whence they had just ascended as familiar to him,
and pronounced it to be full of beaver, as well as abounding in the
less desirable commodity of Indians. This was the valley lying about
the lakes now called Eustis and Biddle, in which are many thermal and
mineral springs, well known to the trappers by the names of the Soda,
Beer, and Brimstone Springs, and regarded by them with no little awe
and curiosity, as being the breathing-places of his Satanic
majesty--considered, moreover, to be the "biggest kind" of "medicine"
to be found in the mountains. If truth be told, old Bill hardly relished
the idea of entering this country, which he pronounced to be of "bad
medicine" notoriety, but nevertheless agreed to guide them to the best
trapping-ground.

One day they reached a creek full of beaver-sign, and determined to
halt here and establish their headquarters, while they trapped in the
neighborhood. We must here observe, that at this period--which was one
of considerable rivalry amongst the various trading companies in the
Indian territory--the Indians, having become possessed of arms
and ammunition in great quantities, had grown unusually daring and
persevering in their attacks on the white hunters who passed through
their country, and consequently the trappers were compelled to roam
about in larger bands for mutual protection, which, although it made
them less liable to open attack, yet rendered it more difficult for them
to pursue their calling without being discovered; for, where one or
two men might pass unseen, the broad trail of a large party, with its
animals, was not likely to escape the sharp eyes of the cunning savages.

They had scarcely encamped when the old leader, who had sallied out a
short distance from camp to reconnoiter the neighborhood, returned with
an Indian moccasin in his hand, and informed his companions that its
late owner and others were about.

"Do'ee hyar, now, boys? thar's _Injuns_ knocking round, and Blackfoot
at that; but thar's plenty of beaver too, and this child means trapping
anyhow."

His companions were anxious to leave such dangerous vicinity; but the
old fellow, contrary to his usual caution, determined to remain where
he was--saying that there were Indians all over the country, for that
matter; and as they had determined to hunt here, he had made up his mind
to--which was conclusive, and all agreed to stop where they were, in
spite of the Indians. La Bonté killed a couple of mountain sheep close
to camp, and they feasted rarely on the fat mutton that night, and were
unmolested by marauding Blackfeet.

The next morning, leaving two of their number in camp, they started in
parties of two, to hunt for beaver-sign and set their traps. Mark-head
paired with one Batiste, Killbuck and La Bonté formed another
couple,'Meek and Marcelline another; two Canadians trapped together,
and Bill Williams and another remained to guard the camp: but this
last, leaving Bill mending his moccasins, started off to kill a mountain
sheep, a band of which animals was visible.

Markhead and his companion, the first couple on the list, followed a
creek, which entered that on which they had encamped, about ten miles
distant. Beaver sign was abundant, and they had set eight traps, when
Markhead came suddenly upon fresh Indian sign, where squaws had passed
through the shrubbery on the banks of the stream to procure water, as he
knew from observing a large stone placed by them in the stream, on
which to stand to enable them to dip their kettles in the deepest
water. Beckoning to his companion to follow, and cocking his rifle,
he carefully pushed aside the bushes, and noiselessly proceeded up the
bank, when, creeping on hands and knees, he gained the top, and, looking
from his hiding-place, descried three Indian huts standing on a little
plateau near the creek. Smoke curled from the roofs of branches, but the
skin doors were carefully closed, so that he was unable to distinguish
the number of the inmates. At a little distance, however, he observed
two or three squaws gathering wood, with the usual attendance of curs,
whose acuteness in detecting the scent of strangers was much to be
dreaded.

Markhead was a rash and daring young fellow, caring no more for Indians
than he did for prairie dogs, and acting ever on the spur of the moment,
and as his inclination dictated, regardless of consequences. He at
once determined to enter the lodges, and attack the enemy should any be
there; and the other trapper was fain to join him in the enterprise. The
lodges proved empty, but the fires were still burning, and meat cooking
upon them, to which the hungry hunters did ample justice, besides
helping themselves to whatever goods and chattels, in the shape of
leather and moccasins, took their fancy.

Gathering their spoil into a bundle, they sought their horses, which
they had left tied under cover of the timber on the banks of the creek;
and, mounting, took the back trail, to pick up their traps and remove
from so dangerous a neighborhood. They were approaching the spot where
the first trap was set, a thick growth of ash and quaking-ash concealing
the stream, when Mark-head, who was riding ahead, observed the bushes
agitated, as if some animal was making its way through them. He
instantly stopped his horse, and his companion rode to his side, to
inquire the cause of this abrupt halt. They were within a few yards of
the belt of shrubs which skirted the stream; and before Markhead had
time to reply, a dozen swarthy heads and shoulders suddenly protruded
from the leafy screen, and as many rifle-barrels and arrows were
pointing at their breasts. Before the trappers had time to turn their
horses and fly, a cloud of smoke burst from the thicket almost in their
faces. Batiste, pierced with several balls, fell dead, and Mark-head
felt himself severely wounded. However, he struck the spurs into his
horse; and as some halfscore Blackfeet jumped with loud cries from their
cover, he discharged his rifle amongst them, and galloped off, a volley
of balls and arrows whistling after him. He drew no bit until he reined
up at the camp-fire, where he found Bill quietly dressing a deer-skin.
That worthy looked up from his work; and seeing Markhead's face
streaming with blood, and the very unequivocal evidence of an
Indian rencontre in the shape of an arrow sticking in his back, he
asked,--"Do'ee feel bad, now, boy? Whar away you see them darned
Blackfoot?"

"Well, pull this arrow out of my back, and maybe I'll feel like
telling," answered Markhead.

"Do'ee hyar, now? hold on till I've grained this cussed skin, will'ee?
Did'ee ever see sich a darned pelt, now? it won't take the smoke
anyhow I fix it." And Markhead was fain to wait the leisure of
the imperturbable old trapper, before he was eased of his annoying
companion.

Old Bill expressed no surprise or grief when informed of the fate of
poor Batiste. He said it was "just like greenhorns, runnin; into them
cussed Blackfoot"; and observed that the defunct trapper, being only a
Vide Poche, * was "no account anyhow." Presently Killbuck and La, Bonté
galloped into camp, with another alarm of Indians. They had also been
attacked suddenly by a band of Blackfeet, but, being in a more open
country, had got clear off, after killing two of their assailants, whose
scalps hung at the horns of their saddles. They had been in a different
direction to that in which Markhead and his companion had proceeded,
and from the signs they had observed, expressed their belief that the
country was alive with Indians. Neither of these men had been wounded.
Presently the two Canadians made their appearance on the bluff,
galloping with might and main to camp, and shouting "Indians! Indians!"
as they came. All being assembled and a council held, it was determined
to abandon the camp and neighborhood immediately. Old Bill was already
packing his animals, and as he pounded the saddle down on the withers of
his old Rosinante, he muttered--"Do 'ee hyar, now? this coon'll cache,
he will." So mounting his horse, and leading his pack-mule by a lariat,
he bent over his saddle-horn, dug his ponderous rowels into the lank
sides of his beast, and, without a word, struck up the bluff and
disappeared.

     * Carondelet, creole. (Ed.)

The others, hastily gathering up their packs, and most of them having
lost their traps, quickly followed his example, and "put out." On
cresting the high ground which rose from the creek, they observed thin
columns of smoke mounting into the air from many different points,
the meaning of which they were at no loss to guess. However, they were
careful not to show themselves on elevated ground, keeping as much
as possible under the banks of the creek, when such a course was
practicable; but, the bluffs sometimes rising precipitously from the
water, they were more than once compelled to ascend the banks, and
continue their course along the uplands, whence they might easily be
discovered by the Indians. It was nearly sundown when they left their
camp, but they proceeded during the greater part of the night at
as rapid a rate as possible; their progress, however, being greatly
retarded as they advanced into the mountain, their route lying up
stream. Towards morning they halted for a brief space, but started again
as soon as daylight permitted them to see their way over the broken
ground.

The creek now forced its way through a narrow canon, the banks being
thickly clothed with a shrubbery of cottonwood and quaking-ash. The
mountain rose on each side, but not abruptly, being here and there
broken into plateaus and shelving prairies. In a very thick bottom,
sprinkled with coarse grass, they halted about noon, and removed the
saddles and packs from their wearied animals, picketing them in the best
spots of grass.

La Bonté and Killbuck, after securing their animals, left the camp
to hunt, for they had no provisions of any kind; and a short distance
beyond it, the former came suddenly upon a recent moccasin-track in the
timber. After examining it for a moment, he raised his head with a broad
grin, and, turning to his companion, pointed into the cover, where, in
the thickest part, they discerned the well-known figure of old Bill's
horse, browsing upon the cherry-bushes. Pushing through the thicket in
search of the brute's master, La Bonté suddenly stopped short as the
muzzle of a rifle-barrel gaped before his eyes at the distance of a few
inches, whilst the thin voice of Bill muttered--"Do'ee hyar now, I was
nigh giving'ee h----, I _was_ now. If I didn't think'ee was Blackfoot
I'm dogged now." And not a little indignant was the old fellow that his
câche had been so easily though accidentally discovered. However, he
presently made his appearance in camp, leading his animals and once more
joined his late companions, not deigning to give any explanation as to
why or wherefore he had deserted them the day before, merely muttering,
"Do'ee hyar now? thar's trouble comin'."

The two hunters returned after sundown with a black-tailed deer; and
after eating the better part of the meat, and setting a guard, the party
were glad to roll in their blankets and enjoy the rest they so much
needed. They were undisturbed during the night; but at dawn of day the
sleepers were roused by a hundred fierce yells, from the mountains
enclosing the creek on which they had encamped. The yells were instantly
followed by a ringing volley, the bullets thudding into the trees, and
cutting the branches near them, but without causing any mischief. Old
Bill rose from his blanket and shook himself, and exclaimed "Wagh!" as
at that moment a ball plumped into the fire over which he was standing,
and knocked the ashes about in a cloud. All the mountaineers seized
their rifles and sprang to cover; but as yet it was not sufficiently
light to show them their enemy, the bright flashes from the guns alone
indicating their position. As morning dawned, however, they saw that
both sides of the canon were occupied by the Indians; and, from the
firing, judged there must be at least a hundred warriors engaged in the
attack. Not a shot had yet been fired by the trappers, but as the light
increased, they eagerly watched for an Indian to expose himself, and
offer a mark to their trusty rifles. La Bonté, Killbuck, and old Bill,
lay a few yards distant from each other, flat on their faces, near the
edge of the thicket, their rifles raised before them, and the barrels
resting in the forks of convenient bushes. From their place of
concealment to the position of the Indians--who, however, were scattered
here and there, wherever a rock afforded them cover--was a distance of
about 150 yards, or within fair rifle-shot. The trappers were obliged to
divide their force, since both sides of the creek were occupied; but
such was the nature of the ground, and the excellent cover afforded by
the rocks and bowlders, and clumps of dwarf pine and hemlock, that not a
hand's-breadth of an Indian's body had yet been seen. Nearly opposite La
Bonté, a shelving glade in the mountain-side ended in an abrupt
precipice, and at the very edge, and almost toppling over it, were
several bowlders, just of sufficient size to afford cover to a man's
body. As this bluff overlooked the trappers' position, it was occupied
by the Indians, and every rock covered an assailant. At one point, just
over where La Bonté and Killbuck were lying, two bowlders lay together,
with just sufficient interval to admit a rifle-barrel between them, and
from this breastwork an Indian kept up a most annoying fire. All his
shots fell in dangerous propinquity to one or other of the trappers, and
already Killbuck had been grazed by one better directed than the others.
La Bonté watched for some time in vain for a chance to answer this
persevering marksman, and at length an opportunity offered, by which he
was not long in profiting.

The Indian, as the light increased, was better able to discern his mark,
and fired, and yelled every time he did so, with redoubled vigor. In his
eagerness, and probably whilst in the act of taking aim, he leaned too
heavily against the rock which covered him, and, detaching it from its
position, down it rolled into the canon, exposing his body by its fall.
At the same instant, a wreath of smoke puffed from the bushes which
concealed the trappers, and the crack of La Bonte's rifle spoke the
first word of reply to the Indian challenge. A few feet behind the rock
fell the dead body of the Indian, rolling down the steep sides of the
canon, and only stopped by a bush at the very bottom, within a few yards
of the spot where Markhead lay concealed in some high grass.

That daring fellow instantly jumped from his cover, and drawing his
knife, rushed to the body, and in another moment, held aloft the
Indian's scalp, giving, at the same time, a triumphant whoop. A score of
rifles were leveled and discharged at the intrepid mountaineer; but in
the act many Indians incautiously exposed themselves, every rifle in
the timber cracked simultaneously, and for each report an Indian bit the
dust.

Now, however, they changed their tactics. Finding they were unable to
drive the trappers from their position, they retired from the mountain,
and the firing suddenly ceased. In their retreat they were forced to
expose themselves, and again the whites dealt destruction amongst them.
As the Indians retired, yelling loudly, the hunters thought they had
given up the contest; but presently a cloud of smoke rising from the
bottom immediately below them, at once discovered the nature of their
plans. A brisk wind was blowing up the canon; and, favored by it, they
fired the brush on the banks of the stream, knowing that before this the
hunters must speedily retreat.

Against such a result, but for the gale of wind which drove the fire
roaring before it, they could have provided--for your mountaineer never
fails to find resources on a pinch. They would have fired the brush to
leeward of their position, and also carefully ignited that to windward,
or between them and the advancing flame, extinguishing it immediately
when a sufficient space had thus been cleared over which the flame could
not leap, and thus cutting themselves off from it both above and below
their position. In the present instance they could not profit by such a
course, as the wind was so strong that, if once the bottom caught fire,
they would not be able to extinguish it; besides which, in the attempt,
they would so expose themselves that they would be picked off by the
Indians without difficulty. As it was, the fire came roaring before
the wind with the speed of a racehorse, and, spreading from the bottom,
licked the mountain-sides, the dry grass burning like tinder. Huge
volumes of stifling smoke rolled before it, and in a very few minutes
the trappers were hastily mounting their animals, driving the packed
ones before them. The dense clouds of smoke concealed everything from
their view, and, to avoid this, they broke from the creek and galloped
up the sides of the canon on to the more level plateau. As they attained
this, a band of mounted Indians charged them. One, waving a red blanket,
dashed through the cavallada, and was instantly followed by all the
loose animals of the trappers, the rest of the Indians pursuing with
loud shouts. So sudden was the charge, that the whites had not power
to prevent the stampede. Old Bill, as usual, led his pack-mules by the
lariat; but the animals, mad with terror at the shouts of the Indians,
broke from him, nearly pulling him out of his seat at the same time.
To cover the retreat of the others with their prey, a band of mounted
Indians now appeared, threatening an attack in front, whilst their
first assailants, rushing from the bottom, at least a hundred strong,
assaulted in rear. "Do'ee hyar, boys?" shouted old Bill, "break, or
you'll go under. This child's goin' to câche!" and saying the word, off
he went. _Sauve qui peut_ was the order of the day, and not a moment too
soon, for overwhelming numbers were charging upon them, and the mountain
resounded with savage yells. La Bonté and Killbuck stuck together:

they saw old Bill, bending over his saddle, dive right into the cloud of
smoke, and apparently make for the creek bottom--their other companions
scattering each on his own hook, and saw no more of them for many a
month; and thus was one of the most daring and successful bands broken
up that ever trapped in the mountains of the Far West.

It is painful to follow the steps of the poor fellows who, thus
despoiled of the hardly-earned produce of their hunt, saw all their
wealth torn from them at one swoop. The two Canadians were killed upon
the night succeeding that of the attack. Worn with fatigue, hungry and
cold, they had built a fire in what they thought was a secure retreat,
and, rolled in their blankets, were soon buried in a sleep from which
they never awoke. An Indian boy tracked them, and watched their camp.
Burning with the idea of signalizing himself thus early, he awaited his
opportunity, and noiselessly approaching their resting-place, shot
them both with arrows, and returned in triumph to his people with their
horses and scalps.

La Bonté and Killbuck sought a passage in the mountain by which to cross
over to the headwaters of the Columbia, and there fall in with some of
the traders or trappers of the NorthWest. They became involved in the
mountains, in a part, where was no game of any description, and no
pasture for their miserable animals. One of these they killed for food;
the other, a bag of bones, died from sheer starvation. They had very
little ammunition, their moccasins were worn out, and they were unable
to procure skins to supply themselves with fresh ones. Winter was fast
approaching; the snow already covered the mountains; and storms of
sleet and hail poured incessantly through the valleys, benumbing their
exhausted limbs, hardly protected by scanty and ragged covering. To add
to their miseries, poor Killbuck was taken ill. He had been wounded in
the groin by a bullet some time before, and the ball still remained.
The wound, aggravated by walking and the excessive cold, assumed an ugly
appearance, and soon rendered him incapable of sustained exertion, all
motion even being attended with intolerable pain. La Bonté had made
a shanty for his suffering companion, and spread a soft bed of pine
branches for him, by the side of a small creek at the point where
it came out of the mountain and followed its course through a little
prairie. They had been three days without other food than a piece of
parflêche, which had formed the back of La Bonté's bullet-pouch, and
which after soaking in the creek, they eagerly devoured. Killbuck was
unable to move, and sinking fast from exhaustion. His companion had
hunted from morning till night, as well as his failing strength would
allow him, but had not seen the traces of any kind of game, with the
exception of some old buffalo-tracks, made apparently months before by a
band of bulls crossing the mountain.

The morning of the fourth day, La Bonté as usual rose at daybreak from
his blanket, and was proceeding to collect wood for the fire during his
absence while hunting, when Killbuck called to him, and in an almost
inarticulate voice desired him to seat himself by his side.

"Boy," he said, "this old hoss feels like goin' under, and that afore
long. You're stout yet, and if thar was meat handy, you'd come round
slick. Now, boy, I'll be under, as I said, afore many hours, and if
you don't raise meat you'll be in the same fix. I never eat dead meat *
myself, and wouldn't ask no one to do it neither; but meat fair killed
is meat any way; so, boy, put your knife in this old nigger's lights,
and help yourself. It's 'poor bull,' I know, but maybe it'll do to
keep life in; and along the fleece thar's meat yet, and maybe my old
hump-ribs has picking on'em."

     * Carrion.

"You're a good old hoss," answered La Bonté, "but this child ain't
turned nigger yet."

Killbuck then begged his companion to leave him to his fate, and strive
himself to reach game; but this alternative La Bonté likewise generously
refused, and, faintly endeavoring to cheer the sick man, left him
once again to look for game. He was so weak that he felt difficulty
in supporting himself; and knowing how futile would be his attempts to
hunt, he sallied from the camp, convinced that a few hours more would
see the last of him.

He had scarcely raised his eyes, when, hardly crediting his senses, he
saw within a few hundred yards of him an old bull, worn with age, lying
on the prairie. Two wolves were seated on their haunches before
him, their tongues lolling from their mouths, whilst the buffalo was
impotently rolling his ponderous head from side to side, his bloodshot
eyes glaring fiercely at his tormentors, and flakes of foam, mixed with
blood, dropping from his mouth over his long shaggy beard. La Bonté
was transfixed; he scarcely dared to breathe, lest the animal should be
alarmed and escape. Weak as it was, he could hardly have followed it,
and, knowing that his own and companion's life hung upon the success
of his shot, he scarcely had strength to raise his rifle. By dint of
extraordinary exertions and precautions--which were totally unnecessary,
for the poor old bull had not a move in him--the hunter approached
within shot. Lying upon the ground, he took a long steady aim, and
fired. The buffalo raised its matted head, tossed it wildly for an
instant, and, stretching out its limbs convulsively, turned over on its
side and was dead.

Killbuck heard the shot, and, crawling from under the little shanty
which covered his bed, saw, to his astonishment, La Bonté in the act of
butchering a buffalo within two hundred yards of camp. "Hurraw for you!"
he faintly exclaimed; and exhausted by the exertion he had used,
and perhaps by the excitement of an anticipated feast, fell back and
fainted.

However, the killing was the easiest matter, for when the huge carcass
lay dead upon the ground, our hunter had hardly strength to drive the
blade of his knife through the tough hide of the old patriarch. Then,
having cut off as much of the meat as he could carry, eating the while
sundry portions of the liver, which he dipped in the gallbladder by way
of relish, La Bonté cast a wistful look upon the half-starved wolves,
who now loped round and round, licking their chops, only waiting until
his back was turned to fall to with appetite equal to his own, and
capabilities of swallowing and digesting far superior. La Bonté looked
at the buffalo and then at the wolves, leveled his rifle and shot one
dead, at which the survivor scampered off without delay.

Arrived at camp, packing in a tolerable load of the best part of the
animal--for hunger lent him strength--he found poor Killbuck lying on
his back, deaf to time, and to all appearance gone under. Having no
sal-volatile or vinaigrette at hand, La Bonté flapped a lump of raw
fleece into his patient's face, and this instantly revived him.

Then taking the sick man's shoulder, he raised him tenderly into a
sitting posture, and invited, in kindly accents, "the old hoss to feed,"
thrusting at the same time a tolerable slice of liver into his hand,
which the patient looked at wistfully and vaguely for a few short
moments, and then greedily devoured. It was nightfall by the time that
La Bonté, assisted by many intervals of hard eating, packed in the last
of the meat, which formed a goodly pile around the fire.

"Poor bull" it was, in all conscience: the labor of chewing a mouthful
of the tenderloin was equal to a hard day's hunt; but to them, poor
starved fellows, it appeared the richest of meat. They still preserved
a small tin pot, and in this, by stress of eternal boiling, La Bonté
contrived to make some strong soup, which soon restored his sick
companion to marching order. For himself, as soon as a good meal had
filled him, he was strong as ever, and employed himself in drying the
remainder of the meat for future use. Even the wolf, bony as he was, was
converted into meat, and rationed them several days. Winter, however,
had set in with such severity, and Killbuck was still so weak, that La
Bonté determined to remain in his present position until spring, as he
now found that buffalo frequently visited the valley, as it was more
bare of snow than the lowlands, and afforded them better pasture; and
one morning he had the satisfaction of seeing a band of seventeen bulls
within long rifle-shot of the camp, out of which four of the fattest
were soon laid low by his rifle.

They still had hard times before them, for towards spring the buffalo
again disappeared; the greater part of their meat had been spoiled,
owing to there not being sufficient sun to dry it thoroughly; and when
they resumed their journey they had nothing to carry with them, and had
a desert before them without game of any kind. We pass over what they
suffered. Hunger and thirst were their portion, and Indians assaulted
them at times, and many miraculous and hair-breadth escapes they had
from these enemies.



CHAPTER VI

|THE trail to Oregon, followed by traders and emigrants, crosses the
Rocky Mountains at a point known as the South Pass, where a break in
the chain occurs of such moderate and gradual elevation as to permit the
passage of wagons with tolerable facility. The Sweetwater Valley runs
nearly to the point where the dividing ridge of the Pacific and Atlantic
waters throws off its streams to their respective oceans. At one end of
this valley, and situated on the right bank of the Sweetwater, a huge
isolated mass of granitic rock rises to the height of three hundred feet
abruptly from the plain. * On the smooth and scarped surface presented
by one of its sides, are rudely carved the names and initials of
traders, trappers, travelers, and emigrants, who have here recorded the
memorial of their sojourn in the remote wilderness of the Far West. The
face of the rock is covered with names familiar to the mountaineers as
those of the most renowned of their hardy brotherhood; while others,
again, occur, better known to the science and literature of the Old
World than to the unlearned trappers of the Rocky Mountains. The huge
mass is a well-known landmark to the Indians and mountaineers; and
travelers and emigrants hail it as the halfway beacon between the
frontiers of the United States and the still distant goal of their long
and perilous journey.

     * Independence Rock. (Ed.)

It was a hot sultry day in July. Not a breath of air relieved the
intense and oppressive heat of the atmosphere, unusual here, where
pleasant summer breezes, and sometimes stronger gales, blow over the
elevated plains with the regularity of trade-winds. The sun, at its
meridian height, struck the dry sandy plain, and parched the drooping
buffalo-grass on its surface; and its rays, refracted and reverberating
from the heated ground, distorted every object seen through its lurid
medium. Straggling antelope, leisurely crossing the adjoining prairie,
appeared to be gracefully moving in mid-air; whilst a scattered band of
buffalo bulls loomed huge and indistinct in the vapory distance. In the
timbered valley of the river, deer and elk were standing motionless in
the water, under the shade of the overhanging cottonwoods, seeking
a respite from the persevering attacks of swarms of horse-flies and
mosquitoes; and now and then a heavy splash was heard, as they tossed
their antlered heads into the stream, to free them from the venomous
insects that buzzed incessantly about them. In the sandy prairie,
beetles of an enormous size were rolling in every direction huge balls
of earth, pushing them with their hind legs with comical perseverance;
chameleons darted about, assimilating the hue of their grotesque bodies
with the color of the sand: groups of prairie-dog houses were seen,
each with its inmate barking lustily on the roof; whilst under cover of
nearly every bush of sage or cactus a rattlesnake lay glittering in lazy
coil. Tantalizing the parched sight, the neighboring peaks of the lofty
Wind River Mountains glittered in a mantle of sparkling snow; whilst
Sweetwater Mountain, capped in cloud, looked gray and cool, in striking
contrast to the burned-up plains which lay basking at its foot.

Resting their backs against the rock (on which, we have said, are now
carved the names of many travelers), and defended from the powerful rays
of the sun by its precipitous sides, two white men quietly slept. They
were gaunt and lantern-jawed, and clothed in tattered buckskin. Each
held a rifle across his knees, but--strange sight-in this country--one
had its pan thrown open, which was rust-eaten and contained no priming;
the other's hammer was without a flint. Their faces were as if covered
with mahogany-colored parchment; their eyes were sunken; and as their
jaws fell listlessly on their breasts, their cheeks were hollow, with
the bones nearly protruding from the skin. One was in the prime of
manhood, with handsome features; the other, considerably past middle
age, was stark and stern. Months of dire privation had brought them
to this pass. The elder of the two was Killbuck, of mountain fame; the
other was hight La Bonté.

The former opened' his eyes, and saw the buffalo feeding on the plain.
"Ho, boy," he said, touching his companion, "thar's meat a-run-nin'."

La Bonté looked in the direction the other pointed, stood up, and
hitching round his pouch and powder-horn, drew the stopper from the
latter with his teeth, and placing the mouth in the palm of his left
hand, turned the horn up and shook it.

"Not a grain," he said--"not a grain, old hoss."

"Wagh!" exclaimed the other, "we'll have to eat afore long,"--and
rising, walked into the prairie. He had hardly stepped two paces, when,
passing close to a sage-bush, a rattlesnake whizzed a note of warning
with its tail. Killbuck grinned, and taking the wiping-stick from his
rifle-barrel, tapped the snake on the head, and taking it by the tail,
threw it to La Bonté, saying, "hyar's meat, anyhow." The old fellow
followed up his success by slaying half-a-dozen more, and brought
them in skewered through the head on his wiping-stick. A fire was soon
kindled, and the snakes roasting before it; when La Bonté, who sat
looking at buffalo which fed close to the rock, suddenly saw them raise
their heads, snuff the air, and scamper towards him. A few minutes
afterwards, a huge shapeless body loomed in the refracted air,
approaching the spot where the buffalo had been grazing. The hunters
looked at it and then at each other, and ejaculated "Wagh!" Presently a
long white mass showed more distinctly, followed by another, and before
each was a string of animals.

"Wagons, by hoss and beaver! Hurrah for Conestoga!" exclaimed the
trappers in a breath, as they now observed two white-tilted wagons,
drawn by several pairs of mules, approaching the very spot where they
sat. Several mounted men were riding about the wagons, and two on
horseback, in advance of all, were approaching the rock, when they
observed the smoke curling from the hunters' fire. They halted at sight
of this; and one of the two, drawing a long instrument from a case,
which Killbuck voted a rifle, directed it towards them for a moment, and
then lowering it, again moved forward.

As they drew near, the two poor trappers, although half-dead with
joy, still retained their seats with Indian gravity and immobility of
feature, turning now and then the crackling snakes which lay on the
embers of the fire. The two strangers approached. One, a man of some
fifty years of age, of middle height and stoutly built, was clad in a
white shooting-jacket, of cut unknown in mountain tailoring, and a
pair of trousers of the well-known material called shepherd's plaid; a
broad-brimmed Panama shaded his face, which was ruddy with health and
exercise; a belt round the waist supported a handsome bowie-knife, and a
double-barreled fowling-piece was _slung_ across his shoulder.

His companion was likewise dressed in a light shooting-jacket, of many
pockets and dandy cut, rode on an English saddle and in _boots_, and was
armed with a superb double rifle, glossy from the case, and bearing few
marks of use or service. He was a tall fine-looking fellow of thirty,
with light hair and complexion; a scrupulous beard and mustache; a
wide-awake hat, with a short pipe stuck in the band, not very black with
smoke; an elaborate powder-horn over his shoulder, with a Cairngorm in
the butt as large as a plate; a blue handkerchief tied round his throat
in a sailor's knot, and the collar of his shirt turned carefully over
it. He had, moreover, a tolerable idea of his very correct appearance,
and wore Woodstock gloves.

The trappers looked at them from head to foot, and the more they looked,
the less could they make them out.

"H----!" exclaimed La Bonté, emphatically.

"This beats grainin' bull-hide slick," broke from Killbuck as the
strangers reined up at the fire, the younger dismounting, and staring
with wonder at the weather-beaten trappers.

"Well, my men, how are you?" he rattled out. "Any game here? By Jove!"
he suddenly exclaimed, seizing his rifle, as at that moment a large
buzzard, the most unclean of birds, flew into the topmost branch of a
cottonwood, and sat, a tempting shot. "By Jove, there's a chance!" cried
the mighty hunter; and, bending low, started off to approach the unwary
bird in the most approved fashion of northern deer-stalkers. The buzzard
sat quietly, and now and then stretched its neck to gaze upon the
advancing sportsman, who on such occasions threw himself flat on the
ground, and remained, motionless, in dread of alarming the bird. It was
worth while to look at the countenance of old Killbuck, as he watched
the antics of the "bourgeois" hunter. He thought at first that the dandy
rifleman had really discovered game in the bottom, and was nothing loath
that there was a chance of his seeing meat; but when he understood the
object of such maneuvers, and saw the quarry the hunter was so carefully
approaching, his mouth grinned from ear to ear, and, turning to La
Bonté, he said, "Wagh! _he's_ some--_he_ is!"

Nothing doubting, however, the stranger approached the tree on which
the bird was sitting, and, getting well under it, raised his rifle and
fired. Down tumbled the bird; and the successful hunter, with a loud
shout, rushed frantically towards it, and bore it in triumph to the
camp, earning the most sovereign contempt from the two trappers by the
achievement.

The other stranger was a quieter character. He, too, smiled as he
witnessed the exultation of his younger companion (whose horse, by
the way, was scampering about the plain), and spoke kindly to the
mountaineers, whose appearance was clear evidence of the sufferings they
had endured. The snakes by this time were cooked, and the trappers gave
their new acquaintances the never-failing invitation to "sit and eat."
When the latter, however, understood what the viands were, their looks
expressed the horror and disgust they felt.

"Good God!" exclaimed the elder, "you surely cannot eat such disgusting
food?"

"This nigger doesn't savy what disgustin' is," gruffly answered
Killbuck; "but them as carries empty paunch three days an' more, is glad
to get snake meat, I'm thinkin'."

"What! you've no ammunition, then?"

"_Well_, we haven't."

"Wait till the wagons come up, and throw away that abominable stuff,
and you shall have something better, I promise," said the elder of the
strangers.

"Yes," continued the younger; "some hot preserved soup, hotch-potch, and
a glass of porter, will do you good."

The trappers looked at the speaker, who was talking Greek (to them).
They thought the bourgeois were making fun, and did not half like it, so
answered simply, "Wagh! h----'s full of hosh-posh and porter."

Two large wagons presently came up, escorted by some eight or ten stout
Missourians. Sublette was amongst the number, well known as a mountain
trader, and under whose guidance the present party, which formed a
pleasure expedition at the expense of a Scotch sportsman, was leisurely
making its way across the mountains to the Columbia. As several
mountaineers were in company, Killbuck and La Bonté recognized more than
one friend, and the former and Sublette were old campaneros. As soon as
the animals were unhitched, and camp formed on the banks of the creek,
a black cook set about preparing a meal. Our two trapping friends looked
on with astonishment as the sable functionary drew from the wagon the
different articles he required to furnish forth a feed. Hams, tongues,
tins of preserved meats, bottles of pickles, of porter, brandy, coffee,
sugar, flour, were tumbled promiscuously on the prairie; whilst pots and
pans, knives, forks, spoons, plates, &c. &c., displayed their unfamiliar
faces to the mountaineers. "Hosh-posh and porter" did not now appear
such Utopian articles as they had first imagined; but no one but those
who have lived for years on simple meat and water, can understand the
relish with which they accepted the invitation of the Cap'n (as they
called the Scotchman) to "take a horn of liquor." Killbuck and La Bonté
sat in the same position as when we first surprised them asleep under
the shadow of Independence Rock, regarding the profuse display of
comestibles with scarce-believing eyes, and childishly helpless from the
novelty of the scene. Each took the proffered half-pint cup, filled to
the brim with excellent brandy--(no teetotallers they!)--looked once
at the amber-colored surface, and, with the usual mountain pledge of
"here's luck!" tossed off the grateful liquor at a breath. This prepared
them in some measure for what was yet in store for them. The Scotchman
bestirred the cook in his work, and soon sundry steaming pots were
lifted from the fire, and the skillets emptied of their bread--the
contents of the former poured in large flat pans, while pannikins
were filled with smoking coffee. The two trappers needed no second
invitation, but, seizing each a panful of steaming stew, drew the
butcher-knives from their belts, and fell-to lustily--the hospitable
Scotchman plying them with more and more, and administering corrective
noggins of brandy the while; until at last they were fain to cry
"enough," wiped their knives on the grass, and placed them in their
sheaths--a sign that human nature could no more. How can pen describe
the luxury of the smoke that followed, to lips which had not kissed pipe
for many months, and how the fragrant honey-dew from Old Virginia was
relishingly puffed!

But the Scotchman's bounty did not stop here. He soon elicited from the
lips of the hunters the narrative of their losses and privations, and
learned that they now, without ammunition and scarcely clothed, were on
their way to Platte Fort, to hire themselves to the Indian traders in
order to earn another outfit, wherewith once more to betake themselves
to their perilous employment of trapping. What was their astonishment
to see their entertainer presently lay out upon the ground two piles of
goods, each consisting of a four-point Mackinaw, two tin canisters
of powder, with corresponding lead and flints, a pair of moccasins, a
shirt, and sufficient buckskin to make a pair of pantaloons; and how
much the more was the wonder increased when two excellent Indian horses
were presently lassoed from the cavallada, and with mountain saddle,
bridle, and lariats complete, together with the two piles of goods
described, presented to them "on the prairie" or "gift-free," by the
kind-hearted stranger, who would not even listen to thanks for the most
timely and invaluable present.

Once more equipped, our two hunters, filled with good brandy and
fat buffalo meat, again wended on their way; their late entertainers
continuing their pleasure-trip across the gap of the South Pass,
intending to visit the Great Salt Lake, or Timponogos, of the West. The
former were bound for the North Fork of the Platte, with the intention
of joining one of the numerous trapping parties which rendezvous at the
American Fur Company's post on that branch of the river. On a fork of
Sweetwater, however, not two days after the meeting with the Scotchman's
wagons, they encountered a band of a dozen mountaineers, mounted on fine
horses, and well armed and equipped, traveling along without the usual
accompaniment of a mulada of pack-animals, two or three mules alone
being packed with meat and spare ammunition. The band was proceeding
at a smart rate, the horses moving with the gait peculiar to American
animals, known as pacing or racking, in Indian file--each of the
mountaineers with a long heavy rifle resting across the horn of his
saddle. Amongst them our two friends recognized Markhead, who had been
of the party dispersed months before by the Blackfeet on one of the
head-streams of the Yellow Stone, which event had been the origin of the
dire sufferings of Killbuck and La Bonté. Markhead, after running the
gauntlet of numerous Indians, through the midst of whose country he
passed with his usual temerity and utter disregard to danger, suffering
hunger, thirst, and cold--those everyday experiences of mountain
life--riddled with balls, but with three scalps hanging from his belt,
made his way to a rendezvous on Bear River, whence he struck out for the
Platte in early spring, in time to join the band he now accompanied, who
were on a horse-stealing expedition to the Missions of Upper California.
Little persuasion did either Killbuck or La Bonté require to join the
sturdy freebooters. In five minutes they had gone "files-about," and
at sundown were camping on the well-timbered bottom of Little Sandy,
feasting once more on delicate hump-rib and tenderloin.

For California, ho!

Fourteen good rifles in the hands of fourteen mountainmen stout
and true, on fourteen strong horses, of true Indian blood and
training--fourteen cool heads, with fourteen pairs of keen eyes in them,
each head crafty as an Indian's, directing a right arm strong as steel,
and a heart as brave as grizzly bear's. Before them a thousand miles of
dreary desert or wilderness, overrun by hostile savages, thirsting for
the white man's blood; famine and drought, the arrows of wily hordes
of Indians--and, these dangers past, the invasion of the civilized
settlements of whites, the least numerous of which contained ten times
their number of armed and bitter enemies--the sudden swoop upon their
countless herds of mules and horses, the fierce attack and bloody
slaughter;--such were the consequences of the expedition these bold
mountaineers were now engaged in. Fourteen lives of any fourteen enemies
who would be rash enough to stay them, were, any day you will, carried
in the rifle-barrels of these stout fellows; who, in all the proud
consciousness of their physical qualities, neither thought, nor cared to
think, of future perils; and rode merrily on their way, rejoicing in the
dangers they must necessarily meet. Never a more daring band crossed
the mountains; a more than ordinary want of caution characterized their
march, and dangers were recklessly and needlessly invited, which even
the older and more cold-blooded mountaineers seemed not to care to
avoid. They had, each and all, many a debt to pay the marauding Indians.
Grudges for many privations, for wounds and loss of comrades, rankled in
their breasts; and not one but had suffered more or less in property and
person at the hands of the savages, within a few short months. Threats
of vengeance on every Redskin they met were loud and deep; and the wild
war-songs round their nightly camp-fires, and grotesque scalp-dances,
borrowed from the Indians, proved to the initiated that they were, one
and all, "half-froze for hair." Soon after Killbuck and La Bonté joined
them, they one day suddenly surprised a band of twenty Sioux, scattered
on a small prairie, and butchering some buffalo they had just killed.
Before they could escape, the whites were upon them with loud shouts,
and in three minutes the scalps of eleven were dangling from their
saddle-horns.

Struggling up mountains, slipping down precipices, dashing over prairies
which resounded with their Indian songs, charging the Indians wherever
they met them, and without regard to their numbers; frightening with
their lusty war-whoops the miserable Diggers, who were not unfrequently
surprised while gathering roots in the mountain plains, and who,
scrambling up the rocks and concealing themselves, like sage rabbits, in
holes and corners, peered, chattering with fear, as the wild and noisy
troop rode by: scarce drawing rein, they passed rapidly the heads of
Green and Grand Rivers, through a country abounding in game and in
excellent pasture; encountering in the upland valleys, through which
meandered the well-timbered creeks on which they made their daily camps,
many a band of Yutas, through whom they dashed at random, caring not
whether they were friends or foes. Passing many other heads of
streams, they struck at last the edge of the desert, lying along the
south-eastern base of the Great Salt Lake, and which extends in almost
unbroken sterility to the foot of the range of the Sierra Nevada--a
mountain-chain, capped with perpetual snow, that bounds the northern
extremity of a singular tract of country, walled by mountains and
utterly desert, whose salt lagoons and lakes, although fed by many
streams, find no outlet to the ocean, but are absorbed in the spongy
soil or thirsty sand which characterize the different portions of this
deserted tract. In the Grand Basin, it is reported, neither human
nor animal life can be supported. No oasis cheers the wanderer in
the unbroken solitude of the vast wilderness. More than once the lone
trapper has penetrated with hardy enterprise into the salt plains of
the basin, but no signs of beaver or fur-bearing animal rewarded the
attempt. The ground is scantily covered with coarse unwholesome grass
that mules and horses refuse to eat; and the water of the springs,
impregnated with the impurities of the soil through which it percolates,
affords but nauseating draughts to the thirsty traveler.

In passing from the more fertile uplands to the lower plains, as they
descended the streams, the timber on their banks became scarcer, and the
groves more scattered. The rich buffalo or _grama_ grass was exchanged
for a coarser species, on which the hard-worked animals soon grew poor
and weak. The thickets of plum and cherry, of box-elder and quaking-ash,
which had hitherto fringed the creeks, and where the deer and bear loved
to resort--the former to browse on the leaves and tender shoots, the
latter to devour the fruit--now entirely disappeared, and the only
shrub seen was the eternal sage-bush, which flourishes everywhere in the
western regions in uncongenial soils where other vegetation refuses to
grow. The visible change in the scenery had also a sensible effect on
the spirits of the mountaineers. They traveled on in silence through the
deserted plains; the _hi-hi-hiiya_ of their Indian chants was no longer
heard enlivening the line of march. More than once a Digger of the
Piyutah tribe took himself and hair in safety from their path, and
almost unnoticed; but as they advanced they became more cautious in
their movements, and testified, by the vigilant watch they kept, that
they anticipated hostile attacks even in these arid wastes. They had
passed without molestation through the country infested by the bolder
Indians. The mountain Yutas, not relishing the appearance of the
hunters, had left them unmolested; but they were now entering a country
inhabited by the most degraded and abject of the western tribes; who,
nevertheless, ever suffering from the extremities of hunger, have their
brutish wits sharpened by the necessity of procuring food, and rarely
fail to levy a contribution of rations, of horse or mule flesh, on the
passenger in their inhospitable country. The brutish cunning and animal
instinct of these wretches is such, that, although arrant cowards, their
attacks are more feared than those of bolder Indians. These
people--called the Yamparicas or Root Diggers--are, nevertheless, the
degenerate descendants of those tribes which once overran that portion
of the continent of North America now comprehended within the boundaries
of Mexico, and who have left such startling evidences in their track of
a comparatively superior state of civilization. They now form an outcast
tribe of the great nation of the Apache, which extends under various
names from the Great Salt Lake along the table-lands on each side of the
Sierra Madre to the Tropic of Cancer, where they merge into what are
called the Mexican Indians. The whole of this nation is characterized by
most abject cowardice; and they even refuse to meet the helpless
Mexicans in open fight--unlike the Yuta or Comanche, who carry bold and
open warfare into the territories of their civilized enemy, and never
shrink from hand-to-hand encounter. The Apaches and the degenerate
Diggers pursue a cowardly warfare, hiding in ambush, and shooting the
passer-by with arrows; or, dashing upon him at night when steeped in
sleep, they bury their arrow to the feather in his heaving breast. As
the Mexicans say, "_Sin ventaja, no salen;_" they never attack without
odds. But they are not the less dangerous enemies on this account; and
by the small bands of trappers who visit their country they are the more
dreaded by reason of this cowardly and wolfish system of warfare.

To provide against surprise, therefore, as the hunters rode along,
flankers were extended _en guerilla_ on each side, mounting the high
points to reconnoiter the country, and keeping a sharp look-out
for Indian sign. At night the animals were securely hobbled, and
a horse-guard posted round them--a service of great danger, as the
stealthy cat-like Diggers are often known to steal up silently, under
cover of the darkness, towards the sentinel, shoot him with their
arrows, and, approaching the animals, cut the hobbles and drive them
away unseen.

One night they encamped on a creek where was but little of the coarsest
pasture, and that little scattered here and there, so that they were
compelled to allow their animals to roam farther than usual from camp in
search of food. Four of the hunters, however, accompanied them to guard
against surprise; whilst but half of those in camp lay down to sleep,
the others, with rifles in their hands, remaining prepared for any
emergency. This day they had killed one of their two pack-mules for
food, game not having been met with for several days; but the animal was
so poor that it scarcely afforded more than one tolerable meal to the
whole party.

A short time before the dawn of day an alarm was given; the animals were
heard to snort violently; a loud shout was heard, followed by the sharp
crack of a rifle, and the tramp of galloping horses plainly showed that
a stampede had been affected. The whites instantly sprang to their arms,
and rushed in the direction of the sounds. The body of the cavallada,
however, had luckily turned, and, being headed by the mountaineers, were
surrounded and secured, with the loss of only three, which had probably
been mounted by the Indians.

Day breaking soon after, one of their band was discovered to be missing;
and it was then found that a man who had been standing horse-guard at
the time of the attack, had not come into camp with his companions.
At that moment a thin spiral column of smoke was seen to rise from
the banks of the creek, telling but too surely the fate of the missing
mountaineer. It was the signal of the Indians to their people that a
_coup_ had been struck, and that an enemy's scalp remained in their
triumphant hands.

"H----!" exclaimed the trappers in a breath; and soon imprecations and
threats of revenge, loud and deep, were showered upon the heads of the
treacherous Indians. Some of the party rushed to the spot where the
guard had stood, and there lay the body of their comrade, pierced with
lance and arrow, the scalp gone, and the body otherwise mutilated in
a barbarous manner. Five were quickly in the saddle, mounted upon the
strongest horses, and flying along the track of the Indians, who had
made off towards the mountains with their prize and booty. We will not
follow them in their work of bloody vengeance, save by saying that they
followed the savages to their village, into which they charged headlong,
recovered their stolen horses, and returned to camp at sundown with
thirteen scalps dangling from their rifles, in payment for the loss of
their unfortunate companion. *

     * In Frémont's expedition to California, on a somewhat
     similar occasion, two mountaineers--one the celebrated Kit
     Carson, the other a St. Louis Frenchman named Godey, and
     both old trappers--performed a feat surpassing the one
     described above, inasmuch as they were but two. They charged
     into an Indian village to rescue some stolen horses, and
     avenge the slaughter of two New Mexicans who had been
     butchered by the Indians; both which objects they effected,
     returning to camp with the lost animals and a couple of
     propitiatory scalps.

In their further advance, hunger and thirst were their daily companions:
they were compelled to kill several of their animals for food, but were
fortunate enough to replace them by a stroke of good-luck in meeting
a party of Indians returning from an excursion against one of the
Californian settlements with a tolerably large band of horses. Our
hunters met this band one fine morning, and dashed into the midst at
once; half-a-dozen Indians bit the dust, and twenty horses were turned
over from red to white masters in as many seconds, which remounted those
whose animals had been eaten, and enabled the others to exchange their
worn-out steeds for fresh ones. This fortunate event was considered a
_coup_, and the event was celebrated by the slaughter of a fat young
horse, which furnished an excellent supper that night--a memorable event
in these starveling regions.

They were now devouring their horses and mules at the rate of one every
alternate day; for so poor were the animals that one scarcely furnished
an ample meal for the thirteen hungry hunters. They were once more
reduced to the animals they rode on; and after a fast of twenty-four
hours' duration, were debating on the propriety of drawing lots as
to whose Rosinante should fill the kettle, when some Indians suddenly
appeared making signs of peace upon the bluff, and indicating a
disposition to enter the camp for the purpose of trading. Being invited
to approach, they offered to trade a few dressed elk-skins; but being
asked for meat, they said that their village was a long way off, and
they had nothing with them but a small portion of some game they had
lately killed. When requested to produce this they hesitated; but the
trappers looking hungry and angry at the same moment, an old Indian drew
from under his blanket several flaps of portable dried meat, which he
declared was bear's. It was but a small ration amongst so many; but,
being divided, was quickly laid upon the fire to broil. The meat was
stringy, and of whitish color, altogether unlike any flesh the trappers
had before eaten. Killbuck was the first to discover this. He had been
quietly masticating the last mouthful of his portion, the stringiness of
which required more than usual dental exertion, when the novelty of the
flavor struck him as something singular. Suddenly his jaws ceased their
work, he thought a moment, took the morsel from his mouth, looked at it
intently, and dashed it into the fire.

"Man-meat, by G----!" he cried out; and at the words every jaw stopped
work: the trappers looked at the meat and each other.

"I'm dog-gone if it ain't!" cried old Walker, looking at his piece, "and
white meat at that, wagh!" (and report said it was not the first time
he had tasted such viands;) and the conviction seizing each mind, every
mouthful was quickly spat into the fire, and the ire of the deceived
whites was instantly turned upon the luckless providers of the feast.
They saw the storm that was brewing, and without more ado turned tail
from the camp, and scuttled up the bluffs, where, turning round, they
fired a volley of arrows at the tricked mountaineers, and instantly
disappeared.

However, the desert and its nomad pilferers were at length passed; the
sandy plains became grass-covered prairies; the monstrous cottonwood on
the creeks was replaced by oak and ash; the surface of the country grew
more undulating, and less broken up into canons and ravines; elk and
deer leaped in the bottoms, and bands of antelope dotted the plains,
with occasional troops of wild horses, too wary to allow the approach
of man. On the banks of a picturesque stream called the San Joaquim the
party halted a few days to recruit themselves and animals, feasting the
while on the fattest of venison and other game. They then struck to the
south-east for two days, until they reached a branch of the Las Animas,
a clear stream running through a pretty valley, well timbered and
abounding in game. Here, as they wound along the river-banks, a horseman
suddenly appeared upon the bluff above them, galloping at a furious rate
along the edge. His dress approached in some degree to civilized attire.
A broad-brimmed sombrero surmounted his swarthy face; a colored blanket,
through a slit in which his head was thrust, floated in the air from
his shoulders; leathern leggings incased his lower limbs; and huge spurs
jingled on his heels. He rode in a high-peaked Mexican saddle, his feet
thrust in ponderous stirrups, and in his hand swung a coil of ready
lasso, his only offensive arm. One of the trappers knew a little
Spanish, and instantly hailed him.

"_Compadre,_" he shouted, "_por onde va?_" The Californian reined in
suddenly, throwing the horse he rode on its very haunches, and, darting
down the bluff, galloped unhesitatingly into the midst of the hunters.

"_Americanos!_" he exclaimed, glancing at them; and continued, smiling
--"_Y caballos quieren, por eso vienen tan lejitos. Jesus, que mala
gente!_"--"It's horses you want, and for this you come all this way. Ah,
what rogues you are!"

He was an Indian, employed at the Mission of San Fernando, distant three
days' journey from their present position, and was now searching for a
band of horses and mules which had strayed. San Fernando, it appeared,
had once before been visited by a party of mountain freebooters, and the
Indian therefore divined the object of the present one. He was, he told
them, "_un Indio, pero mansito_"--an Indian, but a tame one; * "_de
mas, Christiano_"--a Christian, moreover (exhibiting a small cross
which hung round his neck). There were many people about the Mission,
he said, who knew how to fight, and had plenty of arms; and there were
enough to "eat up," the "_Americanos, san frijoles,_"without beans, as
he facetiously observed. For his part, however, he was very friendly to
the _Americanos_; he had once met a man of that nation who was a good
sort of fellow, and who had made him a present of tobacco, of which he
was particularly fond. Finding this hint did not take, he said that
the horses and mules belonging to the Mission were innumerable--"like
that," he added, sweeping his hand to all points of the compass over the
plain, to intimate that they would cover that extent; and he could point
out a large herd grazing nearer at hand than the Mission, and guarded
but by three _vaqueros_. Regaled with venison, and with a smoke of his
coveted tobacco, he rode off, and made his way to the Mission without
delay, conveying the startling intelligence that a thousand Americans
were upon them.

     * The Mexicans call the Indians living near the Missions and
     engaged in agriculture, mansos, or mansitos, "tame."

The next morning the thirteen doughty mountaineers quietly resumed their
journey, moving leisurely along towards the object of their expedition.

It will not be out of place here to digress a little, in order to
describe the singular features of the establishments formed in those
remote regions by the Catholic Church, as _nuclei_ round which to
concentrate the wandering tribes that inhabit the country, with a view
to give them the benefit of civilized example, and to wean them from
their restless nomadic habits.

The establishment of Missions in Upper California is coeval with the
first settlement of Southern Mexico. No sooner had Spanish rule taken a
firm foothold in the Aztec empire, than the avowed primary object of the
military expedition began to be carried into effect. "To save the souls"
of the savage and barbarous subjects of their most Catholic majesties
was ever inculcated upon the governors of the conquered country as the
grand object to be sought after, as soon as tranquillity was partially
restored by the submission of the Mexicans; and the Cross, the sacred
emblem of the Catholic faith, was to be upraised in the remotest corners
of the country, and the natives instructed and compelled to worship it,
in lieu of the grotesque images of their own idolatrous religion.

To carry into effect these orthodox instructions, troops of pious
priests, of friars and monks of every order, and even of saintly nuns,
followed in the wake of the victorious armies of Cortez; and girding up
their loins, with zealous fervor and enthusiasm, and with an enterprise
and hardihood worthy of buccaneers, they pushed their adventurous way
far into the bowels of the land, preaching devoutly and with commendable
perseverance to savages who did not understand a syllable of what they
so eloquently discoursed; and returning, after the lapse of many months
passed in this first attempt, with glowing accounts of the "_muy
buen indole_" the very ductile disposition of the savages, and of the
thousands they had converted to "_la santa fé catolica_."

Ferdinand and Isabel, of glorious memory, at once beat up for
volunteers. Crowds of Franciscan monks, greasy Capuchinos, and nuns of
orthodox odor, joined the band; and saints even of the feminine gender,
long since canonized and up aloft amongst the goodly muster of saints
and martyrs, put foot once more on _terra firma_, and, rosary in hand,
crossed the seas to participate in the good work. As proof of this
latter fact, one Venabides, a Franciscan, whose veracity is beyond
impeachment, declared that, while preaching in the regions now known
as New Mexico, one million Indians from the "rumbo" known as Cibolo, a
mighty nation, approached his temporary pulpit on the Rio Grande,
and requested in a body the favor of being baptized. Struck with the
singularity of this request from Indians with whom he had as yet held no
communication, and with conscientious scruple as to whether he would
be justified in performing such ceremony without their having received
previous instruction, he hesitated a few moments before making an
answer. At this juncture the Indians espied a medallion which hung
around his neck, bearing the effigy of a certain saint of extraordinary
virtue. At sight of this they fell on their knees before it; and it was
some time before they found words (in what language does not appear) to
explain to the holy father that the original of that effigy, which hung
pendant from his neck, had been long amongst them instructing them in
the elements of the Christian religion, and had only lately disappeared;
informing them that certain reverend men would shortly appear in the
land, who would finish the good work she had devoutly commenced, and
clench the business by baptizing the one million miserable sinners who
now knelt before El Padre Venabides.

"_Valgame Dios!_" reverently exclaimed that worthy man, "_qui mïlagro
es este!_" [what a miracle is this I hear!] and casting up his eyes,
and speaking slowly, as if he weighed every word, and taxing his
memory of the historical calendar of saints, continued,--"_Se
muriô--aquella--santissima--muger--en el ano 175--es decir--ya
hacen--mil--quatro--cientos--anos_" [That most holy woman died in the
year 175; that is to say, one thousand four hundred years ago.]

"Oh, what a strange thing is this!" the padre continues devoutly. "After
so many ages spent in heaven in company of the angels, of most holy men,
and of virgins the most pure--and, perhaps, also in the company of my
worthy and esteemed friend and patron, Don Vincente Car-vajal y Calvo,
who died a few years ago in San Lucar Xeres (bequeathing me certain
arrobas of dry wine, of a class I greatly esteem--for which act he
deserved to be canonized, and, I have no doubt, is), the said Don
Vincente Carvajal y Calvo being, moreover, a man of the purest and
holiest thoughts (_Dios mio!_ what a puchero that man always had on his
table!)--this holy woman comes here, to these wild and remote regions;
this holy woman (who died fifteen hundred years ago), abandoning the
company of angels, of holy men, and sanctified women and virgins, and
also of Don Vincente Carvajal y Calvo (that worthy man!)--comes here, I
say, where there are neither pucheros, nor garbanzos, nor dry wine,
nor sweet wine, neither of Xeres, nor of Val de Penas, nor of Peralta;
where" (sobbed the padre, and bellowed the last word) "there is--
nothing either to eat or to drink. _Valgame Purissima Maria!_ And
what is the name of this holy woman? the world will ask," continues
Ven-abides. "Santa Clara of Carmona is her name, one well known in my
native country, who leaves heaven and all its joys, wends her way to
the distant wilds of New Spain, and spends years in inducting the savage
people to the holy faith. Truly a pious work, and pleasing to God!" *

     * From a manuscript obtained in Santa Fé of New Mexico,
     describing the labors of the missionaries Fray Augustin
     Ruiz, Venabides, and Marcos, in the year 1585.

Thus spoke Venabides the Franciscan, and no doubt he believed what he
said; and many others in Old Spain were fools enough to believe it too,
for the shaven heads flocked over in greater numbers, and the cry was
ever, "still they come."

Along the whole extent of the table-lands, not an Indian tribe but was
speedily visited by the preaching friars and monks; and in less than a
century after the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, these hardy and
enthusiastic frayles had pushed their way into the inhospitable regions
of New Mexico, nearly two thousand miles distant from the valley
of Anahuac. How they succeeded in surmounting the natural obstacles
presented by the wild and barren deserts they traversed--how they
escaped the infinite peril they encountered at every step at the hands
of the savage inhabitants of the country, with whose language they were
totally unacquainted--is sufficient puzzle to those who, in the present
day, have attempted a journey in the same regions.

However, it is impossible not to admire the hardihood of these holy
pioneers of civilization, who, totally unfitted by their former mode of
life for undergoing such hardships as they must have anticipated, threw
themselves into the wilderness with fearless and stubborn zeal.

For the most part, however, they found the Indians exceedingly
hospitable and well disposed; and it was not until some time
after--when, receiving from the missionary monks glowing, and not always
very truthful, accounts of the riches of the country in which they had
located themselves, the governors of Mexico dispatched armed expeditions
under adventurous desperadoes to take and retain possession of the said
country, with orders to compel the submission of the native tribes, and
enforce their obedience to the authority of the whites--that the simple
and confiding Indians began to see the folly they had committed in
permitting the residence amongst them of these superior beings, whom
they had first looked upon as more than mortal; but who, when strong
enough to do so, were not long in throwing off the mask, and proving to
the simple savages that they were much "more human than divine."

Thus, in the province of New Mexico, Fray Augustin Ruiz, with his
co-preachers, Marcos and Venabides, were kindly received by the native
inhabitants, and we have seen how one million (?) Indians came from
the "rumbo" of the Cibolo, ready and willing to receive the baptismal
sacrament. This Cibolo, or Sivulo, as it is written in some old MSS.,
is, by the way, mysteriously alluded to by the monkish historians who
have written on this region, as being a kingdom inhabited by a very
superior class of Indians to any met with between Anahuac and the vale
of Taos--in the enjoyment of a high state of civilization, inhabiting a
well-built city, the houses of which were three storeys high, and
having attained considerable perfection in the domestic arts. This,
notwithstanding the authority of Don Francisco Vasquez Coronado, who
visited Cibolo, and of Solis and Venegas, who have guaranteed the
assertion, must be received _cum grano salis_; but, at all events, the
civilization of the mysterious Cibolo may be compared to that of the
Aztec empire under Montezuma, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, both
being egregiously exaggerated by the historians of the day. Cibolo was
situated on a river called Tegue. At this day, neither name is known
to the inhabitants of New Mexico. If pate-shaven Venabides had held
his tongue, New Mexico might now be in the peaceful possession of the
Catholic Missions, and the property of the Church of Mexico pretty
considerably enhanced by the valuable _placeres_, or gold-washings,
which abound in that province. Full, however, of the wonderful miracle
of Santa Clara of Carmona, which had been brought to light through the
agency of the medallion at the end of his rosario, Fray Venabides must
needs return to Spain, and humbug poor old Fernando, and even the more
sensible Isabel, with wonderful accounts of the riches of the country he
had been instrumental in exploring, and of the excellent disposition
of the natives to receive the Word of God. Don Juan Onate was therefore
quickly dispatched to take possession; and in his train followed twelve
Castilian families of _sangre azul_, to colonize the newly-acquired
territory. The names of these still remain, disgraced by the degenerate
wretches who now bear them, but in whom scarce a drop of blood remains
which ever filtered from the veins of the paladins of Old Castile.

Then commenced the troublous times. The Missions were upheld by dint of
steel alone; and frequently the Indians rose, and often massacred their
white persecutors. The colonists were more than once driven bodily from
New Mexico, and were only reinstated by the aid of large bodies of armed
men.

In California, however, they managed these things better. The wily
monks took care to keep all interlopers from the country, established
themselves in snug quarters, instructed the Indians in agriculture;
and soon gained such an ascendency over them, that no difficulty was
experienced in keeping them under proper and wholesome restraint. Strong
and commodious Missions were built and fortified, well stored with arms
and ammunition, and containing sufficient defenders to defy attack.
Luxuriant gardens and thriving vineyards soon surrounded these isolated
stations: the plains waved with golden corn; whilst domestic cattle,
thriving on the rich pasture, and roaming far and near, multiplied and
increased a hundredfold.

Nothing can be more beautiful than the appearance of one of these
Missions, to the traveler who has lately passed the arid and barren
wilderness of the North-West. The _adobe_ walls of the convent-looking
building, surmounted by cross and belfry, are generally hidden in a
mass of luxuriant vegetation. Fig-trees, bananas, cherry, and apple,
leaf-spreading platanos, and groves of olives, form umbrageous vistas,
under which the sleek monks delight to wander; gardens, cultivated
by their own hands, testify to the horticultural skill of the worthy
padres; whilst vineyards yield their grateful produce to gladden the
hearts of the holy exiles in these western solitudes. Vast herds of
cattle roam half-wild on the plains, and bands of mules and horses,
whose fame has even reached the distant table-lands of the Rocky
Mountains, and excited the covetousness of the hunters--and thousands of
which, from the day they are foaled to that of their death, never feel a
saddle on their backs--cover the country. Indians (Mansitos) idle round
the skirts of these vast herds (whose very numbers keep them together),
living, at their own choice, upon the flesh of mule, or ox, or horse.



CHAPTER VII

|THE Mission of San Fernando is situated on a small river called Las
Animas, a branch of the Los Martires. The convent is built at the neck
of a large plain, at the point of influx of the stream from the broken
spurs of the sierra. The savanna is covered with luxuriant grass, kept
down, however, by the countless herds of cattle which pasture on it. The
banks of the creek are covered with a lofty growth of oak and poplar,
which, near the Mission, have been considerably thinned for the purpose
of affording fuel and building materials for the increasing settlement.
The convent stands in the midst of a grove of fruit-trees, its rude
tower and cross peeping above them, and contrasting picturesquely
with the wildness of the surrounding scenery. Gardens and orchards lie
immediately in front of the building, and a vineyard stretches away to
the upland ridge of the valley. The huts of the Indians are scattered
here and there, built of stone and adobe, sometimes thatched with flags
and boughs, but comfortable enough. The convent itself is a substantial
building, of the style of architecture characterizing monastic edifices
in most parts of the world. Loopholes peer from its plastered walls, and
on a flat portion of the roof a comically-mounted gingall or wall-piece,
carrying a two-pound ball, threatens the assailant in time of war. At
one end of the oblong building, a rough irregular arch of sun-burned
bricks is surmounted by a rude cross, under which hangs a small but
deep-toned bell--the wonder of the Indian peones, and highly venerated
by the frayles themselves, who received it as a present from a certain
venerable archbishop of Old Spain, and who, whilst guarding it with
reverential awe, tell wondrous tales of its adventures on the road to
its present abiding-place.

Of late years the number of the canonical inmates of the convent has
been much reduced--there being but four priests now to do the duties of
the eleven who formerly inhabited it: Fray Augustin, a capuchin of due
capacity of paunch, being at the head of the holy quartette. Augustin
is the conventual name of the reverend father, who fails not to impress
upon such casual visitants to that ultima Thule as he deems likely to
appreciate the information, that, but for his humility, he might add the
sonorous appellations of Ignacio Sabanal-Morales-y Fuentes--his family
being of the best blood of Old Castile, and known there since the days
of Ruy Gomez--el--Campéador--possessing, moreover, half the "vega" of
the Ebro, &c., where, had fate been propitious, he would now have been
the sleek superior of a rich capuchin convent, instead of vegetating, a
leather-clad frayle, in the wilds of California Alta.

Nevertheless, his lot is no bad one. With plenty of the best and fattest
meat to eat, whether of beef or venison, of bear or mountain mutton;
with good wine and brandy of home make, and plenty of it; fruit of all
climes in great abundance; wheaten or com bread to suit his palate; a
tractable flock of natives to guide, and assisted in the task by three
brother shepherds; far from the strife of politics or party--secure
from hostile attack (not quite, by the by), and eating, drinking, and
sleeping away his time, one would think that Fray Augustin Ignacio
Sabanal-Morales-y Fuentes had little to trouble him, and had no cause
to regret even the vega of Castilian Ebro, held by his family since the
days of el Campéador.

One evening Fray Augustin sat upon an adobe bench, under the fig-tree
shadowing the porch of the Mission. He was dressed in a goat-skin
jerkin, softly and beautifully dressed, and descending to his hips,
under which his only covering--tell it not in Gath!--was a long linen
shirt, reaching to his knees, and lately procured from Puebla de los
Angeles, as a sacerdotal garment. Boots, stockings, or unmentionables he
had none. A cigarito, of tobacco rolled in com shuck, was occasionally
placed between his lips; whereupon huge clouds of smoke rushed in
columns from his mouth and nostrils. His face was of a golden yellow
color, relieved by arched and very black eyebrows; his shaven chin was
of most respectable duplicity--his corporation of orthodox dimensions.
Several Indians and half-bred Mexican women were pounding Indian corn
on metates near at hand; whilst sundry beef-fed urchins of whitey-brown
complexion sported before the door, exhibiting, as they passed Fray
Augustin, a curious resemblance to the strongly-marked features of that
worthy padre. They were probably his nieces and nephews--a class of
relations often possessed in numbers by priests and monks.

The three remaining brothers were absent from the Mission: Fray
Bernardo, hunting elk in the sierra; Fray José, gallivanting at Puebla
de los Angeles, ten days' journey distant; Fray Cris-toval, lassoing
colts upon the plain. Augustin, thus left to his own resources, had just
eaten his vespertine frijolitos and chile Colorado, and was enjoying
a post-coenal smoke of fragrant pouche under the shadow of his own
fig-tree.

Whilst thus employed, an Indian dressed in Mexican attire approached
him hat in hand, and, making a reverential bow, asked his directions
concerning domestic business of the Mission.

"Hola! friend José," cried Fray Augustin, in a thick guttural voice,
"_pensaba yo_--I was thinking that it was very nearly this time three
years ago when those _malditos Americanos_ came by here and ran off with
so many of our cavallada."

"True, reverend father," answered the administrator, "just three years
ago, all but fifteen days: I remember it well. _Maldit os sean_--curse
them!"

"How many did we kill, José?"

"_Quizas môôchos_--a great many, I daresay. But they did not fight
fairly--charged right upon us, and gave us no time to do anything. They
don't know how to fight, these Mericanos; come right at you, before you
can swing a lasso, hallooing like _Indios bravos_."

"But, José, how many did they leave dead on the field?"

"Not one."

"And we?"

"_Valgame Dios!_ thirteen dead, and many more wounded."

"That's it! Now if these savages come again (and the Chemeguaba, who
came in yesterday, says he saw a large trail), we must fight _adentro_
--within--outside is no go; for, as you very properly say, José, these
Americans don't know how to fight, and kill us before--before we can
kill them! _Vayal_."

At this moment there issued from the door of the Mission Don Antonio
Velez Trueba, a Gachu-pin--that is, a native of Old Spain--a wizened
old hidalgo refugee, who had left the mother country on account of his
political opinions, which were stanchly Carlist, and had found his way
--how, he himself scarcely knew--from Mexico to San Francisco in
Upper California, where, having a most perfect contempt for everything
Mexican, and hearing that in the Mission of San Fernando, far away, were
a couple of Spanish padres of _sangre regular_, he had started into the
wilderness to ferret them out; and having escaped all dangers on the
route (which, however, were hardly dangers to the Don, who could not
realize the idea of scalp-taking savages), had arrived with a whole skin
at the Mission. There he was received with open arms by his countryman
Fray Augustin, who made him welcome to all the place afforded, and there
he harmlessly smoked away his time; his heart far away on the banks of
the Genii and in the grape-bearing vegas of his beloved Andalusia, his
withered cuerpo in the sierras of Upper California. Don Antonio was the
walking essence of a Spaniard of the _ancien régime_. His family dated
from the Flood, and with the exception of sundry refreshing jets of
Moorish blood, injected into the Truebas during the Moorish epoch,
no strange shoot was ever engrafted on their genealogical tree. The
marriages of the family were ever confined to the family itself--never
looking to fresh blood in a station immediately below it, which was not
hidal-gueno; nor above, since anything higher in rank than the Trueba y
Trueba family, _no habia_, there was not.

Thus, in the male and female scions of the house, were plainly visible
the ill effects of breeding "in and in." The male Truebas were sadly
degenerate Dons, in body as in mind--compared to their ancestors of
Boabdil's day; and the senoritas of the name were all eyes, and eyes
alone, and hardly of such stamp as would have tempted that amorous
monarch to bestow a kingdom for a kiss, as ancient ballads tell.

               "Duena de la negra toca,

               Por un beso de tu boca,

                   Diera un reyno, Boabdil;

               Y yo por ello, Cristiana,

               Te diera de buena gana

                   Mil cielos, si fueran mil."

Come of such poor stock, and reared on tobacco-smoke and _gazpacho_,
Don Antonio would not have shone, even amongst pigmy Mexicans, for
physical beauty. Five feet high, a framework of bones covered with a
skin of Andalusian tint, the Trueba stood erect and stiff in all the
consciousness of his _sangre regular_. His features were handsome, but
entirely devoid of flesh, his upper lip was covered with a jet-black
mustache mixed with gray, his chin was bearded "like the pard." Every
one around him clad in deer and goat skin, our Don walked conspicuous in
shining suit of black--much the worse for wear, it must be confessed--
with beaver hat sadly battered, and round his body and over his shoulder
an unexceptionable _capa_ of the amplest dimensions. Asking, as he
stepped over him, the pardon of an Indian urchin who blocked the door,
and bowing with punctilious politeness to the sturdy mozas who were
grinding corn, Don Antonio approached our friend Augustin, who was
discussing warlike matters with his administrador.

"Hola! Don Antonio, how do you find yourself, sir?"

"Perfectly well, and your very humble servant, reverend father; and your
worship also, I trust you are in good health?"

"_Sin novedad_--without novelty"; which, since it was one hour and a
half since our friends had separated to take their siestas, was not
impossible.

"Myself and the worthy José," continued Fray Augustin, "were speaking of
the vile invasion of a band of North American robbers, who three years
since fiercely assaulted this peaceful Mission, killing many of its
inoffensive inhabitants, wounding many more, and carrying off several of
our finest colts and most promising mules to their dens and caves in
the Rocky Mountains. Not with impunity, however, did they effect this
atrocity. José informs me that many of the assailants were killed by my
brave Indians. How many said you, José?"

"_Quizas mo-o-ochos,_" answered the Indian.

"Yes, probably a great multitude," continued the padre; "but, unwarned
by such well-merited castigation, it has been reported to me by a
Chemeguaba mansito, that a band of these audacious marauders are now on
the road to repeat the offense, numbering many thousands, well mounted
and armed; and to oppose these white barbarians it behoves us to make
every preparation of defense." *

     * From the report to the Governor of California by the Head
     of the Mission, in reference to the attacks by the American
     mountaineers.

"There is no cause for alarm," answered the Andaluz. "I" (tapping
his breast) "have served in three wars: in that glorious one _de la
Independencia_, when our glorious patriots drove the French like sheep
across the Pyrenees; in that equally glorious one of 1821; and, in
the late magnanimous struggle for the legitimate rights of his majesty
Charles V., King of Spain" (doffing his hat), "whom God preserve. With
that right arm," cried the spirited Don, extending his shriveled member,
"I have supported the throne of my kings--have fought for my country,
mowing down its enemies before me; and with it," vehemently exclaimed
the Gachupin, working himself into a perfect frenzy, "I will slay these
Norte Americanos, should they dare to show their faces in my front.
Adios, Don Augustin Ignacio Sabanal-Morales-y Fuentes," he cried,
doffing his hat with an earth-sweeping bow; "I go to grind my sword.
Till then, adieu."

"A countryman of mine!" said the frayle, admiringly, to the
administrador. "With him by our side we need not to fear: neither Norte
Americanos, nor the devil himself, can harm us when he is by."

Whilst the Trueba sharpens his Tizona, and the priest puffs volumes of
smoke from his nose and mouth, let us introduce to the reader one of the
muchachitas, who knelt grinding corn on the metate, to make tortillas
for the evening meal. Juanita was a stout wench from Sonora, of Mexican
blood, hardly as dark as the other women who surrounded her, and with a
drop or two of the Old Spanish blood struggling with the darker Indian
tint to color her plump cheeks. An enagua (a short petticoat) of red
serge was confined round her waist by a gay band ornamented with
beads, and a chemisette covered the upper part of the body, permitting,
however, a prodigal display of her charms. Whilst pounding sturdily
at the corn, she laughed and joked with her fellow-laborers upon the
anticipated American attack, which appeared to have but few terrors for
her. "_Que vengan_," she exclaimed--"let them come; they are only
men, and will not molest us women. Besides, I have seen these white men
before, in my own country, and they are fine fellows, very tall, and as
white as the snow on the sierras. Let them come, say I!"

"Only hear the girl!" cried another: "if these savages come, then will
they kill Pedrillo, and what will Juanita say to lose her sweetheart?"

"Pedrillo!" sneered the latter; "what care I for Pedrillo? _Soy,
Mejicana, yo_--a Mexican girl am I, I'd have you know, and don't demean
me to look at a wild Indian. Not I, indeed, by my salvation! What I say
is, let the Norte Americanos come."

At this juncture Fray Augustin called for a glass of aguardiente, which
Juanita was dispatched to bring, and, on presenting it, the churchman
facetiously inquired why she wished for the Americans, adding, "Don't
think they'll come here--no, no: here we are brave men, and have Don
Antonio with us, a noble fellow, well used to arms." As the words were
on his lips, the clattering of a horse's hoofs was heard rattling across
the loose stones and pebbles in the bed of the river, and presently an
Indian herder galloped up to the door of the Mission, his horse covered
with foam, and its sides bleeding from spur-wounds.

"_O, padre mio!_" he cried, as soon as he caught sight of his reverence,
"_vienen los Americanos_--the Americans, the Americans are upon us.
_Ave Maria purissima!_--more than ten thosuand are at my heels!"

Up started the priest and shouted for the Don.

That hidalgo presently appeared, armed with the sword that had graced
his thigh in so many glorious encounters--the sword with which he had
mowed down the enemies of his country, and by whose aid he now proposed
to annihilate the American savages, should they dare to appear before
him.

The alarm was instantly given; peones, vaque-ros hurried from the
plains; and milpas, warned by the deep-toned bell, which soon rung out
its sonorous alarum. A score of mounted Indians, armed with gun and
lasso, dashed off to bring intelligence of the enemy. The old gingall on
the roof was crammed with powder and bullets to the very muzzle, by the
frayle's own hand. Arms were brought and piled in the sala, ready for
use. The padre exhorted, the women screamed, the men grew pale and
nervous, and thronged within the walls. Don Antonio, the fiery Andaluz,
alone remained outside, flourishing his whetted saber, and roaring to
the padre, who stood on the roof with lighted match, by the side of
his formidable cannon, not to be affrighted--"that he, the Trueba, was
there, with his Tizona, ready to defeat the devil himself should he come
on."

He was deaf to the entreaties of the priest to enter.

"_Siempre en el frente_--Ever in the van," he said, "was the war-cry of
the Truebas."

But now a cloud of dust was seen approaching from the plain, and
presently a score of horsemen dashed headlong towards the Mission.
"_El enemigo!_" shouted Fray Augustin; and, without waiting to aim, he
clapped his match to the touch-hole of the gun, harmlessly pointed to
the sky, and crying out, "_in el nombre de Dios_"--in God's name--as he
did so, was instantly knocked over and over by the recoil of the piece,
then was as instantly seized by some of the Indian garrison, and forced
through the trap-door into the building; whilst the horsemen (who were
his own scouts) galloped up with the intelligence that the enemy was at
hand, and in overwhelming force.

Thereupon the men were all mounted, and formed in a body before the
building, to the amount of more than fifty, well armed with guns or bows
and arrows. Here the gallant Don harangued them, and infusing into their
hearts a little of his own courage, they eagerly demanded to be led
against the enemy. Fray Augustin reappeared on the roof, gave them his
blessing, advised them to give no quarter, and, with slight misgivings,
saw them ride off to the conflict.

About a mile from the Mission, the plain gradually ascended to a ridge
of moderate elevation, on which was a growth of dwarf oak and ilex.
To this point the eyes of the remaining inmates of the convent were
earnestly directed, as here the enemy was first expected to make his
appearance. Presently a few figures were seen to crown the ridge,
clearly defined against the clear evening sky. Not more than a dozen
mounted men composed this party, which all imagined must be doubtless
the vanguard of the thousand invaders. On the summit of the ridge
they halted a few minutes, as if to reconnoiter; and by this time the
California horsemen were halted in the plain, midway between the Mission
and the ridge, and distant from the former less than half-a-mile, so
that all the operations were clearly visible to the lookers on.

The enemy wound slowly, in Indian file, down the broken ground of the
descent; but when the plain was reached, they formed into something like
a line, and trotted fearlessly towards the Californians. These began
to sit uneasily in their saddles; nevertheless they made a forward
movement, and even broke into a gallop, but soon halted, and again
huddled together. Then the mountaineers quickened their pace, and their
loud shout was heard as they dashed into the middle of the faltering
troop. The sharp cracks of the rifles followed, and the duller reports
of the smooth-bored pieces of the Californians; a cloud of smoke and
dust arose from the plain, and immediately half-a-dozen horses, with
empty saddles, broke from it, followed quickly by the Californians,
flying like mad across the level. The little steady line of the
mountaineers advanced, and puffs of smoke arose as they loaded and
discharged their rifles at the flying horsemen. As the Americans came
on, however, one was seen to totter in his saddle, the rifle fell from
his grasp, and he tumbled headlong to the ground. For an instant his
companions surrounded the fallen man, but again forming, dashed towards
the Mission, shouting fierce war-whoops, and brandishing aloft their
long and heavy rifles. Of the defeated Californians some jumped off
their horses at the door of the Mission, and sought shelter within;
others galloped off towards the sierra in panic-stricken plight. Before
the gate, however, still paced valiantly the proud hidalgo, encumbered
with his cloak, and waving with difficulty his sword above his head. To
the priest and women, who implored him to enter, he replied with cries
of defiance, "_Viva Carlos Quinto!_" and "Death or glory!" He shouted
in vain to the flying crowd to halt; but, seeing their panic was beyond
hope, he clutched his weapon more firmly as the Americans dashed at him,
closed his teeth and his eyes, thought once of the vega of his beloved
Genii, and of Granada la Florida, and gave himself up for lost. Those
inside the Mission, when they observed the flight of their cavalry, gave
up the defense as hopeless; and already the charging mountaineers were
almost under the walls, when they observed the curious figure of the
little Don making demonstrations of hostility.

"Wagh!" exclaimed the leading hunter (no other than our friend La
Bonté), "here's a little critter as means to do all the fighting"; and
seizing his rifle by the barrel, he poked at the Don with the butt-end,
who parried the blow, and with such a sturdy stroke, as nearly severed
the stock in two. Another mountaineer rode up, and, swinging his lasso
overhead, threw the noose dexterously over the Spaniard's head, and as
it fell over his shoulders, drew it taut, thus securing the arms of the
pugnacious Don as in a vice.

"_Quartel!_" cried the latter; "_por Dios, quartel!_"

"Quarter be d------!" exclaimed one of the whites, who understood
Spanish; "who's a-goin' to hurt you, you little critter?"

By this time Fray Augustin was waving a white flag from the roof, in
token of surrender; and soon after he appeared trembling at the door,
beseeching the victors to be merciful and to spare the lives of the
vanquished, when all and everything in the Mission would be freely
placed at their disposal.

"What does the nigger say?" asked old Walker, the leader of the
mountaineers, of the interpreter.

"Well, he talks so queer, this hoss can't rightly make it out."

"Tell the old coon then to quit that, and make them darned greasers
clear out of the lodge, and pock some corn and shucks here for the
animals, for they're nigh give out."

This being conveyed to him in mountain Spanish, which fear alone made
him understand, the padre gave orders to the men to leave the Mission,
advising them, moreover, not to recommence hostilities, as himself was
kept as hostage, and if a finger was lifted against the mountaineers,
he would be killed at once, and the Mission burned to the ground. Once
inside, the hunters had no fear of attack--they could have kept the
building against all California; so, leaving a guard of two outside the
gate, and first seeing their worn-out animals supplied with piles of
corn and shucks, they made themselves at home, and soon were paying
attention to the hot tortillas, meat, and chile colorado which were
quickly placed before them, washing down the hot-spiced viands with deep
draughts of wine and brandy. It would have been amusing to have seen the
faces of these rough fellows as they gravely pledged each other in the
grateful liquor, and looked askance at the piles of fruit served by the
attendant Hebes. These came in for no little share of attention, it
may be imagined, but the utmost respect was paid to them; for your
mountaineer, rough and bear-like though he be, never by word or deed
offends the modesty of a woman, although sometimes obliged to use a
compulsory wooing, when time is not allowed for regular courtship, and
not unfrequently is known to jerk a New Mexican or Californian beauty
behind his saddle, should the obdurate parents refuse consent to their
immediate union. It tickled the Americans not a little to have all their
wants supplied, and to be thus waited upon, by what they considered the
houris of paradise; and after their long journey, and the many hardships
and privations they had suffered, their present luxurious situation
seemed scarcely real.

The hidalgo, released from the durance vile of the lasso, assisted at
the entertainment; his sense of what was due to the _sangre regular_
which ran in his veins being appeased by the fact that he sat _above_
the wild uncouth mountaineers, these preferring to squat cross-legged on
the floor in their own fashion, to the uncomfortable and novel luxury
of a chair. Killbuck, indeed, seemed to have quite forgotten the use of
such pieces of furniture. On Fray Augustin offering him one, and begging
him, with many protestations, to be seated, that old mountain worthy
looked at it, and then at the padre, turned it round, and at length,
comprehending the intention, essayed to sit. This he effected at last,
and sat grimly for some moments, when, seizing the chair by the back,
he hurled it out of the open door, exclaiming,--"Wagh! this coon ain't
hamshot anyhow, and don't want such fixins, he don't;" and gathering his
legs under his body, reclined in the manner customary to him. There was
a prodigious quantity of liquor consumed that night, the hunters making
up for their many banyans; but as it was the pure juice of the grape, it
had little or no effect upon their hard heads. They had not much to fear
from attacks on the part of the Californians; but, to provide against
all emergencies, the padre and the Gachupin were "hobbled," and confined
in an inner room, to which there was no ingress nor egress save through
the door which opened into the apartment where the mountaineers lay
sleeping, two of the number keeping watch. A fandango with the Indian
girls had been proposed by some of them, but Walker placed a decided
veto on this. He said "they had need of sleep now, for there was no
knowing what to-morrow might bring forth; that they had a long journey
before them, and winter was coming on; they would have to streak it
night and day, and sleep when their journey was over, which would not be
until Pike's Peak was left behind them. It was now October, and the way
they'd have to hump it back to the mountains would take the gristle off
a painter's tail."

Young Ned Wooton was not to the fore when the roll was called. He was
courting the Sonora wench Juanita, and to some purpose, for we may at
once observe that the maiden accompanied the mountaineer to his distant
home, and at the present moment is sharing his lodge on Hard-scrabble
creek of the upper Arkansa, having been duly and legally married by Fray
Augustin before their departure.

But now the snow on the ridge of the Sierra Madre, and the nightly
frosts; the angular flights of geese and ducks constantly passing
overhead; the sober tints of the foliage, and the dead leaves that
strew the ground; the withering grass on the plain, and the cold
gusts, sometimes laden with snow and sleet, that sweep from the distant
snow-clad mountains;--all these signs warn us to linger no longer in the
tempting valley of San Fernando, but at once to pack our mules to cross
the dreary and desert plains and inhospitable sierras; and to seek with
our booty one of the sheltered bayous of the Rocky Mountains.

On the third day after their arrival, behold our mountaineers again
upon the march, driving before them--with the assistance of half-a-dozen
Indians impressed for the first few days of the journey until the
cavallada get accustomed to travel without confusion--a band of four
hundred head of mules and horses, themselves mounted on the strongest
and fleetest they could select from at least a thousand.

Fray Augustin and the hidalgo, from the housetop, watched them
depart--the former glad to get rid of such unscrupulous guests at any
cost, the latter rather loath to part with his boon companions, with
whom he had quaffed many a quar-tillo of Californian wine. Great was
the grief, and violent the sobbing, when all the girls in the Mission
surrounded Juanita to bid her adieu, as she, seated _en cavalier_ on an
easy-pacing mule, bequeathed her late companions to the keeping of
every saint in the calendar, and particularly to the great St. Ferdinand
himself, under whose especial tutelage all those in the Mission were
supposed to live. Pedrillo--poor forsaken Pedrillo--a sullen sulky
half-breed, was overcome, not with grief, but with anger at the slight
put upon him, and vowed revenge. He of the _sangre regular_, having not
a particle of enmity in his heart, waved his arm--that arm with which
he had mowed down the enemies of Carlos Quinto--and requested the
mountaineers, if ever fate should carry them to Spain, not to fail to
visit his quinta in the vega of Genii, which, with all in it, he placed
at their worship's disposal--_con muchissima franqueza_.

Fat Fray Augustin likewise waved his arm, but groaned in spirit as he
beheld the noble band of mules and horses throwing back clouds of dust
on the plain where they had been bred. One noble roan stallion seemed
averse to leave his accustomed pasture, and again and again broke away
from the band. Luckily old Walker had taken the precaution to secure the
bell-mare of the herd, and mounted on her rode ahead, the animals all
following their well-known leader. As the roan galloped back, the padre
was in ecstasy. It was a favorite steed, and one he would have gladly
ransomed at any price.

"_Y a viene, y a viene!_" he cried out, "now, now it's coming! hurrah
for the roan!" but, under the rifle of a mountaineer, one of the
Californians dashed at it, a lasso whirling round his head, and turning
and twisting like a doubling hare, as the horse tried to avoid him, at
last threw the open coil over the animal's head, and led him back in
triumph to the band.

"_Maldito sea aquel Indio_--curse that Indian!" quoth the padre, and
turned away.

And now our sturdy band--less two who had gone under--were fairly on
their way. They passed the body of their comrade who had been killed in
the fight before the Mission; the wolves, or Indian dogs, had picked it
to the bones; but a mound near by, surmounted by a rude cross,
showed where the Californians (seven of whom were killed) had been
interred--the pile of stones at the foot of the cross testifying that
many an _ave maria_ had already been said by the poor Indians, to save
the souls of their slaughtered companions from the pangs of purgatory.

For the first few days progress was slow and tedious. The confusion
attendant upon driving so large a number of animals over a country
without trail or track of any description, was sufficient to prevent
speedy traveling; and the mountaineers, desirous of improving the pace,
resolved to pursue a course more easterly, and to endeavor to strike the
great Spanish Trail, which is the route followed by the New Mexicans in
their journeys to and from the towns of Puebla de los Angeles and
Santa Fé. This road, however, crosses a long stretch of desert country,
destitute alike of grass and water, save at a few points, the regular
halting-places of the caravans; and as but little pasture is to be found
at these places at any time, there was great reason to fear, if the
Santa Fé traders had passed this season, that there would not be
sufficient grass to support the numerous cavallada, after the herbage
had been laid under contribution by the traders' animals. However, a
great saving of time would be effected by taking this trail, although
it wound a considerable distance out of the way to avoid the impassable
chain of the Sierra Nevada--the gap in those mountains through which the
Americans had come being far to the northward, and at this late season
probably obstructed by the snow.

Urged by threats and bribes, one of the Indians agreed to guide the
cavallada to the trail, which he declared was not more than five days
distant. As they advanced, the country became wilder and more sterile,--
the valleys through which several small streams coursed alone being
capable of supporting so large a number of animals. No time was lost in
hunting for game; the poorest of the mules and horses were killed for
provisions, and the diet was improved by a little venison when a deer
casually presented itself near the camping-ground. Of Indians they had
seen not one; but they now approached the country of the Diggers, who
infest the district through which the Spanish trail passes, laying
contributions on the caravans of traders, and who have been, not
inaptly, termed the "Arabs of the American desert." The Californian
guide now earnestly entreated permission to retrace his steps, saying
that he should lose his life if he attempted to pass the Digger country
alone on his return. He pointed to a snow-covered peak, at the foot of
which the trail passed; and leave being accorded, he turned his horse's
head towards the Mission of San Fernando.

Although the cavallada traveled, by this time, with much less confusion
than at first, still, from the want of a track to follow, great trouble
and exertion were required to keep the proper direction. The bell-mare
led the van carrying Walker, who was better acquainted with the country
than the others; another hunter of considerable distinction in the band,
on a large mule, rode by his side. Then followed the cavallada, jumping
and frisking with each other, stopping whenever a blade of grass
showed, and constantly endeavoring to break away to green patches which
sometimes presented themselves in the plains. Behind the troop, urging
them on by dint of loud cries and objurgations, rode six mountaineers,
keeping as much as possible in a line. Two others were on each flank to
repress all attempts to wander, and keep the herd in a compact body. In
this order the caravan had been crossing a broken country, up and down
ridges, all day, the animals giving infinite trouble to their drivers,
when a loud shout from the advanced guard put them all upon the
_qui-vive_. Old Walker was seen to brandish the rifle over his head
and point before him, and presently the cry of "The trail! the trail!"
gladdened all hearts with the anticipation of a respite from the
harassing labor of mule-driving. Descending a broken ridge, they at once
struck into a distinct and tolerably well-worn track, into which the
cavallada turned as easily and instinctively as if they had all their
lives been accustomed to travel on beaten roads. Along this they
traveled merrily--their delight being, however, alloyed by frequent
indications that hunger and thirst had done their work on the mules
and horses of the caravans which had preceded them on the trail.
They happened to strike it in the center of a long stretch of desert,
extending sixty miles without either water or pasture; and many animals
had perished here, leaving their bones to bleach upon the plain. The
soil was sandy, but rocks and stones covered the surface, disabling the
feet of many of the young horses and mules, several of which, at this
early stage of the journey, were already abandoned. Traces of the
wretched Diggers became very frequent; these abject creatures resorting
to the sandy plains for the purpose of feeding upon the lizards which
there abound. As yet they did not show; only at night they prowled
around the camp, waiting a favorable opportunity to run the animals. In
the present instance, however, many of the horses having been left on
the road, the Diggers found so plentiful a supply of meat as to render
unnecessary any attack upon the formidable mountaineers.

One evening the Americans had encamped, earlier than usual, on a creek
well timbered with willow and quaking-ash, and affording tolerable
pasture; and although it was still rather early, they determined to stop
here, and give the animals an opportunity to fill themselves. Several
deer had jumped out of the bottom as they entered it; and La Bonté
and Killbuck had sallied from the camp with their rifles to hunt, and
endeavor to procure some venison for supper. Along the river-banks herds
of deer were feeding in every direction, within shot of the belt
of timber; and the two hunters had no difficulty in approaching and
knocking over two fine bucks within a few paces of the thicket. They
were engaged in butchering the animals, when La Bonté, looking up from
his work, saw half-a-dozen Indians dodging among the trees, within a few
yards of himself and Killbuck. At the same instant two arrows thudded
into the carcass of the deer over which he knelt, passing but a few
inches from his head. Hallooing to his companion, La Bonté immediately
seized the deer, and, lifting it with main strength, held it as a shield
before him, but not before an arrow had struck him in the shoulder.
Rising from the ground he retreated behind cover, yelling loudly to
alarm the camp, which was not five hundred yards distant on the other
side of the stream. Killbuck, when apprised of the danger, ran bodily
into the plain, and, keeping out of shot of the timber, joined La Bonté,
who, now out of arrow-shot, threw down his shield of venison and fired
his rifle at the assailants. The Indians appeared at first afraid to
leave the cover; but three or four more joining them, one a chief, they
advanced into the plain with drawn bows, scattering wide apart, and
running swiftly towards the whites in a zigzag course, in order not
to present a steady mark to their unerring rifles. The latter were too
cautious to discharge their pieces, but kept a steady front, with rifle
at shoulder. The Indians evidently disliked to approach nearer; but the
chief, an old grizzled man, incited them by word and gesture--running
in advance and calling upon the others to follow him.

"Ho, boy!" exclaimed Killbuck to his companion, "that old coon must go
under, or we'll get rubbed out by these darned critters."

La Bonté understood him. Squatting on the ground he planted his
wiping-stick firmly at the extent of his left arm, and resting the long
barrel of his rifle on his left hand, which was supported by the stick,
he took a steady aim and fired. The Indian, throwing out his arms,
staggered and let fall his bow--tried hard to recover himself, and then
fell forward on his face. The others, seeing the death of their chief,
turned and made again for the cover. "You darned critters," roared
Killbuck, "take that!" and fired his rifle at the last one, tumbling him
over as dead as a stone. The camp had also been alarmed. Five of them
waded across the creek and took the Indians in rear; their rifles
cracked within the timber, several more Indians fell, and the rest
quickly beat a retreat. The venison, however, was not forgotten; the two
deer were packed into camp, and did the duty of mule-meat that night.

This lesson had a seasonable effect upon the Diggers, who made no
attempt on the cavallada that night or the next, for the camp remained
two days to recruit the animals.

We will not follow the party through all the difficulties and perils of
the desert route, nor detail the various devilries of the Diggers, who
constantly sought opportunities to stampede the animals, or, approaching
them in the night as they grazed, fired their arrows indiscriminately at
the herd, trusting that dead or disabled ones would be left behind,
and afford them a good supply of meat. In the month of December the
mountaineers crossed the great dividing ridge of the Rocky Mountains,
making their way through the snowy barrier with the utmost difficulty,
and losing many mules and horses in the attempt. On passing the ridge,
they at once struck the head-springs of the Arkansa river, and turned
into the Bayou Salade. Here they found a village of Arapahos, and
were in no little fear of leaving their cavallada with these dexterous
horse-thieves. Fortunately the chief in command was friendly to the
whites, and restrained his young men; and a present of three horses
insured his good offices. Still, the near neighborhood of these Indians
being hardly desirable, after a few days; halt the Americans were
again on their way, and halted finally at the juncture of the
Fontaine-qui-bouille with the Arkansa, where they determined to
construct a winter camp. They now considered themselves at home, and at
once set about building a log shanty capable of containing them all, and
a large corral for securing the animals at night, or in case of Indian
alarms. This they effected by felling several large cottonwoods, and
throwing them in the form of a horse-shoe: the entrance, however, being
narrower than in that figure, and secured by upright logs, between which
poles were fixed to be withdrawn at pleasure. The house, or "fort"--
as anything in the shape of a house is called in these parts, where,
indeed, every man must make his house a castle--was loopholed on all
sides, and boasted a turf chimney of rather primitive construction, but
which answered the purpose of drawing the smoke from the interior. Game
was plentiful all around; bands of buffalo were constantly passing the
Arkansa; and there were always deer and antelope within sight of the
fort. The pasture, too, was good and abundant--being the rich grama or
buffalo grass, which, although rather dry at this season, still
retains its fattening qualities; and the animals soon began to improve
wonderfully in condition and strength.

Of the four hundred head of mules and horses with which they had started
from California, but one-half reached the Arkansa. Many had been killed
for food (indeed, they had furnished the only provisions during the
journey), many had been stolen by the Indians, or shot by them at night;
and many had strayed off and not been recovered. We have omitted
to mention that the Sonora girl Juanita, and her spouse Ned Wooton,
remained behind at Roubideau's fort and rendezvous on the Uintah, which
our band had passed on the other side of the mountains, whence they
proceeded with a party to Taos in New Mexico, and resided there for some
years, blessed with a fine family, &c., &c., &c., as the novels end.

As soon as the animals were fat and strong, they were taken down the
Arkansa to Bent's Indian trading-fort, about sixty miles below the mouth
of Fontaine-qui-bouille. Here a ready sale was found for them, mules
being at that time in great demand on the frontier of the United States,
and every season the Bents carried across the plains to Independence a
considerable number collected in the Indian country, and in the upper
settlements of New Mexico. While the mountaineers were descending
the Arkansa a little incident occurred, and some of the party very
unexpectedly encountered an old friend. Killbuck and La Bonté, who were
generally companeros, were riding some distance ahead of the cavallada,
passing at the time the mouth of the Huerfano or Orphan Creek, when, at
a long distance before them, they saw the figure of a horseman, followed
by two loose animals, descending the bluff into the timbered bottom of
the river. Judging the stranger to be Indian, they spurred their horses
and galloped in pursuit, but the figure ahead suddenly disappeared.
However, they quickly followed the track, which was plain enough in the
sandy bottom, that of a horse and two mules. Killbuck scrutinized
the "sign," and puzzled over it a considerable time; and at last
exclaimed--"Wagh! this sign's as plain as mon beaver to me; look at that
hoss-track, boy; did ye ever see that afore?"

"_Well_, I have!" answered La Bonté, peering down at it: "that ar
shuffle-toe seems handy to me now, I _tell_ you."

"The man as used to ride that hoss is long gone under, but the hoss,
darn the old critter, is old Bill Williams's, I'll swar by hook."

"Well, it ain't nothin' else," continued La Bonté, satisfying himself
by a long look; "it's the old boy's hoss as sure as shootin': and them
Rapahos has rubbed him out at last, and raised his animals. Ho, boy!
let's lift their hair."

"Agreed," answered Killbuck; and away they started in pursuit,
determined to avenge the death of their old comrade.

They followed the track through the bottom and into the stream, which it
crossed, and passing a few yards up the bank, entered the water again,
when they could see nothing more of it. Puzzled at this, they sought on
each side the river, but in vain; and, not wishing to lose more time
in the search, they proceeded through the timber on the banks to find a
good camping-place for the night, which had been their object in riding
in advance of the cavallada. On the left bank, a short distance before
them, was a heavy growth of timber, and the river ran in one place close
to a high bluff, between which and the water was an almost impervious
thicket of plum and cherry trees. The grove of timber ended before it
reached this point, and but few scattered trees grew in the little glade
which intervened, and which was covered with tolerable grass. This being
fixed upon as an excellent camp, the two mountaineers rode into the
glade, and dismounted close to the plum and cherry thicket, which formed
almost a wall before them, and an excellent shelter from the wind.
Jumping off their horses, they were in the act of removing the saddles
from their backs, when a shrill neigh burst from the thicket not two
yards behind them: a rustling in the bushes followed, and presently
a man dressed in buckskin and rifle in hand, burst out of the tangled
brush, exclaiming in an angry voice--

"Do'ee hyar now? I was nigh upon gut-shootin' some of e'e--I was now;
thought e'e was darned Rapahos, I did, and cached right off."

"Ho, Bill! what, old hoss! not gone under yet?" cried both the hunters.
"Give us your paw."

"Do'ee now, if hyar arn't them boys as was rubbed out on Lodge Pole
(creek) a time ago. Do'ee hyar? if this ain't _some_ now, I wouldn't say
so."

Leaving old Bill Williams and our two friends to exchange their rough
but hearty greetings, we will glance at that old worthy's history since
the time when we left him câching in the fire and smoke on the Indian
battle-ground in the Rocky Mountains. He had escaped fire and smoke, or
he would not have been here on Arkansa with his old grizzled Nez-perce
steed. On that occasion the veteran mountaineer had lost his two
pack-animals and all his beaver. He was not the man, however, to want a
horse or mule as long as an Indian village was near at hand. Skulking,
therefore, by day in canyon and deep gorges of the mountains, and
traveling by night, he followed closely on the trail of the victorious
savages, bided his time, struck his "coup," and recovered a pair of
pack-horses, which was all he required. Ever since, he had been trapping
alone in all parts of the mountains; had visited the rendezvous but
twice for short periods, and then with full packs of beaver; and was now
on his way to Bent's Fort, to dispose of his present loads of peltry,
enjoy one good carouse on Taos whisky, and then return to some hole or
comer in the mountains which he knew of, to follow in the spring his
solitary avocation. He too had had his share of troubles, and had many
Indian scrapes, but passed safely through all, and scarcely cared
to talk of what he had done, so matter-of-fact to him were the most
extraordinary of his perilous adventures.

Arrived at Bent's Fort, the party disposed of their cavallada, and
then,--respect for the pardonable weaknesses of our mountain friends
prompts us to draw a veil over the furious orgies that ensued. A number
of hunters and trappers were in from their hunting-grounds, and a
village of Shians and some lodges of Kioways were camped round the fort.
As long as the liquor lasted--and there was good store of alcohol as
well as of Taos whisky--the Arkansa resounded with furious mirth, not
unmixed with graver scenes; for your mountaineer, ever quarrelsome in
his cups, is quick to give and take offense when rifles alone can settle
the difference, and much blood is spilt upon the prairie in his wild and
frequent quarrels.

Bent's Port * is situated on the left or northern bank of the
river Arkansa, about one hundred miles from the foot of the Rocky
Mountains--on a low and level bluff of the prairie which here slopes
gradually to the water's edge. The walls are built entirely of
adobes--or sun-burned bricks--in the form of a hollow square, at two
corners of which are circular flanking towers of the same material.
The entrance is by a large gateway into the square, round which are the
rooms occupied by the traders and employes of the host. These are small
in size, with walls colored by a whitewash made of clay found in the
prairie. Their flat roofs are defended along the exterior by parapets
of adobe, to serve as a cover to marksmen firing from the top; and along
the coping grow plants of cactus of all the varieties common in the
plains. In the center of the square is the press for packing the furs;
and there are three large rooms, one used as a store and magazine,
another as a council-room, where the Indians assemble for their "talks,"
whilst the third is the common dining-hall, where the traders, trappers,
and hunters, and all employes, feast upon the best provender the
game-covered country affords. Over the culinary department presided
of late years a fair lady of color, Charlotte by name, who was, as
she loved to say, "de onlee lady in de dam Injun country," and who,
moreover, was celebrated from Long's Peak to the Cumbres Espanolâs for
slapjacks and pumpkin pies.

     * Sometimes called Fort William, from one of the two Bent
     brothers who founded it in 1829. It was destroyed in 1852.
     (Ed.)

Here congregate at certain seasons the merchants of the plains and
mountains, with their stocks of peltry. Chiefs of the Shian, the
Kio-way, and Arapaho, sit in solemn conclave with the head traders,
and smoke the calumet over their real and imaginary grievances. Now
O-cun-no-whurst, the Yellow Wolf, grand chief of the Shian, complains of
certain grave offenses against the dignity of his nation! A trader from
the "big lodge" (the fort) has been in his village, and before the trade
was opened, in laying the customary chief's gift "on the prairie"
has not "opened his hand," but "squeezed out his present between his
fingers," grudgingly and with too sparing measure. This was hard to
bear, but the Yellow Wolf would say no more!

Tah-kai-buhl, or, "He Who Jumps," is deputed from the Kioway to warn the
white traders not to proceed to the Canadian to trade with the Comanche.
That nation is mad--a "heap mad" with the whites, and has "dug up the
hatchet" to "rub out" all who enter its country. The Kioway loves the
pale-face, and gives him warning (and "He Who Jumps" looks as if he
deserves something "on the prairie" for his information).

Shawh-noh-qua-mish, "The Peeled Lodge-pole," is there to excuse his
Arapaho braves, who lately made free with a band of horses belonging
to the fort. He promises the like shall never happen again, and he,
Shawh-noh-qua-mish, speaks with a "single tongue." Over clouds of
tobacco and kinnik-kinnik these grave affairs are settled and terms
arranged.

In the corral, groups of leather-clad mountaineers, with decks of euchre
and seven up, gamble away their hard-earned peltries. The employes--
mostly St. Louis Frenchmen and Canadian voyageurs--are pressing packs
of buffalo-skins, beating robes, or engaged in other duties of a
trading-fort. Indian squaws, the wives of mountaineers, strut about in
all the pride of beads and "fofar-raw," jingling with bells and bugles,
and happy as paint can make them. Hunters drop in with animals packed
with deer or buffalo meat to supply the fort; Indian dogs look anxiously
in at the gateway, fearing to enter and encounter their natural enemies,
the whites; and outside the fort, at any hour of the day or night, one
may safely wager to see a dozen cayeutes or prairie wolves loping round,
or seated on their haunches, and looking gravely, on, waiting patiently
for some chance offal to be cast outside. Against the walls, groups of
Indians too proud to enter without an invitation, lean, wrapped in their
buffalo-robes, sulky and evidently ill at ease to be so near the whites
without a chance of fingering their scalp-locks; their white lodges
shining in the sun, at a little distance from the riverbanks--their
horses feeding in the plain beyond.

The appearance of the fort is very striking, standing as it does
hundreds of miles from any settlement, on the vast and lifeless prairie,
surrounded by hordes of hostile Indians, and far out of reach of
intercourse with civilized man; its mud-built walls inclosing a little
garrison of a dozen hardy men, sufficient to hold in check the numerous
tribes of savages ever thirsting for their blood. Yet the solitary
stranger passing this lone fort feels proudly secure when he comes
within sight of the Stars and Stripes which float above the walls.



CHAPTER VIII

|AGAIN we must take a jump with La Bonté over a space of several months,
when we find him in company of half-a-dozen trappers, amongst them
his inseparable companero Killbuck, camped on the Greenhorn Creek, _en
route_ to the settlements of New Mexico. They have a few mules packed
with beaver for the Taos market; but this expedition has been planned
more for pleasure than profit--a journey to Taos valley being the only
civilized relaxation coveted by the mountaineers. Not a few of the
present band are bound thither with matrimonial intentions; the belles
of Nuevo Mejico being to them the _ne plus ultra_ of female perfection,
uniting most conspicuous personal charms (although coated with cosmetic
_alegria_--an herb, with the juice of which the women of Mexico
hideously bedaub their faces) with all the hard-working industry of
Indian squaws. The ladies, on their part, do not hesitate to leave the
paternal abodes, and eternal tortilla-making, to share the perils and
privations of the American mountaineers in the distant wilderness.
Utterly despising their own countrymen, whom they are used to contrast
with the dashing white hunters who swagger in all the pride of fringe
and leather through their towns, they, as is but natural, gladly accept
husbands from the latter class: preferring the stranger, who possesses
the heart and strong right arm to defend them, to the miserable cowardly
"pelâdos," who hold what little they have on sufferance of savage
Indians, but one degree superior to themselves.

Certainly no band of hunters that ever appeared in the Vale of Taos
numbered in its ranks a properer lot of lads than those now camped
on Greenhorn, intent on matrimonial foray into the settlements of New
Mexico. There was young Dick Wooton, * who was "some" for his inches,
being six feet six, and as straight and strong as the barrel of his long
rifle.

     * Still living about 1898 in Colorado. (Ed.)

Shoulder to shoulder with this "boy" stood Rube Herring, and not a
hair's-breadth difference in height or size was there between them.
Killbuck, though mountain winters had sprinkled a few snow-flakes on
his head, _looked up_ to neither; and La Bonté held his own with any
mountaineer who ever set a trap in sight of Long's Peak or the Snowy
Range. Marcelline--who, though a Mexican, despised his people and
abjured his blood, having been all his life in the mountains with the
white hunters--looked down easily upon six feet and odd inches. In form
a Hercules, he had the symmetry of an Apollo; with strikingly handsome
features, and masses of long black hair hanging from his slouching
beaver over the shoulders of his buckskin hunting-shirt. He, as he
was wont to say, was "no dam Spaniard, but mountainee man, wagh!"
Chabonard, a half-breed, was not lost in the crowd;--and, the last in
height, but the first in every quality which constitutes excellence in
a mountaineer, whether of indomitable courage or perfect indifference
to death or danger--with an iron frame capable of withstanding hunger,
thirst, heat, cold, fatigue, and hardships of every kind--of wonderful
presence of mind and endless resources in times of peril--with the
instinct of an animal and the moral courage of a _man_,--who was
"taller" for his inches than Kit Carson, paragon of mountaineers? *
Small in stature, and slenderly limbed, but with muscles of wire, with
a fair complexion and quiet intelligent features, to look at Kit none
would suppose that the mild-looking being before him was an incarnate
devil in Indian fight, and had raised more hair from head of Redskins
than any two men in the western country; and yet, thirty winters had
scarcely planted a line or furrow on his clean-shaven face. No name,
however, was better known in the mountains--from Yellow Stone to Spanish
Peaks, from Missouri to Columbia River--than that of Kit Carson, raised
in Boonlick, Missouri State, and a credit to the "diggins" that gave him
birth.

     * Since the time of which we speak, Kit Carson has
     distinguished himself in guiding the several U. S. exploring
     expeditions under Frémont across the Rocky Mountains, and to
     all parts of Oregon and California; and for his services,
     the President of the United States presented the gallant
     mountaineer with the commission of lieutenant in a newly-
     raised regiment of mounted riflemen, of which his old leader
     Frémont is appointed colonel. (Author's note.)

On Huerfano or Orphan Creek, so called from an isolated _butte_ which
stands on a prairie near the stream, our party fell in with a village
of Yuta Indians, at that time hostile to the whites. Both parties
were preparing for battle, when Killbuck, who spoke the language, went
forward with signs of peace, and after a talk with several chiefs,
entered into an armistice, each party agreeing not to molest the other.
After trading for a few deerskins, which the Yutas are celebrated for
dressing delicately fine, the trappers moved hastily on out of such
dangerous company, and camped under the mountain on Oak Creek, where
they forted in a strong position, and constructed a corral in which to
secure their animals at night. At this point is a tolerable pass through
the mountains, where a break occurs in a range, whence they gradually
decrease in magnitude until they meet the sierras of Mexico, which
connect the two mighty chains of the Andes and the Rocky Mountains. From
the summit of the dividing ridge, to the eastward, a view is had of the
vast sea of prairie which stretches away from the base of the mountains,
in dreary barrenness, for nearly a thousand miles, until it meets
the fertile valley of the great Missouri. Over this boundless expanse
nothing breaks the uninterrupted solitude of the view. Not a tree or
atom of foliage relieves the eye; for the lines of scattered timber
which belt the streams running from the mountains are lost in the shadow
of their stupendous height, and beyond this nothing is seen but the bare
surface of the rolling prairie. In no other part of the chain are the
grand characteristics of the Far West more strikingly displayed than
from this pass. The mountains here rise on the eastern side abruptly
from the plain, and the view over the great prairies is not therefore
obstructed by intervening ridges. To the westward the eye sweeps over
the broken spurs which stretch from the main range in every direction;
whilst distant peaks, for the most part snow-covered, are seen at
intervals rising isolated above the range. On all sides the scene is
wild and dismal.

Crossing by this path, the trappers followed the Yuta trail over a
plain, skirting a pine-covered ridge, in which countless herds of
antelope, tame as sheep, were pasturing. Numerous creeks intersect it,
well timbered with oak, pine, and cedar, and well stocked with game of
all kinds. On the eleventh day from leaving the Huerfano, they struck
the Taos valley settlement on Arroyo Hondo, and pushed on at once to
the village of Fernandez--sometimes, but improperly, called Taos. As
the dashing band clattered through the village, the dark eyes of the
reboso-wrapped muchachas peered from the doors of the adobe houses,
each mouth armed with cigarito, which was at intervals removed to allow
utterance to the salutation to each hunter as he trotted past of _Adios
Americanos_,--"Welcome to Fernandez!" and then they hurried off to
prepare for the fandango, which invariably followed the advent of the
mountaineers. The men, however, seemed scarcely so well pleased; but
leaned sulkily against the walls, their sarapes turned over their left
shoulder, and concealing the lower part of the face, the hand appearing
from its upper folds only to remove the eternal cigarro from their lips.
They, from under their broad-brimmed sombreros, scowled with little
affection on the stalwart hunters, who clattered past them, scarcely
deigning to glance at the sullen Pelâdos, but paying incomprehensible
compliments to the buxom wenches who smiled at them from the doors. Thus
exchanging salutations, they rode up to the house of an old mountaineer,
who had long been settled here with a New Mexican wife, and who was the
recognized entertainer of the hunters when they visited Taos valley,
receiving in exchange such peltry as they brought with them.

No sooner was it known that Los Americanos had arrived than nearly all
the householders of Fernandez presented themselves to offer the use of
their salas for the fandango which invariably celebrated their arrival.
This was always a profitable event; for as the mountaineers were
generally pretty well flush of cash when on their spree, and as
open-handed as an Indian could wish, the sale of whisky, with which
they regaled all comers, produced a handsome return to the fortunate
individual whose room was selected for the fandango. On this occasion
the sala of the Alcalde Don Cornelio Vegil was selected and put in
order; a general invitation was distributed; and all the dusky beauties
of Fernandez were soon engaged in arraying themselves for the fête.
Off came the coats of dirt and _alegria_ which had bedaubed their faces
since the last "function," leaving their cheeks clear and clean. Water
was profusely used, and their _cuerpos_ were doubtless astonished by the
unusual lavation. Their long black hair was washed and combed, plastered
behind their ears, and plaited into a long queue, which hung down
their backs. _Enaguas_ of gaudy color (red most affected) were donned,
fastened round the waist with ornamented belts, and above this a
snow-white _camisita_ of fine linen was the only covering, allowing
a prodigal display of their charms. Gold and silver ornaments, of
antiquated pattern, decorate their ears and necks; and massive crosses
of the precious metals, wrought from the gold or silver of their own
placeres, hang pendent on their breasts. The enagua or petticoat,
reaching about half-way between the knee and ankle, displays their
well-turned limbs, destitute of stockings, and their tiny feet, thrust
into quaint little shoes (_zapatitos_) of Cinderellan dimensions. Thus
equipped, with the reboso drawn over their heads and faces, out of
the folds of which their brilliant eyes flash like lightning, and
each pretty mouth armed with its cigarito, they coquettishly enter the
fandango. * Here, at one end of a long room, are seated the musicians,
their instruments being generally a species of guitar called _heaca,
a bandolin_, and an Indian drum called _tombé_--one of each. Round the
room groups of New Mexicans lounge, wrapped in the eternal sarape,
and smoking of course, scowling with jealous eyes at the more favored
mountaineers. These, divested of their hunting-coats of buckskins,
appear in their bran-new shirts of gaudy calico, and close-fitting
buckskin pantaloons, with long fringes down the outside seam from the
hip to the ankle; with moccasins, ornamented with bright beads and
porcupine-quills. Each, round his waist, wears his mountain-belt and
scalp-knife, ominous of the company he is in, and some have pistols
sticking in their belts.

     * The word fandango, in New Mexico, is not applied to the
     peculiar dance known in Spain by that name, but designates a
     ball or dancing meeting.

The dances--save the mark!--are without form or figure, at least those
in which the white hunters sport the fantastic toe. Seizing his partner
round the waist with the grip of a grisly bear, each mountaineer whirls
and twirls, jumps and stamps; introduces Indian steps used in the
"scalp" or "buffalo" dances, whooping occasionally with unearthly cry,
and then subsiding into the jerking step, raising each foot alternately
from the ground, so much in vogue in Indian ballets. The hunters
have the floor all to themselves. The Mexicans have no chance in such
physical force dancing; and if a dancing Pelâdo * steps into the ring,
a lead-like thump from a galloping mountaineer quickly sends him
sprawling, with the considerate remark--"Quit, you darned Spaniard! you
can't shine in this crowd."

During a lull, guages ** filled with whisky go the rounds--offered to
and seldom refused by the ladies, sturdily quaffed by the mountaineers,
and freely swallowed by the Pelâdos, who drown their jealousy and
envious hate of their entertainers in potent aguardiente. Now, as the
guages are oft refilled and as often drained, and as night advances, so
do the spirits of the mountaineers become more boisterous, while their
attentions to their partners become warmer--the jealousy of the natives
waxes hotter thereat, and they begin to show symptoms of resenting
the endearments which the mountaineers bestow upon their wives and
sweethearts. And now, when the room is filled to crowding,--with two
hundred people swearing, drinking, dancing, and shouting--the half-dozen
Americans monopolizing the fair, to the evident disadvantage of at least
threescore scowling Pelados, it happens that one of these, maddened by
whisky and the green-eyed monster, suddenly seizes a fair one from the
waist-encircling arm of a mountaineer, and pulls her from her partner.
Wagh!--La Bonté--it is he--stands erect as a pillar for a moment, then
raises his hand to his mouth and gives a ringing war-whoop--jumps upon
the rash Pelâdo, seizes him by the body as if he were a child, lifts
him over his head, and dashes him with the force of a giant against the
wall.

     * A nickname for the idle fellows hanging about a Mexican
     town, translated into "Greasers" by the Americans.

     **  Cask-shaped gourds.

The war, long threatened, has commenced; twenty Mexicans draw their
knives and rush upon La Bonté, who stands his ground, and sweeps them
down with his ponderous fist, one after another, as they throng around
him. "Howgh-owgh-owgh-owgh-h!" the well-known war-whoop, bursts from
the throats of his companions, and on they rush to the rescue. The women
scream, and block the door in their eagerness to escape; and thus the
Mexicans are compelled to stand their ground and fight. Knives glitter
in the light, and quick thrusts are given and parried. In the center of
the room the whites stand shoulder to shoulder, covering the floor with
Mexicans by their stalwart blows; but the odds are fearful against them,
and other assailants crowd up to supply the place of those who fall.

The alarm being given by the shrieking women, reïnforcments of Pelâdos
rushed to the scene of action, but could not enter the room, which was
already full. The odds began to tell against the mountaineers, when Kit
Carson's quick eye caught sight of a high stool or stone, supported by
three long heavy legs. In a moment he had cleared his way to this, and
in another the three legs were broken off and in the hands of himself,
Dick Wooton, and La Bonté. Sweeping them round their heads, down came
the heavy weapons amongst the Mexicans with wonderful effect. At this
the mountaineers gave a hearty whoop, and charged the wavering enemy
with such resistless vigor, that they gave way and bolted through the
door, leaving the floor strewed with wounded, many most dangerously;
for, as may be imagined, a thrust from the keen scalp-knife by the
nervous arm of a mountaineer was no baby blow, and seldom failed to
strike home--up to the "Green River" * on the blade.

     * The knives used by the hunters and trappers are
     manufactured at the "Green River" works, and have that name
     stamped upon the blade. Hence the mountain term for doing
     anything effectual is "up to Green River."

The field being won, the whites, too, beat a quick retreat to the house
where they were domiciled, and where they had left their rifles. Without
their trusty weapons they felt, indeed, unarmed; and not knowing how
the affair just over would be followed up, lost no time in making
preparations for defense. However, after great blustering on the part
of the prefecto, who, accompanied by a _posse comitatus_ of "Greasers,"
proceeded to the house, and demanded the surrender of all concerned in
the affair--which proposition was received with a yell of derision--the
business was compounded by the mountaineers promising to give sundry
dollars to the friends of two of the Mexicans who died during the night
of their wounds, and to pay for a certain amount of masses to be sung
for the repose of their souls in purgatory. Thus the affair blew over;
but for several days the mountaineers never showed themselves in the
streets of Fernandez without their rifles on their shoulders, and
refrained from attending fandangos for the present, and until the
excitement had cooled down.

A bitter feeling, however, existed on the part of the men; and one or
two offers of a matrimonial nature were rejected by the papas of certain
ladies who had been wooed by some of the white hunters, and their hands
formally demanded from their respective padres.

'La Bonté had been rather smitten with the charms of one Dolores
Salazar--a buxom lass, more than three parts Indian in her blood, but
confessedly the beauty of the Vale of Taos. She, by dint of eye, and of
nameless acts of elaborate coquetry, with which the sex so universally
bait their traps, whether in the salons of Belgravia or the rancherias
of New Mexico, contrived to make considerable havoc in the heart of our
mountaineer; and when once Dolores saw she had made an impression, she
followed up her advantage with all the arts the most civilized of her
sex could use when fishing for a husband.

La Bonté, however, was too old a hunter to be easily caught; and
before committing himself, he sought the advice of his tried companion,
Killbuck. Taking him to a retired spot without the village, he drew out
his pipe and charged it--seated himself cross-legged on the ground, and
with Indian gravity, composed himself for a "talk."

"Ho, Killbuck!" he began, touching the ground with the bowl of his pipe,
and then turning the stem upwards for _medicine_--"Hyar's a child feels
squamptious-like, and, nigh upon gone beaver, he is--Wagh!"

"Wagh!" exclaimed Killbuck, all attention.

"Old hoss," continued the other, "thar's no use câching anyhow what a
nigger feels--so hyar's to put out. You're good for beaver I know; at
deer or buffler, or darned Red Injun either, you're some. Now that's a
fact. Off-hand, or with a rest, you make'em come. You knows the sign of
Injuns slick--Blackfoot or Sioux, Pawnee or Burntwood, Teton, Rapaho,
Shian, or Shoshonée, Yutah, Piyutah, or Yamhareek--their trail's as
plain as writin', old hoss, to you."

"Wagh!" grunted Killbuck, blushing bronze at all these compliments.

"Your sight ain't bad. Elks is elk; black-tailed deer ain't white-tails;
and b'ar is b'ar to you, and nothin' else, a long mile off and more."

"Wa-agh!"

"Thar ain't a track as leaves its mark upon the plains or mountains but
you can read off-hand; that I've see'd myself. But tell me, old hoss,
can you make understand the sign as shows itself in a woman's breast?"

Killbuck removed the pipe from his mouth, raised his head, and puffed a
rolling cloud of smoke into the air,--knocked the ashes from the bowl,
likewise made his _medicine_--and answered thus:--"From Red River, away
up north among the Britishers, to Heely (Gila) in the Spanish country--
from old Mis sour a to the Sea of Californy, I've trapped and hunted. I
knows the Injuns and thar sign, and they knows me, I'm thinkin'. Thirty
winters has snowed on me in these hyar mountains, and a nigger or a
Spaniard * would larn some in that time. This old tool" (tapping his
rifle) "shoots center, _she_ does; and if thar's game afoot, this child
knows bull from cow, and ought to could. That deer is deer, and goats
is goats, is plain as paint to any but a greenhorn. Beaver's a cunning
critter, but I've trapped a heap; and at killing meat when meat's
a-running, I'll shine in the biggest kind of crowd. For twenty year I
packed a squaw along. Not one, but a many. First I had a Blackfoot--the
darndest slut as ever cried for fofarraw. I lodge-poled her on Colter's
Creek, and made her quit. My buffler hoss, and as good as four packs of
beaver, I gave for old Bull-tail's daughter. He was head chief of the
Ricaree, and came nicely round me. Thar wrasn't enough scarlet cloth,
nor beads, nor vermilion in Sublette's packs for her. Traps wouldn't
buy her all the fofarraw she wanted; and in two years I'd sold her to
Cross-Eagle for one of Jake Hawken's guns--this very one I hold in my
hands. Then I tried the Sioux, the Shian, and a Digger from the other
side, who made the best moccasin as ever I wore. She was the best of
all, and was rubbed out by the Yutas in the Bayou Salade. Bad was the
best; and after she was gone under I tried no more.

     * Always alluding to Mexicans, who are invariably called
     Spaniards by the Western Americans.

"Afore I left the settlements I know'd a white gal, and she was some
punkins. I have never see'd nothing as 'ould beat her. Red blood won't
shine any ways you fix it; and though I'm h----for sign, a woman's
breast is the hardest kind of rock to me, and leaves no trail that I can
see of. I've hearn you talk of a gal in Memphis County; Mary Brand you
called her oncest. The gal I said I know'd, her name I disremember, but
she stands before me as plain as Chimley Rock on Platte, and thirty year
and more harn't changed a feature in her face, to me.

"If you ask this child, he'll tell you to leave the Spanish slut to
her Greasers, and hold on till you take the trail to old Missoura, whar
white and Christian gals are to be had for axing. Wagh!" La Bonté rose
to his feet. The mention of Mary Brand's name decided him; and he said
--"Darn the Spaniard! she can't shine with me. Come, old hoss! let's
move."

And shouldering their rifles, the two companeros returned to the Ranch.
More than one of the mountaineers had fulfilled the object of their
journey, and had taken to themselves a partner from amongst the belles
of Taos, and now they were preparing for their return to the mountains.
Dick Wooton was the only unfortunate one. He had wooed a damsel whose
parents peremptorily forbade their daughter to wed the hunter, and he
therefore made ready for his departure with considerable regret.

The day came, however. The band of mountaineers were already mounted,
and those with wives in charge were some hours on the road, leaving the
remainder quaffing many a stirrup-cup be-, fore they left. Dick Wooton
was as melancholy as a buffalo bull in spring; and as he rode down the
village, and approached the house of his ladylove, who stood wrapped in
reboso, and cigarito in mouth, on the sill of the door, he turned away
his head as if dreading to say _adios_. La Bonté rode beside him, and a
thought struck him.

"Ho, Dick!" he said, "thar's the gal, and thar's the mountains: shoot
sharp's the word."

Dick instantly understood him, and was "himself again." He rode up to
the girl as if to bid her adieu, and she came to meet him. Whispering
one word, she put her foot upon his, was instantly seized round the
waist, and placed upon the horn of his saddle. He struck spurs into his
horse, and in a minute was out of sight; his three companions covering
his retreat, and menacing with their rifles the crowd which was soon
drawn to the spot by the cries of the girl's parents, who had been
astonished spectators of the daring rape.

The trapper and his bride, however, escaped scatheless, and the whole
party effected a safe passage of the mountains, and reached the Arkansa,
where the band was broken up,--some proceeding to Bent's Fort, and
others to the Platte, amongst whom were Killbuck and La Bonté, still in
company.

These two once more betook themselves to trapping, the Yellow Stone
being their chief hunting-ground. But we must again leap over months
and years, rather than conduct the reader through all their perilous
wanderings, and at last bring him back to the camp on Bijou, where
we first introduced him to our mountaineers; and as we have already
followed them on the Arapaho trail, which they pursued to recover their
stolen animals from a band of that nation, we will once again seat
ourselves at the camp on Boiling Spring, where they had met a
strange hunter on a solitary expedition to the Bayou Salade, whose
double-barreled rifle had excited their wonder and curiosity.

From him they learned also that a large band of Mormons were wintering
on the Arkansa, _en route_ to the Great Salt Lake and Upper California;
and as our hunters had before fallen in with the advanced-guard of these
fanatic emigrants, and felt no little wonder that such helpless people
should undertake so long a journey through the wilderness, the stranger
narrated to them the history of the sect, which we shall shortly
transcribe for the benefit of the reader.



CHAPTER IX

|THE Mormons were originally of the sect known as Latter-day Saints,
which flourishes wherever Anglo-Saxon gulls are found in sufficient
numbers to swallow the egregious nonsense of fanatic humbugs who fatten
upon their credulity. In the United States they especially abounded; but
the creed becoming "slow," one Joe Smith, a _smart_ man, rose from its
ranks and instilled a little life into the decaying sect.

Joe, better known as the "Prophet Joe," was taking his siesta one fine
day upon a hill in New York State, when an angel suddenly appeared to
him, and made known the locality of a new Bible or Testament, which
contained the history of the lost tribes of Israel; that these tribes
were no other than the Indian nations which possessed the continent of
America at the time of its discovery, and the remains of which still
existed in their savage state; that through the agency of Joe these
were to be reclaimed, collected into the bosom of a church to be
there established, according to principles which would be found in the
wonderful book--and which church was gradually to receive into its bosom
all other churches, sects, and persuasions, with "unanimity of belief
and perfect brotherhood."

After a certain probation, Joe was led in body and spirit to the
mountain by the angel who first appeared to him; was pointed out the
position of the wonderful book, which was covered by a flat stone,
on which would be found a pair of magic spectacles, called Urim and
Thummim, and through the agency of which the mystic characters inscribed
on the pages of the book were to be deciphered and translated. Joe found
the spot indicated without any difficulty, cleared away the earth, and
discovered a hollow place formed by four flat stones, on removing
the topmost one of which sundry plates of brass presented themselves,
covered with quaint and antique carving; on the top lay Urim and Thummim
(commonly known to the Mormons as Mummum and Thummum, the spectacles of
wonderful virtue), through which the miracle of reading the plates of
brass was to be performed.

Joe Smith, on whom the mantle of Moses had so suddenly fallen, carefully
removed the plates and hid them, burying himself in woods and mountains
whilst engaged in the work of translation. However, he made no secret of
the important task imposed upon him, nor of the great work to which he
had been called. Numbers at once believed him, but not a few were
deaf to belief, and openly derided him. Being persecuted (as the sect
declares, at the instigation of the authorities), and many attempts
being made to steal his precious treasure, Joe one fine night packed his
plates in a sack of beans, bundled them into a Jersey wagon, and made
tracks for the West. Here he completed the great work of translation,
and not long after gave to the world the "Book of Mormon," a work as
bulky as the Bible, and called "of Mormon," for so was the prophet named
by whose hand the history of the lost tribes had been handed down in the
plates of brass thus miraculously preserved for thousands of years, and
brought to light through the agency of Joseph Smith.

The fame of the Book of Mormon spread over all America, and even to
Great Britain and Ireland. Hundreds of proselytes flocked to Joe, to
hear from his lips the doctrine of Mormonism; and in a very brief period
the Mormons became a numerous and recognized sect, and Joe was at
once, and by universal acclamation, installed as the head of the Mormon
Church, and was ever after known by the name of the "Prophet Joseph."

However, from certain peculiarities in their social system, the Mormons
became rather unpopular in the settled States, and at length moved
bodily into Missouri, where they purchased several tracts of land in the
neighborhood of Independence. Here they erected a large building, which
they called the Lord's Store, where goods were collected on the common
account, and retailed to members of the Church at moderate prices. All
this time their numbers increased in a wonderful manner, and immigrants
from all parts of the States, as well as Europe, continually joined
them. As they became stronger, they grew bolder and more arrogant in
their projects. They had hitherto been considered as bad neighbors, on
account of their pilfering propensities, and their utter disregard
of the conventional decencies of society--exhibiting the greatest
immorality, and endeavoring to establish amongst their society an
indiscriminate concubinage. This was sufficient to produce an ill
feeling against them on the part of their neighbors, the honest
Missourians; but they still tolerated their presence amongst them,
until the Saints openly proclaimed their intention of seizing upon the
country, and expelling by force the present occupants--giving, as their
reason, that it had been revealed to their prophets that the "Land of
Zion" was to be possessed by themselves alone.

The sturdy Missourians began to think this was a little too strong, and
that, if they permitted such aggressions any longer, they would be in a
fair way of being despoiled of their lands by the Mormon interlopers.
At length matters came to a crisis, and the Saints, emboldened by the
impunity with which they had hitherto carried out their plans, issued a
proclamation, to the effect that all in that part of the country who
did not belong to the Mormon persuasion must "clear out," and give up
possession of their lands and houses. The Missourians collected in
a body, burned the printing-press from which the proclamation had
emanated, seized several of the Mormon leaders, and, after inflicting a
summary chastisement, tarred and feathered them, and let them go.

To revenge this insult, the Mormons marshaled an army of Saints, and
marched upon Independence, threatening vengeance against the town and
people. Here they met, however, a band of sturdy backwoodsmen, armed
with rifles, determined to defend the town against the fanatic mob, who,
not relishing their appearance, refused the encounter, and surrendered
their leaders at the first demand. The prisoners were afterwards
released, on condition that the Mormons left that part of the country
without delay.

Accordingly they once more "took up their beds and walked," crossing the
Missouri to Clay County, where they established themselves, and would
finally have formed a thriving settlement but for their own acts of
willful dishonesty. At this time their blasphemous mummery knew no
bounds. Joe Smith, and other prophets who had lately arisen, were
declared to be chosen of God; and it was the general creed that, on the
day of judgment, the former would take his stand on the right hand of
the judgment-seat, and that none would pass into the kingdom of heaven
without his seal and touch. One of their tenets was the faith in
"spiritual matrimony." No woman, it appeared, would be admitted into
heaven unless "passed" by a saint. To qualify them for this, it was
necessary that the woman should first be received by the guaranteeing
Mormon as an "earthly wife," in order that he did not pass in any of
whom he had no knowledge. The consequence of this state of things may be
imagined. The most debasing immorality was a precept of the order, and
an almost universal concubinage existed amongst the sect, which at this
time numbered at least forty thousand. Their disregard to the laws of
decency and morality was such as could not be tolerated in any class of
civilized society.

Again did the honest Missourians set their faces against this pernicious
example, and when the county to which the Mormons had removed became
more thickly settled, they rose to a man against the modern Gomorrah.
The Mormons, by this time, having on their part gained considerable
accession to their strength, thought to set the laws at defiance,
organized and armed large bodies of men, in order to maintain the
ascendency over the legitimate settlers, and bid fair to constitute an
_imperium in imperio_ in the State, and become the sole possessors of
the public lands. This, of course, could not be tolerated. Governor
Boggs at once ordered out a large force of State militia to put
down this formidable demonstration, marched against the Mormons, and
suppressed the insurrectionary movement without bloodshed.

From Clay County they moved still farther into the wilds, and settled at
last in Caldwell County, where they built the town of Far West, and here
they remained for the space of three years.

During this time they were continually receiving converts to the faith,
and many of the more ignorant country people were disposed to join
them, being only deterred by the fear of incurring ridicule from the
stronger-minded. The body of the Mormons seeing this, called upon their
prophet, Joe Smith, to perform a miracle in public before all comers,
which was to prove to those of their own people who still doubted
the doctrine, the truth of what it advanced (the power of performing
miracles was steadfastly declared to be in their hands by the prophets),
and to enlist those who wavered in the Mormon cause.

The prophet instantly agreed, and declared that, upon a certain day he
would walk across the broad waters of the Missouri without wetting the
soles of his feet. On the appointed day the river-banks were thronged by
an expectant crowd. The Mormons sang hymns of praise in honor of their
prophet, and were proud of the forthcoming miracle, which was to set
finally at rest all doubt as to his power and sanctity.

This power of performing miracles and effecting miraculous cures of the
sick, was so generally believed by the Mormons, that physic was never
used amongst them. The prophets visited the beds of the sick, and laid
hands upon them, and if, as of course was almost invariably the case,
the patient died, it was attributed to his or her want of faith; but
if, on the contrary, the patient recovered, there was universal
glorification on the miraculous cure.

Joe Smith was a tall fine-looking man, of most plausible address, and
possessed the gift of the gab in great perfection. At the time appointed
for the performance of the walking-water miracle, he duly attended on
the river's bank, and descended barefoot to the edge of the water.

"My brethren!" he exclaimed, in a loud voice, "this day is a happy one
to me, to us all, who venerate the great and only faith. The truth of
our great and blessed doctrine will now be proved before the thousands I
see around me. You have asked me to prove by a miracle that the power
of the prophets of old has been given to me. I say unto you, not only
to me, but to all who have faith. I have faith, and can perform miracles
--that faith empowers me to walk across the broad surface of that mighty
river without wetting the soles of my unworthy feet; but if ye are to
_see_ this miracle performed, it is necessary that ye have faith also,
not only in yourselves, but in me. Have ye this faith in yourselves?"

"We have, we have!" roared the crowd.

"Have ye the faith in me, that ye believe I can perform this miracle?"

"We have, we have!" roared the crowd.

"Then," said Joe Smith, coolly walking away, "with such faith do ye know
well that I could, but it boots not that I _should_, do it; therefore,
my brethren, doubt no more"--and Joe put on his boots and disappeared.

Being again compelled to emigrate, the Mormons proceeded into the state
of Illinois, where, in a beautiful situation, they founded the new
Jerusalem, which, it had been declared by the prophet Mormon, should
rise out of the wilderness of the west, and where the chosen people
should be collected under one church, and governed by the elders after a
"spiritual fashion." The city of Nauvoo soon became a large and imposing
settlement. An enormous building, called the Temple of Zion, was
erected, half church, half hotel, in which Joe Smith and the other
prophets resided--and large store-houses were connected with it, in
which the goods and chattels belonging to the community were kept for
the common good.

However, here, as everywhere else, they were continually quarreling with
their neighbors; and as their numbers increased, so did their audacity.
A regular Mormon militia was again organized and armed, under the
command of experienced officers who had joined the sect; and now the
authority of the state government was openly defied. In consequence,
the executive took measures to put down the nuisance, and a regular war
commenced, and was carried on for some time, with no little bloodshed on
both sides; and this armed movement is known in the United States as
the Mormon war. The Mormons, however, who, it seemed, were much better
skilled in the use of the tongue than the rifle, succumbed: the city of
Nauvoo was taken, Joe Smith and other ring-leading prophets captured;
and the former, in an attempt to escape from his place of confinement,
was seized and shot. The Mormons declare he had long foretold his
own fate; and that when the rifles of the firing party who were his
executioners were leveled at the prophet's breast, a flash of lightning
struck the weapons from their hands, and blinded for a time the eyes of
the sacrilegious soldiers.

With the death of Joe Smith the prestige of the Mormon cause declined;
but still thousands of proselytes joined them annually, and at last
the state took measures to remove them altogether, as a body, from the
country.

Once again they fled, as they themselves term it, before the
persecutions of the ungodly! But this time their migration was far
beyond the reach of their enemies, and their intention was to place
between them the impassable barrier of the Rocky Mountains, and to seek
a home and resting-place in the remote regions of the Far West.

This, the most extraordinary migration of modern times commenced in the
year 1845; but it was not till the following year that the great body
of the Mormons turned their backs upon the settlements of the United
States, and launched boldly out into the vast and barren prairies,
without any fixed destination as a goal to their endless journey. For
many months long strings of Pittsburgh and Conestoga wagons, with
herds of horses and domestic cattle, wound their way towards the Indian
frontier, with the intention of rendezvousing at Council Bluffs on the
Upper Missouri. Here thousands of wagons were congregated, with their
tens of thousands of men, women, and children, anxiously waiting the
route from the elders of the Church, who on their parts scarcely knew
whither to direct the steps of the vast crowd they had set in motion.
At length the indefinite destination of Oregon and California was
proclaimed, and the long train of emigrants took up the line of march.
It was believed the Indian tribes would immediately fraternize with
the Mormons on their approaching their country; but the Pawnees quickly
undeceived them by running off with their stock on every opportunity.
Besides these losses, at every camp, horses, sheep, and oxen strayed
away and were not recovered, and numbers died from fatigue and want of
provender; so that, before they had been many weeks on their journey,
nearly all their cattle, which they had brought to stock their new
country, were dead or missing, and those that were left were in most
miserable condition.

They had started so late in the season that the greater part were
compelled to winter on the Platte, on Grand Island, and in the vicinity,
where they endured the greatest privations and suffering from cold and
hunger. Many who had lost their stock lived upon roots and pig-nuts;
and scurvy, in a most malignant form, and other disorders, carried off
numbers of the wretched fanatics.

Amongst them were many substantial farmers from all parts of the United
States, who had given up their valuable farms, sold off all their
property, and were dragging their irresponsible and unfortunate families
into the wilderness--carried away by their blind and fanatic zeal in
this absurd and incredible faith. There were also many poor wretches
from different parts of England, mostly of the farm-laboring class,
with wives and families, crawling along with helpless and almost idiotic
despair, but urged forward by the fanatic leaders of the movement, who
promised them a land flowing with milk and honey to reward them for all
their hardships and privations.

Their numbers were soon reduced by want and disease. When too late, they
often wished themselves back in the old country, and sighed many a
time for the beer and bacon of former days, now preferable to the dry
buffalo-meat (but seldom obtainable) of the Far West.

Evil fortune pursued the Mormons, and dogged their steps. The year
following, some struggled on towards the promised land, and of these a
few reached Oregon and California. Many were killed by hostile Indians;
many perished of hunger, cold, and thirst, in passing the great
wilderness; and many returned to the States, penniless and crestfallen,
and heartily cursing the moment in which they had listened to
the counsels of the Mormon prophet. The numbers who reached their
destination of Oregon, California, and the Great Salt Lake, are computed
at 20,000, of whom the United States had an unregretted riddance.

One party had followed the troops of the American Government intended
for the conquest of New Mexico and the Californias. Of these a battalion
was formed, and part of it proceeded to Upper California; but the way
being impracticable for wagons, some seventy families proceeded up the
Arkansa, and wintered near the mountains, intending to cross to the
Platte the ensuing spring, and join the main body of emigrants on their
way by the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains.

In the wide and well-timbered bottom of the Arkansa, the Mormons had
erected a street of log shanties in which to pass the inclement winter.

These were built of rough logs of cottonwood laid one above the other,
the interstices filled with mud, and rendered impervious to wind or wet.
At one end of the row of shanties was built the church or "temple"--
a long building of huge logs, in which the prayer-meetings and
holdings-forth took place. The band wintering on the Arkansa were a far
better class than the generality of Mormons, and comprised many wealthy
and respectable farmers from the western states, most of whom were
accustomed to the life of woodmen, and were good hunters. Thus they
were enabled to support their families upon the produce of their rifles,
frequently sallying out to the nearest point of the mountains with a
wagon, which they would bring back loaded with buffalo, deer, and elk
meat, thereby saving the necessity of killing any of their stock of
cattle, of which but few remained.

The mountain hunters found this camp a profitable market for their meat
and deer-skins, with which the Mormons were now compelled to clothe
themselves, and resorted there for that purpose--to say nothing of the
attraction of the many really beautiful Missourian girls who sported
their tall graceful figures at the frequent fandangos. Dancing and
preaching go hand in hand in Mormon doctrine, and the temple was
generally cleared for a hop two or three times during the week, a couple
of fiddles doing the duty of orchestra. A party of mountaineers came
in one day, bringing some buffalo-meat and dressed deerskins, and were
invited to be present at one of these festivals.

Arrived at the temple, they were rather taken aback by finding
themselves in for a sermon, which one of the elders delivered,
preparatory to the "physical exercises." The preacher was one
Brown--called, by reason of his commanding a company of Mormon
volunteers, "Cap'n Brown"--a hard-featured, black-coated man of
five-and-forty, correctly got up in black continuations, and white
handkerchief round his neck,--a costume seldom seen at the foot of
the Rocky Mountains. The Cap'n, rising, cleared his voice, and thus
commenced, first turning to an elder (with whom there was a little
rivalry in the way of preaching): "Brother Dowdle" (brother Dowdle
blushed and nodded, he was a long tallow-faced man, with black hair
combed over his face), "I feel like holding forth a little this
afternoon, before we glorify the Lord,--a--a--in the--a--holy dance. As
there are a many strange gentlemen now--a--present, it's about right to
tell'em--a--what our doctrine just is; and so I tells'em right off what
the Mormons is. They are the chosen of the Lord; they are the children
of glory, persecuted by the hand of man: they flies here to the
wilderness, and, amongst the _Injine_ and the buffler, they lifts up
their heads, and cries with a loud voice, 'Susannah, and hurray for the
promised land!' Do you believe it? I _know_ it.

"They wants to know whar we're going. Whar the church goes--thar we
goes. Yes, to hell, and pull the devil off his throne--that's what we'll
do. Do you believe it? I _know_ it.

"Thar's milk and honey in that land as we're goin' to, and the lost
tribes of Israel is thar, and will jine us. They say as we'll starve
on the road, bekase thar's no game and no water; but thar's manna up in
heaven, and it'll rain on us, and thar's prophets among us can make the
water s come.' Can't they, brother Dowdle?"

"_Well_, they can."

"And now, what have the Gentiles and the Philistines to say against us
Mormons? They says we're thieves, and steal hogs; yes, d------ 'em! they
say we has as many wives as we like. So we have. I've twenty--forty,
myself, and mean to have as many more as I can get. But it's to pass
unfortunate females into heaven that I has'em--yes, to prevent'em going
to roaring flames and damnation that I does it.

"Brother Dowdle," he continued, in a hoarse, low voice, "I've 'give
out,' and think we'd better begin the exercises grettful to the Lord."

Brother Dowdle rose, and, after saying that he didn't "feel like saying
much," begged to remind all hands that dancing was "solemn like, to be
done with proper devotion, and not with laughing and talking, of which
he hoped to hear little or none; that joy was to be in their hearts, and
not on their lips; that they danced for the glory of the Lord, and
not their own amusement, as did the _Gentiles_." After saying thus, he
called upon brother Ezra to "strike up": sundry couples stood forth, and
the ball commenced.

Ezra of the violin was a tall shambling Missourian, with a pair of
homespun pantaloons thrust into the legs of his heavy boots. Nodding his
head in time with the music, he occasionally gave instructions to
such of the dancers as were at fault, singing them to the tune he was
playing, in a dismal nasal tone,--

               "Down the center--hands across,

               You Jake Herring--thump it,

               Now, you all go right ahead--

               Every one of you hump it.

                   Every one of you--_hump it_."

The last words being the signal that all should clap the steam on, which
they did _con amore_, and with comical seriousness.

A mountaineer, Rube Herring, whom we have more than once met in the
course of this narrative, became a convert to the Mormon creed, and held
forth its wonderful doctrines to such of the incredulous trappers as
he could induce to listen to him. Old Rube stood nearly six feet six
in height, and was spare and bony in make. He had picked up a most
extraordinary cloth coat amongst the Mormons, which had belonged to some
one his equal in stature. This coat, which was of a snuff-brown color,
had its waist about a hand's span from the nape of Rube's neck, or about
a yard above its proper position, and the skirts reached to his ankles.
A slouching felt-hat covered his head, from which long black hair
escaped, hanging in flakes over his lantern jaws. His pantaloons of
buckskin were shrunk with wet, and reached midway between his knees and
ankles, and his huge feet were incased in moccasins of buffalo-cow skin.

Rube was never without the book of Mormon in his hand, and his sonorous
voice might be heard, at all hours of the day and night, reading
passages from its wonderful pages. He stood the badgering of the hunters
with most perfect good-humor, and said there never was such a book as
that ever before printed; that the Mormons were the "biggest kind" of
prophets, and theirs the best faith ever man believed in.

Rube had let out one day that he was to be hired as guide by this party
of Mormons to the Great Salt Lake; but their destination being changed,
and his services not required, a wonderful change came over his mind. He
was, as usual, book of Mormon in hand, when brother Brown announced the
change in their plans; at which the book was cast into the Arkansa, and
Rube exclaimed--"Cuss your darned Mummum and Thummum! thar's not one
among you knows fat cow from poor bull, and you may go to h---- for me."
And turning away, old Rube spat out a quid of tobacco and his Mormonism
together.

Amongst the Mormons was an old man named Brand, from Memphis County,
State of Tennessee, with a family of a daughter and two sons, the latter
with their wives and children. Brand was a wiry old fellow, nearly
seventy years of age, but still stout and strong, and wielded ax or
rifle better than many a younger man. If truth be told, he was not a
very red-hot Mormon, and had joined them as much for the sake of company
to California, whither he had long resolved to emigrate, as from any
implicit credence in the faith. His sons were strapping fellows, of the
sterling stuff that the Western pioneers are made of; his daughter Mary,
a fine woman of thirty, for whose state of single blessedness there must
doubtless have been sufficient reason; for she was not only remarkably
handsome, but was well known in Memphis to be the best-tempered and
most industrious young woman in those diggings. She was known to have
received several advantageous offers, all of which she had refused; and
report said that it was from having been disappointed in very early life
in an _affaire du coeur_, at an age when such wounds sometimes strike
strong and deep, leaving a scar difficult to heal. Neither his daughter
nor any of his family had been converted to the Mormon doctrine, but had
ever kept themselves aloof, and refused to join or associate with them;
and, for this reason, the family had been very unpopular with the Mormon
families on the Arkansa; and hence, probably, one great reason why they
now started alone on their journey.

Spring had arrived, and it was time the Mormons should proceed on their
march; but whether already tired of the sample they had had of life
in the wilderness, or fearful of encountering the perils of the Indian
country, not one amongst them, with the exception of old Brand, seemed
inclined to pursue the journey farther. That old backwoodsman, however,
was not to be deterred, but declared his intention of setting out alone,
with his family, and risking all the dangers to be anticipated.

One fine sunny evening in April of 1847, when the cottonwoods on the
banks of the Arkansa began to put forth their buds, and robins and
bluebirds--harbingers of spring--were hopping with gaudy plumage through
the thickets, three white-tilted Conestoga wagons emerged from the
timbered bottom of the river, and rumbled slowly over the prairie, in
the direction of the Platte's waters. Each wagon was drawn by eight
oxen, and contained a portion of the farming implements and household
utensils of the Brand family. The teams were driven by the young boys,
the men following in rear with shouldered rifles--old Brand himself,
mounted on an Indian horse, leading the advance. The women were safely
housed under the shelter of the wagon-tilts, and out of the first the
mild face of Mary Brand smiled adieu to many of her old companions who
had accompanied them thus far, and now wished them "God-speed" on their
long journey. Some mountaineers, too, galloped up dressed in buckskin,
and gave them rough greeting--warning the men to keep their "eyes
skinned," and look out for the Arapahos, who were out on the waters
of the Platte. Presently all retired, and then the huge wagons and the
little company were rolling on their solitary way through the deserted
prairies--passing the first of the many thousand miles which lay between
them and the "setting sun," as the Indians style the distant regions of
the Far West. And on, without casting a look behind him, doggedly and
boldly marched old Brand, followed by his sturdy family.

They made but a few miles that evening, for the first day the _start_
is all that is effected; and nearly the whole morning is taken up in
getting fairly under weigh. The loose stock had been sent off earlier,
for they had been collected and corraled the previous night; and, after
a twelve hours' fast, it was necessary they should reach the end of the
day's journey betimes. They found the herd grazing in the bottom of the
Arkansa, at a point previously fixed upon for their first camp. Here the
oxen were unyoked, and the wagons drawn up so as to form three sides of
a small square. The women then descended from their seats, and prepared
the evening meal. A huge fire was kindled before the wagons, and round
this the whole party collected; whilst large kettles of coffee boiled on
it, and hoe-cakes baked upon the embers.

The women were sadly down-hearted, as well they might be, with the
dreary prospect before them; and poor Mary, when she saw the Mormon
encampment shut out from her sight by the rolling bluffs, and nothing
before her but the bleak barren prairie, could not divest herself of
the idea that she had looked for the last time on civilized
fellow-creatures, and fairly burst into tears.

In the morning the heavy wagons rolled on again across the upland
prairies, to strike the trail used by the traders in passing from the
south fork of the Platte to the Arkansa. They had for guide a Canadian
voyageur, who had been in the service of the Indian traders, and knew
the route well, and who had agreed to pilot them to Fort Lancaster, on
the north fork of the Platte. Their course led for about thirty miles up
the Boiling Spring River, whence they pursued a northeasterly course to
the dividing ridge which separates the waters of the Platte and Arkansa.
Their progress was slow, for the ground was saturated with wet, and
exceedingly heavy for the cattle, and they scarcely advanced more than
ten miles a-day.

At the camp-fire at night, Antoine, the Canadian guide, amused them
with tales of the wild life and perilous adventures of the hunters and
trappers who make the mountains their home; often extorting a scream
from the women by the description of some scene of Indian fight and
slaughter, or beguiling them of a commiserating tear by the narrative
of the sufferings and privations endured by those hardy hunters in their
arduous life.

Mary listened with the greater interest since she remembered that such
was the life which had been led by one very dear to her--by one long
supposed to be dead, of whom she had never but once since his departure,
nearly fifteen years before, heard a syllable. Her imagination pictured
him as the bravest and most daring of these adventurous hunters, and
conjured up his figure charging through the midst of whooping savages,
or stretched on the ground perishing from wounds, or cold, or famine.

Amongst the characters who figured in Antoine's stories, a hunter named
La Bonté was made conspicuous for deeds of hardiness and daring. The
first mention of the name caused the blood to rush to Mary's face; not
that she for a moment imagined it was her La Bonté, for she knew the
name was a common one; but, associated with feelings which she had never
got the better of, it recalled a sad epoch in her former life, to which
she could not look back without mingled pain and pleasure.

Once only, and about two years after his departure, had she ever
received tidings of her former lover. A mountaineer had returned from
the Far West to settle in his native state, and had found his way to the
neighborhood of old Brand's farm. Meeting him by accident, Mary, hearing
him speak of the mountain hunters, had inquired, tremblingly, after La
Bonté. Her informant knew him well--had trapped in company with him--and
had heard at the trading-fort, whence he had taken his departure for
the settlements, that La Bonté had been killed on the Yellow Stone by
Blackfeet; which report was confirmed by some Indians of that nation.
This was all she had ever learned of the lover of her youth.

Now, upon hearing the name of La Bonté so often mentioned by Antoine,
a vague hope was raised in her breast that he was still alive; and she
took an opportunity of questioning the Canadian closely on the subject.

"Who was this La Bonté, Antoine, who you say was so brave a
mountaineer?" she asked one day.

"J'ne sais pas; he vas un beau garçon, and strong comme le
diable--enfant de garce, mais he pas not care a dam for les sauvages, pe
gar. He shoot de centare avec his carabine, and ride de cheval comme one
Comanche. He trap heap castor (what you call beevare), and get plenty
dollare--mais he open hand vare wide--and got none too. Den, he hont vid
de Blackfoot and avec de Cheyenne, and all round de montaignes he hont
dam sight."

"But, Antoine, what became of him at last? and why did he not come home,
when he made so many dollars?" asked poor Mary.

"Enfant de garce, mais pourquoi he com home? Pe gar, de montaigne-man,
he love de montaigne and de prairie more better dan he love de grandes
villes--même de St. Louis ou de Montreal. Wagh! La Bonté, well, he one
montaigne-man, wagh! He love de buff aloe and de chevreaux plus que de
bouf and de mouton, mabe. Mais on dit dat he have autre raison--dat de
gal he lofe in Missouri not lofe him, and for dis he not go back. Mais
now he go ondare, m'on dit. He vas go to de Californe, maybe to steal
de hose and de mule--pe gar, and de Espagnols rub him out, and take his
hair, so he mort."

"But are you sure of this?" she asked, trembling with grief.

"Ah, now, j'ne suis pas sûr; mais I tink you know dis La Bonté. Enfant
de garce, maybe you de gal in Missouri he lofe, and not lofe him. Pe
gar!'fant de garce! fort beau garçon dis La Bonté; pourquoi you ne
l'aimez pas? Maybe he not go ondare. Maybe he turn op, autrefois. De
trappares, dey go ondare tree, four, ten times, mais dey turn op twenty
time. De sauvage not able for kill La Bonté, ni de dam Espagnols. Ah,
non! ne craignez pas; be gar, he not gone ondare encore."

Spite of the good-natured attempts of the Canadian, poor Mary burst into
a flood of tears: not that the information took her unawares, for she
long had believed her lover dead; but because the very mention of his
name awoke the strongest feelings within her breast, and taught her how
deep was the affection she had felt for him whose loss and violent fate
she now bewailed.

As the wagons of the lone caravan roll on towards the Platte, we return
to the camp where La Bonté, Killbuck, and the stranger, were sitting
before the fire when last we saw them. Killbuck _loquitur_:--

"The doin's of them Mormon fools can't be beat by Spaniards, stranger.
Their mummums and thummums you speak of won't shine whar Injuns are
about; nor pint out a trail, whar nothin' crossed but rattler-snakes
since fust it snowed on old Pike's Peak. If they pack along them
_profits_, as you tell of, who can make it rain hump-ribs and
marrow-guts when the crowd gets out of the buffler range, they are some,
now, that's a fact. But this child don't believe it. I'd laugh to get a
sight on these darned Mormonites, I would. They're no account, I guess;
and it's the meanest kind of action to haul their women critters and
their young'uns to sech a starving country as the Californys."

"They are not all Mormons in the crowd," said the strange hunter; "and
there's one family amongst them with some smartish boys and girls, I
tell you. Their name's Brand."

La Bonté looked up from the lock of his rifle, which he was
cleaning--but either didn't hear, or, hearing, didn't heed, for he
continued his work.

"And they are going to part company," continued the stranger, "and put
out alone for Platte and the South Pass."

"They'll lose their hair, I'm thinking," said Killbuck, "if the Rapahos
are out thar."

"I hope not," continued the other, "for there's a girl amongst them
worth more than that."

"Poor beaver!" said La Bonté, looking up from his work. "I'd hate to
see any white gal in the hands of Injuns, and of Rapahos worse than all.
Where does she come from, stranger?"

"Down below St. Louis, from Tennessee, I've heard them say."

"Tennessee," cried La Bonté,--"hurrah for the old state! What's her
name, stran----"

At this moment Killbuck's old mule pricked her ears and snuffed the air,
which action catching La Bonté's eye, he rose abruptly, without waiting
a reply to his question, and exclaimed, "The old mule smells Injuns, or
I'm a Spaniard!"

The hunter did the old mule justice, and she well maintained her
reputation as the best guard in the mountains; for in two minutes an
Indian stalked into the camp, dressed in a cloth capote, and in odds and
ends of civilized attire.

"Rapaho," cried Killbuck, as soon as he saw him; and the Indian catching
the word, struck his hand upon his breast, and exclaimed, in broken
Spanish and English mixed, "Si, si, me Arapaho, white man amigo. Come
to camp--eat heap came--me amigo white man. Come from Pueblo--
hunt cibola--me gun break--no puedo matar nada: mucha hambre (very
hungry)--heap eat."

Killbuck offered his pipe to the Indian, and spoke to him in his own
language, which both he and La Bonté well understood. They learned that
he was married to a Mexican woman, and lived with some hunters at
the Pueblo fort on the Arkansa. He volunteered the information that a
war-party of his people were out on the Platte trail to intercept
the Indian traders on their return from the North Fork; and as some
"Mormones" had just started with three wagons in that direction, he said
his people would make a "raise." Being muy amigo himself to the whites,
he cautioned his present companions from crossing to the divide, as the
braves, he said, were a heap mad, and their hearts were big, and nothing
in the shape of white skin would live before them.

"Wagh!" exclaimed Killbuck, "the Rapahos know me, I'm thinking; and
small gain they've made against this child. I've knowed the time when my
gun-cover couldn't hold more of their scalps."

The Indian was provided with some powder, of which he stood in need; and
after gorging as much meat as his capacious stomach would hold, he left
the camp, and started into the mountain.

The next day our hunters started on their journey down the river,
traveling leisurely, and stopping wherever good grass presented
itself. One morning they suddenly struck a wheel-trail, which left the
creek-banks and pursued a course at right angles to it, in the direction
of the divide. Killbuck pronounced it but a few hours old, and that of
three wagons drawn by oxen.

"Wagh!" he exclaimed, "if them poor devils of Mormonites ain't going
head first into the Rapaho trap. They'll be gone beaver afore long."

"Aye," said the strange hunter, "these are the wagons belonging to old
Brand, and he has started alone for Laramie. I hope nothing will happen
to them."

"Brand!" muttered La Bonté. "I knowed that name mighty well once, years
agone; and should hate the worst kind that mischief happened to any one
who bore it. This trail's as fresh as paint, and it goes against me to
let these simple critters help the Rapahos to their own hair. This child
feels like helping'em out of the scrape. What do you say, old hoss?"

"I thinks with you, boy," answered Killbuck, "and go in for following
this wagon-trail, and telling the poor critters that thar's danger ahead
of them. What's your talk, stranger?"

"I go with you," shortly answered the latter; and both followed quickly
after La Bonté, who was already trotting smartly on the trail.

Meanwhile the three wagons, containing the household gods of the Brand
family, rumbled slowly over the rolling prairie, and towards the upland
ridge of the divide, which, studded with dwarf-pine and cedar thicket,
rose gradually before them. They traveled with considerable caution, for
already the quick eye of Antoine had discovered recent Indian sign upon
the trail, and with mountain quickness had at once made it out to be
that of a war-party: for there were no horses with them, and after one
or two of the moccasin-tracks, the mark of a rope which trailed upon the
ground was sufficient to show him that the Indians were provided with
the usual lasso of skin, with which to secure the horses stolen in
the expedition. The men of the party were consequently all mounted
and thoroughly armed, the wagons moved in a line abreast, and a
sharp look-out was kept on all sides. The women and children were all
consigned to the interior of the wagons; and the latter had also guns in
readiness to take their part in the defense, should an attack be made.

However, they had seen no Indians, and no fresh sign, for two days after
they left the Boiling Spring River, and they began to think they were
well out of their neighborhood. One evening they camped on a creek
called Black Horse, and, as usual, had corraled the wagons, and forted
as well as circumstances would permit, when three or four Indians
suddenly appeared on a bluff at a little distance, and, making signals
of peaceable intentions, approached the camp. Most of the men were
absent at the time, attending to the cattle or collecting fuel, and only
old Brand and one of his young grandchildren, about fourteen years old,
remained in camp. The Indians were hospitably received, and regaled with
a smoke, after which they began to evince their curiosity by examining
every article lying about, and signifying their wishes that it should
be given to them. Finding their hints were not taken, they laid hold of
several things which took their fancies, and, amongst others, of the pot
which was boiling on the fire, and with which one of them was about very
coolly to walk off, when old Brand, who up to this moment had retained
possession of his temper, seized it out of the Indian's hand and knocked
him down. One of the others instantly began to draw the buckskin cover
from his gun, and would no doubt have taken summary vengeance for the
insult offered to his companion, when Mary Brand courageously stepped up
to him, and, placing her left hand upon the gun which he was in the act
of uncovering, with the other pointed a pistol at his breast.

Whether daunted by the bold act of the girl, or admiring her devotion
to her father, the Indian drew himself back, exclaimed "Howgh!" and drew
the cover again on his piece, went up to old Brand, who all this time
looked him sternly in the face, and, shaking him by the hand, motioned
at the same time to the other to be peaceable.

The other whites presently coming into camp, the Indians sat quietly
down by the fire, and when the supper was ready, joined in the repast,
after which they gathered their buffalo-robes about them, and quietly
withdrew. Meanwhile Antoine, knowing the treacherous character of the
savages, advised that the greatest precaution should be taken to secure
the stock; and before dark, therefore, all the mules and horses were
hobbled and secured within the corral, the oxen being allowed to feed at
liberty--for the Indians scarcely care to trouble themselves with such
cattle. A guard was also set round the camp, and relieved every two
hours; the fire was extinguished, lest the savages should aim, by its
light, at any of the party, and all slept with rifles ready at their
sides. However, the night passed quietly, and nothing disturbed the
tranquillity of the camp. The prairie wolves loped hungrily around,
and their mournful cry was borne upon the wind, as they chased deer and
antelope on the neighboring plain; but not a sign of lurking Indians was
seen or heard.

In the morning, shortly after sunrise, they were in the act of yoking
the oxen to the wagons, and driving in the loose animals which had been
turned out to feed at daybreak, when some Indians again appeared upon
the bluff, and, descending it, confidently approached the camp. Antoine
strongly advised their not being allowed to enter; but Brand, ignorant
of Indian treachery, replied that, so long as they came as friends, they
could not be deemed enemies, and allowed no obstruction to be offered
to their approach. It was now observed that they were all painted, armed
with bows and arrows, and divested of their buffalo-robes, appearing
naked to the breech-clout, their legs only being protected by deer-skin
leggings, reaching to the middle of the thigh. Six or seven first
arrived, and others quickly followed, dropping in one after the other,
until a score or more were collected round the wagons. Their demeanor,
at first friendly, soon changed as their numbers increased, and they
now became urgent in their demands for powder and lead, and bullying in
their manner. A chief accosted Brand, and, through Antoine, informed him
that, unless the demands of his braves were acceded to, he could not be
responsible for the consequences; that they were out on the war-trail,
and their eyes were red with blood, so that they could not distinguish
between white and Yuta scalps; that the party, with all their women and
wagons, were in the power of the Indian braves, and therefore the white
chief's best plan was to make the best terms he could; that all they
required was that they should give up their guns and ammunition "on
the prairie," and all their mules and horses--retaining the "medicine
buffaloes" (the oxen) "to draw their wagons."

By this time the oxen were yoked, and the teamsters, whip in hand, only
waited the word to start. Old Brand foamed whilst the Indian stated his
demands, but, hearing him to the end, exclaimed, "Darn the red devil!
I wouldn't give him a grain of powder to save my life. Put out,
boys!"--and turning to his horse, which stood ready saddled, was about
to mount, when the Indians sprang at once upon the wagons, and commenced
their attack, yelling like fiends.

One jumped upon old Brand, pulled him back as he was rising in the
stirrup, and drew his bow upon him at the same moment. In an instant the
old backwoodsman pulled a pistol from his belt, and, putting the muzzle
to the Indian's heart, shot him dead. Another Indian, flourishing his
war-club, laid the old man at his feet; whilst some dragged the women
from the wagons, and others rushed upon the men, who made brave fight in
their defense.

Mary, when she saw her father struck to the ground, sprang with a shrill
cry to his assistance; for at that moment a savage, frightful as red
paint could make him, was standing over his prostrate body, brandishing
a glittering knife in the air, preparatory to thrusting it into the old
man's breast. For the rest, all was confusion: in vain the small party
of whites struggled against overpowering numbers. Their rifles cracked
but once, and they were quickly disarmed; whilst the shrieks of the
women and children, and the loud yells of the Indians, added to the
scene of horror and confusion. As Mary flew to her father's side, an
Indian threw his lasso at her, the noose falling over her shoulders,
and jerking it tight, he uttered a delighted yell as the poor girl was
thrown back violently to the ground. As she fell, another deliberately
shot an arrow at her body, whilst the one who had thrown the lasso
rushed forward, his scalp-knife flashing in his hand, to seize the
bloody trophy of his savage deed. The girl rose to her knees, and looked
wildly towards the spot where her father lay bathed in blood; but
the Indian pulled the rope violently, dragged her some yards upon the
ground, and then rushed with a yell of vengeance upon his victim. He
paused, however, as at that moment a shout as fierce as his own sounded
at his very ear; and, looking up, he saw La Bonté galloping madly
down the bluff, his long hair and the fringes of his hunting-shirt and
leggings flying in the wind, his right arm supporting his trusty rifle,
whilst close behind him came Killbuck and the stranger. Dashing with
loud hurrahs to the scene of action, La Bonté, as he charged down the
bluff, caught sight of the girl struggling in the hands of the ferocious
Indian. Loud was the war-shout of the mountaineer, as he struck
his heavy spurs to the rowels in his horse's side, and bounded like
lightning to the rescue. In a single stride he was upon the Indian, and
thrusting the muzzle of his rifle into his very breast, he pulled the
trigger, driving the savage backward by the blow itself, at the same
moment that the bullet passed through his heart and tumbled him over
stone-dead. Throwing down his rifle, La Bonté wheeled his obedient
horse, and, drawing a pistol from his belt, again charged the enemy,
among whom Killbuck and the stranger were dealing death-giving blows.
Yelling for victory, the mountaineers rushed at the Indians; and they,
panic-stricken at the sudden attack, and thinking this was but the
advanced-guard of a large band, fairly turned and fled, leaving five of
their number dead upon the field.

Mary, shutting her eyes to the expected death-stroke, heard the loud
shout La Bonté gave in charging down the bluff, and, again looking up,
saw the wild-looking mountaineer rush to her rescue, and save her from
the savage by his timely blow. Her arms were still pinned by the lasso,
which prevented her from rising to her feet; and La Bonté was the first
to run to aid her, as soon as the fight was fairly over. He jumped
from his horse, cut the skin-rope which bound her, raised her from
the ground, and, upon her turning up her face to thank him, beheld
his never-to-be-forgotten Mary Brand; whilst she, hardly believing
her senses, recognized in her deliverer her former lover, and still
well-beloved La Bonté.

"What, Mary! can it be you?" he asked, looking intently upon the
trembling woman.

"La Bonté, you don't forget me!" she answered, and threw herself sobbing
into the arms of the sturdy mountaineer.

There we will leave her for the present, and help Killbuck and his
companions to examine the killed and wounded. Of the former, five
Indians and two whites lay dead, the latter grandchildren of old Brand,
fine lads of fourteen or fifteen, who had fought with the greatest
bravery, and lay pierced with arrows and lance-wounds. Old Brand had
received a sore buffet, but a hatful of cold water from the creek
sprinkled over his face soon restored him. His sons had not escaped
scot-free, and Antoine was shot through the neck, and, falling, had
actually been half-scalped by an Indian, whom the timely arrival of La
Bonté had caused to leave his work unfinished.

Silently, and with sad hearts, the survivors of the family saw the
bodies of the two boys buried on the river-bank, and the spot marked
with a pile of loose stones, procured from the rocky bed of the creek.
The carcasses of the treacherous Indians were left to be devoured by
wolves, and their bones to bleach in the sun and wind--a warning to
their tribe, that such foul treachery as they had meditated had met with
a merited retribution.

The next day the party continued their course to the Platte. Antoine and
the stranger returned to the Arkansa, starting in the night to avoid the
Indians; but Killbuck and La Bonté lent the aid of their rifles to the
solitary caravan, and, under their experienced guidance, no more Indian
perils were encountered. Mary no longer sat perched up in her father's
Conestoga, but rode a quiet mustang by La Bonté's side; and no doubt
they found a theme with which to while away the monotonous journey over
the dreary plains. South Fork was passed, and Laramie was reached. The
Sweet Water Mountains, which hang over the pass to California, were
long since in sight; but when the waters of the North Fork of Platte lay
before their horses' feet, and the broad trail was pointed out which led
to the great valley of Columbia and their promised land, the heads of
the oxen were turned down the stream, where the shallow waters flow on
to join the great Missouri--and not up, towards the mountains, where
they leave their spring-heads,--from which springs flow several waters,
some coursing their way to the eastward, fertilizing, in their route
to the Atlantic, the lands of civilized man, others westward, forcing a
passage through rocky canons, and flowing through a barren wilderness,
inhabited by fierce and barbarous tribes.

These were the routes to choose between; and, whatever was the cause,
the oxen turned their yoked heads away from the rugged mountains; the
teamsters joyfully cracked their ponderous whips, as the wagons rolled
lightly down the Platte; and men, women, and children waved their hats
and bonnets in the air and cried out lustily, "Hurrah for home!"

La Bonté looked at the dark somber mountains ere he turned his back
upon them for the last time. He thought of the many years he had spent
beneath their rugged shadow, of the many hardships he had suffered,
of all his pains and perils in those wild regions. The most exciting
episodes of his adventurous career, his tried companions in scenes of
fierce fight and bloodshed, passed in review before him. A feeling of
regret was creeping over him, when Mary laid her hand gently on his
shoulder. One single tear rolled unbidden down his cheek, and he
answered her inquiring eyes: "I'm not sorry to leave it, Mary," he said;
"but it's hard to turn one's back upon old friends."

They had a hard battle with Killbuck, in endeavoring to persuade him to
accompany them to the settlements. The old mountaineer shook his head.
The time, he said, was gone by for that. He had often thought of it,
but, when the day arrived, he hadn't heart to leave the mountains.
Trapping now was of no account, he knew; but beaver was bound to rise,
and then the good times would come again. What could he do in the
settlements, where there wasn't room to move, and where it was hard to
breathe--there were so many people?

He accompanied them a considerable distance down the river, ever and
anon looking cautiously back, to ascertain that he had not gone out of
sight of the mountains. Before reaching the forks, however, he finally
bade them adieu; and, turning the head of his old grizzled mule
westward, he heartily wrung the hand of his comrade La Bonté; and,
crying Yep! to his well-tried animal, disappeared behind a roll of the
prairie, and was seen no more--a thousand good wishes for the welfare
of the sturdy trapper speeding him on his solitary way.

Four months from the day when La Bonté so opportunely appeared to rescue
Brand's family from the Indians on Black Horse Creek, that worthy and
the faithful Mary were duly and lawfully united in the township church
of Brandville, Memphis County, State of Tennessee. We cannot say, in the
concluding words of nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand novels, that
"numerous pledges of mutual love surrounded and cheered them in their
declining years," &c., &c.; because it was only on the 24th of July,
in the year of our Lord 1847, that La Bonté and Mary Brand were finally
made one, after fifteen long years of separation.

The fate of one of the humble characters who have figured in these pages
we must yet tarry a little longer to describe.

During the past winter, a party of mountaineers, flying from
overpowering numbers of hostile Sioux, found themselves, one stormy
evening, in a wild and dismal canon near the elevated mountain valley
called the New Park.

The rocky bed of a dry mountain torrent, whose waters were now locked
up at their spring-heads by icy fetters, was the only road up which they
could make their difficult way; for the rugged sides of the gorge rose
precipitously from the creek, scarcely affording a foot-hold to even the
active bighorn, which occasionally looked down upon the travelers from
the lofty summit. Logs of pine uprooted by the hurricanes which sweep
incessantly through the mountain defiles, and tossed headlong from the
surrounding ridges, continually obstructed their way; and huge rocks and
boulders, fallen from the heights and blocking up the bed of the
stream, added to the difficulty, and threatened them every instant with
destruction.

Towards sundown they reached a point where the canon opened out into
a little shelving glade or prairie, a few hundred yards in extent, the
entrance to which was almost hidden by thicket of dwarf pine and cedar.
Here they determined to encamp for the night, in a spot secure from
Indians, and, as they imagined, untrodden by the foot of man.

What, however, was their astonishment, on breaking through the
cedar-covered entrance, to perceive a solitary horse standing motionless
in the center of the prairie. Drawing near, they found it to be an old
grizzled mustang, or Indian pony, with cropped ears and ragged tail
(well picked by hungry mules), standing doubled up with cold, and at the
very last gasp from extreme old age and weakness. Its bones were nearly
through the stiffened skin, the legs of the animal were gathered
under it; whilst its forlorn-looking head and stretched-out neck hung
listlessly downwards, almost overbalancing its tottering body. The
glazed and sunken eye--the protruding and froth-covered tongue--the
heaving flank and quivering tail--declared its race was run; and the
driving sleet and snow, and penetrating winter blast, scarce made
impression upon its callous and worn-out frame.

One of the band of mountaineers was Marcelline, and a single look at the
miserable beast was sufficient for him to recognize the once renowned
Nez-percé steed of old Bill Williams. That the owner himself was not far
distant he felt certain; and, searching carefully around, the hunters
presently came upon an old camp, before which lay, protruding from the
snow, the blackened remains of pine logs. Before these, which had been
the fire, and leaning with his back against a pine trunk, and his legs
crossed under him, half covered with snow, reclined the figure of
the old mountaineer, his snow-capped head bent over his breast.
His well-known hunting-coat of fringed elk-skin hung stiff and
weather-stained about him; and his rifle, packs, and traps were strewed
around.

Awe-struck, the trappers approached the body, and found it frozen hard
as stone, in which state it had probably lain there for many days or
weeks. A jagged rent in the breast of his leather coat, and dark stains
about it, showed he had received a wound before his death; but it
was impossible to say, whether to his hurt, or to sickness, or to the
natural decay of age, was to be attributed the wretched and solitary end
of poor Bill Williams.

A friendly bullet cut short the few remaining hours of the trapper's
faithful steed; and burying, as well as they were able, the body of the
old mountaineer, the hunters next day left him in his lonely grave, in a
spot so wild and remote, that it was doubtful whether even hungry wolves
would discover and disinter his attenuated corpse.

THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Old West" ***

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

We also ask that you:

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

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

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

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



Home