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Title: Deerfoot on the Prairies
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester
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.

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Internet Archive)



------------------------------------------------------------------------


                [Illustration: Deerfoot and Whirlwind.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          NEW DEERFOOT SERIES

              -------------------------------------------

                            Deerfoot on the
                                Prairies

                               ----------

                                   BY
                            EDWARD S. ELLIS

          Author of “Deerfoot in the Forest,” “Deerfoot in the
            Mountains,” “An American King,” “The Cromwell of
            Virginia,” “The Boy Pioneer Series,” “Log Cabin
                          Series,” Etc., Etc.

                               ----------


                              Illustrated
               with Eight Engravings by J. Steeple Davis

              -------------------------------------------

                             PHILADELPHIA:
                        THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.
                                  1905



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                        THE NEW DEERFOOT SERIES

              -------------------------------------------

                                   BY
                            EDWARD S. ELLIS

                             Illustrated by
                            J. STEEPLE DAVIS

                    No. 1.—Deerfoot in the Forest
                    No. 2.—Deerfoot on the Prairies
                    No. 3.—Deerfoot in the Mountains

Each contains seven half-tone engravings and color frontispiece. They
make more real the fortunes and adventures of the heroic little band
that journeys through the wilderness and prairies from the Ohio to the
Pacific. It was in the time of daring when Lewis and Clark were engaged
in their thrilling expedition that the adventures narrated by the
distinguished author of boys’ books are described as occurring. Our old
friends, George and Victor, of the “Log Cabin Series,” are again met
with in these pages, and the opportunity of once more coming face to
face with Deerfoot will be welcomed by every juvenile reader.

The New Deerfoot Series is bound in uniform style in cloth, with side
and back stamped in colors.

             Price, single volume                     $1.00

             Price, per set of three volumes, in       3.00
             attractive box

                             --------------

                              COPYRIGHT BY
                     THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., 1905



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS

                               ----------

                    CHAP

                      I. WESTWARD BOUND

                     II. THE FIRST CAMP

                    III. THIEVES OF THE NIGHT

                     IV. AN ACQUAINTANCE

                      V. A CLOSE CALL

                     VI. A MISHAP

                    VII. JACK HALLOWAY

                   VIII. GOOD SEED

                     IX. A BATTLE ROYAL

                      X. WHIRLWIND

                     XI. PHYSICIAN AND PATIENT

                    XII. A HURRIED FLIGHT

                   XIII. A STARTLING AWAKENING

                    XIV. SHOSHONE CALLERS

                     XV. A QUESTION OF SKILL AND
                           COURAGE

                    XVI. WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY

                   XVII. IN THE MOUNTAINS

                  XVIII. INDIAN CHIVALRY

                    XIX. A CALAMITY

                     XX. OLD FRIENDS

                    XXI. PRESSING NORTHWARD

                   XXII. A CHANGE OF PLAN

                  XXIII. THE MONARCH OF THE SOLITUDES

                   XXIV. A MEMORABLE ENCOUNTER

                    XXV. THROUGH THE GREAT DIVIDE

                   XXVI. PARTING COMPANY

                  XXVII. DOWN THE COLUMBIA

                 XXVIII. AT LAST



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             ILLUSTRATIONS

                               ----------


                  FRONTISPIECE: DEERFOOT AND WHIRLWIND
                  DANIEL BOONE AND DEERFOOT
                  “HELLOA!”
                  A BATTLE ROYAL
                  THE ANGLO-SAXON EVERY TIME
                  THE CRITICAL MOMENT
                  A WESTERN MONARCH
                  IN THE RAPIDS



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                       DEERFOOT ON THE PRAIRIES.

                                -------


                               CHAPTER I

                            WESTWARD BOUND.


ONE morning in early spring, at the beginning of the last century, a
party of four persons left the frontier town of Woodvale, in southern
Ohio, and started on their long journey across the continent.

Do you need an introduction to the little company? Hardly, and yet it is
well to recall them to mind.

First of all was our old friend Deerfoot, the Shawanoe, to whom we bade
good-bye at the close of the story “Deerfoot in the Forest,” with a hint
of the important expedition upon which he had decided to enter with his
companions. He was mounted on a tough, wiry pony that had been presented
to him by his friend Simon Kenton, and which, in honor of the famous
ranger, the new owner had named “Simon.”

This horse was provided with a bridle, but that was all. Deerfoot, one
of the finest of horsemen, never used a saddle. He said the bare back of
a well-conditioned steed was more pleasant than a seat of leather, and
he had never yet bestrode an animal that could displace him. On this
trip the Indian youth carried as his principal weapon the handsome rifle
presented by General William H. Harrison, Governor of Indiana Territory.
Deerfoot had not yielded a bit of his faith in his bow, but that
implement would not prove so handy as the other in an excursion on
horseback. Besides, his three companions had begged him to leave his bow
at home, and he was quite willing to do so.

Deerfoot was dressed as he has been before described, but he carried a
long, heavy blanket that was strapped to the back of his horse and
served in lieu of a saddle. The powder horn and bullet pouch suspended
from his neck were as full as they could carry. He looked so graceful on
his animal that many expressions of admiration were heard from the
people of Woodvale who had gathered to see the start. Deerfoot did not
seem to hear any of the compliments, though some were addressed directly
to him. He was never pleased with anything of that nature.

Little need be said of Mul-tal-la, the Blackfoot, who had come from the
neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains on an exploring expedition of his
own, and was now to return with the Shawanoe as his comrade. The sturdy,
shaggy horse, which he had obtained through the help also of Simon
Kenton, was accoutred like the one ridden by Deerfoot. The blanket
strapped to his back was the one brought by the owner from that far-off
region, and served him also as a saddle. The Blackfoot, like nearly all
the Indians of the Northwest, was an excellent horseman. Through some
whim, which no one understood, Mul-tal-la had named his animal “Bug,” a
title so unromantic that for a long time it was never heard without
causing a smile from his companions. Sometimes Mul-tal-la also grinned,
but nothing could induce him to change the name.

You remember the grief of Victor Shelton was so depressing over the
death of his father that he surely would have gone into a decline but
for the ardor roused by this proposed excursion to the Pacific. The
prospect was so fascinating that he came out of the dark clouds that
gathered about him, and was the most enthusiastic of the four.

George was almost as deeply stirred and in as high spirits as his
brother, but now and then a tremor of fear passed over him when he
thought of what they would have to pass through before their return. He
would have shrunk and probably turned back but for Deerfoot. There was
no person in the world in whom he had such faith as in the young
Shawanoe; but there is a limit to human attainment, and it might be that
his dusky friend would soon reach his when the four turned their faces
westward.

George had named his horse “Jack,” while Victor called his “Prince.” All
were quite similar to one another, being strong, sturdy, docile and
enduring, but none was specially gifted in the way of speed. More than
likely they would meet many of their kind among the Indians which would
be their superior in fleetness. But, if danger threatened, our friends
would not rely upon their horses for safety.

Now, in setting out on so long a journey, which of necessity must last
many months, our friends had to carry some luggage with them. This was
made as light as possible, but pared to the utmost there was enough to
require a fifth horse. While of the same breed as the others, he was of
stronger build and best fitted for burdens. He was the gift of Ralph
Genther, who, you may recall, was beaten in the turkey shoot by
Deerfoot. It was Genther who named him “Zigzag.”

“’Cause,” explained the donor, “if you let him to go as he pleases,
he’ll make the crookedest track in creation; he will beat a ram’s horn
out of sight.”

Excepting his blanket, Mul-tal-la had no luggage which he did not wear
on his person. It must be admitted that the American Indian as a rule is
much lacking in that virtue which is said to be next to godliness.
Despite the romance that is often thrown around the red man, it is
generally more pleasant to view him at a distance. Close companionship
with him is by no means pleasant.

I need hardly say that it was not so with Deerfoot. He was as dainty as
any lady with his person. Kenton, Boone and others had laughed at him
many times because of his care in bathing and the frequency with which
he plunged into icy cold water for no other reason than for tidiness and
health. The material of which his hunting shirt and leggings were made
allowed them to be worn a long time without showing the effects, but
underneath them was underclothing kept scrupulously clean by Deerfoot’s
own hands. Only his close friends knew of his care in this respect, and
some of them looked upon it as a weakness approaching effeminacy. And
you and I esteem him all the more for these traits, which harmonized
with the nobility of his character.

So it was that in the large package secured to the back of Zigzag was
considerable that Deerfoot himself had wrapped up, and with the modesty
of a girl carefully screened from prying eyes. Aunt Dinah, had she been
permitted, would have loaded down two horses with articles for the
twins, who, she declared, could not possibly get on without them. As it
was, it is enough to say that the boys were far better remembered than
they would have been if left to themselves. As Victor expressed it when
he saw her gathering and tying up the goods, they had enough to last
them for a journey round the world.

The start was made early on Monday morning, when the sun was shining
bright and the opening spring stirred every heart into life and filled
it with thankfulness to the Giver of All Good. Men, women and children
had gathered in the clearing to the north of the settlement to see the
party start and to wish them good speed on their journey. Deerfoot and
Mul-tal-la had ridden in from the Shawanoe’s home the day before, so
that the start might be made from the settlement.

There were the laughing, the jesting, the merry and earnest expressions,
with here and there a moist eye, when the travelers were seen seated on
their horses and pausing for the final words. The one most to be pitied
in all the group was Aunt Dinah, who was bravely trying to hide her real
feelings under an expansive smile, in which there was not a shadow of
mirth or pleasantry. She stood on the outer edge of the boisterous
group, her folded hands under her apron, her eyes fixed on the boys, who
were laughing, shaking hands and exchanging wishes and jests with their
friends.

Suddenly the colored woman walked forward, pushing her way through the
throng to the side of Deerfoot. Then she drew a piece of old-fashioned
blue writing paper from under her apron and handed it up to him. He
looked smilingly down at her, and she, without saying anything, walked
back to the fringe of people and faced around again.

Deerfoot opened the slip and saw some writing in pencil. During the
years when George and Victor Shelton struggled, with more or less
success, to obtain a common-school education, Aunt Dinah had managed to
pick up a bit here and there of elementary knowledge. She had spent a
long time the night before, groaning in spirit, often sharpening her
stub of a pencil, which, of course, she frequently thrust into her
mouth, rubbing out and re-writing, perspiring and toiling with might and
main to put together a message for the young Shawanoe’s eyes alone. Not
until the other members of the household had long been sunk in slumber
did she get the missive in final shape.

Some of the letters were turned backward, all curiously twisted, the
lines irregular and the writing grotesque, but the youth to whom the
paper was passed made out the following:

    “Mister Dearfut—i feal orful bad 2 hav u go orf with them preshus
    babiz—pleas tak gud car of em, and bring em back rite side up—

    “i’ll pra 4 u and the babiz evry nite and mornin, and if i doan
    forgot in de midle ob de da. i’ll pra speshully 4 u, cause as long
    as ure all rite, they’ll B all rite.

                   “Ant Dine.

    “p.s.—u’ll fine rapped in paper in de top bundel sum caik dat am 4 u
    speshully, but u may let de oders hab 1 bite if u feels like
    it—member dat i’m prayin 4 u.

    “p.s.—Doan eet 2 mutch ob de caik 2 wunst, or it’ll maik yo
    syck—it’ll B jus’ like you 2 gib it awl to de oders, _but doan you
    doot_! Eet mose ob it yosellf.

    “p.s.—De caik am 4 yo speshully. Ise prayin’ 4 yo.

    “p.s.—Doan forgot Ise prayin’ 4 yo. De caik am 4 yo.

    “p.s.—De caik am yo’s—Ise prayin’ 4 yo.”

There was not the ghost of a smile on the face of the Shawanoe while
carefully tracing the meaning of this crude writing. He gently refolded
the paper, reached one hand within his hunting shirt, and, drawing out
his Bible, put the folded paper between the leaves and replaced the
book. Then, heedless of the clamor around him, he looked over the heads
of the people at the lonely woman standing a little way off and watching
him with manifest embarrassment.

Turning the head of his horse toward her, he deftly directed him through
the throng and halted at the side of Aunt Dinah. She was so confused
that she was on the point of making off, for nearly everyone was looking
at the two, the action of Deerfoot having drawn attention to the couple.
Leaning over his horse he extended his palm.

“Good-bye, Aunt Dinah.”

She bashfully reached up her big hard hand. He held it for a few
moments, and, looking down in the ebon countenance, spoke in a low
voice:

“Deerfoot thanks you; he is glad that you will pray to the Great Spirit
for him, for he needs your prayers. Your promise is sweet to Deerfoot.”

Aunt Dinah did not speak, for with every eye upon her and the Indian she
could not think of a syllable to say. While she was trying to do so,
Deerfoot did something which no one ever saw him do before, and which
was so strange that it hushed every voice. He leaned still farther from
the back of his horse and deliberately touched his lips to the cheek of
the colored woman. Then he straightened up, and, without a word, started
his animal on a brisk walk to the northward, the others falling into
line behind him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER II

                            THE FIRST CAMP.


IT was inevitable that, during the weeks and months spent by Deerfoot
and Mul-tal-la together, they talked often and long about the journey to
the Northwest. At night in the depth of the forest, by the crackling
camp-fire, or when lolling in the cavern home of the young Shawanoe, it
was the one theme in which both, and especially the younger, was
absorbingly interested.

You need hardly be reminded that a hundred years ago the immense
territory west of the Mississippi was an unknown region. Teeming to-day
with a bustling, progressive people numbering millions, covered with
large cities and towns, grid-ironed by railways, honeycombed with mines,
humming with industry, and the seat of future empire, it was at the
opening of the nineteenth century a vast solitude, the home of the wild
Indian and wild animal.

A few daring hunters and trappers had penetrated for a little way into
the “Louisiana Purchase,” and they carried on a disjointed barter with
the red men, but the fragmentary knowledge brought back by them scarcely
pierced the shell of general ignorance. Captains Lewis and Clark had not
yet made their famous journey across the continent, but they were
getting ready to do so, for President Jefferson’s heart was wrapped up
in developing the largest real estate transaction ever made.

It may be said that Deerfoot pumped the Blackfoot dry. Had that
enterprising traveler kept a diary of his journeyings and experiences
from the time he and his companion started eastward, it would not have
told the Shawanoe more than he gained from his friend by his continuous
questioning. Deerfoot traced with a pencil on a sheet of paper a rude
map of the western country, based wholly on the information gained from
his guest. He made many changes and corrections before he completed and
filed it away, as may be said, for future use.

Several important facts were thus established, and these you must bear
in mind in order to understand the incidents I have set out to relate.

In the first place, the home of the Blackfeet Indians a century ago was
not to the westward but on the east of the Rocky Mountains, as it is
to-day. In order to reach the Pacific Coast one had to climb over that
great range and enter the country of the Flatheads and numerous other
tribes. Mul-tal-la had proved his enterprise as an explorer by doing
this several years previous to making his longer journey to the
eastward.

When Mul-tal-la left home he and his companion rode southward until well
into the present State of Colorado. Then they turned east, passing
through what is now Kansas and Missouri, crossing the Mississippi and
entering the fringe of civilization, for they were fairly within the
Northwest Territory organized a number of years before.

Deerfoot planned to take this route in reverse. Where the Blackfoot was
impressed by everything he saw, he had retained an excellent
recollection of the route, and this knowledge was sure to be of great
help to Deerfoot and his friends. The course to be followed may be
roughly outlined thus:

A little to the north of Woodvale the party would turn westward,
crossing the present States of Indiana and Illinois to St. Louis. Thence
they would follow the course of the Missouri to where it makes its
abrupt bend northward. At that point they intended to leave it and push
westward until the time came to head due north and make for the
Blackfoot country. This in a general way was the route upon which took
place most of the incidents recorded in the following pages.

When the border settlement dropped out of sight, the company fell into
what may be called the line of march. Deerfoot was in the lead, next
rode the Blackfoot, then Zigzag the pack horse, and last George Shelton,
with Victor bringing up the rear. The rule was to advance in Indian file
except when they reached the plains, where the topography permitted them
to bunch together. In fact this lining out of the horsemen was necessary
most of the time, for the trails used by them did not allow two to ride
abreast. However, it permitted free conversation, so long as there was
no necessity for silence.

Deerfoot led the way over a well-marked trail which was familiar to him,
for he had traversed it often by day and by night. As was his custom at
such times, he rode for hours without speaking a syllable. There was no
call for this, but it was his habit. He heard the chat of the boys to
the rear, George continually turning his head to address or listen to
his brother. Deerfoot did not care, for no danger threatened any of
them, and he was pleased that the couple, especially Victor, were in
such overflowing spirits.

The Blackfoot showed the same peculiarity as the leader, and which it
may be said is characteristic of the American race—that of silence and
reserve when on the march, even while there is perfect freedom to
converse. The Shawanoe would not have objected had his friends called to
him, but they did not do so.

At the end of half an hour the trail, which led directly through the
woods, became so level and open that Deerfoot struck his horse into a
gentle trot. Bug did the same, but Zigzag did not seem to think it was
expected of him, and continued plodding forward at his usual sluggish
gait. The load, however, which he carried was not burdensome, and George
Shelton shouted to him in so startling a voice that Zigzag broke into a
trot so vigorous that it threatened to displace his pack. It is not
impossible that the animal was planning for that, but the burden had
been secured too well to fall.

Suddenly Zigzag swerved to the right and pushed among the trees. A sharp
order from George brought him back, and then he displayed a tendency to
wabble to the left. To convince him that no nonsense would be permitted,
George galloped nigh enough to deliver a resounding whack on his haunch
with the stock of his gun. After that Zigzag conducted himself properly.

“It seems strange, George,” said Victor, as well as his jolting horse
would permit, “that only a few months ago we were in danger of our lives
in this very place, and now we needn’t have the least fear.”

“All due to Deerfoot,” replied George; “the whole cause of the trouble
was Red Wolf, when he started to climb that rope and it broke with him;
that also broke up the plotting; with their leader gone they had no
heart to try anything further in that line.”

“I spoke to Deerfoot about it, and he says the cause was more than that.
Tecumseh means well, and is determined to make his warriors keep the
treaty of Greenville. He did not know all the mischief Red Wolf was up
to, and was in a fury when he learned it. About that time, too, Tecumseh
got a hint from Governor Harrison through Simon Kenton that no more such
doings would be tolerated, and he took the hint. No harm would come to
us if we rode alone into any of the Shawanoe or Miami or Wyandot
villages. But,” added Victor, “I’d feel a good deal better to have
Deerfoot with us.”

“He’ll be as much a stranger as we after we get out of this country.”

“Still he’s an Indian and knows better than anyone else how to handle
those of his race. Mul-tal-la is sure to be of good service, too.”

“Have you any idea how long we shall be gone?”

“No; and I don’t care. I feel as if I should like to spend several years
on the other side of the Mississippi.”

“You’ll get homesick before that. I had a talk with Deerfoot last night
and found he doesn’t expect to start on the return before next spring.”

“Will it take us as long as that to reach the Blackfoot country?”

“Of course not, but Deerfoot means to look upon the Pacific Ocean before
he comes back, and that, as he figures it, is about a thousand miles
beyond the Blackfoot country. According to what Mul-tal-la says, the
biggest mountains in the world lie just west of his country, and we have
got to climb over or get through them some way. What do you think of the
plan?”

“It tickles me half to death. I wonder whether Deerfoot would care if I
threw up my hat and yelled.”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“Well, here goes, anyway!”

And what did the irrepressible youth do but fling his cap a dozen feet
above his head and emit a whoop of which Tecumseh would not have been
ashamed. Both Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la looked wonderingly around, and
each smiled. The Shawanoe’s smile grew broader when Victor made a grasp
to catch his cap as it came down, but missed it and it fell to the
earth.

“Plague take it!” exclaimed the lad, slipping out of the saddle without
stopping his horse, and running back to recover his headgear.

While he was doing so Deerfoot emitted a war-whoop himself, and struck
the heels of his moccasins against the ribs of Simon, who instantly
broke into a gallop. Bug was hardly a moment behind him, and Zigzag, for
a wonder, caught the infection. George saw what their leader was up to,
and he pretended he could not restrain his own horse. The shouts he sent
out while seeming to do his best frightened Jack into a gallop, and
Prince proved that he did not mean to be left behind.

Thus when Victor had snatched his cap from the ground, replaced it on
his head and turned to trot the necessary few paces, he saw the whole
line in a gallop, with his own horse several rods in advance of him.

“Whoa! Plague take you! Whoa! Don’t you hear me?” shouted the indignant
lad, breaking into a desperate run.

There could be no doubt that all the animals as well as their riders
heard the command, which was loud enough to penetrate the woods for half
a mile. Prince being the nearest, surely must have noted the order, but
he seemed to think that, inasmuch as the horses ahead of him increased
their speed, it was proper for him to do the same. At any rate he did
it, and succeeded so well that his owner saw the space widening between
them.

By this time Victor knew that Deerfoot was at the bottom of it all. No
man can do his best when laughing or shouting, and the pursuer ceased
his call and bent all his energies to overtaking the fleeing horses. He
thought the leader would soon show some consideration for him and
slacken his pace, but the Shawanoe seemed to be stern and unsympathizing
that forenoon, for he maintained the gallop, with the others doing the
same, and the task of the running youngster loomed up as impossible.

It wouldn’t do to get mad and sulk, for no one would pay any attention
to him—least of all Deerfoot, who liked fun as well as anybody. Besides,
the exercise promised to do the youth a world of good.

But fortune came to his relief when least expected. Victor had traveled
this trail so often that he knew it almost as well as Deerfoot. He
remembered it made a sharp curve to the left not far in advance. When he
caught sight of the young Shawanoe, therefore, calmly galloping around
the bend, the lad dived among the trees and sped at a reckless rate.

“They ain’t so smart as they think they are! I’ll beat ’em yet—confound
it!”

He thought surely his head had been lifted from his shoulders, for at
that moment a projecting maple limb, not quite as high as his crown,
slipped under his chin and almost hoisted him off his feet. He speedily
found he was intact and had suffered little more than a shock to his
feelings. He was quickly at it again and soon caught sight of Deerfoot
rising and sinking with the motion of his horse and the others stringing
behind him.

A moment later Victor leaped into the trail, recoiling just enough to
let the leader pass him as he stood. But Deerfoot reined up and stared
at him as if in wonder.

“Does my brother love to wander in the woods that he should leave his
saddle?” was the innocent query of the dusky wag.

“You think you know a good deal, don’t you? Wait till I get a chance;
I’ll pay you for this,” was the half-impatient answer.

“Deerfoot is so scared by the words of his brother that he may fall off
his horse,” said the Shawanoe with mock alarm. “Will he not forgive
Deerfoot because he did not stop when he heard his brother crying behind
him?”

“You go on. I’ll catch you one of these days and make you sorry.”

With an expression of grief Deerfoot started forward again, his horse on
a walk. Those behind had also stopped, and they now resumed the journey.
The Shawanoe kept his eye to the rear until he saw Victor was in the
saddle again, when his pace immediately rose to a trot and all were
quickly jogging forward as before.

George tried to look sympathetic, but he could not, and his brother saw
his shoulders shaking with laughter as he rode on, not daring to trust
himself to speak. By this time the impulsive Victor had rallied from his
partial anger, and decided that the best thing to do was to join in the
general good-nature and merriment over his mishap.

Noon came and passed, but Deerfoot showed no intention of going into
camp. He humored the animals by dropping to a walk. They were allowed to
drink several times from the small streams crossed, and occasionally
were given a breathing spell of fifteen or twenty minutes. The Shawanoe
knew how to treat their kind and did not press them too hard. When these
long pauses were made the riders dismounted, lolled at the side of the
trail, talked together, but neither Deerfoot nor Mul-tal-la made
reference to food for themselves, and the boys were too proud to hint
anything of their hunger.

When the afternoon was well advanced the party came to an open space,
crossed near the middle by a sparkling brook, which issued from under
some mossy rocks to the right. Early as was the season, there was
considerable growth of succulent grass, which offered the best kind of
nourishment for the horses. Deerfoot announced that they would spend the
night in this place, and, leaping from the back of Simon, plunged into
the wood in quest of game, of which they had had more than one glimpse
while on the road.

Meanwhile the Blackfoot and the boys relieved Zigzag of his load,
removed the other saddle and bridles, and devoted themselves to
gathering wood for the night. With such an abundance on every hand this
was a light task. When the leaves were heaped up, with a mass of dry
twigs loosely arranged on top and larger sticks above them, George
Shelton took out the sun-glass which had been presented to him by one of
his neighbors. The sun was still high enough for him to catch a few of
the rays and concentrate them upon the leaves, which speedily broke into
a smoking flame that soon spread into a roaring fire. The method was not
much superior, after all, to the old-fashioned flint and steel, but the
instrument was new so far as the present owner was concerned, and he
liked to use it.

One of the most treasured presents to Victor was a good spyglass that
had been used by one of General Wayne’s officers throughout the
Revolutionary War, and afterward in the Indian campaigns in the West.
The lad had not found a good chance as yet to employ it, but when its
power was explained to Mul-tal-la he was delighted and declared it would
prove beyond value to them while crossing the plains, and he spoke the
truth.

The fire was no more than fairly going when the report of Deerfoot’s
rifle sounded not far off in the woods. No one was surprised, for game
was plenty, though it was not the most favorable season, and it was safe
to rely upon the dusky youth for an unfailing supply of food whenever it
could possibly be secured.

When a few minutes later Deerfoot came in sight he was carrying a big
wild turkey, from which he had torn the feathers, plucked the inedible
portions, and washed the rest in the clear water of the brook. All that
remained to do was to broil the meat over the fire and coals as soon as
they were ready.

Aunt Dinah had expressed an ardent wish to stow among the bundles of the
packhorse some specimens of her best cookery in the way of bread and
cake, but the brothers protested so vigorously that there was neither
need nor room for anything of that kind that she refrained. There was,
however, considerable salt, pepper and other condiments, though neither
tea nor coffee.

Deerfoot broiled the turkey without help from the others. It was cut
into pieces which he toasted on green sticks skewered through them,
turned over in front of the blaze and laid for a few minutes over the
blazing coals. When the first piece was ready he passed it to Victor.

“That’s ’cause he feels remorse for his meanness towards me,” reflected
the lad, sprinkling salt on the juicy flesh and then sinking his sharp
incisors into it, realizing, as many a youngster has realized before and
since, that the best sauce for any sort of food is hunger.

The next portion went to George, the third to Mul-tal-la, and last of
all Deerfoot provided for himself. This was his invariable rule, and all
his friends knew it so well that they never protested.

Water was brought from the brook in one of the tin cups with which they
were furnished, and all made a nourishing and palatable meal.

The last mouthful had been masticated to a pulp and swallowed when
Deerfoot, without a word, rose gravely to his feet and walked to where
the big pack of Zigzag lay. The corners of the huge parcel had been
gathered, and were tied over the middle with big knots. Under these was
so large a gap that Deerfoot readily thrust in his hand without undoing
the fastening. Fumbling around for several minutes he brought out a
goodly sized package wrapped about with coarse brown paper.

Every eye was upon him, for all were wondering what he was seeking and
had found. He carefully unwrapped the paper and then took from within
something about a foot in diameter, of circular shape, three or four
inches in thickness, and bulging upward in the middle. It was of a
dark-brown color, the interior so full of richness that it had burst the
crust in one or two places and, pushing outward, gave a glimpse of the
slightly browned wealth within. Raising the object in one hand, Deerfoot
broke off a piece, whose craggy sides were of a golden yellow, creamy
and light as a feather. Then the others identified it.

It was a “sugar cake,” specially prepared by Dinah, and in mixing and
baking it she had excelled herself. It certainly was a triumph of skill,
and, despite the meal just finished, the sight of the delicious
richness—with which the brothers had become familiar many a time—made
their mouths water.

Deerfoot acted as if nobody else was in the neighborhood. Having broken
off the golden spongy chunk, he lifted it to his mouth, and it was a
wonder how fast it disappeared. The Shawanoe certainly had a sweet
tooth, for his eyes sparkled as he munched the soft delicacy. In a
minute or two the first segment vanished, and he instantly set to work
on the second, meanwhile looking longingly at the mangled original, as
if grudging the time he had to wait before disposing of that.

“Well, did you ever?” whispered Victor. “Aunt Dinah made that on purpose
for him, and we were dunces enough not to take what she offered us.”

Neither of the boys was unjust enough to attribute the salute which the
young Shawanoe gave the colored woman to this cause, for they knew that
was impossible, but it was a sight, nevertheless, to see the fellow
place himself outside of the cake. When it was about one-fourth gone he
seemed to become aware that he had companions. Looking up as if in
astonishment, he broke and divided the major portion between the boys.
Some was offered to the Blackfoot, but he shook his head. He had never
tasted of such food, and, if he knew his own heart, never would give it
a chance at his interior organization.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER III

                         THIEVES OF THE NIGHT.


DEERFOOT could be a stern master when necessary. While it would have
been no hardship for him and Mul-tal-la to divide the duties of sentinel
each night, he meant that the boys should bear their part. They were big
and strong enough to do so, and there was no reason why they should not.
He informed them that George was to watch the camp for the first half of
the night, or rather for an hour beyond the turn, when he was to awake
Victor, who would take his place until daylight. This was to be the rule
throughout the expedition, except when some exigency demanded the
services of the elders.

Enough fuel had been gathered to last through the darkness. It was
Deerfoot’s plan to avoid the Indian villages so far as was practical,
although little or nothing was to be feared from meeting those of his
own race. The Blackfoot had come in contact with many tribes on his long
journey eastward, but excepting in two instances nothing of an
unpleasant nature occurred. You have learned that the tribes which
formed the confederacy crushed by “Mad Anthony” Wayne at Fallen Timber
were now so peaceably inclined toward the white settlers that not much
was to be feared from them.

And yet it was not wise to tempt them too far. An Indian loves a horse,
and among the tribes were plenty of thieves who would run off the
animals of our friends if the chance were offered. So the latter did not
mean to offer the chance.

The air was crisp, for the spring was only fairly open, and the little
company that gathered round the crackling blaze called their blankets
into use. The animals were allowed to crop the grass near at hand, and
to lie down when they chose. None was tethered, for they were not likely
to wander off, and if they showed a disposition to do so the sentinel
could easily prevent it.

The four lolled about the blaze after finishing their evening meal,
talking mainly of the long journey and the experiences awaiting them.
Mul-tal-la answered Deerfoot’s questions again, for though the Shawanoe
was well informed, his inquiries were for the benefit of the boys, whose
interest naturally was keen.

When the night was well advanced, Deerfoot, without any preliminary,
drew his little Bible from his hunting shirt, and leaning forward so
that the light fell upon the small print, read the Twenty-third Psalm,
which, you remember, was one of his favorite chapters. His voice was
low, musical and reverent, and no professional elocutionist could have
given the sublime passage more impressively.

The three listened attentively, none speaking during the reading. It
seemed to George and Victor that they had never felt the beauty and
sweetness of the book whose utterances are sufficient for every
condition of man and every state of the human mind. The surroundings,
the great future which spread out so mysteriously before them, the
certain dangers that impended, their utter helplessness and a sense of
the all-protecting care of their Heavenly Father, filled their souls as
never before.

It would be hard to fathom the imaginings and thoughts of the Blackfoot.
He was sitting erect, with his blanket about his shoulders, only a few
paces from the young Shawanoe, and kept his eyes upon the noble
countenance as the precious words filled the stillness, the listener
fearful that some syllable might escape him. He had learned much of the
true God in his talks with the devout youth, and, like him, had fallen
into the habit of praying morning and evening, and sometimes for a few
moments in the busiest part of the day.

The brothers recalled that loved parent who had been lying in his grave
for weeks, and remembered how he had prayed and how triumphantly he had
passed away when the last solemn moment arrived, and both firmly
resolved from that time forward so to live that there could be no
question of the reunion that to both was the dearest, most joyous and
thrilling hope that could possibly fill their hearts.

While the two sat beside each other, silent and listening, George gently
reached out his hand. Victor saw the movement, and, taking the palm
within his own, fervently pressed it. At the same moment the brothers
looked into each other’s eyes. It was enough; volumes could have said no
more.

Deerfoot finished, and, closing the book, returned it to its resting
place over his heart. Then without a word he turned and knelt on the
cool earth. Instinctively the three did the same and all prayed.

Not a word was heard, but heart spoke to heart, and all communed with
Him whose ear is never closed against the petition of his children. Had
either of the boys prayed aloud he would have stammered, for he could
not have shaken off the question as to how his words impressed his
companions. It is the impossibility in many cases of one freeing himself
from this hindrance that makes the sentences of the petitioner halt and
stumbling, because to a certain degree they are addressed to men rather
than directly to the Father. The Blackfoot would have found it almost
impossible to shape intelligently his sentences if he spoke aloud, but
he could talk freely in his own way to his Maker. Deerfoot could have
done far better than any of the others, for he would not have hesitated,
but he preferred the silent petition, and rarely spoke his words unless
he was asked to do so or a special necessity existed.

The others took their cue from him, and when they heard the gentle
rustling which showed that he had resumed his sitting posture they did
the same. Then he nodded to George, who, rifle in hand, walked softly
out in the gloom to where the animals had lain down for the night, in
the midst of the grass and near the rippling brook. As he did so he bade
his friends good night, and they disposed of themselves in the usual
way, each with his blanket wrapped about him and his feet turned toward
the fire. Within ten minutes every one of the three was sunk in sweet,
refreshing slumber.

The night was clear and studded with stars. There was no moon, the gloom
being so deep that the watcher could see only a few paces in any
direction. Often as he had spent the night in the dim solitudes,
sometimes with danger brooding and again when all was tranquil, he could
never cast off the emotions that filled his being when he stood thus
alone, with friends dependent perhaps upon his vigilance. He listened to
the soft rippling of the brook, the hollow stillness of the vast forest,
like the moaning of the far-away ocean which has been called the voice
of silence, the occasional restless movement of one of the horses, and
the gentle stir of the night wind among the bursting foliage overhead
and around him. Then he looked toward the fire at the dimly outlined
forms, partly within and partly without the circle of illumination, and
again his heart was lifted to the only One who could ward off danger
from him and his friends.

The youth marked out a beat for himself parallel with the brook and two
or three rods in length. Sometimes he paused and, leaning on his gun,
peered into the hollow gloom which inclosed him on every hand. He knew
that so long as he kept on his feet he would not fall asleep, but if he
sat down the lapse was inevitable. Better still to walk to and fro, as
is the practice of the sentinel, for while doing so he was safe against
the insidious weakness which steals the senses from the most rugged man
ere he is aware.

George did not believe that any danger threatened the camp unless of the
nature hinted by Deerfoot. It might be that some wandering Miamis or
Wyandots or Shawanoes had observed the little party and their horses and
cast covetous eyes upon the latter. If so, they would not dare to
proceed to violence, but might try to run off one or two of the animals,
hoping to get far enough away with them before discovery of the theft to
make pursuit useless. It was this apprehension which kept the youth
alert and watchful.

George Shelton had paced to and fro for more than an hour without
hearing or seeing anything to excite misgiving. The cry of a wolf in the
distance and the nearer scream of a panther were given scarcely a
thought, for both were too common to cause alarm.

The first disturbance came from the action of his horse Jack, who had
lain down at a point farther off than the others. All the animals seemed
to be resting quietly, when, at the moment the lad was nearest his own
and was about to turn to retrace his steps, Jack raised his head and
emitted a slight whinny, though none of the others showed any disquiet.

The sentinel paused and looked at his pony, dimly outlined in the
darkness. He saw he had raised his head and appeared to be interested in
something on the other side of the brook. George lifted the hammer of
his rifle, suspecting that some prowling wolf or other wild beast was
trying to creep nigh enough to assail the horses. The youth peered into
the gloom and listened, but all remained as silent as the grave.

He held his motionless position for several minutes, in doubt what he
ought to do, if indeed he could do anything. Then with rare courage he
began slowly walking toward the point in which Jack seemed interested,
holding his gun ready to raise and fire on the instant.

He reached the brook and was about to leap lightly across when the
figure of an Indian rose from the grass and stood revealed hardly ten
feet distant. He did not move, and seemed to have come up from a hole in
the earth. The sight was so startling to the lad that he stopped
abruptly and exclaimed in a low tone:

“Helloa! Who are you?”

“Howdy, brudder?” replied the redskin in the same guarded voice.

“What do you want, stealing into our camp like this!”

“Me Par-o-wan—friend of paleface—me brudder.”

“You haven’t told me what you want,” repeated the impatient youth, with
his gun half raised, for he was suspicious, and saw that the other held
a rifle almost in the same position as his own.

“Par-o-wan brudder; sit down—talk wid brudder—lub brudder.”

“Dog of a Miami! leave at once! You have others with you! If you tarry
we shall shoot every one of you!”

It was not George Shelton who uttered this warning, but Deerfoot, who
appeared at his side so suddenly and noiselessly that the lad had no
thought of anything of the kind until he heard the familiar voice.

“Par-o-wan friend ob Deerfoot—he no hunt him—he go away,” replied the
Miami, plainly scared by the words and manner of the young Shawanoe, who
now raised his rifle to a “dead level” and acted as if he meant to fire.

“Deerfoot knows you and those that are with you, Par-o-wan! You are the
thieves who have come to steal our horses. Go quick or I shoot!”

In a panic of fear the Miami wheeled and dashed off so fast that he
threshed through the undergrowth and wood like a frightened wild animal.
Deerfoot waited a minute in the same vigilant attitude, and then quietly
remarked:

“They will trouble us no more. Now Deerfoot will sleep.”

“But tell me what woke you; I didn’t give any alarm,” said the mystified
George Shelton.

“My brother spoke. Deerfoot heard his voice. My brother is watchful, but
he will not be troubled again by the Miamis, for they are alarmed.”

And without anything further the Shawanoe walked silently back to his
place by the camp-fire, drew his blanket around him and five minutes
later was sleeping as peacefully as before he was awakened by the soft
voices of the man and boy.

“Well, that beats all creation!” muttered the grinning lad, as he
resumed his pacing to and fro. “We didn’t make enough noise to wake a
sleeping baby, but he must have been roused by the first word, for he
was at my side in a few seconds. I don’t see the need of putting one of
us on guard when Deerfoot wakes up like that. He’s a wonder and no
mistake.”

So full was George’s faith in the young Shawanoe that he was absolutely
sure nothing more was to be feared from the Miamis who had evidently
stolen up to the camp with the intention of running off one or more of
the horses. He paced regularly over his beat until certain it was well
past midnight, when he went up to the fire, threw more wood on it and
touched the arm of his brother.

You know that when you sink into slumber with the wish strongly
impressed on your mind of awaking at a certain minute, you are almost
sure to do so, or at least very near the time stamped on your brain.
While George Shelton was in the act of stooping to rouse Victor the
latter opened his eyes and rose to the sitting posture.

“I’m ready,” he said softly, coming to his feet, gun in hand. “Have you
seen anything, George?”

The latter quickly whispered the particulars of the little incident
already told.

“Well, if Deerfoot said they won’t be back, they won’t be back; but I
mean to keep a lookout for them.”

With which philosophical decision Victor strolled out to the beat whose
location his brother had made known to him. While gathering the blanket
about him to lie down George glanced at Deerfoot, who lay within arm’s
length. At that moment one of the embers at the base of the fire fell
apart and the flare of light fell upon the face of the Shawanoe.

George saw that his large dark eyes were open, and no doubt he had heard
every word of the cautious bit of conversation between the brothers. He
did not speak, however, and immediately closed his eyes again, no doubt
dropping off to sleep as quietly as before. It was a considerable time
before George slumbered, for the experience of the evening, even though
it amounted to little, touched his nerves. Finally he glided off into
the land of dreams.

Victor did his duty faithfully, as his brother had done, and with his
senses keyed to a high tension, but not the slightest disturbance
occurred. Deerfoot was right in his declaration. If Par-o-wan had
companions they had been too thoroughly frightened to risk rousing the
anger of the Shawanoe.

The latter acted as provider again and furnished his friends with
another meal upon wild turkey, promising to vary the diet in the course
of a day or two, though no one felt like complaining, since there was an
abundance for all, and such meat is not to be despised, even though one
can become tired of it.

Thus early in their venture our friends met with a disagreeable
experience, for though the day dawned with the sun visible, the
temperature fell and a cold, drizzling rain set in, which promised to
last for hours. Deerfoot read the signs aright, and before the rainfall
began conducted his companions to a rocky section a little way off the
trail, where they found shelter for themselves and partial protection
for their horses. Had there been an Indian village within easy distance
they would have made their way thither, being sure of a welcome.

It was not the cheerless day itself that was so trying, for that was
much improved by the fire they kept going, but it was the enforced
inaction. Few things are harder to bear than idleness when one is
anxious to get forward. The boys fretted, but Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la
accepted the situation philosophically, as they always accepted the bad
with the good. No murmur would have been heard from either had they been
halted for several days. Deerfoot, indeed, had reached that wise state
of mind in which his conscience reproved him for complaining of
anything, since he knew it was ordered by One who doeth all things well.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IV

                            AN ACQUAINTANCE.


THE cold, dismal, drizzling rain lasted without cessation till night
closed in. The horses were allowed to graze sufficiently to satisfy
their hunger, but they shrank shivering under the lee of the rocks,
where they were only partly protected. Every member of the party proved
his sympathy by covering an animal with his blanket, an extra one being
provided for Zigzag, so that after a time all became comfortable. The
fire that was kept blazing on the stony floor under a projecting ledge
warmed the four so well that they were able to get on quite well without
additional covering.

Mul-tal-la asked the privilege of going off on a hunt in the afternoon.
His bow was at disadvantage in the wet, and he borrowed Deerfoot’s
rifle, with which he had practiced enough to acquire a fair degree of
skill.

“What will my brother bring back?” asked the Shawanoe.

“Whatever his brothers want,” replied the Blackfoot in good English. He
looked first at Deerfoot for his request.

“Let my brother bring a buffalo,” he replied, knowing very well that
none was in the neighborhood.

“Mul-tal-la would have to journey too far,” said the warrior, who had
acquired from his friend the habit of speaking of himself in the third
person; “but if Deerfoot wants it he will hunt till he finds a buffalo.”

“Then let my brother bring _anything_,” added the Shawanoe
significantly, as if he doubted the ability of his friend to shoot any
kind of game. That was the impression, too, he meant to make.

The Blackfoot turned to the boys.

“I’m not particular,” remarked George, who was inclined to sympathize
with the homely but good-natured fellow.

“What would my brother like more than anything else?” persisted
Mul-tal-la.

“I think a meal of venison would taste good. What do _you_ say, Victor?”

“Nothing can suit me better,”

“My brothers shall eat deer’s meat when Mul-tal-la comes back”, was the
confident comment of the hunter.

Deerfoot looked alarmed.

“Let not my brother wait till he shoots a deer,” he said.

“Why shall he not wait?”

“Because my brother may _never_ come back if he waits for that,” was the
slurring explanation of the young Shawanoe. The Blackfoot grinned almost
to his ears, displaying a set of teeth that rivaled those of the
Shawanoe. No one could accept a joke better than this dusky wanderer
from the Rocky Mountains.

Mul-tal-la had not been gone more than a quarter of an hour when the
report of his gun was heard. Deerfoot smiled and wondered what the
result had been. But it was Mul-tal-la’s moment of triumph when, soon
after, he came in sight bending under the weight of the forequarters of
a goodly sized deer. He had come upon three of the animals as they were
plucking the tender shoots of the young trees and undergrowth. The
meeting was as much of a surprise to him as to the deer themselves. A
hunter could not have asked a fairer shot, and as the three terrified
creatures whirled about to make off, he sent a bullet into one just back
of the fore leg and brought him down.

No one ever saw the proud Blackfoot do more amazing grinning than when
he emerged from the woods and flung the carcass at the feet of the
Shawanoe.

“Now, if my brother wishes Mul-tal-la to bring him a buffalo, he will do
so.”

Deerfoot reached out his hand and shook that of the Blackfoot.

“Mul-tal-la is a great hunter. He brings back that which he goes out to
seek. Deerfoot is sorry that he said doubting words.”

“Oh, he needn’t worry, for Mul-tal-la cares not for his idle talk.”

The prospect of a clear day on the morrow and the bountiful meal of
venison, even though it was perhaps fresher than was desirable, put all
in the best of spirits. The evening passed much as the previous one. The
boys made themselves a bed of boughs that had been dried by the heat of
the fire, and slept undisturbed till morning, the Indians acting the
part of sentinels and not being disturbed through the night.

The morning came bright, mild and sunshiny. The breakfast was eaten
early, and the sun had hardly risen when the little cavalcade was in
motion. Deerfoot now made an abrupt turn to the left, and by nightfall
had penetrated a goodly distance into the present State of Indiana. The
pace was a walk and was maintained until night began closing in. Then
followed days so similar to one another that it would be monotonous to
give the history of each. The adventurers were compelled to cross a
number of streams, several of considerable size, but, by searching,
fords or shallow places were found where the horses waded without
submerging their riders and without making it necessary to unload Zigzag
and transport his burden on a raft. This good fortune, however, could
not be expected to last. The rivers that interposed were sure to prove
the most serious obstacles in their path.

Most of the time Deerfoot was able to discover well-marked trails, which
he turned to account if they led in the right direction. A curious sight
was the “salt licks” which now and then they came upon. Sometimes these
covered more than an acre and marked where the brackish water, oozing
upward, left a fine incrustation of salt, of which all kinds of animals
are very fond. Some portions had been licked over hundreds and perhaps
thousands of times by the buffalo, deer, bears, wolves and other beasts,
until they were worn as smooth as a parlor floor. The horses of our
friends were allowed to do considerable lapping for themselves, for they
appreciated the privilege.

Hardly a day passed on which strange Indians were not met. None showed
any hostility, and responded to the signs of friendship always made by
Deerfoot at first sight of them. These signs are so universal among the
red men that a native of the American coast could readily make himself
understood by an Indian on the banks of the Pacific. The Shawanoe kept
to his rule of avoiding villages so far as he could. While he felt
little fear for himself and companions, he thought the horses were
likely to arouse the cupidity of the strangers, with the result that
some of the animals would be stolen or unpleasant consequences would
flow from the meetings.

So, with now and then an unpleasant variation in the weather, but never
checked for more than an hour or two, and heading slightly to the south,
the party steadily progressed until in a little less than a week they
passed out of the section now known as Indiana into that of southern
Illinois. Straight across this they rode, still crossing the interposing
rivers, sometimes with the help of a raft, with the horses swimming
alongside, but oftener by wading. They found the Indians of this section
inclined to be rovers, and it was generally easy to find the fords used
by them. Pushing steadily on, with the spring rapidly advancing on every
hand, and with fine weather most of the time, our friends finally came
to the banks of the mighty Mississippi, at a point directly opposite St.
Louis.

This city, which to-day is one of the leading ones in the Union, was at
that time an unsightly collection of cabins and wooden houses strung
along the river. Founded long before by the French as a trading post, it
had not developed much beyond that when visited by Deerfoot and his
companions. The Mississippi was broad, muddy from recent freshets and
rapid. Looking across to the town the Shawanoe declared that it would
not do to attempt to swim the river, though the task was not impossible.

It was early in the forenoon when they came to the Father of Waters, and
they began making signals to those on the other side to come to their
help. There were plenty of boatmen who turned an honest penny in this
way, and the party was not kept waiting long. A broad flat boat, with a
square sail, was seen to put out from the wharf, and the two occupants
began laboring with might and main. They used long poles for most of the
distance, for the wind was more favorable for the return, then swung big
paddles, and so at last brought the awkward craft to the eastern bank.

The situation was complicated at first because the couple were Frenchmen
who could hardly speak a word of English, but it was easy to make them
understand that their services were needed to place the party in the
town on the other bank. George and Victor Shelton had a moderate supply
of Spanish silver—that country still claiming the territory—and Deerfoot
carried some. The Blackfoot, of course, had nothing of the kind. The
price asked by the Frenchmen was moderate, and men and animals went
aboard.

Horses and owners proved a dangerously heavy cargo. The looks of fear
showed on the faces of the _voyageurs_, as they were by profession, when
Zigzag, the last, stepped gingerly aboard with his load. Even Deerfoot
was anxious, for the flatboat sank near to its gunwales. Fortunately a
moderate breeze was blowing in the right direction, and by trimming boat
and using care the party made the passage without mishap.

On the western bank our friends found themselves in a motley and
interesting community. The chief business of St. Louis, as it continued
to be long afterward, was trading in furs. From that point boats
ascended the Mississippi or, a short distance above, turned off up the
Missouri, the big brother of the great stream, carrying with them
hunters and trappers, some of whom remained for long months in the wild
regions of the Northwest. When the _voyageurs_, with their rhythmic
songs and vigorous swing of their oars, came down the river again, they
brought with them valuable loads of peltries, which found ready sale at
the post. The pay received by these hardy adventurers, and which
represented in most instances toil, privations and perils extending
through many weary weeks, was, as a rule, speedily wasted in riotous
living. Penniless, remorseful and without credit, the hunters and
trappers had no choice but to make off again, returning in due time to
repeat their folly, or mayhap to fall victims to the treachery of the
red men whose territory they invaded.

The visitors attracted less attention than they expected. Indians and
white hunters were too common a sight in St. Louis to be remarked upon.
Perhaps if the inhabitants had known that the last visitors were on
their way to the other side of the continent they would have given them
more heed, but, on the advice of Deerfoot, the secret was kept from all
chance acquaintances.

When Mul-tal-la and his companion came down the Missouri in a canoe it
was easy enough to transport themselves to the eastern bank. They
obtained the boat in the country of Iowa Indians, and, leaving it on the
eastern bank, never saw it again.

As a good deal of the day remained the travelers ate their noon meal at
one of the taverns, where the food was less inviting than the game
secured by their own rifles, and then remounting, they headed across the
country for a hamlet named La Charrette, about which they had made
inquiries and learned that it was the last white settlement on the
Missouri. It was too far to reach that day, but they expected to make it
on the morrow if no check occurred. Even though they were so near St.
Louis they found no lack of game, and the question of food gave them the
least concern of any. The Blackfoot, however, had told his friend more
than once that they were to reach sections where the matter would be
found one of considerable difficulty.

La Charrette proved to be a dilapidated hamlet of half a dozen log
cabins, standing close to the river. The country was so open when they
approached the wretched dwellings that our friends were riding in a
bunch, with Zigzag a little to the rear. Several half-clothed children
were seen playing in the mud near the water’s edge, but no one else for
the moment was visible. Deerfoot had just remarked that he was so
unfavorably impressed with the appearance of the little settlement that
they would not stop, as had been his intention, when a man was seen to
come out of the door of the nearest cabin. He carried a long rifle, was
dressed in the costume of the hunters of Kentucky, and was as straight
and erect as an Indian. He paused and looked down at the children,
apparently unaware of the approach of the horsemen.

Victor, who was riding at the elbow of Deerfoot, heard him utter an
exclamation of astonishment. Turning his head, he saw the Shawanoe
intently studying the man who had just come into view. The next moment
Deerfoot made another exclamation, and, leaping from his horse, ran
toward the other. The latter was quick to detect the sound of his
footsteps, and turned to look at him. As he did so the boys gained a
fair view of his face. He had a somewhat elongated countenance, was
smoothly shaven, with a prominent nose, and seemed to be in middle life.

It was evident that he recognized Deerfoot before the latter reached
him. The man was seen to smile, stride forward and warmly grasp the hand
of the dusky youth, while the two talked fast, though their words could
not be overheard.

“They seem to be old acquaintances,” said the wondering Victor. “I don’t
see how that can be, for Deerfoot has never been in this part of the
country.”

“But the man may have been in ours. I never saw him before; have you?”

The hunter had turned his gaze from the face of Deerfoot, apparently
because of something said by him, and was looking at the Blackfoot and
the brothers, who were approaching with their horses on a slow walk.
Deerfoot also turned and beckoned the boys to draw near. They did so,
scrutinizing the stranger, whom they certainly had never seen until
then.

To their amazement the young Shawanoe introduced them to Daniel Boone,
the most famous pioneer of the early West. The boys had heard of him
times without number, for he was an old acquaintance of their father,
and they knew how intimate he and Kenton had been. He was genial and
pleasant, although always inclined to reserve, and insisted that the
company should dismount and spend the rest of the day and night with
him. [Illustration: Daniel Boone and Deerfoot.]

It was hard to refuse, but the signs of poverty, and especially the
sight of several wan faces peering through the broken windows, decided
Deerfoot that it would be more considerate for them to make excuse. The
presence of so many, even if divided among several households, could not
but be burdensome.

But the boys dismounted and walked with Deerfoot and Boone to the cabin
from which the pioneer had emerged, and found seats on the broken-down
porch. The Blackfoot preferred to stay where he was and look after the
horses.

The talk was one that the boys remembered all their lives. The sight of
Deerfoot, who was as well known to Boone as to Kenton, seemed to warm
the cockles of the pioneer’s heart, and he talked with a freedom that
would have astonished his friends. Deerfoot did not hesitate to tell him
of the destination of himself and boys and the long venturesome journey
before them. The mild blue eyes lit up.

“I wish I could go with you!” exclaimed Boone.

“Why can’t you?” asked Deerfoot. “It will make all our hearts glad.”

The great ranger shook his head.

“No; I’m too old.”

“Why, you can’t be more than fifty, if you are that much,” said the
impulsive Victor.

With a smile that showed his fine, even teeth, Boone said:

“Fifty years ago I was older than Deerfoot is now, for I’m close to
three score and ten. I do a little hunting, as I expect to do to the end
of my life, but I couldn’t stand such a tramp as you have started on, my
friends. Howsumever, it’s the best thing in the world for these
youngsters, and they couldn’t have better company than Deerfoot.”

“We found that out long ago,” said George Shelton warmly. “If it hadn’t
been for him, my brother and I would have never lived to be here.”

“My brother shouldn’t talk that way,” protested the Shawanoe with a
blush.

“Haven’t you always told us to speak the truth?” asked Victor. “And you
know what George just said is as true as it can be.”

Deerfoot would have liked to deny it, but he could not. Nevertheless, it
was not pleasing to listen to praise of himself, as, I am forced to say,
he was often compelled to do. He shook his head and looked at Boone.

“How long has my brother lived here?”

“Between two and three years. I expect to stay with my relatives till I
die.”

The veteran again urged the company to remain over night with him. Their
presence had already drawn the attention of every inhabitant of the
hamlet. Boone remarked that most of the men were off hunting, but
loungers were noticed in front of several of the cabins staring
curiously at the visitors, while the women and children did most of
their gaping from the windows. Most of these were composed of oiled
paper punched through by soiled fingers, but several had been furnished
with glass, and there seemed hardly a single sound pane among them all.

Fearing that the people would crowd closer, as they were beginning to
do, Deerfoot took advantage of the renewed invitation to rise to his
feet and say that it was time they were on the way again. Throughout the
interview the Blackfoot sat on his horse gazing indifferently to the
westward, as if he discovered nothing of interest in any direction.

Boone warmly shook the hands of Deerfoot and the boys, and waved them
good-bye as they rode away.

You have learned something of Daniel Boone, the great pioneer of
Kentucky, though, as I have told you, Simon Kenton was his superior in
many respects. Boone was earlier on the ground, being considerably older
than Kenton, and that fact helped his fame. He was a colonel in the
United States Army, and went to Kentucky before the opening of the
Revolution. In 1793 he removed to Upper Louisiana, which at that time
belonged to the Spaniards, who appointed him a commandant of a district.
It is worth adding, in conclusion, that both Boone and Kenton lived well
beyond four-score. There is no denying that an out-door life is
healthful and tends to longevity, even though, as in their cases, it was
attended with privation, suffering and no little danger.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER V

                             A CLOSE CALL.


NOW you must not forget that most of the names of rivers, mountains and
settlements which I use in this story had no existence when Deerfoot and
his friends started on their journey across the continent. A large
number of these names were bestowed by Captains Lewis and Clark, who
came after the little party. Some of the titles have stuck, and a good
many have undergone changes. It was these explorers who gave the Rocky
(then known as Stony) Mountains their name, to say nothing of other
peaks and ranges. Lewis and Clark showed much ingenuity in making up the
long list, and it must be admitted that in many instances the change of
title since then was not an improvement.

Our friends left the Missouri some distance beyond old Fort Osage, where
the stream changes its course, and instead of flowing directly east,
comes from the north. They headed a little south of northwest, and when
we look upon them again the four were in the western part of the present
State of Kansas and below the Arkansas River. Had they turned south they
would have had to cross only a comparatively narrow neck of Oklahoma to
enter the immense State of Texas.

By this time it was early summer and the region was like fairyland. The
surface was rolling prairie, and the luxuriant grass was dotted with an
exuberance of wild flowers, brilliant, beautiful and fragrant, while the
soft blue sky, flecked here and there by snowy patches of cloud, shut
down on every hand. North, south, east, west, every point of the compass
showed the same apparently limitless expanse of rolling prairie, watered
by many streams and fertile as the “Garden of the Lord.”

The party had become accustomed to the varying scenery which greeted
them from the hour of leaving their distant home, and especially after
crossing the Mississippi, but they were profoundly impressed by the
wonderful loveliness on every hand. Mul-tal-la had passed over the same
ground before, but it was not clothed in such enchanting verdure. Not a
single tree was in sight, but the grass in some places brushed the
bellies of the horses, and no one needed to be told that at no distant
day the region would become one of the most prosperous on the continent.

At intervals the horsemen came to higher swells in the prairies, upon
which they halted and surveyed the surrounding country. While the
weather was warm, there was just a touch of coolness which made it ideal
for riding, walking or, in fact, living and drawing one’s breath.

The best of fortune had attended the little company thus far. There had
been some delays and checks in crossing the streams, and once Zigzag’s
stubbornness came within a hair of losing the contents of the pack
strapped to his back. Bug, the horse of Mul-tal-la, wandered off one
night, and he, too, developed such a spell of obstinacy that it was a
whole day before he was found again. Had he not been recovered just when
he was he would have been run off by a party of Pawnees, who seemed
disposed to make a fight for him. These warriors were large, finely
formed and numerous enough to wipe out the four, but the exercise of
tact finally adjusted matters, and nothing more of an unpleasant nature
occurred.

But, without dwelling upon these and other annoying incidents, we find
our friends in the section named on this bright, sunshiny forenoon in
early summer, riding at a leisurely gait toward the setting sun, for the
time had not yet come to turn northward and make for the hunting grounds
of the Blackfeet.

Deerfoot checked his horse on the crest of the moderate elevation, with
one of the brothers on either side of him, and Mul-tal-la farther to the
left. All carefully scanned the horizon and the grand sweep of prairie
that inclosed them on every side.

“Do my brothers see anything more than the stretch of plain?” asked
Deerfoot.

Naturally one of the first things done by George Shelton at such times
was to bring his spyglass to his eye. It was a good instrument and
proved of value to all. He had been thus engaged for several minutes
when the Shawanoe asked his question.

“No,” was the reply. “There seems to be no end to waving grass and
shining flower.”

“Let my brother look to the northward,” said Deerfoot, pointing in that
direction, “and tell me what he sees.”

George did as directed. At first he saw nothing unusual, but as he
peered he observed a change in the color of the landscape. Far off
toward the horizon he noted, instead of the variegated hue, a dark
sweep, as if the prairie ended on the shore of a dun-colored lake or
sea. It covered thirty degrees of the circle. His first thought was that
it was a large body of water, for as he studied it closer he perceived a
restless pulsation of the surface, which suggested waves, though there
was not a breath of wind where the company had halted.

“It looks to me like a big body of water,” said the boy, lowering his
glass.

“Let me have a squint,” remarked Victor, reaching for the glass, which
was passed to him.

Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la did not speak, but exchanged significant looks.

Victor held the glass to his eyes for several minutes, while the others
waited for him to speak.

“It looks like a body of water,” he finally said, without lowering the
instrument, “but, if it is, _it’s coming this way_!”

It was the Blackfoot who grinned and uttered the single word:

“Buffaloes!”

“So they are! You might have known that, George.”

“_You_ didn’t know it till Mul-tal-la told you.”

Very soon the animals were identified by the naked eye. Numbers had been
seen before, but never so large a herd as that upon which all now gazed
with rapt attention. There must have been tens of thousands, all coming
with that heavy, plunging pace peculiar to those animals. Sometimes an
immense drove would be quietly cropping the herbage, when a slight
flurry would set several in motion. Then the excitement ran through the
whole lot with almost electric suddenness, and all were soon plunging in
headlong flight across the plain.

The buffalo, or more properly the American bison, is a stupid creature
and subject to the most senseless panics. Thousands have been known to
dash at the highest speed straight away. Sometimes the leaders would
come abruptly to the top of a lofty bluff, perhaps overlooking a stream
deep below. In vain they attempted to hold back or to swerve to one
side. The prodigious pressure from the rear was resistless, and they
were driven over the cliff into the water, with the others piling upon
them, and those again borne under by the remainder of the herd until
hundreds were trampled, smothered and drowned in the muddy water
beneath. Only those at the extreme rear were able to save themselves,
and that not through any wit of their own.

As the seething host bore down upon the horsemen it was seen that the
front, which was spread out over an expanse of several hundred yards,
was coming straight for the elevation upon which our friends were
waiting and watching them. Bellowing mingled with the thunderous tread
of the mighty mass, and the sight was enough to awe the stoutest heart.

“They will trample us to death,” called the scared Victor, looking at
Deerfoot, who was calmly contemplating the approaching army. The horses
raised their heads, looked toward the brown, undulating mass, snuffed,
snorted and trembled with terror, for their instinct told them that the
peril was bearing down upon them with hurricane swiftness.

It would not do to wait, for the most frightful of deaths threatened the
party. Mul-tal-la slipped from his horse and whipped the blanket from
his back. Deerfoot also dismounted, but did not take his blanket with
him, though he carried his gun.

“Let my brothers come with me,” he said sharply to the boys, who
nervously sprang from their saddles and hurried to his side.

The Blackfoot ran a few paces in front of the three and began vigorously
waving the blanket over his head, shouting at the top of his voice. At
the same moment Deerfoot leveled his gun and fired at the nearest bison,
which was less than a hundred yards off. The bullet struck the gigantic
head, but the beast did not suffer the slightest harm. He plunged
forward with the same impetuosity as before.

Deerfoot caught the gun from George’s grasp and fired again, but with no
more effect than at first. The horses were snorting and rearing and in
danger of breaking off in the irrestrainable panic shown by the bison.
The Shawanoe reached for the rifle of Victor, and the lad eagerly passed
the weapon to him.

“Let my brothers look to the horses,” he called, still cool but under
restrained excitement. The boys ran to the animals and immediately found
their hands full, for a horse frantic with fear is one of the most
unmanageable of creatures.

Deerfoot did not discharge the third weapon, but awaited the chance to
make his shot effective. It was a waste of ammunition to launch a bullet
at the iron-like front of a bison. The surest avenue to his seat of life
is back of the foreleg. The heads were held so low by the plunging
brutes that they acted as shields to the vulnerable portions from that
direction, and the position of the Shawanoe did not allow a favorable
aim.

Mul-tal-la ran several steps toward the thundering herd, and then began
leaping into the air, swinging his blanket and shouting like a crazy
man. In any other circumstances his antics would have caused a laugh,
but this was no time for merriment. Deerfoot was the only tranquil
member of the party, and he stood with weapon half raised, unable to
decide what to do to avert the peril sweeping down upon them like a
hurricane.

Seconds were beyond value. Unless the bison were diverted at once the
breath of life would be crushed out of the four and out of their
animals. Wild bellowings filled the air, and peculiar crackling,
rattling sounds, limitless in number, were heard. These were caused by
the contact of the horns of the bison, which were crowded so close in
many places that the wonder was how they were able to move at all.

The last hope seemed to lie in the Blackfoot. Unless his shoutings and
contortions with the fluttering blanket, which threatened to be whipped
into shreds, checked the furious beasts, they could not be stayed at
all. He produced no more effect than the flicker of a straw in the wind.

At this appalling juncture, Deerfoot, with both arms outstretched, the
left hand holding the rifle of Victor Shelton, dashed toward the head of
the herd, which was only a few rods away. He was seen to make a
tremendous leap, which landed him on the back of an enormous bull.
Instead of firing the gun, he grasped it by the barrel and smote the
bison with the stock, the blow descending upon one of his eyes. The
youth’s strange position, which he managed to maintain, gave him the
first chance to make a telling shot. Like a flash he fired at the
nearest bison, sending the bullet down through the forepart of his body
and into a spot so vital that, with a frenzied bellow, he stumbled
forward and rolled over and over like a huge block of wood driven from
the throat of a giant piece of ordnance.

While executing his lightning-like movements, the Shawanoe added his
shoutings to those of his friend, and then laid about him with the
clubbed weapon. The unique performances of the two did the business. The
fall of one bison, the strange figure dancing as it seemed in mid-air,
injected a panic into that part of the herd, which split into two
divisions that thundered past the terrified group as if the elevation
formed a small island in the center of a rushing torrent.

Deerfoot allowed himself to be carried a number of yards on the back of
his frantic steed. When abreast of the horses he sprang from his perch
and ran up beside them, where the boys had all they could do to restrain
the animals. As if nothing unusual had occurred, the Shawanoe joined in
their efforts, and, by main force, restrained the brutes from breaking
away and diving among the bison, where they could not have survived more
than a few minutes.

The wedge having been inserted into the onrushing herd, nothing more
remained to be done. The dividing point not only was maintained, but the
bison began separating farther back, so that by and by the partition
point was twice as distant as at first.

None of the rifles was loaded, and no attempt was made to ram a charge
into them while the stampede continued. The Blackfoot, however, seemed
to catch the wild ardor of panic, and, dropping his blanket, brought his
bow into play. Arrow after arrow was launched at the bison. Though none
fell, a number were grievously hurt and, as they dived past, more than
one showed an arrow projecting like a giant feather from some part of
his body. So enormous was this herd of bison that nearly an hour passed
before the last galloped by and followed with undiminished speed the
thousands that were headed southward and running as if they would never
stop.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER VI

                               A MISHAP.


THE flight of so immense a number of bison during the dry season would
have filled the air with thick clouds of suffocating dust, but our
friends were spared this infliction. It was not only early in the
season, when the grass was green and the soil damp, but there had been a
heavy rainfall a couple of days before.

After the rear of the herd had thundered past, bellowing, flinging their
heels and putting forth their best exertions, as if Death himself were
nipping at their heels, the little party having quieted their horses,
remounted and gazed after the vanishing drove. A singular result of the
shots of Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la showed itself. In neither case was the
bison killed outright, but the one struck by the Shawanoe and four of
those hit by the Blackfoot were so badly wounded that they wabbled and
sagged down and were quickly crushed. Here and there, at varying
distances, the dark humps were seen in the trampled grass, looking like
mounds of brown dirt.

Since the four made it a rule to depend upon their rifles for food, they
had no sooner reloaded the weapons than they set out to secure their
dinner from the spoils before them. All had eaten bison meat before.
Though some profess to relish it, the flesh is rather tough and
sometimes so strong that it takes a hungry man to enjoy such a meal. The
animal, however, like all others, has his choice portions.

Mul-tal-la was sure that no more palatable feast could be had than from
buffalo tongue. Accordingly, he and Deerfoot, leaving the rest of the
game untouched, provided themselves with those delicacies, which were
well cooked by means of dried buffalo chips, and all declared themselves
well satisfied.

Strange that only a comparatively short time ago millions of bison
roamed over the prairies of the West, and to-day you never meet a
specimen except the few that are preserved with difficulty in
Yellowstone Park, and in several zoological collections. The last bison
must soon disappear and the animal become extinct, all because of the
wanton cruelty of men who called themselves sportsmen and butchered the
creatures by the thousand.

The dinner was made without water, which was a small matter, for there
was no need of the explorers suffering on that account, since streams
were abundant and they did not have to travel far to obtain the element
of the best quality.

It was about the middle of the afternoon that Deerfoot led the way up
another of the numerous rises in the prairie, and halted to give the
horses a needed rest. Although the pace was kept at a walk, traveling
through the luxuriant grass was trying, and consideration was due the
animals who did the work.

As usual, the four who dismounted scanned every part of the visible
horizon. George Shelton often called his spyglass into use while riding
over the plain, and thus gained the pleasure of being the first to
announce certain discoveries; but the elevations, that were never of
much extent, gave a more favorable view.

Directly westward, in a line with the course they were pursuing, all,
without the aid of the glass, observed five or six animals cropping the
grass. They were of delicate build, resembling deer, but looked more
dainty and graceful. It was not until after Mul-tal-la and Deerfoot had
studied them for several minutes through the glass that the former made
known their nature. They were antelopes, one of the fleetest and most
quick-sighted animals in the West.

Although they were fully a fourth of a mile away, they saw the travelers
the instant they came up the rise of land. They tossed their heads and
stared at the strangers while the latter were studying them. Then they
dashed off with the speed of the wind, but did not go far when they
stopped short, turned part way round and gazed at the horsemen, as if
expecting them to follow. Seeing they did not, the antelopes resumed
their grazing, the two most timid stopping every now and then to look
up, as if in doubt whether they ought not to place a greater distance
between them and the strange-looking creatures on the elevation.

“Would my brothers like to eat of antelope!” asked Mul-tal-la,
addressing all three of his companions.

“I suppose it would taste good,” replied Victor, “for everything tastes
that way in this part of the world, which I suppose is because I’m so
plaguey hungry most of the time.”

“Mul-tal-la cannot get nigh enough to bring down the antelopes,”
remarked Deerfoot, “for they go faster than any of our horses can run.”

“My brother Deerfoot cannot get near enough to shoot an antelope, but
Mul-tal-la finds no trouble in doing so.”

The brothers were astonished by the audacity of this remark. Did the
Blackfoot presume to think his fleetness of foot could be compared with
that of the Shawanoe, who had never met his equal? They looked at
Deerfoot to see how he took the slur. He was never troubled by such
trifles.

“It will please the heart of Deerfoot to see his brother bring back one
of the antelopes. Does he want Deerfoot’s gun?”

“No; it shall be done with Mul-tal-la’s bow and arrow,” was another
surprising declaration.

Saying no more, the Blackfoot, bearing his long bow in his right hand,
walked down the gentle slope and moved, not toward the antelopes, but to
the south. The timid creatures noticed him at once, for he made no
effort to conceal himself. All the six raised their heads and watched
him with evident misgiving. The two that had shown so much fear from the
first glanced first at him and then at the group on the rise in the
prairie, as if uncertain which was the most to be dreaded.

Had Mul-tal-la walked directly toward the animals they would have been
off like so many arrows, but he bore away as if they were not in his
mind. As it was, however, three of the antelopes galloped a hundred
yards or so to the north, when, seeing that their companions did not
follow, they stopped and resumed their staring.

The warrior walked steadily until he was equidistant from his friends
and from the antelopes. Still facing away from the latter, he now sank
to the ground and began creeping toward the animals. Deerfoot, who, like
the boys, was watching every movement, smiled.

“They will not let my brother come nigh enough to reach them with an
arrow,” he remarked, not a little amused over what looked like the
certain discomfiture of his companion, for, despite the tall grass, he
was sure to be detected by the creatures.

Sure enough, he had advanced but a little way when the whole six bounded
off as if they would never stop. Mul-tal-la ceased crawling, but did not
rise.

“What is he doing?” asked the puzzled Victor, closely watching the red
man, who could be plainly seen without the aid of the glass.

His action was curious. Still lying on his face, he raised one hand as
far above his head as he could reach, and slowly waved it from side to
side with a regular, pendulum movement. The antelopes that were bounding
off abruptly stopped, wheeled part way round and stared at the
oscillating hand. They stood for a little while, and then one of them
began stepping cautiously toward the object. The others reluctantly
imitated him, so that the singular sight of six antelopes marching
carefully in Indian file was displayed. Deerfoot chuckled, for he now
understood the trick.

Before long the leader paused, stared a moment, and then, whirling
suddenly around, dashed off with an amazing burst of speed, only,
however, to run for less than fifty yards, when the former performance
was repeated. The foremost halted, turned once more and stepped gingerly
in the direction of that hand, with the fringed covering for the arm,
swaying from side to side. This time he approached nearer than before,
though with frequent halts and bluffs at dashing off again.

Had Mul-tal-la varied his rhythmic swing or risen to a stooping posture
even, or tried to creep nearer, the antelopes would have fled like so
many birds on the wing. But his action was that of an automaton, and all
the time he lay low in the grass, never removing his eyes from the game
he had marked for his own.

First forward, then a halt, then a brief retreat, followed by a still
closer approach, the little farce went on, until the interested Deerfoot
and the boys saw that the foremost antelope was almost within reach of
Mul-tal-la. Then for some time the issue looked doubtful.

But the same cause that has been the death of unnumbered antelopes
proved the undoing of another on this particular afternoon. Five
remained in the background, but one, and he the best of the bunch, kept
slowly stepping, with frequent stops, until at last he crossed the dead
line and sealed his fate.

The pretty creature seemed to awaken to the startling fact, for he
abruptly wheeled to dash off. In the act of turning Mul-tal-la quickly
drew his arrow to a head and launched it. The watchers caught a glimpse
of the feathered missile as it rose from the grass, made a slight curve,
and, while the antelope was turning, buried itself to the feather in his
side, entering just back of the fore leg.

The victim made a leap straight up in air, spun around several times
like a top, and then dived to the ground, rolled on its side, and, after
some pawings, ceased to struggle. Never was game more fairly brought
down.

The moment Mul-tal-la let fly with the arrow he sprang to his feet and
hurried after it. The five antelopes were off at full speed, never
pausing, and soon disappeared in the distance. The Blackfoot was seen to
bend over his quarry and busy himself with his knife. Then he walked
proudly toward his friends, bringing his prize with him. He had done
what he promised, and all congratulated him.

It was still early in the afternoon and the party resumed traveling,
deflecting a little to the south. Before it was dark they came to a
small tributary of the Arkansas, where they decided to camp for the
night. When the antelope meat was dressed, washed and broiled in the
same way as their midday meal had been prepared, it proved rather
disappointing. The animal was lean, the meat tough and not specially
palatable. It was agreed that they would have done better by making use
of the best portions of one of the bison which had been brought down.

Mul-tal-la, who knew all about these timid creatures, told his friends
of their most striking peculiarity. While it is impossible to approach
them by direct means, an appeal to their insatiate curiosity rarely or
never fails. Even the wolves make use of this remarkable weakness. One
of the cunning pests will lie in the grass, revealing just enough of his
head or body to attract the notice of the antelopes in the distance. The
trick is more difficult in this case than when a hunter plays it.
Sometimes it is so prolonged, because of the suspicions of the game,
that one wolf will relieve another before the victim is brought near
enough to be seized.

A more common plan is for the wolves to attack the creatures when
crossing rivers or large streams. They are poor swimmers, though among
the fleetest of animals, and are helpless when thus assailed.

The morrow proved as fine as the preceding two or three days. The sun
shone bright and the few clouds drifting across the sky only served to
make the deep blue softer and more beautiful. While the morning was
somewhat cool, the weather was quickly modified by the rays of the sun.
Even the horses seemed to catch the glow of high spirits and broke into
an easy gallop without any urging on the part of their riders. Zigzag
was the only one that objected, and he did it through simple
stubbornness, for his burden was not onerous.

The afternoon of this day brought an experience to Deerfoot the like of
which was never known before or afterward. He was thrown from his horse,
and that, too, when his gait was a walk. It came about in this manner:

He was riding slightly in advance, as was his custom. He had swept the
horizon with his eyes, as he always did at intervals, and seeing nothing
unusual, allowed himself to sink into a reverie. This was not amiss, for
such spells of meditation never lasted long and nothing of an alarming
character could steal undetected upon them, even if he should forget his
surroundings for an indefinite time. Mul-tal-la was always alert, and
George Shelton was as fond as ever of appealing to his spyglass.

The horse Simon was walking easily forward when one hoof entered a
gopher hole and he sank to his knee. The stop was so abrupt that
Deerfoot, who was entirely off his guard, slid over the animal’s neck to
the ground. He was taken completely by surprise, without a second for
preparation, but even then he dropped upon his feet and turned to learn
the cause of the mishap.

George and his brother smiled at the discomfiture of their friend, but
ceased the next instant when they saw that his horse had been seriously
hurt. He attempted to take a step, but checked himself with a moan of
pain, and then rested on his three legs. The alarmed Deerfoot stooped
and gently passed his hand over the injured portion. Simon moaned again
and placed his nose on the shoulder of his owner, as if begging him to
give him relief.

The young Shawanoe straightened up, patted the forehead of the suffering
beast, and said in a choking voice:

“His leg is broken!”

And then he nerved himself to do the hardest thing of his life. With the
eyes of the dumb animal fixed appealingly upon him, as if he read his
purpose, Deerfoot brought his rifle to a level and sent a bullet through
the brain of the horse.

It was an act of mercy, but it hurt the youth more than the victim. He
stood with the smoking weapon in his hand, looked at Simon as he sank
unconscious to the ground, breathing out his life as he did so with a
single pitiful moan. Then Deerfoot turned away and, bowing his head,
sobbed like a child.

Simon had always been a good animal, though he was not the equal, either
in speed or intelligence, of many others; but a man and horse cannot be
comrades very long without forming an affection for each other.
Deerfoot’s kindness to such dumb beasts always drew them toward him, and
he had learned to love this devoted horse who had borne him hundreds of
miles from his home.

Neither George nor Victor Shelton spoke, for they sympathized so deeply
with their friend that their voices would have broken had they tried to
utter a word. They had reined up their own animals, and now quietly
waited for the Shawanoe to speak. The Blackfoot had also halted and,
instead of looking at his comrade, turned his face toward the west. Not
a muscle of his face moved, and no one could have read his thoughts, but
it cannot be doubted that he sympathized with the young Shawanoe. Unable
to console him, Mul-tal-la held his peace.

It was several minutes before Deerfoot was able to master his grief. By
and by he regained his self-control, but all saw the traces of tears
when he faced his friends. He spoke in an even voice, but his words were
remarkable:

“My brothers, Deerfoot has read the Bible through many times. He has
searched every page, but has not yet found a place where it says that
the poor animals like Simon shall not inherit the kingdom that awaits
us. Deerfoot believes he shall meet Simon again in that country, and if
my brothers think different let them not say so.”

And yet there are thousands to-day who hold the same sweet belief that
was held by Deerfoot the Shawanoe.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VII

                             JACK HALLOWAY.


THE loss of Deerfoot’s horse was received more seriously by the friends
of the young Shawanoe than by himself. There were several ways of
meeting the difficulty. George Shelton proposed that the load carried by
Zigzag should be divided among the others and the animal used by the
dismounted one. The latter shook his head, and Victor suggested that he
and his brother take turns with him in riding their horses. Before that
proposition was made Mul-tal-la came forward with a similar one
affecting only him and his comrade.

The Shawanoe declined them all.

“Deerfoot will walk,” he calmly said. “He has done so many times. He
will not grow tired as soon as the horses. Let us go forward.”

To show that the question was settled he strode off across the prairie,
carrying his rifle in a trailing position and stepping with his elastic
gait, which he could maintain hour after hour without fatigue. Moreover,
it would have been no hardship for him to strike into a lope which would
have kept the animals at a trot throughout the day. You know that a man,
trained to the exercise, can walk farther than a horse, and no person
was ever better trained than the young Shawanoe.

The oppression caused by his loss showed itself for a long time. He held
his place in advance of the others, rarely speaking and often acting as
if unaware that he had companions with him. They respected his moods,
and though they chatted among themselves, said little or nothing to him.

About the middle of the afternoon the boys descried an object in the
horizon to the northeast, which at first they took to be a white cloud
heaped against the sky. But its stationary position and its peculiar
form revealed that it was a mountain peak whose summit was covered with
snow. Seen against the sky it had a soft bluish tint which made it a
most striking figure in the landscape. The clear air of these regions
makes distances deceptive, objects seeming to be much nearer the
spectator than they are. When Victor said he thought they might camp
that night at its base, the Blackfoot told him that by traveling all of
next day they would hardly be able to reach the mountain, which is one
of the loftiest of that section.

The truth of Mul-tal-la’s words was evident when, after fully four hours
of brisk walking, they camped on the bank of a small creek and saw the
sun sink behind the mountain peak, which appeared to be as far away as
ever. The plain was still treeless, and the fire kindled on the gently
sloping bank was of dry buffalo chips such as had already done them
service. Before daylight had departed the horizon was scanned with the
aid of the spyglass without discovering anything of an unusual
character.

It was the turn of the red men to act as sentinels, and Deerfoot quietly
said that he would take the first watch, calling the Blackfoot when he
thought proper. As usual, he read a chapter from his Bible. After he had
finished and the devotions of all were over, he again took out the book,
placing himself so that enough light fell upon the pages to permit him
to read. The last sight that the boys had of him was in this motionless
posture and occasionally turning a leaf. Thus he sat when the three sank
into restful slumber. The succulent grass was so abundant that the
horses, relieved of saddles, bridles and burdens, were left free to crop
as long as they chose and to sleep when the notion came to them.

A half hour after his friends had fallen asleep Deerfoot put away his
book and rose to his feet. It was profoundly still. On his right flowed
the slightly muddy stream, no more than fifty feet wide and of shallow
depth. In other directions stretched the slightly rolling prairie until
lost in the gloom. The moon was near the full, but its light was
treacherous and uncertain because of the masses of clouds that slowly
drifted across its face. At times one could see quite clearly for a
hundred yards or more, and then the shadows crept up to the camp, whose
fire threw out comparatively little light. Now and then the watchful
sentinel was able to detect the dim outlines of the farther shore, even
when the surface of the stream did not reflect the mild glow of the
fire.

Nothing escaped his vigilant eye. It was not yet midnight when Bug, the
horse of Mul-tal-la, showed a strange restlessness. He whinnied softly
two or three times, and finally came to his feet. Deerfoot moved
silently to his side, patted his neck and spoke soothingly. The animal
showed no alarm, but rather curiosity. His nose was pointed to the
south, where he seemed to scent something unusual.

The Shawanoe waited till the moon emerged from the clouds and then
peered in that direction. He could detect nothing out of the common. He
walked a little way and again waited for the moon’s face to become
unveiled. Still all looked the same as before. He went back to Bug and
found him in the former position, with ears pricked forward, nose thrust
slightly out and breathing more rapidly than was his wont. The other
horses gave no sign of disturbance.

The Shawanoe was puzzled. He felt that if this dumb brute was able to
detect the approach of danger he ought to do the same. Kneeling, he
pressed one ear against the damp ground.

As he did so he was sensible of a faint rhythmic, velvet-like tremor,
which was inaudible when he raised his head. Using the earth again as a
medium, he listened and brought all his faculties into play. The
singular pulsation neither increased nor diminished. The best comparison
he could make was to that of the multitudinous tramping of thousands of
tiny feet upon the earth miles away, recalling the gradual subsidence of
the racket created by the stamping of the bison. Deerfoot knew it was
not produced by those animals. It could not have been elk or deer, for
they never herded in such vast numbers, nor could it have been made by
wolves, since their tread was too soft for the sound to penetrate far.

The Shawanoe was mystified. Rising to his feet again he stood gazing
southward, wondering what strange thing was to come out of the
flickering moonlight. But none appeared, and hearing a movement of Bug,
he turned and saw him disposing himself for the night. He lay down on
the grassy earth, prepared to continue the rest which had been broken so
curiously. [Illustration: “‘Helloa!’”]

This looked as if the uneasiness of the horse was over. A few minutes
later Deerfoot again placed his ear against the ground. Immediately he
was aware that that faint, tremulous throbbing which had so mystified
him was passing away. Whatever had caused it was receding, and soon the
silence became as profound as before. He was still at a loss to
understand its nature, though he thought it was produced by animals
treading the earth in immense numbers.

Walking back to camp, he noted the three unconscious forms wrapped in
their blankets, for there was enough sharpness in the air to make the
warmth pleasant and little heat was given out by the fire. The Shawanoe
paused just far enough away to be revealed dimly in the subdued glow,
and was leaning on his rifle, listening, looking and meditating, when
the stillness was broken by a single exclamation:

“_Helloa!_”

It was the voice of a white man on the other side of the stream which
ran close to the camp. The face of the moon happened to be clear at that
moment, and glancing across, Deerfoot saw a shadowy figure standing on
the edge of the water. The head and front of a horse showed at his side,
and he was evidently studying the camp upon which he had come.

Deerfoot straightened up and promptly called back:

“Helloa! Come over and see us.”

As he spoke he walked down to the edge of the stream, as if to meet the
stranger, who in a cheery voice replied:

“That suits me. I was thinkin’ of doin’ that same thing,”

He was seen to swing himself upon the back of his horse, whose ribs he
kicked with his heels and ordered forward. The animal stepped with some
hesitation into the water, snuffing and feeling his way. He had advanced
only two or three paces when Deerfoot observed that he was followed by
two other horses, each of which carried a large pack on his back. The
distance was short, but it took some time for the three animals to ford
the stream, which was no more than two or three feet deep, with a bottom
of soft mud.

The moment the leader touched dry land the man slipped from the saddle
and extended his hand.

“Why, you’re an Injin!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t think that, but I’m
powerful glad to see you.”

“And Deerfoot is glad to see his brother,” replied the smiling Shawanoe,
returning the pressure of the other.

“Who are you?” asked the white man, peering closely into the countenance
as dimly seen in the firelight.

“Deerfoot, and a Shawanoe by birth.”

“Shawanoe,” repeated the white man. “I don’t remember havin’ heerd tell
of them varmints—that is of that _tribe_,” he corrected with a laugh;
“no offence.”

“Their home is a good many miles from here, in Ohio.”

“Ah! that explains it. I’ve seed worse lookin’ redskins than you.”

“And plenty better ones,” said Deerfoot rather taken with the off-hand
manner of the newcomer.

“Dunno ’bout that. There are a few good ones among the redskins and some
powerful mean ones. I’m suited with you so fur, from the ground up.”

The visitor was of massive frame, fully six feet high, broad in
proportion, with a grizzly beard that covered his face to the eyes and
flowed over his breast. He was dressed like a half-civilized Indian,
wearing a fur cap, thick shoes instead of moccasins, and with a heavy,
loose coat flung over his deerskin hunting shirt. He had a strong,
well-formed nose and bright gray eyes, which peered keenly from under
his shaggy brows. His voice was deep, and with a genial musical tone
which was pleasing and fitted well his frank manner. He shifted his long
rifle to his left hand when he extended the other to the Shawanoe and
scanned him with a sharpness evidently acquired by his long experience
on the prairies and in the mountains.

“Deerfoot is glad to meet his brother. He hopes he will stay for the
rest of the night with him and his friends.”

“Who mought they be?” asked the man, looking around at the three forms
wrapped in blankets near the fire. The boys were sleeping quietly, and
even the Blackfoot did not seem to have been disturbed by the rather
boisterous greeting of the visitor.

“Afore you tell me about ’em, I guess I may as well unship my rudder,”
added the latter, who proceeded deliberately to remove the loads from
the other two horses and place them on the ground. Then each was freed
from his belongings and given a resounding slap in turn:

“Off with you and none of your tricks. If I haven’t cured you of tryin’
to sneak off I’ll cure you in the mornin’, and don’t you forget it.”

His own horse kicked up his heels, flirted his head and led the way, the
others soberly following out into the gloom till they came to the place
where the animals of our friends were reposing. There was some neighing,
meant for greetings, and then no further attention was given by them to
one another.

Deerfoot flung some chips on the blaze and sat down, inviting his
visitor by a gesture to do the same. He assumed a lolling posture and
produced a short black clay pipe. Crumbling some plug tobacco in the
palm of his hand, he poked it into the bowl with his forefinger and lit
it from the fire.

“My name is Jack Halloway,” he said, after several puffs. “I’ve spent
the winter in the mountains, trapping beaver and foxes and sich, and am
on my way to St. Louis with a good load of peltries. I’ve had better
luck than usual and am later in gettin’ back than is gin’rally the case,
but it paid to wait, though I did have some trouble with the Snake
Injins. Howsumever, you said you was goin’ to tell me ’bout your friends
that seem to be sleepin’ powerful heavy like.”

Deerfoot had decided that no harm could come from telling this man the
truth about himself and his companions, and he now did so. The Indian
belonged to the Blackfoot tribe, and had been on a visit a long way to
the east. Deerfoot had agreed to accompany him on his return home, but
hoped to be with his own friends again the following year. Then he told
of the twin boys, sons of a friend of his. One was going into a decline
because of grief over the loss of his parent, and it was agreed that the
only cure was through diverting his thoughts and energies by this long
and hard journey. That no mistake had been made was proved long before,
for the lad had gained so rapidly in strength and spirits that he was
his former self again and physically the equal of his brother in every
respect.

Jack Halloway listened with close interest, for the story was
remarkable. He sagely remarked, however, that if the boys had been so
greatly benefited the wisest thing to do was for the three to turn back
and allow the Blackfoot to finish his journey alone.

“I jedge from what I’ve heerd that you’re a powerful cute Injin and know
that, though you’re a good many miles from St. Louis, you ain’t half way
to the Pacific yit. I’ve never been there myself, but I know ’nough of
the mountains and Injins to know that the job is the biggest thing in
all creation. Depend upon it, Shawanoe, _you’ll never get home onless
you turn back now_!”

This was said with great earnestness, the trapper nodding his head and
slapping his knee with his palm.

“The words of my brother are wise, but it would sadden the hearts of my
brothers if we went home, and he who was ill would become ill again and
die.”

“See here, younker, own up now; it’s _you_ who’d feel the worst.”

And to help make his meaning clear, Jack Halloway leaned over and thrust
his thumb into the ribs of Deerfoot and chuckled. The Shawanoe could not
help smiling.

“Deerfoot can never be happy till he looks upon the face of the great
water that lies far toward the setting sun. He must go on.”

“Wal, you’re boss of the job, as I can see from what you say, but I want
to tell you one thing that you don’t know.”

“There are many things that Deerfoot doesn’t know.”

The trapper glanced around, as if afraid of being overheard, and then
lowered his voice almost to a whisper as he leaned toward him:

“The varmints in the mountains that you’ve got to git through are
gettin’ more cantankerous than ever. I’ve trapped and hunted among ’em
for nigh onto twenty year, and never had as much trouble as last winter.
I’ve been told by the boys that come down the Missouri in the spring
that there’s just as good huntin’ and trappin’ up that way, and the
varmints don’t bother ’em half as much as out here; so I’ve made up my
mind to strike out for that part of the world next fall when I go for
the beaver runs agin.”

Jack Halloway was not slow to see that his warnings were thrown away on
the young Shawanoe, and was discreet enough to take another line. He
puffed his lips for some minutes, continually glancing at Deerfoot, who
tried to act as if unconscious of this scrutiny, which at times became
embarrassing. Suddenly the trapper started like a man who had forgotten
something.

“That’s powerful qu’ar,” he said, “and I beg your pardon.”

While speaking he was groping hurriedly through an interior pocket of
his coat, and now brought forth a flask and twisted the cork from it.

“I allers take a keg of it into the mountains, for there’s no thin’ like
it when you find the weather a bit too cold, and it’s just as good when
it’s too hot or you’ve got the blue devils and don’t feel right. After
you.”

And he leaned over and reached the flask to Deerfoot.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VIII

                               GOOD SEED.


THE young Shawanoe smiled, shook his head and looked into the keen eyes
before him.

“Deerfoot thanks his brother, but he never tasted of liquor and will die
before he wets his lips with it.”

The amazement of the trapper was not without its humorous feature. He
remained leaning toward the youth, his hand outstretched with the
uncorked flask in it and staring at him as if literally paralyzed. Then
he drew a deep breath, swung back and exclaimed:

“Wal, I’ll be skulped! You’re the first Injin I ever seed that wouldn’t
sell his moccasins for a swaller of red eye. It gits me!”

Deerfoot watched him with amused interest. Jack Halloway held up the
flask at arm’s length and surveyed it thoughtfully. Once he started to
place it to his lips, but shook his head, then jammed the cork back in
place (the screwed tops were unknown in those days) and thrust the flask
into his pocket again.

“Ef you won’t drink with me, Shawanoe, I won’t drink afore you.”

“Let my brother do as he feels like doing.”

“Which the same is what I’ve done. As I was sayin’, I allers take a keg
of the extract of happiness with me and manage things so it will last
till I get back to St. Louis; but bein’ as I stayed longer than usual,
I’ve come so near running out that that flask has got to keep me alive
for some weeks to come. I tell you it’s powerful tough, but there’s no
help for it. Every trapper or hunter that I run across—if I run across
any—will be as bad off as me.”

“When my brother gets to St. Louis what will he do with his peltries!”

“Why, sell ’em, of course. What did you think?”

“He has a good many,” remarked Deerfoot, glancing at the piles on the
ground near at hand.

“You’re right. It has been a good season, and them skins is vallyble.
There’s one black fox that’s the same as a hundred dollars to me, and
the rest will bring three hundred dollars more.”

“My brother has much money saved from his labor.”

“Much money! Not a blamed cent, though I orter have. Shawanoe, the
biggest fools—I admit it—is we trappers, who spend winters in the
mountains, freezin’, starvin’ and dodging redskins, and then travel
hundreds of miles to git back to St. Louis, where we can sell our
peltries as quick as a wink. Then we go onto a big, glorious spree, and
at the end of a week or two haven’t enough left to buy a plug of
’backer. We loaf around, doin’ ’nough odd jobs to keep us from starvin’
till the weather begins to git cold, when we’re off for the mountains
agin. And so it goes year after year, and we’re fools to the end.”

“Is my brother alone in the world?”

“Lucky I haven’t any wife or children, but I’ve got the best old mother
that ever drawed breath. She has a little home which she manages to hold
onto by takin’ in sewin’ and doin’ little fancy things for the
neighbors, who be kind to her. If they warn’t I don’t know what would
become of her, for I’m no good; I don’t deserve such a mother,” added
the trapper with a sigh, “for she is never as happy as when I’m with
her, and she’d work her fingers off for me. ’Bout all she does is work
and pray, and never an unkind word to say to her good for nothin’ son.”

“By and by she will close her eyes and go to the Great Spirit, and when
my brother walks into the little home she will be gone and”——

“Thar! thar! Don’t say nothin’ more!” interrupted the trapper with a
wave of his hand. “I can’t stand it. If I go back home and find her
dead, as I ’spose I shall some day, I’ll die myself; if I don’t, I’ll
blow my worthless brains out, for I won’t want to live.”

“My brother longs to see his mother again. If he should kill himself or
do wrong he will never see her more. Let him live right and they shall
dwell together forever. Let him go back to St. Louis and drink no more.
Let him give the money to the mother who loves her son and has suffered
much for him. Then my brother will make her face shine with happiness,
and she will live much longer.”

Jack Halloway turned his head and stared at Deerfoot for a full minute
without stirring or speaking. The Shawanoe kept his gaze upon the fire,
but he knew the scrutiny he was under, and he “waited.” When the trapper
spoke it was in a low voice, as if addressing himself:

“To think of an Injin talkin’ that way to Jack Halloway! Why, I never
had a white man do it; but his words are as true as gospel. Fact is,
they _are_ gospel.”

He relapsed into a reverie which lasted so long that Deerfoot gently
interposed.

“My brother tells me that his mother prays. Does my brother pray?”

Jack started and again stared at the dusky youth.

“This beats all creation. Yas, I used to pray, but it was a long time
ago, when I was a younker and bowed my head at my mother’s knee. I’ve
been a wild, wicked scamp that ain’t worth the prayer of such an angel
as she is. Shawanoe, do _you_ pray?”

“Once when Deerfoot was a child he was as wicked as Satan himself; but
he was made a prisoner by the palefaces. There was a good woman among
them who told him about the Great Spirit who is a loving Father to all
His children, and she taught him to pray to Him. Deerfoot prays to his
Father every morning and night, and often through the day, and his
Father always listens and does that which is best for him. Let my
brother do the same. He will give him strength to drink that poison no
more, and when he dies he will see his mother again.”

Again Jack Halloway asked himself whether he was awake or dreaming. He
had heard in a vague way of the missionaries and their labors among the
Indians. He had been told that there were some converts among the red
men, but never until now had he seen one. Like most of his calling, he
looked upon all Indians as bad, and therefore the implacable enemies of
the white men. He had had more than one desperate encounter with them,
and when he groped his way into the mountains it was always a contest of
wits between him and them, with the prospects more than once against
him. He looked upon them as he looked upon so many rattlesnakes, that
were likely to be found coiled at any moment in his path.

And yet here was a full-blooded Indian talking to him better than he had
ever heard any missionary talk. The trapper knew from the build, the
alertness, the assurance of movement of the youth, and a certain
something impossible to describe that he would be a terrific antagonist
in a fight, but nothing seemed further from the Shawanoe’s thoughts. He
talked with the persuasive gentleness of a woman, and in all his
experience never had the grizzled trapper felt such an arrow pierce
right into the core of his heart.

In a few simple words Deerfoot had drawn a vivid picture of that sweet,
patient, forgiving, praying parent, waiting in her far-away home the
return of the rough, profane, wicked son, for whom she was ready to
sacrifice her life at any time, and, indeed, was sacrificing it to his
thoughtlessness and indifference. Most astounding of all, the Shawanoe
had held out a hope to him that he had never known of or in fact dreamed
had an existence.

With that fine-grained tact which was one of Deerfoot’s most marked
traits, he refrained from breaking in upon the meditation of the other.
He knew the leaven was working and did not wish to interfere with it.

Jack Halloway, the trapper, now did a singular and unexpected thing.
Without a word, he rose to his feet and faced the stream flowing past
the camp. The youth, who was watching his movements, saw him bring the
flask from his breast pocket and swing his arm backward. Then he brought
it quickly forward, striking and checking his hand smartly against his
hip and making the throw known as “jerking.” The flask shot from his
grasp and sped out in the gloom, falling with a splash that was plainly
heard in the stillness.

“Thar, Shawanoe!” he exclaimed, facing about, “you’ve made me do what I
never believed any man could, make Jack Halloway do. Now I’ve got to
travel all the way to St. Louis without a swaller of the infarnal stuff.
It’ll take two or three weeks, and I know it’ll be powerful tough, but
_I’m going to do it_!”

Deerfoot had risen to his feet and, in a voice tremulous with emotion,
he said:

“My brother has done well. He will never be sorry. The Great Spirit will
make him strong, but my brother must pray to Him for himself.”

“Pray!” repeated the trapper; “that’s goin’ to be ’bout all I’ll do
atween here and St. Louis, and I won’t let up till the good Lord does
what you say, and what I know He’ll be powerful glad to do for such a
miserable scamp as me.”

The next act of the trapper was as remarkable as the former one. He
strode out to where he had sent the three horses, roused each and began
reloading them and saddling and bridling his own. Suspecting his
purpose, Deerfoot asked:

“Will not my brother wait till morning?”

“Not a minute longer than I have to. I’m afeard that mother of mine will
die afore I can git to her and beg her to forgive and help me to be a
half-decent man.”

Instead of protesting, Deerfoot aided in reloading the animals. Neither
spoke while this was going on. When it was finished and the massive
trapper had swung again into his saddle, he reached his broad palm down
to his new friend.

“Good-bye, Shawanoe. May I ax you when you’re at your prayers to put in
a word for me! I’ve an idee that the Lord will be more pleased to hear
from you than me.”

“Deerfoot will never forget to do as his brother asks, and he is sure
that all will now be well with his brother.”

“I’ll make a big wrastle for it. Good-bye!”

He struck his heels against the side of his horse, who, though roused
from rest, moved off, followed by the pack animals as if they were a
couple of docile dogs. They soon disappeared in the moonlight, but
Deerfoot stood for a long time gazing thoughtfully toward the point
where he had last seen the man who had come so strangely into his life
and then passed out again.

“Something tells Deerfoot that his brother shall do well and they shall
meet again.”

The Shawanoe, as we shall learn in due time, was right in this belief.

A soft rustling caused him to look round. The Blackfoot was standing at
his side.

“My brother is late in awaking Mul-tal-la,” he quietly said.

“My brother did not need to be awakened, for he heard the words of the
white man who has just gone.”

“Yes; Mul-tal-la heard all that was said by him and Deerfoot. The Great
Spirit is pleased with Deerfoot.”

“Deerfoot prays that He will ever be pleased with him. He is striving to
live so the Great Spirit will not frown upon him.”

Forgetting in his ardor the somewhat formal manner of speaking, the
Blackfoot earnestly said:

“If you are not good, then there _never_ was a good man. Let my brother
rest, for the Great Spirit will watch over him like a father.”

The Shawanoe walked to the place vacated by the other and lay down,
while the Blackfoot took upon himself the duty of sentinel for the
remainder of the night.

As Deerfoot stretched out he recalled the singular disturbance heard
earlier in the evening, and he shifted the enveloping blanket so as to
allow him to rest one ear against the cool, damp earth.

As he did so he caught the same faint, curious pulsing again. It was
more distinct and instantly drove all thought of sleep from his brain.
It was as if thousands of feet were striking the ground, mingling,
running into one another, and yet preserving a certain regularity that
was puzzling to the last degree.

Because the noises were heard more plainly he believed that whatever
caused them was drawing near the camp. Still the approach was slow,
which it would seem could not have been the fact if the unknown animals
were approaching. They must be following a course that, while bringing
them somewhat closer, would carry them by on one side or the other.

The strange peculiarity already noted again presented itself. By and by
the sounds grew fainter, as if the creatures, whatever their nature,
were receding. This suggested the odd theory that they were traveling in
a great circle and might again approach. Deerfoot rose and walked to
where Mul-tal-la was standing near the resting horses, which still
showed no signs of uneasiness. The Shawanoe told of the puzzle that
troubled him.

The Blackfoot had not observed anything of that nature. When lying on
his blanket it interposed between him and the earth, and thus shut out
the almost inaudible throbbings that mystified his companion. Mul-tal-la
now knelt and pressed his ear against the ground, Deerfoot doing the
same.

Both held their position for some time and then rose.

“They are strange sounds,” remarked the Blackfoot, “but very soft.”

“They were a little louder when Deerfoot first heard them. They must be
made by some animals that cannot be buffaloes.”

“No, the noise would be different. Mul-tal-la knows what they are, for
he heard them when he came this way many moons ago and his eyes rested
on the animals.”

“What are they?” asked the surprised Deerfoot.

“Wild horses,” was the answer.

The Shawanoe was astonished, for he had never thought of anything of
that nature. He had heard rumors, as far away as his own home, of droves
of wild horses that roamed over the western plains, numbering many
thousands. Reports of the same nature reached him when in St. Louis.
Some one had told him that when the Spaniards came to the Southwest,
more than two centuries before, a few of their horses had wandered off,
and it was from them that the numberless droves had descended.

You need not be reminded that this is a fact. A century ago enormous
droves of wild horses roamed over the Llano Estacado and in northern
Texas, to which region and neighborhood they mainly confined themselves,
though many of them were met on the plains a considerable distance to
the northward. It would not be strange if our friends came in contact
with them, though not one had yet been seen.

Mul-tal-la said that he and his companion encountered a herd that was as
numerous as the buffaloes that had lately threatened them, and at one
time the two were in danger of being run down by the equine rovers. By
hard work, however, they got out of their way.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IX

                            A BATTLE ROYAL.


THE camp was astir early. George and Victor Shelton were surprised when
told by Deerfoot of the visit received the night previous. A trapper had
called upon him with three horses, conversed for an hour or more, and
then departed, and was now miles away on the road to St. Louis. The
Shawanoe related nothing of what passed between him and Jack Halloway
except to say that he was belated in leaving the beaver runs in the
mountains and meant to lose no time in reaching his distant home.

The towering peak, crested with snow, showed to the westward, but
apparently it was little nearer than when first descried in relief
against the blue sky. Mul-tal-la said that instead of keeping on to the
peak and the range, which was quite extensive, they would now swerve to
the northward and make more directly for the Blackfoot country. The
headwaters of the North Fork of the Platte were among these elevations,
and the journey would become easier through flanking them, as he and his
companion had done when coming eastward. The range, however, trended to
the northeast, and they would have to cross it in order to reach the
sources of the numerous branches of the Yellowstone and Missouri. Then
the course would bend to the northwest, parallel to the great Rocky
Mountain range, but always east of it. Remember that the names of rivers
and mountains which I use were wholly unknown to our friends, who had to
rely for their general knowledge upon the information given by the
observant Blackfoot.

The morning meal finished, and animals having been saddled and the packs
replaced, Deerfoot, declining all offers to ride, asked George Shelton
to loan him his spyglass for a few minutes. He pointed the instrument to
the south, and stood for some time closely studying the horizon, for the
sky was bright, and in the clear air his vision, thus aided, reached for
a long distance.

It was apparent to his friends that he had discovered something of
interest. They peered in the same direction, but without seeing anything
except the monotonous undulations of the grassy plain. Not a tree, not a
mountain, nor any prominent object was in sight.

Still it was evident that the Shawanoe was interested. Finally he handed
the glass to George, who was in the saddle on the back of Jack.

“Let my brother tell me what he sees,” he quietly remarked.

The boy leveled the instrument and a moment later exclaimed:

“Horses! There are ten hundred thousand of them!”

“Deerfoot fears his brother has not counted right,” remarked the
Shawanoe.

“I may be two or three out of the way,” replied the lad, “but I never
before saw so many.”

He passed the glass to the impatient Victor, who took his turn at
scanning the remarkable scene. Mul-tal-la sat as immobile as a statue on
his horse, calmly waiting for the others to complete their scrutiny. His
eyes were turned to the south, and the slight wrinkling of his cheeks
showed that he was looking hard, though there was no other evidence of
concern. Victor added his expressions of astonishment to those of his
brother, and handed the instrument to the Blackfoot, who, of course, had
learned its use long before. Thus the round of observation was finished.

That George had been extravagant in his estimate became clear when it
was agreed that the drove of wild horses numbered perhaps two or three
hundred. They were coming at an easy canter in a direct line for the
camp, so that in a short time all were in plain sight of the unaided
eye. No doubt they had wandered northward from the plains of Upper
Texas—as it is now called—tempted by the fine pasturage, and possibly by
that longing for change which sometimes shows itself in a quadruped to a
hardly less degree than in a biped.

The picturesque scene did not make our friends lose sight of their own
situation as regarded these wild animals. If they chose they could
overrun the camp and trample all to death as the stampeded bison
threatened to do but a short time before. Would they do so?

Mul-tal-la, whose previous experience gave him greater knowledge, did
not think he and his companions were in special danger. Wild horses were
not disposed to attack travelers, though there was a possibility of
their doing so if provoked or if strangers got in their path or annoyed
them. He warned his friends to watch against their own horses dashing
out and joining the drove, though even if they did so they were liable
to harm by the others, who were likely to resent such an intrusion.

The domestic horses were only a few minutes behind their owners in
discovering the strangers’ approach. They showed considerable
excitement, throwing up their heads, snuffing the air and staring
affrightedly to the south. Only one, however, betrayed a disposition to
make closer acquaintance with his wild brethren. It was Zigzag, who
broke into a sudden awkward gallop, heading directly for them.

But he had time to go only a few paces when Deerfoot leaped in front of
him, seized the rope halter and whirled him around with no gentle force.
The horse persisted, but the youth spoke sharply, slapped the side of
his head, and Mul-tal-la, who was the only one of the company that had
provided himself with a switch, brought it down about the head and neck
of the stubborn creature with a vicious vigor that quickly subdued him.
Zigzag would have cut a fine figure in bouncing about among the wild
animals with his huge pack on his back. Meanwhile a close watch was kept
on the others, who could not fail to be impressed by the object lesson
that had just been given them.

The drove maintained their easy swinging gallop until within two or
three hundred yards. They had acted as if unaware of the little group
drawn up on the prairie and scrutinizing them. Then the canter dropped
to a trot, and then to a walk, the varying movements when these changes
took place adding to the novelty of the picture. Among the horses were
piebalds, roans, grays, sorrels and several of a milk-white color. The
undulating bodies, with their different tints, were like the changing
figures of the biograph.

Deerfoot explained to the boys that nothing was to be done unless the
wild creatures continued to advance and showed a purpose to attack. At
the proper moment he would give the word and they would fire into them,
relying upon bringing down a number and stampeding the herd. Each of the
party sat or stood, rifle in hand, awaiting the order from their leader,
and closely watching every action of the wild horses, ready to let fly
the instant it became necessary.

All at once, as if in obedience to a word of command, the herd paused,
threw up their heads and stared at the small group. Several whinnied and
showed excitement, for the sight must have been wholly new, and if they
were not alarmed they were mystified.

Bug, Jack and Prince behaved better than was expected. They were in a
tremor and plainly frightened, but remained under control. Zigzag seemed
to be meditating some _coup_, but Deerfoot stood within a pace of his
head, and was prepared to check anything of that nature. The animal had
enough sense not to invite any more punishment, and remained still.

But previous to this, all had noticed the most striking feature of the
exhibition. The drove was under the lead of a stallion that was the most
superb steed upon which any of the travelers had ever looked. He was of
large size, of a glossy coal-black color, and had a long flowing mane
and a tail that reached almost to the ground. With head erect and every
limb and movement the picture of beauty, grace and strength, he was
impressively perfect. The sight was one to hold a spectator spellbound
with admiration. Even Deerfoot forgot for a moment the situation of
himself and companions in his wonder at the picture before him.

Perhaps you know that the roving bands of wild horses are generally
under the leadership of a stallion who has attained the honor by beating
off all rivals, and who retains his supreme power until, as his years
increase and his prowess declines, some younger aspirant dethrones him
and takes his place as king. As commander-in-chief of his equine army,
the stallion must be of unflinching courage and game to the death. No
band of wolves, no matter how numerous, dare attack the compact body
under his leadership, nor indeed need the horses fear any marauder of
the plains, for with such an example of knightly dauntlessness ever
before them, their heels and teeth are impregnable.

Like obedient soldiers, the members of the herd stood motionless, with
heads raised, snuffing the air and gazing at the strange creatures,
three of whom were astride of members of their own species, and one
afoot; and, like an officer who will not permit a subaltern or private
to assume a risk that he fears to take himself, the stallion of midnight
blackness now advanced, as if to call the strangers to account.

He came forward at a measured deliberate walk, head high in air, tail
sweeping near the ground, mane falling low, with his silken ears thrust
forward, eyes glowing, and indulging in a peculiar flirting of his nose,
as if he sought thereby to sharpen his perceptions. The mouth was partly
open, and it was clear that he did not feel quite at ease in thus
approaching the strange group. But the eyes of his subjects were upon
him, and he would die before faltering in the face of an enemy. So he
came on, with a step that was the more impressive because it was so
slow, so deliberate and yet so unhesitating.

While Mul-tal-la, George and Victor Shelton were studying him with
absorbing intentness, Deerfoot, the Shawanoe, became an actor in the
extraordinary drama.

His position was slightly in advance of his friends. He now handed his
rifle to Mul-tal-la and coolly walked forward toward the stallion. His
arms were hanging at his side, and his step was timed to that of the
horse, so that it was as if both were marching to the tap of the same
drum. His action centered the eyes of all the animals of both parties as
well as those of his friends upon him.

When this singular performance began less than fifty paces separated the
Shawanoe and the equine chief. The approach continued until half the
interval was passed, when the stallion paused. Evidently he was not
clear as to the meaning of the youth’s conduct. The latter slowed his
pace, but did not stop. The horse raised his head higher, flirted his
nose, flinging a speck of foam over his black breast. Probably, had the
two been alone, he would have retreated, for there was something uncanny
in the advance of the Shawanoe, but he remembered that the eyes of his
own soldiers were upon him, and he could not show the white feather.
Possibly, too, he understood that his enemy, as he regarded him, was
without any formidable weapon with which to defend himself. The next
action of the brute gave reasonableness to this theory, for, after his
brief pause, he resumed his approach at a brisker step than before.

Deerfoot now stood still and awaited his coming, his arms still at his
side, but with all his muscles, nerves and senses strung to the highest
tension. The stallion meant to fight him, and the youth was waiting for
the battle to open.

Mul-tal-la hardly breathed, so intense was his interest, but he held his
bow and arrow ready to launch the missile if it should become necessary
to save his friend. The brothers would have shot the stallion without
further delay had they dared to do so, but they could only imitate the
Blackfoot—hold themselves ready to interfere at the critical moment.
They could not run the risk of offending their friend by interposing
until the necessity arose. [Illustration: A Battle Royal.]

The black steed advanced with a more confident step, and Deerfoot stood
as if he were a figure carved in stone. Then, when they were within a
step or two, the stallion thrust forward his head, and his white teeth
were seen to gleam as he made a vicious snap at the face of the youth.
The latter recoiled just enough to escape the bite, and with the flat of
his hand smote the side of the nose with a vigor that must have given a
sharp tingle to the horse. With a neigh of rage he instantly reared and
savagely pawed the air with his front hoofs. He struck at the Shawanoe,
who leaped slightly back to avoid the feet, which, had they landed,
would have cloven his skull in twain. Then he ran swiftly for a few
paces and with a single bound rose like a bird in air and dropped
astride of the satin back.

“Now throw Deerfoot if you can!” he shouted. Then he called to his dazed
friends:

“Leave us alone!”

Who can imagine the rage of the stallion when he found that a man was on
his back? It took him a few seconds to understand the mortal insult, and
then his fury burst forth like the fires of a volcano. In his wild
delirium he emitted a shrieking cry, such as his species sometimes utter
when in the extremity of terror, and began rearing and plunging in the
very desperation of frenzy. “Bucking,” as displayed by the bronchos of
the West in these times, was an unknown science to him, but he seemed
one moment to be standing on his fore feet with his flying heels kicking
vertically upward, and then, reversing in a flash, became upright like a
man. Next he spun around as if he were a top, first to the right and
then to the left, up-ended again, alternating with an abruptness that
would have made an ordinary spectator dizzy.

Deerfoot held his seat as if he were a part of the brute himself. The
luxuriant mane gave him a firm support. Sometimes he lay flat on the
back of the steed, when he appeared to be trying to stand on his head,
and the next moment was extended on his face and gripping the forelock.
Then he was over the shoulders, and, in the same moment, astride of his
haunches, but never once did he yield his seat.

While this battle royal was raging the other wild horses did a cowardly
thing. Frightened by the struggle, whose nature they could not
understand, they broke into a panic and dashed headlong to the
southward. Had they possessed a tithe of the courage of their leader and
gone forward to his aid, Deerfoot would have been doomed, but they
basely deserted him in his extremity. What matter if they lost their
despot? There were plenty of rivals to take his place. “The king is
dead—long live the king!”

Again the stallion’s head went up in air. The right hand of Deerfoot
gripped the forelock, and he seemed to hang suspended, so nearly
perpendicular was the position of the two. In the delicate poise the
slightest impulse was enough to throw the center of gravity outside the
base. The Shawanoe gave that impulse by swinging his feet and body
backward while supported by the forelock.

Over went the stallion squarely on his back with a thump that shook the
ground. The shock was a severe one and by no means pleasant, nor was it
what the brute had figured upon. He pawed the air, kicked and quickly
struggled to his feet. The moment he came up Deerfoot, who had easily
eluded the danger, sprang upon his back again.

Although he could not have forgotten his overthrow, the stallion reared
once more, taking care not to rise as high as before. Standing thus
nearly erect, his fore hoofs beating the air, the rider holding himself
in place by twisting the fingers of his right hand in the forelock,
Deerfoot leaned forward alongside the neck of the brute, and, reaching
down with his left hand, seized the ankle of the stallion just below the
fetlock, where he could almost span the limb.

The grip was like that of Damascus steel, and when the Shawanoe drew
upward and held the hoof against the body of the horse, almost touching
the upper part of the leg, because of the abruptness of the bend at the
knee, it was as if the foot was imprisoned in a vise. The stallion, in
his blind struggles, went forward on one shoulder and rolled over.
Deerfoot was off again, and, letting the scared brute clamber to his
feet, vaulted upon his back as before.

By this time the stallion was panic-smitten. Sweat was beginning to
show, and his satin coat gleamed with new luster. Finding himself once
more on his feet, he uttered another wild whinny and burst away over the
prairie like a thunderbolt. It is not likely that he recalled the drove
of which he was leader. If he did, he must have been angered by their
base desertion of him, for he headed straight westward, and, when last
seen by our friends, was running at his highest bent toward the
snow-clad mountain, with the Shawanoe firmly seated on his back. George
Shelton kept the glass to his eye till the two became a flickering speck
in the distance and then vanished.

Deerfoot was well satisfied with the way things had gone and were still
going. He had “cut out” the stallion from his herd, had mastered him in
the furious fight, and, to complete the conquest, it was necessary still
further to subdue him; that could be done only by allowing or compelling
the brute to exhaust himself. The fight recalled his conquest years
before of Thunderbolt, also a black stallion, on the other side of the
Mississippi.

The heart of the Shawanoe glowed with admiration and pride in the
magnificent creature whom he had resolved to capture and subdue. Never
had he bestrode so matchless a steed, nor one with a more beautiful
stride, as he flew westward like the wind. Could he be made a prize he
would be worth a prince’s ransom.

Deerfoot therefore complacently waited for the stallion to tire himself
out. It looked as if he would never do so, but there is a limit to the
capacity of every animal. Mile after mile was swept under those rhythmic
hoofs with no apparent slackening, but by and by the watchful youth
noted a lagging of the gait. The pace was beginning to tell. Waiting
until the slowing became more marked, Deerfoot struck his heels against
the ribs, slapped the sweaty neck and emitted a series of striking
war-whoops.

The stallion was off again as if fired from the throat of a columbiad,
and maintained the pace for fifteen or twenty minutes, when he began
falling away. The rider kicked, slapped and shouted, and the horse
responded with another burst, which made the air whistle in a gale past
the ears of the rider. The brute was reeking with sweat, but he
struggled gallantly. He had flung many miles behind him and was good for
many more.

The alternating slackening and bursts of speed were kept up till finally
the sorely pressed animal was unable to respond. After several brave but
useless efforts he ceased the attempt. He had done his best and could do
no more.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER X

                               WHIRLWIND.


DEERFOOT waited till sure of the exhaustion of the stallion. Then while
he was still galloping in his tired way, he slipped from his back and,
dropping to the ground, began running beside him.

The instant the horse felt himself free of his master he dashed off at
the highest bent of his speed, as if determined to be rid of the dreaded
one at whatever cost. You know what a wonderful runner the young
Shawanoe was, and he now put forth every ounce of energy at his command.
The sight was thrilling. The incomparable youth was making a race with
the black stallion, and the exhibition was marvelous. Ah, if you could
have been there with a camera to take a snapshot of the struggle!

Now, no man ever lived who could outrun a blooded or trained horse. It
would be absurd for me to pretend that the Shawanoe youth, with all his
marvelous fleetness, could outspeed a wild animal like the black
stallion. It would have been idiotic for him to attempt it, unless his
rival was so handicapped that a marked advantage rested with the biped.
I have shown that Deerfoot possessed that advantage in the fatigue of
the steed. Moreover, as I have made clear in another story concerning
the young Shawanoe, he was able to keep up the exertion longer than a
horse, and had proved it by running one down when each started fresh.

He had no fear, therefore, when he dropped off the animal’s back, nor
did he feel any misgiving because, in the first minute or two, the
stallion slightly drew away from him. The youth knew he could run him
down, and he meant to do it.

The horse gained until he was fifty feet in advance. The consciousness
of his advantage nerved him to the utmost. With head aloft and the sweat
showing in foam where the limbs rubbed the body, he kept an eye on the
fearful thing he seemed to have shaken off. There he was, a short
distance to the rear, and a little to one side. The form slowly receded,
but while the horse was doing his best it began to close the gap between
them. The brute saw it drawing steadily nearer, with the resistless
certainty of fate. The Shawanoe’s feet doubled under him so rapidly that
the eye would have found it hard to see the twinkling moccasins. He was
doing his very best, and you have been able to form some idea of what
_that_ was. Not the least remarkable feature of all was that Deerfoot
did not seem to be affected in the least by his terrific exertions. He
breathed no faster than when walking, and was capable of keeping up the
tremendous run for a time that, were it named, would sound incredible.

Near and nearer drew the dreaded figure, and the stallion, if capable of
such an emotion, must have felt the chill of despair creeping through
his frame. But it was useless to fight against fate, and he put forth no
further effort, even when the pursuer drew up alongside, and, repeating
his remarkable bound, once more dropped astride the perspiring body.

Deerfoot now changed his treatment of the exhausted stallion. Instead of
speaking sharply and beating his heels against his sides, he patted his
neck, rubbed a palm gently down its side and uttered soothing
expressions. It was hardly to be expected that the brute would
understand this, for it was all new and strange to him, but the fiercest
wild animal instinctively knows the difference between brutality and
kindness. Something within the horse responded to these advances, and by
and by he dropped to a walk and made no effort to unseat or harm his
rider.

Deerfoot’s wish was to return to his friends, for they must have been
left many miles to the rear, and, though they were quite likely to
follow him, they must still be separated from him by a long distance. He
therefore tried to turn the stallion the other way. This proved harder
than he anticipated. He first drew the nose around, but the animal kept
going straight on as before, even with his head awry. Then the youth
slipped to the ground, placed himself in front of his charge, and flung
up his arms. The stallion stopped, made a motion as if to bite him, and
then, frightened by his own temerity, paused. Still he refused to change
his course.

The Shawanoe was working patiently when the horse turned to one side,
pricked up his ears and started off at a trot. The youth suspected the
meaning of this action: the brute had scented water, of which he must
have felt the need, and was hurrying to it. Instead of remounting
Deerfoot ran ahead of the animal, and glancing over his shoulder to make
sure he was followed, broke into a lope which he accommodated to the
speed of his pursuer.

The youth was right in his supposition. Not far in advance, in a slight
depression of the prairie, he caught the gleam of water, marking where a
small tributary of the North Fork flowed from the mountainous regions on
the west. Increasing his speed, the Shawanoe reached the water first,
and, stooping down, drank his fill of the clear current, which still
retained much of the coolness of the elevated regions whence it came.

The stallion broke into a faster gait as he drew near, and pushed his
nose into the stream beside the youth and drank his fill. It was odd,
when he had finished, to see him raise his head, with the current
dripping from his frothy mouth, and look earnestly at the youth. Had he
been gifted with the power of speech he probably would have said:

“I have come across many queer creatures while roving the plains, but
you are the queerest of them all. You don’t look as if you would stand
any show in a fight with me. I’ve beaten many rivals and am ready to
beat more, but you’re too much for me. I take off my hat to you, and now
what do you intend to do with me? If I get the chance to lay you out,
_I’ll do it_, but I’m afraid I won’t get the chance.”

The Shawanoe was on the alert, suspecting the stallion would try some
trick after refreshing himself with water. In turning away from the
stream, the head of the steed happened to point eastward, the direction
in which Deerfoot wished to go. He again vaulted upon his back and the
brute continued on that course.

What the rider feared was that the stallion would set out to find the
drove that had deserted him. This could not be permitted, for it would
ruin the plan the Shawanoe had in mind. He expected to have another
battle with his prize, and held himself alert for it, but he was pleased
and surprised by the docility of his captive. This may have been partly
due to his exhaustion, or who shall say that the brute did not wish for
time in which to formulate some scheme for overthrowing the being that
had outwitted him!

Deerfoot kept up his caresses and gentle treatment of the prisoner. He
strove to familiarize him with his voice and to win his confidence. He
had proved he was master of the terrible brute, and the task was now to
convince the brute that he was his friend. This was sure to be hard, and
he could not hope to succeed for awhile to come.

They had traveled a few miles when once more Deerfoot slipped to the
ground. As he landed he walked close to the shoulder of the horse and
patted and addressed him as he would a child whom he loved. The stallion
at first resented the familiarity. He shook his head as if displeased,
edged away and finally snapped at the youth. The Shawanoe knew it would
not do to let the animal forget who was master. So, when the black
muzzle and gleaming teeth showed, he slapped his nose and spoke
brusquely to him. This was followed by more caresses and soothing
expressions. By and by the horse ceased showing resentment. Then
Deerfoot remounted as before.

Thus the strange acquaintanceship progressed. It was impossible for the
wild stallion to become tamed in a few hours, though we have professors
in these times who conquer the most vicious beasts in less than a single
hour, but sometimes the horses do not stay conquered. It can be said
that the youth and horse became quite intimate as they journeyed
together, and the youth had good reason to believe that ere long they
would become friends.

As he had supposed, Mul-tal-la and the boys did not remain idle after
the Shawanoe’s hurricane departure. Hardly had he vanished in the
horizon when the three set out to follow him, pressing their animals
hard. While it cannot be said that they were free from anxiety for their
friend, they were not much alarmed. There could be no after-contest that
would be fiercer than that which had taken place under their very eyes,
and they had come to ask one another whether there was any situation in
which the young Shawanoe would not be well able to take care of himself.

At every few paces George Shelton brought his glass into use and scanned
the prairie in advance, not forgetting to bestow a glance now and then
in other directions, for there was no saying what whim would control the
black stallion.

“I see them!” suddenly called George. “They are coming this way!”

“Is Deerfoot on the horse?”

“Of course; you don’t suppose he would walk, do you?”

“I didn’t know but that the stallion was so tired Deerfoot would have to
carry him,” was the innocent answer. “Let me have a squint.”

Victor and Mul-tal-la each descried the animal, but since he was in a
direct line and held his head high it was some minutes before they could
make sure that the Shawanoe was on his back. It was the Blackfoot who
announced that he was riding the captured horse at a walk.

But Deerfoot had descried his friends before this, and he now showed his
mastery over the animal by forcing him to a moderate gallop, which was
kept up till the two parties had come within a few rods of each other.
Then the stallion stopped and showed renewed excitement. It was due to
the nearness of the other horses, whom he did not like, and he repelled
a closer acquaintance.

Three of the animals were indifferent and displayed no curiosity, but
Zigzag seemed to think he was excepted from the disfavor of the captive.
He pointed his nose toward him, whinnied, and then advanced rapidly.
Mul-tal-la was about to interfere when Deerfoot called to him not to do
so.

The Shawanoe did all he could to quiet his horse, but with the light of
mischief in his eyes watched the meeting between the two brutes. Zigzag
came right on, with nose thrust out, as if he intended to kiss the
other, who grew more and more displeased. Suddenly the stallion whirled
around—his rider not trying to restrain him—and let fly with both heels,
which, had they landed fairly, would have injured Zigzag, but a portion
of the bulging pack interposed. Zigzag was sent backward for several
steps, and so shaken that he was disgusted. The snubbing was too direct
to be misunderstood, and he sullenly wheeled and rejoined his own
friends, quite content to leave the aristocratic interloper to himself.

All four laughed, for there was a humanness about the whole thing that
was amusing. The boys and the Blackfoot were delighted, while the
expression of Deerfoot left no doubt of his pleasure over the prize he
had gained. Many a wild horse had been brought to earth by the skilfully
thrown lasso or riata, hobbled and mastered by the horseman who had his
own animal to give him aid, but whoever knew of such a thing being done
by a single person without help in any form whatever! And yet you have
been shown that that was precisely what was done by Deerfoot the
Shawanoe.

Mul-tal-la quite overwhelmed his youthful friend with praise. Addressing
him in the tongue of the Blackfeet—for he did not wish the boys to
understand his earnest words—he declared that the feat was one that no
other living man could perform. There were fine horsemen among the
different tribes, and Mul-tal-la had witnessed many of their exhibitions
of skill, but there was none to be compared with Deerfoot. The dusky
fellow was specially ardent in praising the deftness, power and
quickness with which the Shawanoe had thrown the wild stallion without
bridle or saddle or aid of any kind.

“See the fellow blush!” said the grinning Victor to his brother. “That
shows that Mul-tal-la is praising Deerfoot. I never saw an Indian blush,
for it’s too much like a negro trying to do it, but Deerfoot can’t help
showing his confusion.”

“There,” added George, watching the countenance of their friend, “he has
told Mul-tal-la to stop, and he daren’t refuse. If I had half the
smartness of Deerfoot I should expect to sit down and hear everybody
praise me. They couldn’t help it.”

“I don’t know about that. _I_ don’t wait for folks to praise _me_.”

“Because you would grow gray before they did it. Hark!”

Sitting astride of the motionless stallion their friend called:

“Will my brothers give Deerfoot a name for his horse?”

“Yes,” George hastened to answer; “call him Dewdrop.”

The Shawanoe shook his head. The inappropriateness of the name was
apparent, even to the Blackfoot. Indeed, the proposer was in jest.

“I have it,” said Victor. “Make it Whirlwind.”

“My brother speaks with the words of wisdom,” replied the Shawanoe. “His
name shall be Whirlwind, though it would not be bad if it were
Thunderbolt, like the steed that was conquered many moons ago.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XI

                         PHYSICIAN AND PATIENT.


THUS the noble black stallion was named. If ever a person felt proud of
his prize it was Deerfoot, the Shawanoe. The wild horse had been
literally cut out from the herd of which he was monarch and made captive
by the dusky youth. The battle between the two was a fair one, and the
Indian was the victor, and never was a more striking victory won.

Deerfoot, however, knew that his work was not yet done, though he had
made fair progress with it. He must win the affection of the creature,
or all that had been previously done would go for naught.

Since the Shawanoe never made use of a saddle, his blanket serving that
purpose, and since also there was none at command, no suggestion was
offered him in that respect. Victor Shelton, however, took upon himself
to say:

“You will have to bridle him, and he will fight _that_.”

The captor shook his head.

“So long as Deerfoot lives Whirlwind shall not wear saddle or bridle. He
shall be ruled by kindness, as all animals should be ruled.”

“Well, if anyone can do it, you’re the chap, but it will be as big a job
as teaching him that you’re his master.”

The Shawanoe improved every minute. He continually spoke soothingly to
the stallion, patted his neck and sides, and never lost patience with
his restlessness. By and by the youth approached and in the gentlest
manner possible spread his blanket over the glossy coat, not yet dry
from the moisture caused by his determined fight. Whirlwind shied and
for some minutes would not permit the liberty, but after a time suffered
himself to be persuaded. The blanket was held in place only by the
weight of Deerfoot, who bestrode it. Then, rifle in hand, he urged the
steed forward, and he responded somewhat uncertainly.

One thing interested and amused our friends from the beginning.
Whirlwind did not hesitate to show his contempt for the common horses
around him. The snubbing given to the presumptuous Zigzag was no more
marked than his feeling toward the others. Had they invited the rebuff,
it would have been as decisive as the one described, but they knew
enough to keep their distance. When cropping the grass at the noon halt,
the stallion did so at some distance from the others, and it may be
added that at night Deerfoot humored his aristocratic prejudices by
allowing him to “flock by himself.” He would have nothing to do with any
of his species, further than a captured prince is obliged to come in
contact with his inferiors.

Toward Mul-tal-la and the Shelton brothers the steed was indifferent.
While he displayed no ill will to them, he exhibited no special
friendship. If they approached with caresses he permitted the liberty,
but it gave him no pleasure, and he would have been quite content if
they kept their distance and left him to himself.

It was different, however, regarding Deerfoot. No animal living is
quicker to recognize his master, or to know when an incompetent has him
in charge, than a horse. To his last day Whirlwind would vividly
remember that desperate struggle in which he was thrown and subdued by
the matchless youth. There must have been a feeling akin to respect,
mingled perhaps with fear, toward the victor who had done what was never
yet done to Whirlwind by man or animal.

This sentiment may be considered the foundation upon which Deerfoot set
to work to build the friendship, the trust and the affection of the
magnificent brute. It was a task demanding limitless patience, prudence,
tact and skill; but the Shawanoe possessed all those virtues, and he
called them into play. While riding in advance of his companions he set
out to teach Whirlwind to understand and obey his commands. In this task
he showed a peculiar shrewdness which I cannot help believing would not
have occurred to another.

When he wished the stallion to turn to the right or left, he employed
two methods. The pressure of the right knee meant that Whirlwind should
turn in that direction, and of the left knee that he should take that
course; the pressure of both knees that he should increase his pace, the
increase to be added to so long as the pressure was repeated, the same
as if he were pricking his sides with his spurs.

Now, all these methods are in use at the present day and have been from
time immemorial, so there was nothing noteworthy in them. But Deerfoot
had a word or synonym for each, as he had for several other commands,
and which he taught his steed after a time to obey with equal
promptness. These words were not English, but a mixture of Shawanoe and
Blackfoot, accompanied by sounds that were original with himself.

His reason for adopting this plan was to prevent anyone else knowing how
to control Whirlwind. It might come about that at some time in the
future the animal would fall temporarily (Deerfoot would not allow
himself to believe it could ever be permanently) into the possession of
some one else. That person, not knowing the code of the Shawanoe and the
stallion, would be at great disadvantage. The trick was worthy of the
Shawanoe.

While leading the advance the youth held little or no communication with
his friends; his whole interest was in the instruction of Whirlwind, and
he gave his skill to that. The stallion possessed a fine grade of
intelligence, much above that of the animals plodding behind him.
Deerfoot was not long in discovering that his horse was pretending to a
dullness that was not real. But the time came when the kind patience of
the youth made its impression, and the steed responded with a quickness
that delighted Deerfoot. Thenceforward his progress was so rapid that it
astonished the Blackfoot and the boys.

The party were now journeying almost due north. The guide would have
insisted upon this change of route had it not been made by Mul-tal-la,
because he was not wholly free of the fear of the reappearance of the
herd of wild horses which had deserted their chief that morning. A
troublesome if not dangerous complication was more than probable in such
an event. Every mile, therefore, that the travelers progressed made the
meeting less likely, and, I may as well say, it never took place.

While there was no lack of pasturage for the animals, the men and boys
were not always so fortunate. At that time the country through which
they were journeying abounded with elk, deer, antelopes, wild turkeys,
grouse and beaver, and the streams were stocked with pike, bass,
salmon-trout, catfish, buffalo fish, perch and other fish, including a
species of shrimp, yet these were not always within reach. Some of the
game mentioned were scarce in one section and plentiful in another, and,
although they often showed themselves in the distance, were often shy
and fled upon the first approach of a hunter. Instinctively they feared
man, and the raids of the Indians taught them lessons that were not
forgotten.

When at noon a halt was made on the bank of a small, winding, sluggish
stream that found its way into one of the branches of the Platte, the
boys tried their luck at fishing. It need not be said that several hooks
and lines were in their outfit. The couple were not rewarded with a
single bite. Then Mul-tal-la took up the task with no better success.
Finally Deerfoot was appealed to, for, as you know, the brothers
believed he could do anything within the range of human possibility. He
carefully baited his hook with angleworms and seized the occasion to
remark:

“Mul-tal-la and my brothers are small children. They are slow to learn.
Let them watch Deerfoot and he will teach them how to bring fish from
the water.”

He whirled the line, weighted with a pebble, out to the middle of the
creek, and was so confident of quickly drawing in some sort of fish that
he did not squat down as the boys and Mul-tal-la had done. The three
stood around and looked wishful, though had they not been so a-hungered
they would have been glad to see the Shawanoe make the failure they had
made.

By and by the boys began to make remarks:

“I like to see Deerfoot yank out the fish just as soon as he throws in
his hook,” was the first observation of George, made within five minutes
after the pebble had sunk from sight.

“He’s waiting to catch two at a time. He knows how hungry we are, and I
shouldn’t wonder if he feels that way himself,” added the grinning
Victor.

“Maybe some of the fish saw him throw out the line, and have gone off to
bring up their friends, so as to give him a good show.”

“Don’t catch too many, Deerfoot. We don’t need more than fifty or a
hundred.”

Mul-tal-la said nothing, but his teeth showed. He was enjoying the quiet
fun. The Shawanoe acted as if he heard nothing. The line rested lightly
in his fingers, which were so delicately poised that he was sure to feel
the slightest tug or twitch, and he kept his eyes on the surface of the
turbid stream.

Suddenly he gave a jerk and rapidly hauled in the line, hand over hand.
When the hook came creeping out of the current the bait was gone, and no
fish was in sight.

The brothers snickered.

“Did you ever know of meaner fish?” asked Victor; “that hook was fast in
his gills, but he twisted it loose. It wasn’t fair. I hope Deerfoot
doesn’t feel bad.”

“I saw something like the tail of a fish as he flirted off,” added
George. “I guess he doesn’t know who is fishing—that is, who is _trying_
to fish.”

Never a word did Deerfoot speak. He baited his hook with the utmost
care, and in obedience to an old superstition which prevailed even at
that day among fishermen, spat upon the bait before casting it into the
water.

“Ah, _that’ll_ fetch ’em!” exclaimed George, smacking his lips in
anticipation of the coming feast. “No fish can refuse such a bait as
_that_.”

All the same they did refuse it. Though the Shawanoe waited patiently
for a full half hour and once or twice felt something toying with the
hook, he caught nothing. Finally he drew in the line and wound it up.

“My brothers talked so much they scared the fish away,” he remarked. “We
shall have to wait till to-night or to-morrow or next week for food.”

The dismay on the faces of the brothers gave Deerfoot his turn at
merriment. They knew he was able to go a day or two without food and not
seem to mind it. With them, however, it was different, but seemingly
there was no help for them. They accepted the situation with the best
grace possible, which was poor enough.

Meanwhile the horses were cropping the juicy grass, Whirlwind by himself
and the others herding together. All had had a good rest, and the party
now gathered together for their journey, which was pressed as before,
Deerfoot in the lead, talking with and giving instructions to Whirlwind.
The weather became perceptibly colder, as if from the proximity of the
snow-covered peak and the lofty range of mountains that stretched beyond
the limit of their vision.

About the middle of the afternoon Whirlwind showed a slight limp. It was
so slight, indeed, that no one noticed it except Deerfoot. He instantly
checked the stallion, slipped off his back and made an investigation.
The cause was apparent: the left knee showed signs of swelling. That was
the leg whose ankle the Shawanoe had gripped and imprisoned for a minute
or two during the fight in the morning. In falling violently the knee
had been injured, but to so small an extent that this was the first
evidence of any such thing.

The hunters and trappers, when absent on their long excursions in the
mountains and solitudes, were, of course, without the means of shoeing
their animals, and it need not be said that Whirlwind’s hoofs had never
been thus shielded. This was a small matter, for the protection was not
needed. Moreover, the outfit of our friends contained nothing in the
nature of liniment, ointment, unguent or even grease that could be used
in an emergency like the present. Deerfoot was without any medicament
that could be applied to the knee of the stallion. All he could do was
to give it rest and leave the healing to nature. That he instantly
decided should be done.

“Let my brothers go on. When Whirlwind is well Deerfoot will join them,”
he said, addressing the three.

“How far shall we go?” asked George.

“My brothers will go as far as they can. Deerfoot will find them when
Whirlwind is able to walk without pain. It may be one, or two or three
days, but Deerfoot will have no trouble, for the trail will be plain.”

The Shawanoe and Blackfoot talked for a few minutes in order to perfect
an understanding, and then the three rode off, leaving Deerfoot alone
with Whirlwind, to whom he gave his full attention.

No mother ever passed her cool hand across the fevered brow of her child
more lovingly than did the young Shawanoe fondle the sensitive knee of
the mettled steed. The latter did not twitch or resent the caress, for
the magnetism of the touch, its gentleness and the soothing words were
worth more than any medicinal oil could have been. The soft, cool palm
slid over the silken hair like the brush of down. The motion was always
toward the hoof and never up the limb “against the grain.” Sometimes,
while one hand was thus employed, the other patted the nose that was
bent down in acknowledgment of the kindness.

When finally Deerfoot stepped back and straightened up, Whirlwind stood
firmly on all his legs. Had his master called for it, he would have
galloped off with hardly a perceptible limp.

But Deerfoot had no such thought. That knee should not be permitted to
go into service until as strong and sound as the other. While the injury
was insignificant, it was sure to become worse through unwise treatment.
All that was necessary was to give nature a chance; she always strives
to right such matters, and the most that medical skill can do is to
help, and all too often the effort proves a hindrance rather than an
aid.

The downy rubbing was repeated at intervals and did much good. Whirlwind
showed his appreciation by lowering his head and resting his nose on the
shoulder of the stooping Deerfoot, whose heart responded to the caress.
He felt that they had become real friends.

Some time later he coaxed Whirlwind to lie down. The stallion was
reluctant at first, for a horse dislikes to do this except when tired
out, and then he is often satisfied with rolling on his back, but he
yielded. Then Deerfoot plucked several handfuls of grass, cutting off
the roots with his knife, and fed them to his friend, who ate probably
to please him, for surely he could not have been hungry.

Now and then the knee was tenderly kneaded, and certainly improved, if
indeed it was not already cured. When at last the chilly night closed
in, the young Shawanoe lay down beside Whirlwind, so arranging the
blanket that it covered both, and their bodies were mutually warmed by
the contact. Physician and patient were doing well, thank you.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XII

                           A HURRIED FLIGHT.


ALTHOUGH George and Victor Shelton parted for the time from Deerfoot
with regret, it cannot be said that either felt any misgiving. There
could be no doubt of the Shawanoe’s ability to track them all the way to
the Pacific if necessary, for the trail would be plain except when they
took to the water, which was not likely to be for a long time to come.
Moreover, Mul-tal-la had said that little was to be feared from the
Indians of the country through which they must make their way. Had the
boys been alone danger might threaten, for most of the hunters and
trappers who penetrated those vast solitudes looked upon and treated the
red men as their enemies, and naturally were thus looked upon and
treated in their turn.

The Blackfoot and his companion met with no trouble of this nature on
their eastward journey. They were always able to make clear their
meaning by signs, and the fact that the two belonged to the same race
with the different tribes was a sufficient passport. It seemed
reasonable, therefore, to believe that the presence of Mul-tal-la gave
all the protection that could be needed.

The Blackfoot took Deerfoot’s place as leader, the brothers riding a
little to the rear, with Zigzag plodding in his usual indifferent
fashion. Just now the chief concern of the boys was as to how they were
to obtain a meal, for the thought of going to sleep without food was
intolerable.

To the left, in the direction of the foothills, they descried a
half-dozen elk browsing; but the game were as timid as antelopes,
without their fatal defect of overwhelming curiosity, and they made off
long before our friends could get within range. Several miles to the
eastward a dark undulating mass which covered hundreds of acres showed
where another vast herd of bison were moving southward. Victor was
disposed to ask Mul-tal-la to change their course so as to get a shot at
one of the animals, but his brother urged him to wait in the hope of a
better chance to bring down something edible.

An hour later this chance presented itself. Three graceful antelopes
came in sight as the horsemen rode over an elevation. They were cropping
the grass on the slope of a hill nearly a half-mile distant. George
brought his glass to his eye and saw that the alert creatures had
already caught sight of them. They were standing with heads erect and
staring at the strangers, ready to dash off like the wind on the first
demonstration or further move toward them.

“There’s our supper!” exclaimed Victor, as the three halted, for the
Blackfoot was also interested in the sight. “I know they aren’t the best
food in the world, but I’m too hungry to be particular. Mul-tal-la, how
are we to manage it?”

“I will let my brother shoot one of them,” replied the Blackfoot, who,
as you know, had caught Deerfoot’s manner of speech.

“That suits me. George, you don’t mind. It will be your turn next time.”

“I’m satisfied,” returned his brother; “but you must remember and not
let your impatience run away with you. Keep cool or we shall have to go
without supper.”

“Don’t fear for me,” remarked the ardent Victor, who slipped out of the
saddle and set off without delay; “I know what’s at stake.”

Had he gone directly toward the antelopes they would have been off on
the instant. Instead, he went back over the ridge just crossed, thus
interposing that screen between him and the animals. By following this
he could approach within a fourth of a mile of the game, and from that
moment the utmost caution and skill would be necessary. His brother and
the Blackfoot withdrew so as to occupy a position on the crest of the
elevation, where they could observe the actions of Victor from the
beginning and at the same time keep an eye upon the antelopes
themselves.

The latter fixed their attention upon the point where the horsemen had
first come into view, hesitating whether to break away in swift flight
or to wait until they could gratify their resistless curiosity. George
Shelton and Mul-tal-la had dismounted, and lying down in the grass, took
care not to show themselves, through fear of alarming the game, for, if
the antelopes should make off, slight chance of securing a meal would
remain.

Meanwhile Victor was stealing along the ridge until, as he judged, he
had reached a point nearly opposite the animals, who were a furlong
distant. Then he crept up the elevation, whose crest fortunately was
crowned with the same exuberant growth of grass that grew in the valley
beyond.

So painstaking was he that his friends lost sight of him and did not
know when he was at the crest of the elevation until the antelopes
showed by their excitement that they had detected him. They had resumed
cropping the grass, when all three abruptly raised their heads and
dashed off at the height of their astonishing speed. A moment later
Victor was seen running down the slope until a little beyond the base,
when he dropped on his face.

Immediately after, while his body was screened from sight, he raised the
ramrod of his rifle, with his cap on the upper end. The lower point was
pushed down into the earth so that unaided it supported the headgear. He
had improved on the method of the Blackfoot.

At first it looked as if this artifice had come too late, for the
antelopes continued running. When first seen they were in a valley-like
depression with a width of a third of a mile. They made a pretty picture
as they skimmed up the opposite slope with their bodies showing in
relief against the green background.

The cap, however, on top of the ramrod was so conspicuous that they were
not long in discovering it. The three stopped, turned sideways and stood
a few minutes gazing intently at the strange object. Then all three
broke into a gentle trot toward it, keeping side by side most of the
way. One of the trio had more sense or possibly more timidity than his
companions, for he abruptly stopped and refused to go any farther.
Strangely enough, the others showed no hesitation until within a hundred
yards of where the boy, stretched out in the grass, was waiting for the
moment when he could make his aim sure.

“I wonder if they ain’t twins like me and George,” was the whimsical
fancy of the lad, as he watched the similarity of action on the part of
the two antelopes. They had halted at precisely the same second, and now
moved forward again, both stepping high and advancing with a curious
hesitation which indicated the mental struggle between fear and
curiosity.

One turned to the left and ran nimbly in a circle of several rods
diameter, coming around and facing the ramrod and cap again, as if
hypnotized. At the same moment the other described a similar circle to
the right, returning like his companion, so that the two stood side by
side, with heads raised, and stepped off again, as if keeping time with
the signals of some one who had trained them to the performance.

Victor was impatient, but he had too much prudence to throw away the
opportunity that he knew would come to him in a few minutes. When both
animals were nigh enough for him to be sure of his aim he still
hesitated, with gun pointed, hammer raised and finger on the trigger. He
was wondering how much nearer they would approach. Surely, when they
caught sight of him in the grass, their curiosity would vanish, and they
would dash off in the very extremity of terror. He lay low and waited.

His plan was to hold his fire until the discovery should burst upon the
antelopes and they wheeled to flee. This turning would give him his best
chance, and he intended to shoot at the crisis of the change of
direction.

One of the creatures paused, as if he had observed something that warned
him to halt. His companion took three steps more and then halted, with
head high in air and one foot lifted and poised like a pointer dog.

It was at this juncture that Victor Shelton bore hard on the trigger,
for he dared wait no longer, though he had decided a moment before to
fire as the animals wheeled.

To his dismay the hammer of his rifle did not descend. He pressed
harder, but the iron claw which grasped the flint remained immovable.
Then the truth flashed upon him. In his excitement he had only
half-cocked his gun. There should have been three clicks when he drew
back the hammer, but there were only two. In that position it would not
obey the trigger, no matter how hard the pressure. It must be drawn to a
full cock.

Without shifting his posture, he raised his thumb from the trigger
guard, so that it passed over the hammer, and then pulled it back as far
as it would go. It was at full cock, but in reaching that point it
emitted a single click.

Faint as was the sound, it was heard by the two antelopes fully fifty
yards away, and they whirled to dash off. At the instant that their
sides were toward him, Victor discharged his gun and sent the bullet
straight and true. One antelope kept on running, his head flung back,
while he sped across the valley like a swallow on the wing. The one that
had been smitten flirted back again and then came on a full run straight
for the spot in the grass from which the fatal missile had been fired,
as if determined to slay his foe before his own strength failed him.

“Great Cæsar!” exclaimed the scared Victor; “I didn’t know an antelope
was that sort of beast. I’ve got to get out of here mighty quick!”

There was no time to reload his weapon. Never did he leap to his feet
and make off at greater speed than when he saw the antelope bearing down
upon him, and it may be added that never did he run so fast as in going
up the slope and down the other side, and then in a line for his
companions.

At such critical moments a boy does not consider his duty done unless he
does all he can in the way of yelling. The shouts that Victor Shelton
sent resounding over the surrounding country must have reached several
miles. He did not look behind him, for that would have interfered to a
fractional extent with his speed, but ran with might and main, marking
each leap by a tremendous outcry.

He expected with every breath to feel the antelope’s razor-like hoofs
carve their way downward into his shoulders. That several minutes passed
without such carving he accepted as proof that he was making as good
time as his furious pursuer. If this was gratifying it was also
surprising, for Victor had never been noted for his fleetness of foot,
and he knew something of the fleetness of the antelope. He concluded
that there was no telling what a boy of his age can accomplish in the
way of running until the actual necessity for it arises.

All this time Victor did not forget to yell. But after awhile the
expenditure of so much breath began to affect his strength. So he closed
his mouth and gave his whole attention to getting over the ground in the
best possible time.

Because of this cessation of his outcries he became aware that his
brother was also shouting. Listening carefully, Victor was finally able
to catch his words:

“What are you running for?”

“That’s a pretty question!” he reflected, “when he can see for himself
that the antelope is determined to have my life!”

It occurred to the fugitive to look around and see how far he was
leaving his fearful enemy behind. He was not in sight. He had not even
come over the ridge, but had fallen before taking more than a dozen
steps in the direction of the lad. This spurt was a blind, aimless
flight, its direction being involuntary. The antelope would not have
dared to attack the boy any more than it would have dared to assail a
grizzly bear.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIII

                         A STARTLING AWAKENING.


THAT night, after a bountiful meal, George Shelton quietly said to his
brother:

“You remember, Victor, that you and I left home on the morning of the
turkey shoot, telling father that we didn’t wish to stay and win the
prize?”

“Of course, but nobody believed us.”

“I don’t suppose anyone did, but if you had gone into that foot-race
against Deerfoot and Ralph Genther, neither would have had a show. I
never dreamed how fast you can run till I saw that antelope after you.”

“See here now, George, what’s the use of talking forever about that? You
would have done just as I did if you saw a wild animal coming down on
you like a whirlwind, and just after you had wounded him.”

“I suppose I should, but I couldn’t have made the time _you_ did.”

“I wonder whether Deerfoot will come up with us to-night,” remarked
Victor, anxious to change the subject of conversation, and peering in
the gloom to the southward.

“No,” replied the grinning Mul-tal-la; “you will see nothing of our
brother for some days. He will not let Whirlwind use his leg till he
knows he can’t hurt it, and that won’t be for some time yet.”

The camp had been made on the slope of the ridge, over which they had
passed once or twice, and at the base of which meandered a small stream
that finally made its way into one of the tributaries of the Platte, and
so finally reached the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond this water the land sloped
upward again. Thus it will be seen that our friends were near the bottom
of a valley, covered with succulent grass, and showing here and there
growths of willows and a species of alfalfa, whose bark sometimes serves
animals for food, but owing to the small size of the growth itself the
wood is comparatively worthless.

It was the turn of Victor to mount guard for the first half of the
night. The horses had become so accustomed to the routine that, after
packs, saddles and bridles were removed, they could be trusted to crop
the herbage until ready to lie down for the night. Zigzag had gotten
into the habit of nibbling much longer than his companions. Perhaps his
teeth were not so good, but the sentinels had often observed him moving
here and there long after his companions were asleep. George Shelton
named his natural stubbornness as the cause, though the charge was
hardly fair.

The night had progressed far enough for George to wrap himself in his
blanket, for the night was quite cold, and lie down with his feet to the
fire. The Blackfoot was not yet ready to sleep. Instead, he sat with his
blanket around his shoulders and seemed to sink into a reverie. He
remained motionless for a long time, gazing absently into the fire and
saying nothing to anyone. At last Victor gently reminded him that he was
at liberty to sleep while the boy guarded the camp.

Instead of lying down the Indian rose to his feet and stood for some
minutes looking off to the northward toward the nearest stretch of
mountains or the opposite side of the valley. It was as if he had noted
something in that direction which interested him. He turned to the boy:

“Let not my brother fear; Mul-tal-la will not be away long.”

And with this remark he walked down the slope, soon passing from sight
in the gloom.

“That’s a queer piece of business,” reflected Victor. “I wonder what’s
the matter; maybe he’s seen some of his people over yonder and has gone
to call upon them.”

However, there was no cause for misgiving, and the youth gave the
Blackfoot no further thought, knowing he would return when he thought
proper. Meanwhile the brothers need not fear disturbance from man or
animal.

The weather was still clear, though the travelers had observed a heavy
black cloud over the mountains, just before sunset, which threatened a
downpour of rain, but the black mass was moving northward above the
peaks and soon disappeared. The moon was near the end of the first
quarter, and shed enough light for one to see quite clearly for a
distance of fifty yards more or less. This illumination was steady, for
not a cloud drifted across its face to produce the shifting shadows and
alternations of light and obscurity which often mystified the man or boy
on guard.

It had struck Victor more than once that whoever acted as sentinel
was—for most of the time—wasting the hours that might as well have been
spent in rest. Not once had anyone been in danger of attack from wild
animals, nor since crossing the Mississippi had any Indians molested
them. Moreover, he was sure that in the event of anything of the kind
the horses would give timely warning. But Deerfoot had made the order,
before leaving the young State of Ohio, that never was the camp to be
left unguarded, and while he was with them the rule had not been
disobeyed. It was useless to protest to the Shawanoe, who had a way of
enforcing his views which no one dared oppose. No argument, therefore,
had been offered, and that sense of honor which was ingrained with the
twins made each more careful of carrying out the views of the “guide,
counsellor and friend” during his absence than when he was with them.
Consequently, Victor Shelton, resting his gun over his shoulder, began
slowly pacing to and fro, after the manner of a veteran sentinel. His
beat was twenty steps or so, and one termination brought him near where
the horses had already lain down for the night. Rather it should be said
that only three of them had done so, for Zigzag, acting out his queer
disposition, was seen moving slowly here and there as he munched the
lush grass. He was likely to keep it up for an hour or two, and the boy
gave no heed to him.

A monotonous hour had worn away when Victor’s attention was drawn to the
wakeful horse. He was standing with head raised, bits of grass dripping
from his jaws, ears pricked, and staring toward the other side of the
valley, as if he had discovered something in that direction.

“I guess Mul-tal-la is coming back,” was the thought of the lad, “and
Zigzag hasn’t noticed that he is absent.”

But no Blackfoot came into view in the dim light, and the animal’s
restlessness, instead of passing, became more marked. He threw his head
still higher, looked more keenly and emitted a faint neigh.

“I wonder what’s the matter with him,” said Victor, turning aside from
his beat and walking out to the animal, whom he patted and tried to
soothe. To his astonishment he found the horse was in a tremor, as if
scared by something he either saw or heard.

Victor turned his gaze in the same direction, but could discover nothing
to explain the alarm of the brute. Then he listened.

From the direction of the mountains he heard a peculiar sound. It was a
dull but steadily increasing roar, such as you have noticed at night
when a railway train was first detected miles distant. The boy supposed
it was a gale of wind, similar to what he had felt more than once since
crossing the Mississippi, and, indeed, while still on the other side of
that river.

But no sooner had he formed this conclusion than he was sensible of a
difference in the sound from that which had come to mind. It was more
intense and its volume was growing faster than he had ever observed
before.

“I wish Mul-tal-la was here,” was the thought of Victor, who began to
feel uncomfortable; “he would know the meaning of that, which is more
than _I_ know.”

He still believed the uproar was caused by wind, though of a more
violent nature than any yet noted by him. A whirlwind, a hurricane, or
what in these times is called a cyclone, may have been born among the
mountains, and would soon be careering over the prairies with terrific
might. If such proved the fact, Victor could think of nothing to do;
for, though he and his brother fled, they would be as liable to run into
the vortex or centre of disturbance as to be caught where they were.

His alarm, however, led him to hurry to the side of George and awaken
him. The latter was on his feet in an instant, startled by the
terrifying noise, which had aroused the other horses, who also arose and
showed signs of fear. Before the two could exchange more than a few
words the darkness was pierced by the voice of the Blackfoot from some
point on the other side of the valley.

“Make haste, brothers! Flee to the highest land you can reach!”

“That means a cloudburst!” exclaimed George. “That is what the black
cloud did. The valley will be a rushing torrent in a few minutes!”

The words were yet in his mouth when the roar of the brook a little way
off was heard. The forerunner of the flood was sweeping down the valley
and would be quickly followed by a Niagara of water.

The boys ran to the horses and began with desperate haste to make them
ready for flight. The goods on hand were too valuable to be lost.
Saddles and bridles were hurriedly adjusted in a slipshod fashion, and
then both bent their energies to replacing the packs upon Zigzag, who
won the gratitude of the brothers by acting as if he understood the
danger and was eager to give all the help he could. He stood motionless
while with nervous, trembling hands the two fixed the bulky bundles in
position.

“_It’s here!_” called out Victor, who felt the water about his ankles
and rapidly rising. “It won’t do to wait another minute!”

The horses were headed up the slope and all broke into a gallop, for the
instinct of their species often surpasses the reason of man in such
crises of peril. The lads ran alongside, slapping their haunches and
urging them to greater speed.

It looked for a few minutes as if, despite their haste, they would be
overwhelmed, for within two or three minutes after starting they were
wading through the rushing volume that reached to their knees. Victor
stumbled, and George, with a cry, caught his arm, believing he was about
to be swept off his feet, but he recovered himself and plunged up the
slope faster than before.

Nothing could have saved the boys and animals but the steady ascent
which they made. A river was sweeping down the valley like that which
wiped out Johnstown in the Conemaugh Valley nearly a century later. Few
comprehend the appalling power of a great volume of water, which in the
disaster referred to tossed locomotives about as if they were so many
corks.

The moonlight showed the muddy torrent carrying limbs, trees and even
rocks, tumbling and rolling together in one fearful swirl down the
valley. The stream was already more than a hundred feet wide, and
gathered width and volume with terrifying rapidity.

In a few minutes—though it seemed ten times as long—boys and horses
paused on the crest of the ridge. They were now fifty feet higher than
their camp, and the torrent steadily pursued them until within a dozen
paces of where they stood. If it climbed that interval nothing could
save them. They watched the rushing river for a time in silence.

“Is it coming any higher?” asked Victor in an awed voice.

“I think it is creeping up, but not so fast as at first.”

“Won’t it be safer to keep on running?”

“No; we shall have to go down into the lowland beyond, and if the water
comes over this ridge we shall be caught.”

“And if it does that we shall be caught _here_.”

“It’s likely to pass round at some point above, and then it will be all
up with us—_it has done so!_” added the startled George.

As he spoke he pointed down the other side of the slope which they had
climbed. He was right; the muddy current had forked above and was
flowing down on both sides of them. Boys and horses were standing on an
elongated island which might be overflowed at any moment.

The destructive cloudbursts that sometimes break with cyclonic
suddenness in the West are as short-lived as they are violent. It is
impossible that it should be otherwise, for they consist simply of a
sudden precipitation or fall of an enormous mass of water from the
skies, which naturally hunts with the utmost swiftness for the lowest
level. That found, the frightful flurry is speedily over.

It was with unspeakable relief that George and Victor Shelton finally
saw that the torrent had ceased to climb the slope. A few minutes later
they uttered a prayer of thankfulness when they perceived that the
volume was diminishing and the margin of the torrent was steadily
retreating down the incline again. All danger for the time was over.

“How is it that Mul-tal-la is on the other side of the valley?” asked
George.

“I don’t know. He left camp soon after you lay down, telling me he
wouldn’t be gone long. He must have had some business or pleasure to
look after. I thought maybe he had gone to make a call on some of his
people. It was lucky for us that he saw what was coming and gave us
warning in time.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIV

                           SHOSHONE CALLERS.


THE torrent loosed by the cloudburst steadily grew less and less, and at
the end of two hours the stream had shrunk almost to its former
insignificant proportions. The boys might have returned to the site of
the camp and remained in safety until morning, but they had no
inclination to do so. Indeed, it would have been hard to identify the
spot, for the grass everywhere lay as flat as if a mountainous roller
had pressed it down. Here and there could be dimly seen the trees, some
shorn of their limbs, so that they were like so many logs, twisted and
pronged stumps and, strange as it may seem, boulders weighing in some
instances several tons, lay where they had been flung by the raging
waters.

When no doubt remained that the danger was over, the bridles, saddles
and packs were again placed on the ground and the horses set free. It
was impossible to start another fire, since no fuel was obtainable, and
the brothers sat on the ground, wrapped in their blankets and near
enough to feel their mutual warmth. The shock through which they had
passed drove away all inclination to sleep, and they talked and
speculated until the gray light of morning glowed in the east.

Naturally they looked for the return of the Blackfoot, who had left them
the night before. The valley, strewn with the debris of the flood,
stretched out before them, and they gazed up and down its winding extent
and across to the corresponding slope, but without seeing man or animal.
Not the least striking feature of the scene was the carcasses of several
elks and antelopes, while in the distance was recognized the brown,
bulky body of an immense bison or buffalo. These various animals,
doubtless with others that were not visible, had paid the penalty of
being caught in the irrestrainable rush of the torrent.

That Mul-tal-la had met with any mishap was impossible, for it was he
who discovered the nature of the peril before the brothers knew of it.
The same recourse was at his command, for all he had to do was to make
for the higher land, where he would be beyond reach of the wrathful
waters.

But the sun climbed the sky and the longing, wandering and impatient
boys saw nothing of their friend. Almost directly opposite and a fourth
of a mile away was a mass of boulders, some of which had apparently been
brought down by the torrent.

“It seems to me,” said Victor, “that something is moving near those
rocks. Try your spyglass on them, George.”

A minute’s scrutiny was enough to show that Victor was right.

“There are several Indians,” said George, still holding the glass in
place. “They seem to be looking at us.”

“Mul-tal-la must be with them. I suppose he is telling about his two
companions.”

“I don’t make him out, for the rocks interfere. You try it.”

He passed the glass to Victor, and, as the brothers stood side by side,
the second leveled the instrument at the group. At the same moment the
red men came from behind the boulders and moved down the slope in the
direction of the boys, as if they meant to call on them. All were afoot,
and two were of shorter stature than the others.

With the help of the glass Victor Shelton gained a clear view of the
faces of the whole party, who were dressed much the same as the
Blackfoot.

“Mul-tal-la isn’t there,” said the surprised lad. “I don’t understand
that.”

“He can’t be far off. He’s likely to show up pretty soon. Shall we wait
for those Indians, for they mean to visit us—that’s certain?”

“I don’t see how we can help ourselves. If we start to leave it will
look as if we are afraid of them, and, though they are on foot, they can
overhaul us without trouble. No; let’s stand our ground. I don’t believe
they mean any harm, but I should feel a good deal easier in mind if
Mul-tal-la was on hand. It is odd that he and Deerfoot should be away at
the time we are most likely to need them.”

The strangers came straight forward, and were soon so near that every
face was clearly seen without the aid of the glass. The brothers learned
that what they suspected was true: two of the Indians were boys, perhaps
a little older than our young friends, and one of them was certainly
taller. All were armed with bows and arrows, their dress being similar,
as has been already said, to that worn by the Blackfoot.

George and Victor felt anything but comfortable. Previous experience
warranted the hope that the Indians meant no harm, but for the time the
youths could not be certain on that point. While the strangers probably
would have acted friendly had either the Shawanoe or Blackfoot been with
the lads, it was doubtful how it would be when they found the two alone.
Place a party of lawless persons, no matter what their race, in a
tempting situation, where they have no fear of any consequences of
wrong-doing, and they may be depended upon to do wrong.

Had the boys been certain that mischief impended they would have warned
the party off, but doubting and puzzled as to what was best to do, they
waved their hands in token of good-will and awaited their coming as if
nothing in the world could please them more.

The nearer the Indians approached the less the boys liked their looks.
Their dress was shabby and their faces ugly. The taller of the dusky
youths had daubed his face with paint at some remote period in the past,
and enough remained to add to his repulsive looks, which were not
diminished when his broad mouth expanded into a grin. His companion was
not quite so tall, and was of broader and huskier frame.

The least repellent of the three warriors displayed some superiority in
dress to the others. The hunting shirt had more fringes at the bottom;
the dilapidated moccasins showed a few more beads, and he had three
stained eagle feathers pointing upward from his crown, while neither of
the others sported more than two. From these facts and a certain
deference shown by the couple, George and Victor believed this fellow
was a chief among his people. Furthermore, our friends were convinced
that this particular redskin was the father of the boys, and I may add
that in both suppositions the brothers were right.

“Howdy?” grinned the leader, who was a pace or two in advance of the
others. As he spoke he extended his right hand to George, his long bow
being in the left hand.

“Howdy?” replied George, taking the palm of the other. “I am glad to see
my brothers,” he hypocritically added.

It was quickly apparent that none of the Indians could speak English.
The salutation of the leader was the only word he knew. He made a
response to George’s greeting, but it was unintelligible to the boys. He
said something more, and, releasing his hand, reached out and took
George’s rifle from his grasp.

It was done so deftly that the weapon was gone before the owner knew it.

“Why did you let him have that?” asked the resentful Victor.

“He took it before I had any idea of what he was after. Maybe he only
wants to look over it.”

The chief held up the gun, inspected the hammer and trigger, squinted
one eye down the barrel (and Victor Shelton never wished more fervently
that the rifle would go off), pretended to aim at some target in the
distance, and then, instead of returning the weapon to the owner, passed
it to one of his warriors.

He next looked at Victor, and took two or three steps toward him. The
boy retreated, shaking his head and griping his weapon with both hands.

“There’ll be a fight before you get this, you old scamp!” replied the
lad, compressing his lips and showing his anger so plainly that no one
could mistake.

The dusky countenance of the chief took on a dangerous glint and his
black eyes twinkled threateningly.

“Better let him have it,” said his brother. “There’s no help for it.”

“He doesn’t get it without a fight. I won’t stand like a lamb and let
him rob me.”

The consequences must have been serious had not Mul-tal-la, the
Blackfoot, put in an appearance at this critical moment. He came over
the ridge from behind the boys, proving that he had crossed the
devastated valley some time before.

All the strangers turned their faces toward the new arrival, and it was
apparent from the expression on the face of the chief that he recognized
Mul-tal-la. They had met when the Blackfoot passed through this region
the year before, though none of the other four knew him.

The chief seemed really glad to meet the wanderer. They greeted each
other and talked for several minutes, as if they had not the slightest
knowledge of the presence of the others.

“They act as if they belonged to the same tribe,” said George, who, like
his brother, was closely watching the couple. “I wonder if these folks
are Blackfeet.”

“I don’t think so. They are not dressed quite the same. They look
different, and the home of the Blackfeet is a good many miles to the
north.”

Victor was in a combative mood. He could not get over his anger because
of the robbery they had suffered, not to mention the second one that
impended. He scowled at the chief and then glared at the youths standing
by themselves. The shorter looked back and grinned threateningly.

“I’d like to have a set-to with that imp,” said Victor to his brother.
“Did you ever see a meaner-looking thing?”

And to show his contempt Victor deliberately doubled his fist and shook
it at the fellow, who grinned and placed his hand threateningly on the
haft of his knife at his girdle. When matters looked ominous it was the
lot of Mul-tal-la to interfere again in the interests of peace. Turning
abruptly, he said to the boys:

“This Indian is Black Elk, chief of the Shoshones. Their warriors
sometimes visit the Blackfeet, and he and I talk each other’s tongue.
Those are his boys, Young Elk and Antelope.”

“What does he mean by taking George’s gun from him? He was about to rob
me of mine when you came up, but he won’t get it without a row.”

“Let not my brother be hasty,” said the Blackfoot soothingly. “Black Elk
has thousands of warriors and can do as he wills with us, but he is a
friend of the Blackfeet; I stayed for several days and nights with him
when on my way through here a year ago. Because he is a friend, he will
not do what he meant to do. He says you shall make contest with his two
sons, and the two that beat shall own the guns. Are you willing?”

“Nothing will suit me better, if the fight is to be a fair one,” was the
prompt reply of Victor.

“I am ready,” added George; “but can you trust these people?”

“Mul-tal-la does not know about the others, but what Black Elk says he
will do, that he will do.”

“Well, what is his plan?”

The Blackfoot now turned and talked for some minutes with Black Elk, one
of the chiefs of the Shoshones. Then the chief called his sons to him,
and there was more talk. The dusky youths looked at the boys and grinned
in a way that showed they were pleased over the prospect and counted
upon making short work of the pale-faced intruders.

“I’m aching to get at that chunky chap,” said Victor, who for some
reason had taken an intense dislike of the ill-favored youth.

“Maybe you will ache more after you are through with him. You must keep
cool, Victor, or it will go hard with you.”

Mul-tal-la now addressed himself to the boys.

“Black Elk has made these rules: My brother,” indicating George, “shall
wrestle with Antelope—he is the tall one—and, if he throws Antelope,
then the gun shall be given back to my brother; but if Antelope throws
him, then he shall keep the gun of my brother.”

Mul-tal-la was slyer than his friends had supposed. He had been in the
company of the youths long enough to learn that George Shelton was the
superior of his brother in wrestling, and indeed possessed no little
skill in that respect. The Blackfoot was sanguine that the white youth
could overturn Antelope. And yet he was by no means certain, for the
Indian was taller and showed that he was strong and agile. Many red men
pride themselves on their skill in wrestling, and have good grounds for
doing so. Mul-tal-la warned George of this and impressed upon him not to
throw away the slightest advantage he could gain from the very outset.

To prove that Black Elk meant to be fair, he compelled his son to lay
his knife on the ground beside his bow. The youth carried no tomahawk or
other weapon, and to reciprocate, George handed his knife to Mul-tal-la.

“I suppose I am to wrestle that other monkey,” muttered Victor, scowling
at the youth.

“No!” replied the Blackfoot, with a grin; “you and he are to fight.”

“Good! that suits me to a dot!” exclaimed the pleased Victor.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XV

                    A QUESTION OF SKILL AND COURAGE.


THE situation had taken on a most singular phase. The Shelton brothers
were waiting on the crest of the ridge for the return of their Blackfoot
friend, when in a brief time they were called upon to enter into a brief
struggle with two Shoshone or Snake Indians for the possession of their
own property.

Withal, the paleface youths were eager for the contest. This was
especially true of Victor, who, as he expressed it, was aching for a
set-to with the broad, strongly built youth, toward whom he had taken an
intense dislike from the first.

The arrangements were made by the chief Black Elk and Mul-tal-la, the
two warriors standing as immobile as if hundreds of miles removed from
the spot, though it is not to be supposed they were not interested.
Their leader and the Blackfoot talked again for two or three minutes,
while George and Victor stood side by side, awaiting the test. The rifle
of one was still held by a Shoshone, while Victor clung to his own
weapon.

“I don’t give it up till I have to,” grimly remarked the lad. “One of
them has yours, and Mul-tal-la shall take charge of mine; he’ll act
fair, but I don’t believe any of the others will. George, if you don’t
throw that copper-colored scamp you’re no brother of mine, and you’ll
have to settle with _me_.”

“I’ll do my best—I promise you that. Don’t forget that _you_ have a
tough job before you.”

Mul-tal-la addressed the brothers:

“My brother George will wrestle with Antelope first; then my brother
Victor will see whether Young Elk is stronger than he.”

“How many falls are we to have?” asked George.

“Only one. If he lays you on your back you must give up your gun to the
Antelope. You will not have another chance, but will have to go without
a rifle till you can get one somewhere else.”

“In all the wrestling matches I ever saw it was the best two out of
three falls. The fellow may play some trick on me.”

“You mustn’t let him,” said Victor, impatiently; “you know as many
tricks as he. Remember I’ve got my eye on you, and if he beats you,
you’ll have to take a turn with me.”

“Save your strength for yourself,” replied George. “Well, I’m ready,” he
added, addressing his dusky friend.

The spectators formed a sort of ring, and the youths advanced to the
middle, each warily watching the other and on the alert for the first
advantage.

The wrestling bouts of the early days were not conducted as in these
times. The rule was for the contestants to take their places with their
sides touching, and each with his arm around the waist or neck of the
other. The same style still prevails in many places remote from towns.
When thus interlocked the contestants began the struggle, twisting,
bending, straining and tugging with might and main and with all the
skill the two could bring to their aid. The spectacle of wrestlers
standing face to face and using their toes to feint and tap each other,
most of the motions being simultaneous, like two fighting chickens,
while watching a chance to catch the other unawares, was formerly
unknown in this country.

It will be noted that in the old style, provided both were right or
left-handed, one of the wrestlers had a manifest advantage, since his
stronger side was turned toward the weaker side of the other. Among boys
this advantage was often decided by lot, or by the first shout of his
claim by one of the contestants. The handicap served also to even
matters when there was a marked superiority of strength or skill on the
part of one youth.

George Shelton was right-handed, like most boys, and he determined not
to yield that point to the other. It speedily developed, however, that
the Antelope was left-handed, for he voluntarily placed his left arm
over the shoulders of George—something he would not have done had his
right side been the stronger.

Instead of placing his arm under that of his foe, George Shelton slipped
it on top, though not much was gained thereby. He made up his mind that
if there was to be any strangling done he would do his share. Thus they
stood, with every nerve braced and every sense alert, waiting for the
first test.

The grip of the Antelope, who, it will be remembered, was taller than
George, suddenly tightened and he bore our young friend backward. But
the latter kept his feet and braced for the struggle to fling the other
forward on his face, which was made the next instant. Then the seesawing
went on for several seconds and with the same alternating abruptness as
before, when the young Indian put forth his utmost power to lift the
other off his feet. Had he succeeded, he would have had no trouble in
flinging him forward on his back or face, for a person can do little
when kicking in the air with his feet clear of the earth.

George defeated his enemy by also lifting. With both straining in the
same manner neither could succeed, and the weight of both remained on
the ground. Then the Antelope ceased his effort, with the intention of
trying some “lock” of which the white boy knew nothing. [Illustration:
The Anglo-Saxon Every Time.]

But this was the opportunity for which George Shelton was waiting. In
the instant of the cessation by his antagonist, the watchful lad
suddenly put forth every ounce of strength and lifted the young Indian
clear. He strove desperately to regain his footing, but his shabby
moccasins vainly trod the air, and before he could recover his grip
George hurled him violently forward on his side. He struck the ground
with a shock that made it tremble. George lay across his body, from
which the breath was driven.

Never was fairer fall seen. The young Shoshone was defeated so
decisively that, had there been an official umpire or referee, no appeal
could have been made to him.

“Good! Good!” exclaimed the delighted Victor, dancing with delight and
clapping his hands. “I’ll own you for my brother, George. _I_ couldn’t
have done better.”

Mul-tal-la grinned, for he could not conceal his pleasure. The
spectators, including Young Elk, looked savage, and the brow of Black
Elk was like a thundercloud. No one spoke, but all must have thought
volumes.

Having thrown his rival, George Shelton lay across him for a few
moments, then leaped up, sprang back several paces, and turning to
Mul-tal-la, said:

“Tell him, if he wants it, I’ll give him another chance.”

“No; my brother has won his gun.”

At the same moment Black Elk reached to the warrior holding the rifle,
and, taking it from him, strode to where George Shelton was standing and
handed it back without a word. Thus far the chief was certainly disposed
to act fairly.

“Thank you for giving me what is mine,” said the exultant youth, bowing
so low and smiling so broadly that the chief must have understood he was
receiving thanks, even though none of the words was intelligible.

“Now, Victor,” added George, turning to his brother as he stepped beside
him, “I’ll say to you what you said to me—that is, that if you don’t get
the best of that grinning imp, who is eager to pummel you, you’re no
brother of mine.”

While the discomfited wrestler slouched back beside his father, who
acted as if he was ashamed of him, the other son fairly bounded into the
arena. He stood grinning, with fists doubled, and manifestly impatient
for the sport to begin. To hurry his foe he twisted his face into an
insulting grimace.

No one knew Victor’s quick temper better than his brother. It was that
which caused him his only misgiving.

“Victor,” said he, with much earnestness, “if you don’t keep cool and
have all your wits about you, you’ll get whipped. He’s stronger than his
brother, and you have a harder job before you than I did. Remember—KEEP
COOL!”

Now, Victor himself was fully aware of his infirmity, but, like many
thus afflicted, he often yielded to it. At the very opening of the bout
he came within a hair of falling a victim to his own impetuous temper.
Neither he nor the Shoshone displayed any of the scientific points which
are seen to-day when two professionals face each other in the ring, for
they had not had any instruction. You would have said the pose of both
was wrong, for, instead of holding the right hand across and in front of
the chest for purposes of parrying, while the “leading” was done with
the left, they stood with fists thrust out and side by side, but both
balanced themselves well on their feet, and were on the watch for an
opening.

Victor looked straight into the dusky face and felt a thrill of anger
when the Shoshone indulged in another tantalizing grimace. Young Elk
made several quick feints, and then, with surprising quickness, smote
the cheek of Victor with the flat of his hand, and leaped back and
grinned at him.

The blow set Victor’s blood aflame, and, forgetting caution, he rushed
upon the other, only, however, to receive a second blow which almost
carried him off his feet. It was directly on the mouth and started the
blood. But it undid the mischief of the slap given a moment before. Our
young friend suddenly realized that he had no slight task before him,
and he heeded the words of his brother, who again called to him to keep
cool. He mastered his temper and did a clever thing by pretending to be
scared. When Young Elk carefully advanced he retreated, and hurriedly
glanced over his shoulder, as if looking for a place of refuge.

The Indian was deceived and grew confident. He came forward and drew
back his right fist ready to strike, while Victor continued cautiously
to give ground. Finally he braced and awaited the attack. The closed
hand of the Shoshone shot forward, but the blow was eluded by an instant
recoil of the head for an inch or two. Victor felt the wind of the blow
on his nose, so close came the fist of his foe.

Then with astonishing quickness he concentrated his strength in his good
right arm and landed straight and true upon the cheek of the other, who
was sent backward and reeled to one knee, but was up again in a flash.

It became clear that Young Elk was afflicted with as quick a temper as
vexed the white youth, for he made a blind, headlong rush, as if to
carry everything before him. As he dashed on, his arms sawed the air
like a windmill. Victor, never more cool and self-possessed, parried for
a moment or two until another opening offered, when he drove his fist
again into the flaming countenance with a force that sent his antagonist
flat upon his back. He had scored a clean knockdown.

But the Shoshone was not yet vanquished. He bounded to his feet as if
made of rubber, and with more coolness than before advanced again upon
his antagonist. Each was now in a mental state to do full justice to his
own prowess. Several minutes were spent in “sparring for an opening,”
but Victor Shelton quickly proved he was superior in skill. He dodged
and parried several blows, and, when he landed again, it was the most
effective stroke yet done. He delivered his fist accurately upon the jaw
of the grinning youth, who again went down.

Victor sprang forward and stood over him, waiting for the Shoshone to
rise that he might give him the finishing blow. Young Elk lay as if
“taking the count.” He was dazed for the moment by the terrific blows he
had received, and all the fight was knocked out of him. He looked up at
the young gladiator, then rose, and, instead of facing him, turned and
ran at full speed down the ridge.

The amazed Victor took two or three steps in pursuit, but immediately
saw that he was not the equal of the other in fleetness, and drew back.
The exasperated chief shouted to his son to return, but he was too
panic-stricken to obey, and continued running.

Victor was thrown into wild rage by his disappointment. He was not yet
through with his foe—though it would seem that he ought to have been—and
he wheeled around, panting, and looking for some one upon whom to vent
his wrath.

“What are you gaping at?”

The question was addressed to the Antelope, standing bewildered and
mystified by the whirlwind rush of events. Before he could answer, if he
had been disposed to do so, Victor drove his fist into the partly
painted face and toppled the owner over on his back. He was heard to
grunt as he struck the ground, and, hastily clambering to his feet, he
too turned and fled after his still running brother as if death were at
his heels.

“I’ll fight _you_, if you want it,” called Victor, striding in front of
the chief, who probably did not understand his meaning. “Fetch on all
the Shoshones in the country, and I’ll tumble them on top of one
another.”

But George Shelton and Mul-tal-la saw the moment had come to interfere.
The latter hastily stepped up to the lad and laid a restraining hand on
his shoulder. George did the same.

“Come, Victor,” he said, “you have done enough; you have won your gun,
and now don’t spoil everything by your foolishness.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVI

                          WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY.


LET us do justice to Black Elk, chief of the Shoshones, who acted like a
true sportsman. He had witnessed the discomfiture of his sons, and could
not conceal his disgust and exasperation. Little doubt that soon after
the incidents described he “settled” with his heirs, not so much because
of their overthrow, but because of the cowardice they had shown. Courage
with the red men, no less than with our own race, is a cardinal virtue,
as the lack of it is an unpardonable sin.

Victor Shelton allowed his brother to lead him away from his threatening
pose in front of the chieftain of the red men. He saw the rashness of
his last act, and hoped the leader would overlook it. And Black Elk not
only did that, but he did more. He deliberately strode across to Victor,
offered his hand, and said something, which Mul-tal-la interpreted:

“He says my brother is a brave youth; he is the master of his sons; he
would be glad to adopt you and have you live with him as the one who,
when he dies, shall become the leading chief of his tribe, which numbers
many hundred warriors.

“Great Cæsar!” exclaimed the astonished Victor. “Give him my thanks, but
tell him the thing can’t be thought of.”

Black Elk was so pleased with the boys that he still urged Mul-tal-la to
go with them to his village and stay for a long time. The Blackfoot
finally convinced the chief that being on his return to his own home,
from which he had been absent many moons, it would not do to linger on
the road. He had sad news to carry to his people and to the relatives of
the companion who had met his death in the East. He would be blamed if
he delayed in bearing the sorrowful message to them.

So finally the two parties separated. Black Elk shook hands with each of
the three, and the grim warriors came forward and did the same. Then the
Shoshones passed down the slope and headed toward the rocks on the other
side of the valley, where George and Victor Shelton first caught sight
of them.

The horses being ready, our friends mounted and started forward again.
Their course was a little to the east of the range through which they
would soon have to force their way in order to reach the Blackfoot
country. Mul-tal-la explained that he had a pass in mind, which was a
day’s ride away, and probably would not be entered before the following
morning. It will be remembered that our friends had partaken of no food
since the previous evening. None referred to it, for they could well
wait until the middle or, if necessary, until the close of the day.

The weather continued favorable. Summer had come, and in the lower
portions of the country the heat at midday was often oppressive.
Mosquitoes had begun to annoy the travelers, who might count upon being
plagued by them for the rest of their journey. These pests are more
unbearable in cold regions, during the brief summer season, than in the
temperate regions of a country.

The sun shone clear and strong, but the three were already upon elevated
ground, and the nearness of the mountains doubtless helped to cool the
air. At intervals they came upon the interesting creatures peculiar to
the West and known as prairie dogs, their dwellings consisting of holes
burrowed in the ground, often covering acres in extent, beside which the
little animals would sit and gaze at the horsemen as they filed past.
Sometimes they emitted queer whistling noises, and, upon observing
anything suspicious on the part of the travelers, whisked into these
openings and vanished in a twinkling. Then they could be seen peeping
out, and, when the seeming danger had passed, they clambered back to
their posts, as lively and watchful as ever. To-day the prairie dogs
have become so harmful to agriculture in some parts of the West that the
problem of extirpating them is under consideration and is a serious one.

The Blackfoot as usual kept his place at the front, while the brothers
rode side by side, talking when disposed, and sometimes going for miles
without exchanging more than a few sentences. This conversation revealed
the fact that both did not feel entirely at ease regarding Black Elk and
his Shoshones. At the time of which I am writing this tribe numbered
more than five thousand people, and was one of the most important in the
West. Their main villages lay to the westward of the Rocky Mountain
range, about the headwaters of the stream now known as South Fork of the
Lewis River. With so many warriors, it was not strange that some of
their hunting parties often came through the passes in the Rockies and
roamed over the level country on the east. Since they were generally
provided with horses, it seemed singular that Black Elk and his
companions were on foot. Mul-tal-la said beyond a doubt all owned
animals, which were at no great distance.

When the Blackfoot was told by the boys of their fears, they were
surprised to find that he shared them, though not to the same extent. He
explained that for some time to come the chieftain’s principal emotion
would be that of exasperation against his sons for the sorry showing
they had made against the two white youths. They were sure to receive
punishment at his hand for running away that would last them a lifetime.

But after the first burst of passion was over, Black Elk would begin to
think of the two white lads that had brought this disgrace upon the
royal household, and, as he mused, his resentment would kindle toward
them. All the Indians not unnaturally looked upon every white man as an
intruder. Though history shows that the aborigines welcomed their
visitors, yet the action of the latter was so cruel that the friendship
of the red men was turned to enmity. Thus most of the trappers and
hunters who ventured into the West and Northwest took their lives in
their hands, and many never came back from the wild solitudes. The story
of the settlement of our country is a continuous one of outrage and
massacre, in which the fault lay almost always at the door of the
palefaces.

Black Elk could not fail to feel resentful over the fact that the
disgrace of his sons had been inflicted by members of that hated race.
It was quite likely, therefore, that, repenting the magnanimity he had
shown, he would try to visit his vengeance upon the two youths while
they were yet within reach.

The duty of our friends, therefore, was plain: they must lose no time in
hurrying beyond danger. When Mul-tal-la was asked what the result would
have been had the apparently honest invitation of Black Elk been
accepted, the Blackfoot smiled.

“My brothers would have been treated well for a time, but they would not
have lived long.”

“How would it have been with you?” asked George.

“Mul-tal-la did not hurt Young Elk or the Antelope; his skin is of the
same color as Black Elk’s. They are brothers.”

This was another way of saying the Blackfoot had nothing to fear from
the Shoshones. It was the boys who were in peril.

Victor more than once was tempted to ask their companion the cause of
his absence the night before, but refrained after speaking to George,
who told him if Mul-tal-la wished he would give the information without
questioning. If he did not, it was not tactful to bother him.

The boys noted that the Blackfoot, from his place in front, occasionally
turned his head and scanned the horizon, especially to the south and
west.

“That means that he doesn’t believe we are through with the Shoshones,”
said Victor, when his brother commented upon the action.

“If they intend any harm, I don’t see why they don’t follow us, without
trying to hide from our sight. We can’t travel fast, and they wouldn’t
have any trouble in overtaking us before we went many miles.”

“That isn’t the Indian fashion of doing business.”

Inasmuch as Mul-tal-la showed no such interest in studying the country
they were leaving behind them, George frequently brought his spyglass
into play. Whenever they reached an elevation, though of slight extent,
he directed the instrument toward the points which he saw were passing
under the scrutiny of their guide. The most careful study, sometimes
shared with Victor, failed to reveal anything of a disturbing nature. It
was well to be on guard, but it looked as if the Blackfoot was unduly
suspicious.

The surface of the country became more broken, for the two were
gradually entering the foothill region of that mighty range which
extends over many degrees of the American continent. The air remained
clear and sharp, different species of wood were met, and it was not yet
noon when they halted beside one of the numerous small streams which
issued from the mountains, and, frolicking and tumbling eastward,
finally found its way into the Missouri and so on to the Gulf.

The water was crystalline and cold. The horses drank from it, for it was
not imprudent to permit them to do so, since their gait had been
moderate and they were neither too warm nor too tired. The draught was
refreshing to the boys and the Blackfoot. The latter told them that if
they would start a fire he would try to woo a meal from the brook, which
contained numerous deep pools and abounded with eddies, where fish were
sure to be found.

George and Victor set to work with animation. From the stunted pines
they broke off dry twigs and fractured larger limbs into pieces until
something of a pile was gathered and heaped up against a small boulder.
It took some time to make the flame catch from the steel and tinder, but
both had had a good deal of experience in kindling a fire in
difficulties, and they succeeded in starting a blaze of no mean size.

Mul-tal-la was ready, and appeared with three fish, weighing two or
three pounds apiece. They resembled salmon-trout, but were not. However,
there was no doubt they would make an excellent meal, and it did not
take our friends long to prepare it. As you remember, the boys had
brought considerable seasoning in the form of salt and pepper, and they
made sparing use of them. The Blackfoot, like the rest of his people,
did not know the use of condiments in preparing his food. It would have
mattered little to him had he been forced to eat his fish raw, but he
had learned to show deference to the tastes of Deerfoot and other
civilized persons, and often affected a fastidiousness which was foreign
to him.

When the midday meal was finished Mul-tal-la borrowed the glass from
George Shelton, and walking a hundred paces or so to the westward,
climbed a rock and pointed the instrument to the south and west. He held
his erect posture so long, with the instrument immovable, that the boys,
who were watching him, were sure he had made the discovery for which he
had groped so long and hoped not to make.

Such was the fact. Some five or six miles to the southwest he descried a
finger of smoke climbing into the clear air, and showing distinctly
against the blue sky, near the foothills. Such a sight was so common and
so natural in that part of the world that it would not have caused the
Blackfoot any unrest had he not noted a new and disquieting feature. The
line of vapor did not climb the sky, as such lighter substance naturally
does, but its course was sinuous and waving, like a ribbon held by one
end and shaken out.

This proved that it was meant as a signal by those who had kindled the
fire. That thin, vibratory line of smoke was a message sent for miles
across the wild country, and the wireless telegram carried an important
meaning. Who was sending it?

“Black Elk, the Shoshone chieftain,” was the instant answer which
presented itself to the Blackfoot. Did it bear any relation to the red
man and his white companions? Undoubtedly it did in the estimation of
Mul-tal-la.

To whom was the message sent?

_That_ question remained to be answered. Of course it could not be meant
for Mul-tal-la and his young friends, for there was no conceivable cause
for any signal of that nature. It followed, therefore, that the
oscillating line of vapor was intended for other Shoshones who were in
the neighborhood.

Accordingly, Mul-tal-la now began scrutinizing with the utmost care
every other portion of the landscape within his field of vision. To the
east and south the view extended for a long distance, but was shortened
by the towering mountains to the west and northwest. Somewhere among
these rugged masses must be the other wandering Shoshones, and, sooner
or later, they were sure to catch sight of the signal fire, because it
was too conspicuous to remain hidden for any length of time.

If the signal was seen by those for whom it was intended, they would
reply much in the same manner, for the peculiar code does not admit of
much variation. Perhaps the most that it could tell would be that the
notice had been seen and understood. The party of the second part would
then proceed to act.

Again and again the Blackfoot’s eye ranged over his field of vision, but
at the end of an hour no new discovery had rewarded his efforts.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVII

                           IN THE MOUNTAINS.


MUL-TAL-LA, the Blackfoot, performed some mental calculations that would
have been creditable to Deerfoot, the Shawanoe.

Possessing a remarkable memory of places, he easily recalled the
location of the pass which he and his companions had used when on their
journey eastward. Naturally he planned to utilize it again on his return
with his three friends. He did not forget that during his visit to Black
Elk, on the former occasion, he had described the route by which he
crossed the formidable mountain range. The Shoshone chieftain praised
his skill and wisdom in making use of the pass, which he himself had
traversed more than once.

It followed, therefore, that Black Elk would expect his old acquaintance
to guide the youths over the same course. He had therefore signaled to
the Shoshones in the mountains to cut off the little party, and the most
promising place for that was in the pass which was familiar to both.
Consequently, the prudent thing for Mul-tal-la to do was to mislead
Black Elk as to his time of entering the pass.

It has been said that the entrance could be reached by the close of the
afternoon, but the first intention of the Blackfoot was to camp at this
entrance until the following morning, arranging to make the passage by
daylight. You must not form the idea that when a mountain pass is
referred to, it is in the nature of a road which can be followed without
trouble and that few difficulties are met. The great South Pass through
the Rockies is twenty miles wide in many places, and a party of
emigrants have often entered and tramped it for a long way before
learning they were journeying over an old route that has been used by
thousands of persons in crossing the plains.

A mountain pass as understood in the West may be described as a means of
getting across or through a range. It often involves steep climbing and
descent, winding past wild and dangerous precipices, with the hardest
work conceivable. It requires several days and sometimes a week or more
to traverse. It has happened that a party, after penetrating to a long
distance, has discovered that they have been following a blind path, and
they are obliged to turn back and hunt for a new one. The most
experienced mountaineers sometimes go astray. On one of Fremont’s
exploring expeditions his guide lost his way and the most disastrous
results followed. Many of the hardiest scouts and all of the mules froze
to death, and the explorer himself had a narrow escape from a similar
fate.

It would have been impossible for the two Blackfeet to find their way
through the range had they been forced to depend upon themselves, but
the trail had been used for years by hunters and wild animals, and was
so clearly marked that, traveling only by daylight, it was easy to avoid
going wrong.

Mul-tal-la explained the problem that confronted him, and the boys saw
it was both difficult and dangerous. His plan was to press on till they
arrived at the entrance to the pass, and then, instead of waiting until
morning, do the utmost traveling possible by night. The Shoshones would
not expect this. Therefore, if all went well, our friends would gain a
good start and, by keeping it up as long as they could, might throw
their enemies so far to the rear that they would be eluded. The
Blackfoot thought they could reach the comparatively level country
beyond at the end of three days, provided they made good use of the
nights, which, you will remember, were partly lit by the moon, and
provided also the weather continued fair.

“The smoke of this fire will tell Black Elk where we are,” remarked
George Shelton, when they were about to resume their journey.

“Yes; had Mul-tal-la seen the signal of Black Elk the fire would not
have been started, but it is too late now.”

“It seems to me,” said Victor, “that since you have located Black Elk
and his party, the only thing left is to keep a lookout for the
Shoshones in front.”

“My brother speaks the words of wisdom.”

“Thanks—and now, Mul-tal-la, why not go by that pass you have been
talking about and take a new one through the mountains?”

The Blackfoot explained that that was the question he had been turning
over in his mind, but the plan could not be followed, because he had no
knowledge of any other path. There might be none, or, at best, he would
have to spend a long time in hunting for it, and when found, they were
likely to be turned back by obstructions of which they could know
nothing until they faced them. The conclusion was therefore clear: they
must use the old pass with which he was familiar.

But the Blackfoot had a little trick in mind, which he explained to his
friends. They would select a camping site among the foothills near where
they would have to make the change of route to enter the mountains. They
would start another fire, whose smoke would give their enemies the
impression that they had halted for the night. The Shoshones, following
the rule of their race, were not likely to molest the travelers until
the night was well advanced, and by that time Mul-tal-la hoped to be
beyond reach. Care and skill and not a little good fortune were
necessary to success, but the faithful guide was hopeful.

It took only a fraction of the time I have used for a full understanding
to be reached by the Blackfoot and the boys. At the request of George
Shelton, their friend retained the spyglass, while he and his brother
depended upon their unaided eyesight. Mul-tal-la held his position a
hundred yards, more or less, in advance, with the laden Zigzag plodding
after and the brothers bringing up the rear. All were fortunate in one
respect: none of the animals—omitting the previous accident to the horse
Simon and later to Whirlwind—had fallen lame. This was fortunate when it
is remembered that all were unshod and they had been obliged to pass
more than one rough place. This good fortune could hardly be expected to
continue, now that the hardest part of the journey thus far confronted
them.

The course wound among the elevations and depressions, past boulders and
rocks, with grass, trees and undergrowth continually obtruding, and with
the rugged outlines of the mountains towering above the cloud line on
their left. At varying distances the great peaks climbed far into the
sky, their crests white with snow, and in some cases the fleecy clouds
wrapped them about so closely that it was hard to tell where one ended
and the other began.

Now and then a breath of icy air was wafted over the lads, and they
involuntarily shivered. Then in the soft hush the weather for a time
became oppressive. Up and down, to the right and left, in and out, the
three pushed onward, making better progress than at any time for weeks
before.

The guide gave the boys no attention, for none was necessary. They
understood matters, and the part they had to play was simple. The
Blackfoot could be seen now and then to check his horse and lift the
instrument to his eye. While he gave his chief attention to the front,
he did not neglect to scan every portion of his field of vision.

One fact puzzled the Blackfoot. Hours had passed since Black Elk sent
his signal across the miles of country, but the reply, so far as
Mul-tal-la could discover, was yet to be given. It could hardly be done
without his seeing it. The fact that nothing showed suggested the
possibility of there being no Shoshones in that section to answer the
command of their chief. Such might be the fact, but it was unlikely that
a veteran like Black Elk would call to any of his warriors unless he
knew they would respond. Mul-tal-la acted as if such a contingency was
out of the question.

The sunlight was still in the air when the Blackfoot reined in his horse
and dropped from his back. They were in a rough, broken section, filled
with rocks, undergrowth, stunted pines, oaks and other varieties of
trees, while a small brook brawled and splashed and tumbled some
distance away in its eager hunt for a channel to the Platte.

“It looks as if we are done for the day,” said George, noting the action
of their friend. “If we are, we have made better time than we expected.”

The Blackfoot beckoned them to approach, and they rode up beside him.

“Here we wait till night,” he explained. “When we turn yonder we begin
to travel over the trail that will bring us into the open country on the
other side of the mountains—if Black Elk does not say no,” he added,
with his meaning grin.

“You have seen nothing of the answer to his signal?” asked George.

“No; the sky in front and over the mountains is clear”——

“How about _that_?” broke in Victor, pointing to the westward, in which
direction the pass extended.

The others turned and saw that which they had been hoping not to see. A
spiral, oscillating line of smoke was creeping slowly upward in the
clear air. Moreover, it was not more than half a mile distant. Although
the reply of the Shoshones to their chief had been delayed, it had come
at last. The warriors were on hand, and in the path which the travelers
had intended to follow.

The three scanned the telltale column of vapor in silence. In the
circumstances the glass could give no help. The interval was too brief
and the object itself too ethereal and vague to call for any
strengthening of vision. Finally George asked, involuntarily dropping
his voice, as one does in the presence of danger:

“Will that change your plans, Mul-tal-la?”

He thought for a minute, with his eyes still on the smoke, before
answering.

“Mul-tal-la cannot speak of a surety, but he does not think so.”

As he explained matters from his point of view, the former course that
he had indicated remained the right one to follow. The discovery simply
added another element of danger to that which was there from the first.
By kindling the fire where they had halted, they would give the
impression that they had gone into camp for the night. This subterfuge
ought to lure the Shoshones to the place in order to make their attack
during the darkness.

The situation could not have been more delicate. To carry out the plan
of the Blackfoot it was necessary for him and his companions to set out
over the pass as soon as it became dark. They would thus be going
directly toward the hostiles, who, in case they did not wait until a
late hour, would be coming at the same time toward the travelers. Using
the one road, it would seem that an encounter was inevitable.

The hope of averting such a meeting rested on the fact that the pass was
of varying width, and in many places two or three routes were open. Two
men following opposite directions might miss each other by a half-mile
interval, and without the possibility of mutual discovery. Again there
were stretches where they would have to come face to face. A not
important advantage of our friends was that they would be expecting—and
would, therefore, be on the lookout for—the Shoshones, while it was not
likely the latter would be watching for the Blackfoot and the boys, who
were supposed to be at the entrance to the pass, where the smoke of
their camp-fire spoke of their presence.

A vigorous blaze having been started, Mul-tal-la took the lead as
before. It was understood that he was to hold his place considerably
farther in advance than usual. Upon the first sign of their enemies he
would warn them by signal, when they could conceal themselves, if
possible, until the hostiles passed down the trail to the supposed camp.
If this could be accomplished, the danger would be past and the problem
solved. Everything depended upon the skill of the Blackfoot.

Night had begun closing in when the start was made in the order named,
excepting that Mul-tal-la, as has been stated, led by a longer interval,
and Victor Shelton was at the extreme rear. The guide was invisible to
the boys most of the time.

The trail steadily ascended, and for an hour or more was easy traveling.
It wound to the right or left, passing into deep hollows, climbing steep
ridges, circling obstructions in the form of massive piles of rocks, but
without interposing any difficult places where it was necessary to halt
or grope one’s way.

The little company had penetrated more than a mile in this manner
without hearing or seeing anything to cause alarm. Mul-tal-la was beyond
sight, but the boys, George leading, were silent, listening and peering
into the gloom, which, as yet, was unlighted by the moon. That would not
rise for some time to come.

Suddenly a soft tremulous whistle came from the front. This was the
signal agreed upon, and the brothers instantly halted. Zigzag was so
well trained that he did the same. It had been deemed best to place him
between Jack and Prince, so as to hem him in, as may be said.

Fortunately the check came at a favorable point. The rocks and
undergrowth on the right offered a good place for hiding, and George
Shelton, slipping from his saddle, grasped the bridle rein of his horse
and forced him to one side. The animal stumbled, but a few steps took
him far enough. Leaving him, George dashed back to Zigzag, and with
harder work almost dragged him after Jack. Victor was on the ground
almost as soon as his brother, so that the boys and three horses were
speedily bunched together, beyond sight of anyone passing over the trail
unless his attention was drawn to them.

Quick as they had been the precaution was not a minute too soon.
Mul-tal-la must have failed to discover his peril until it was almost
upon him.

The first warning was a singular one. A sneeze sounded, followed by a
guttural exclamation, and the next moment the crouching lads saw the dim
outlines of a warrior striding stealthily over the pass to the eastward.
He was moving slowly, with head thrust forward, and carried a long bow
in his hand. Before he passed out of sight a second loomed to view, then
a third, a fourth and a fifth—all gliding like so many phantoms of the
night, and doubtless making for the supposed camp of the travelers a
mile or more away.

Stooping low and silently watching the shadows, the brothers were
beginning to breathe freely when, to their consternation, Zigzag emitted
a whinny which, in the stillness, could have been heard half a mile
away.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                            INDIAN CHIVALRY.


THE Shoshones instantly stopped and one of them uttered an exclamation.
It was easy for them to tell the direction from whence the unexpected
sound had come, and all stood peering into the gloom, bows tightly
grasped and hands ready to draw their arrows from the quivers and launch
them at the instant demanded.

Victor was so incensed with Zigzag that he was tempted to send a bullet
through his brain, but restrained himself. He whispered to George at his
side:

“Don’t stir or speak, but be ready to shoot!”

His intention was to fire upon the Shoshones if they advanced upon them.
Such an advance undoubtedly would have been made, for the hostiles could
not have been aware of the real danger of it, but it was prevented by
the unexpected appearance of the Blackfoot, who came hurrying down the
pass on foot, and called to the Shoshones in their own tongue. The
strangers immediately turned their attention to him, and the boys, from
their covert, had the singular spectacle presented of a single warrior
in seemingly friendly converse with five who were believed to be
enemies.

“I don’t understand what he means,” whispered George; “do you?”

“Haven’t any idea, but it looks as if there’s going to be a fight. If it
comes, you take the one to the left and I’ll drop him on the right; we
mustn’t waste our bullets.”

“That will leave Mul-tal-la with three to fight.”

“But won’t _we_ take a hand? We must jump right into it. After we have
wiped them all out, I think I’ll knock Zigzag in the head—confound him!
He’s to blame for all this.”

“Don’t be hasty, Victor. If Mul-tal-la needs our help he’ll call to us;
he must know we are ready and won’t fail him.”

Meanwhile the Blackfoot was holding a talk with the five Shoshones, who
made up the entire party. It seemed strange that a struggle did not open
at once, but it may have been because the hostiles were ignorant of the
force hiding beside the trail and holding them under their guns. An
Indian, no more than a white man, likes to engage in a contest with a
foe whose strength is unknown.

Suddenly, to the amazement of George and Victor Shelton, Mul-tal-la
called to them:

“Let my brothers come forward; no harm shall be done them!”

“Well, that gets me!” muttered Victor. “I don’t know whether to obey him
or not.”

“It won’t do to refuse, but we’ll be ready.”

Leaving their animals behind, the two straightened up and picked their
way to the path, each firmly grasping his gun and resolute that there
should be no repetition of the performance earlier in the day.

The obscurity did not prevent the brothers gaining a good view of the
five warriors, who surveyed them with unconcealed interest as they came
into the trail and halted behind the Blackfoot and several paces from
the nearest Shoshone. The strangers resembled the warriors who were the
companions of Black Elk, the chief. Though he could not be certain,
George believed that one at least whom they had met that morning was
with the party before him.

Mul-tal-la now told a remarkable story—so remarkable, indeed, that the
boys could not credit it. These five Shoshones were the ones to whom
Black Elk had signaled by means of his camp-fire, and to which they had
replied later in the day. But the exchange of messages was meant as a
friendly interference in behalf of the Blackfoot and his companions.

The chief had good reason to believe that a hunting party of
Cas-ta-ba-nas were in the mountains, and a meeting between them and the
travelers was almost certain. The Cas-ta-ba-nas were a small tribe whose
villages and hunting grounds were to the eastward of the principal range
of the Rockies. They were small in numbers, but of warlike disposition,
and were often engaged in hostilities with others of their race. They
were wise enough, however, not to molest the Shoshones or Snakes, who
were so much more numerous and powerful that they would have
exterminated the whole tribe had provocation been given. It would not be
far from the truth to say the Cas-ta-ba-nas were vassals of the
Shoshones.

It appeared to be the fate of the smaller tribe to become involved to a
greater degree with the whites than were others of their race. This may
have been because the most productive beaver-runs were in their section
of the West, and consequently more trappers were drawn hither. There had
been a fight the preceding winter between three white men and a party of
Cas-ta-ba-nas, in which two of the latter were killed. This inflamed the
anger of the tribe toward the palefaces. What more likely, therefore,
than that, when they came upon a couple of the hated race under the
escort of a single Blackfoot, they should destroy all three?

Black Elk, therefore, as the extraordinary story ran, had signalled to
the Shoshones to warn the Cas-ta-ba-nas that they must not molest the
little party on their way through their country. If they violated the
command Black Elk would make sure that they suffered therefor.

This was the story told to the boys, and which impressed them as
incredible.

“I don’t believe a word of it,” said Victor, who did not hesitate to
speak plainly, inasmuch as Mul-tal-la was the only Indian present who
could understand his words; “do _you_?”

“Mul-tal-la does not know; it may be true.”

“How could Black Elk tell all this to another party of Shoshones by
means of the smoke of his camp-fire?” asked George Shelton.

“He could not.”

“Then how did these people get his message?”

“This Shoshone,” replied the Blackfoot, indicating the warrior whom the
youth believed he had met before, “was with Black Elk. He sent him to
find these Shoshones with the word from the chief; but it took him a
long time to find them; that is why we did not see the return to the
signal till the day was near done.”

“What need was there of his finding the others? Couldn’t he have given
the message to the Cas-ta-ba-nas himself without asking anyone to help
him?”

“That he would have done had he not found his friends before darkness
came. It may be,” added Mul-tal-la significantly, “that the
Cas-ta-ba-nas are more afraid of five Shoshones than of a single one.”

“It may all be as you say, Mul-tal-la, but Victor and I find it mighty
hard to believe it; but we’ll do as you wish. What’s the next step?”

“Let my brothers bring their horses to the path.”

George and Victor obeyed, and a few minutes later the three emerged into
the dim light. Victor used the occasion to give Zigzag a spiteful kick
as a reminder of his offense, but feared that the plodding, contrary
animal was not much benefited by the discipline.

While the lads were thus employed Mul-tal-la and the Shoshones came to
an understanding. The travelers were to resume their journey through the
mountains, the five friends—if such they really were—maintaining the
lead, with the Blackfoot riding next and his companions in the order
already named.

“That suits me,” was the comment of Victor. “I never would have those
villains walking behind us; it would be too easy for one to send an
arrow through me when I wasn’t thinking. If they try any trick now two
or three of them are sure to go down. I wish I knew whether or not they
are lying.”

“We shall have to wait and find out.”

“And while we are doing that they may lead us into a trap. Ah! if we
only had Deerfoot with us! They wouldn’t fool _him_, though he never saw
a Shoshone unless he has met one since we left him. Seems to me, George,
it’s about time that young chap showed up.”

“I don’t think we need look for him for several days. You remember he
told us as much. He isn’t thinking of anyone now except Whirlwind, and
he won’t let that horse run the risk of falling lame.”

“And when Deerfoot does turn up he’ll have the stallion trained so well
that he’ll know more than all our horses together, which isn’t much. But
we haven’t any time to think of them. Mul-tal-la is nobody’s fool, and I
don’t think he is likely to let this party outwit him, but I’ll be glad
when we are rid of them.”

“Suppose they stay with us till we meet the Cas-ta-ba-nas and then join
them in attacking us?”

“That’s the thing I’ve been thinking about. You see, though there are
five of the Shoshones now, they have no weapons except bows and arrows.
We have three guns and they have learned about them from the white men
they have fought. So what is more likely than that they are afraid to
put up a fight until they have help?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it is as you say. I haven’t heard how many
the Cas-ta-ba-nas are in this part of the country, but if they don’t
number more than the Shoshones the two parties will be too many for us
to handle.”

“We’ll make it interesting, anyway,” sturdily replied Victor.

It was a strange procession that filed through the mountains, the five
Shoshones stalking forward in Indian file, with Mul-tal-la riding close
to the last, then George Shelton and his brother, with Zigzag patiently
plodding at the rear, it being deemed safe to leave him in that
position, since there was no call for extra precaution, and he had
little or no chance to disturb the arrangements.

By and by the moon appeared above the range and added to the dim light
that had thus far guided the two parties. The trail which they were
following proved easier of travel than at the beginning. Twice they had
to cross small streams, but the rushing water was no more than a few
inches deep and the footing of the animals was secure. Then they wound
along a precipice, reaching downward fully a hundred feet, where the
path was so narrow that there was scant room for a single laden horse.
Peering into the gloomy depth the brothers felt a shrinking, for the
slip of any one of their horses would have brought woeful consequences.
George and Victor drew a sigh of relief when they reached a safer place.

Here the trail broadened for many yards, and traveling was all that
anyone could wish. The progress was deliberate and seemingly as
automatic as if regulated by machinery. The line of Shoshones did not
increase nor slacken its gait, even when treading the narrow portion
which caused the lads disquiet.

Unexpectedly in making a turn they came upon a camp-fire burning some
rods to the left of the trail and in an open space. The first glance
showed that fully a dozen warriors were grouped about it, some lolling
on the ground or on boulders, several standing up, and most of them
smoking long-stemmed pipes, which were made from a peculiar red clay
found in the vicinity. They had evidently eaten their evening meal some
time before.

“The Cas-ta-ba-nas!” exclaimed George, speaking over his shoulder to his
brother. [Illustration: The Critical Moment.] The Shoshones halted and
spoke to Mul-tal-la, who dismounted and talked with them for a few
minutes. Then the Blackfoot addressed the boys:

“Let my brothers wait till Mul-tal-la comes back to them.”

With that he turned off with the Shoshones, who headed straight for the
camp of the Cas-ta-ba-nas, the party straggling forward without any
regard to order. George and Victor remained seated on their horses,
watching the singular scene.

The glow of the fire, added to the moonlight, made everything more or
less visible. The arrival of the visitors naturally caused a stir. The
Cas-ta-ba-nas who were seated rose to their feet, and immediately an
earnest conversation began. Hosts and guests could be seen gesticulating
vigorously, and across the intervening space came the odd sounds made by
their peculiar manner of speaking. Speculating and wondering, the boys
watched and awaited the issue of the curious incident. They looked for a
sudden outbreak, though hopeful it would be averted. If the Shoshones
meant to play false, their treachery would speedily appear. The
conclusion could not be delayed longer than a few minutes.

While the brothers were intently studying the picture the Blackfoot was
seen to withdraw from the group and walk hurriedly back to where he had
left his friends. Shoshones and Cas-ta-ba-nas stayed where they were,
but gazed after him and at the forms of the boys and horses not far off.

“We shall now know what’s up,” said George Shelton.

“Whatever it is, the decision has been made.”

Mul-tal-la came up, cool and collected, but clearly agitated.

“It is as my brothers hoped,” were his words. “Black Elk did as his
warriors said; the Cas-ta-ba-nas have been told that he will slay anyone
of them that dares hurt Mul-tal-la or the palefaces with him. They dare
not disobey the words of the great Black Elk. No harm shall come from
them to us. Let us go on.”

And so it proved that chivalry is not dead even among the American
Indians.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIX

                              A CALAMITY.


IT seemed too good to be true, and yet all doubt vanished with the words
spoken by the Blackfoot.

“I can’t say I liked the way Black Elk acted when we first met,” said
Victor, “but he has proved himself more of a man than I supposed. I hope
now he won’t punish Young Elk for running away from me.”

“Why not?”

“Because _I_ gave him enough. Anyway, whatever the father did to his
boys has been already done, so we needn’t worry over it.”

“Mul-tal-la,” said George, “you haven’t any doubts left?”

“It is wrong to doubt; the words of Black Elk were true; he spoke with a
single tongue. My brothers need not fear.”

“Why don’t those Shoshones of his come back and see us through the
mountains? It strikes me that that is the right thing to do.”

“No; they will stay with the Cas-ta-ba-nas and hold them back if they
try to do us harm. They will be with them till we are far away; then
they can go back to Black Elk and tell him that all has been done as he
ordered.”

“It is better than I thought,” said the pleased George. “I don’t suppose
we are likely to run against any more of those people; if we do, we can
fall back on these reserves.”

The Blackfoot silently led the journey for an hour longer. No one
observing the surety of his movements would have thought he had been
over the route but once before. Everything appeared to be as familiar as
if he had spent his life in the mountains. The trail continued to ascend
and soon became harder to travel. Several times it looked to the boys as
if they would be checked and turned back, but their guide always found a
course that permitted the passage of their horses’ feet.

“This is well enough,” finally remarked Victor, “but I don’t see the
need of it. We did a good deal of traveling to-day, and if those Indians
to the rear are friendly what’s the use of hurrying to get away from
them?”

“I don’t think Mul-tal-la means to travel much farther.”

Even as George spoke the Blackfoot halted. He had been pushing on in
order to reach the most favorable spot for camping. It was found near
the base of a mass of black frowning rocks, from beneath which bubbled a
tiny stream of ice-cold water. This formed a deep pool close to the
rocks, and then dripped away in the gloom of the boulders, trees and
undergrowth. The place was sheltered against the arctic winds which
sometimes rage at this altitude, and indeed was so attractive that while
our friends were gathering fuel and preparing for camp, they saw it had
been used more than once for the same purpose by other hunting parties
in the neighborhood.

Hardly had the animals been relieved of saddles, bridles and the pack,
and the fire started, when the three were given a taste of the variable
climate of that section. Although summer had fully come, the wind moaned
and howled through the trees at the summit of the rocks and on their
right and left. Suddenly Victor called out:

“It’s snowing!”

In a twinkling, as it were, the air was filled with blinding flakes,
which eddied and whirled about the three and covered their bodies with
its white mantle. The horses found protection by huddling close to the
pile of stone, though the temperature was not very low.

The flurry passed almost as quickly as it arose. In a few minutes the
air was as clear as before, and the moon shone from an unclouded sky.
The friends gathered about the fire, which was soon burning vigorously.

It was the turn of George Shelton to go on guard for the first part of
the night, changing places with his brother at the usual hour. Since
this duty had to be divided among three persons, the Blackfoot would do
his share in the early half of the following evening, alternating with
George, while Victor would be given rest. This plan was kept up when
Deerfoot was absent, so the division of the work was as equitable as it
could be. When the party included four people the arrangement was
simpler.

The action of Mul-tal-la removed any lingering misgiving the boys may
have felt. Had the Blackfoot been distrustful of the honor of Black Elk,
the Shoshone chieftain, he himself would have acted as sentinel for the
first portion and probably throughout all the darkness; but, while the
night was still young, he wrapped himself in his blanket and stretched
out to sleep, Victor Shelton speedily doing the same.

Left to himself, George Shelton entered upon his task in his usual
deliberate manner. The fire was replenished from the wood that had been
gathered, and with his gun resting on his shoulder he marked out a beat
over which he slowly tramped to and fro. At the middle of the course he
moved in front of the fire, so that any foe lingering near could have
seen him clearly, and, had he been so disposed, picked off the youth
without risk to himself.

George at first felt a natural shrinking when he knew his form was shown
in relief against the yellow background, but after the pacing had been
kept up for an hour or so without molestation this feeling passed off,
and his thoughts became tranquil. He often peered into the gloom which
walled him in on every hand, pausing and listening, but hearing nothing
unusual. His expectation was that some prowling beast would be attracted
by the light of the camp-fire, but it was the summer time, when they
were not likely to be pressed for food, and nothing in the nature of an
attack was to be feared from wolves, bears or any species of forest
creatures.

The youth looked up at the sky, which was clear and cold. The moon gave
only slight illumination, and now and then he traced many of the
constellations, as he and his brother had often done when at home or
when on the trail in the leafy solitudes. He gazed at the Pleiades,
which to him and Victor were always the Seven Stars, and again noted the
peculiarity of that beautiful group with which I am sure you are
familiar. When you look at the stars fixedly and try to count, you can
see but six, but glancing abruptly at them the seven are visible. He
recalled the fancy that one of the cluster was so modest that when
stared at it shrinks from sight, to steal into view again after the
scrutiny is removed. It seemed to George that he never looked at the
heavens on a starry night without his eyes immediately resting upon the
Dipper, as he and his friends called a portion of the constellation of
Ursa Major. Then, too, he traced the Little Dipper, located Orion and
the North Star, and in the loneliness of the hour mused upon the One who
had launched all these stupendous orbs into space and set them spinning
over their mighty orbits, as they shall spin until time shall be no
more.

Who can look at the worlds circling through the dome of heaven without
being profoundly awed by his own insignificance and the infinite
greatness of the Author of all these marvels? How little and mean seem
the affairs of this life when we are brought into such intimate
communion with the wonders that are beyond the grasp of the greatest
intellect!

But the hours wore on and George was still tramping to and fro when he
saw Victor sit up, fling aside his blanket and rise to his feet.
Impressed before falling asleep with the duty that awaited him, he awoke
at the right minute without external help. The two exchanged places
after a few words, during which George made known that he had not seen
or heard anything to cause alarm.

The experience of Victor was quite similar to that of his brother, and
when the gray light of the morning began stealing through the mountains
the slumber of the Blackfoot had continued unbroken. He showed no
surprise over the report of the boys. Upon leaving the camp of the
Cas-ta-ba-nas the night before it was with a feeling of certainty that
Black Elk had carried out his promise in spirit and letter.

While the boys bathed faces and hands in the crystalline pool, the
Blackfoot strolled off, bow and arrow in hand, in search of breakfast.
Wild turkeys were so plentiful in the mountains that he soon came back
with a big, plump bird, from which they made their usual excellent
breakfast. He told the boys that the meal must suffice until night, for
he did not mean to halt any longer than necessary to rest the horses.
Two meals a day are enough for anybody, and it is slight hardship for a
hunter or traveler to get on with a single repast.

Soon after the journey was resumed the trail began to descend, but
shortly rose again, though not to the same extent. The air was clear and
sunshiny, and before noon, despite their elevation, which was not great,
the heat became uncomfortable. To relieve the animals and for the sake
of the exercise all needed, the three walked most of the time,
Mul-tal-la keeping his place at the head, while the brothers trailed at
the rear.

It was slightly past noon when they paused to rest their animals. The
spot was in a valley-like depression, through which wound a stream of
clear, cold water. A little to the right of the trail this expanded into
a pool or pond several rods across and fifteen or twenty feet deep. The
water, however, was so transparent that the stones and pebbles could be
plainly seen in the deepest portion.

The temptation was too great to be resisted. Victor’s eyes sparkled.

“George, we must have a swim! I never saw a finer place. Who’ll be first
in?”

The Blackfoot, like most of his race, was much less fond of water than
the Caucasian. Mul-tal-la smiled at the ardor of his young friends, and
remarked that he would stroll down the trail to refresh his memory as to
the route. Then he passed out of sight, and the boys were left to
themselves.

“This is a good chance to do our weekly washing,” said George, as they
began disrobing; “it’s time we attended to that.”

It was the practice of the boys and Deerfoot to look after that
indispensable work at regular intervals, for they had not the excuse of
the lack of opportunity, since rarely were they out of sight of water.
So the brothers brought their underclothing from the pack of Zigzag and
laid it on the bank to don when their swim was over. Then they cleansed
that which they had taken off, as well as they could without the help of
soap. I am afraid they hurried through with the task, for in a very
brief time they were frolicking in the icy water and enjoying themselves
as nobody in the world can enjoy himself unless he is a rugged
youngster, overflowing with health and animal spirits.

They dived and swam; they splashed and tried to duck each other; their
happy laughter rang out, and it seemed to them as if they could do
nothing finer than spend the remainder of the day in the pool. If the
first contact with the icy element gave them a shock, it also imparted
an electric thrill which tingled from the crown of the head to the end
of the toes, and made them shout and cry out in the wanton ecstasy of
enjoyment.

But in due time they felt they had had enough and the moment had come to
don their clothing again, leaving that which had been washed spread out
and drying in the sunlight. They reluctantly emerged from the pool and
gingerly picked their way over the pebbles.

Victor was a few paces in advance. His brother was in the act of leaving
the water when Victor uttered an exclamation:

“Great Cæsar, George! Somebody has stolen our clothes!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XX

                              OLD FRIENDS.


“IT can’t be,” gasped the mystified George; “you’re mistaken.”

“Come and see for yourself; where did you leave your clothes?”

“Over there on top of that boulder,” replied George, coming forward and
staring at the object named.

“Well, do you see them _now_?”

“Maybe the wind blew them off,” weakly suggested the other, although he
knew such a thing was impossible, for there had not been a breath of air
stirring for hours.

The two made careful search. Not a stitch of their garments was to be
seen.

“And the thieves have taken those we spread out to dry. Aren’t we in a
pretty fix? We’ll have to travel naked until we can kill a bear or two
and rob them of their hides.”

“Who was the thief?” was the superfluous query of George, staring here
and there in quest of the wretch who had done this “low down” thing.
“You don’t suppose it was Mul-tal-la?”

“No; how could it be? What would he want of our clothes? We saw him go
down the trail; I don’t believe he is within a mile of us.”

“Maybe Black Elk and his warriors have been following and waiting for a
chance of this kind.”

Victor shook his head. The thought was preposterous.

“He couldn’t have known there would be any such chance, and if he wanted
to do us harm he would have done it long ago. B-r-r-r-r! I’m cold!”
muttered the lad with a shiver.

The matter was becoming serious, for if their clothing was gone they
were in a woeful plight indeed. You will bear in mind that coats,
trousers, caps, stockings, shoes—everything had disappeared. The theft
included the underclothing that had been removed and cleansed by the
boys, as well as the extra suits taken from the pack carried by Zigzag.
Since these made up the only two undersuits owned by the brothers, you
will admit that their situation could not have been more cheerless.

A curious fact was that their guns had not been disturbed, though both
were left leaning against the boulder on which the clothing was laid,
and must therefore have been seen by the rogue.

“We’ll have to go into the water to get warm again,” said Victor, with
folded arms, bent form and rattling teeth. “I don’t see that we can do
anything but wait till Mul-tal-la comes back.”

“What can _he_ do?”

“If he can’t find our clothes he can go out and rob some bears or other
wild animals of theirs, and let us have ’em”——

George Shelton caught a flying glimpse of a tightly rolled bundle of
clothing which at that instant shot through the air and, striking Victor
in the back of the neck, sent him sprawling on his hands and knees.
George turned to see the point whence came the pack, and at the same
instant a similar one landed full in his face and knocked him backward.
But he had caught sight of Deerfoot, the Shawanoe, who rose from the
farther side of an adjoining boulder, and both heard his chuckle, for he
could not resist the temptation of having a little fun at the expense of
the brothers.

“We might have known it was _you_,” exclaimed Victor, clambering to his
feet and proceeding to untie the knots in his shirt and drawers, and
finding it no slight task.

“We won’t forget this,” added George, warningly; “you think you are very
smart, but we’ll catch you some time when you are not watching.”

Deerfoot was shaking with merriment, and as he came forward he said:

“My brothers need not wear bare-skins as they feared they would have to
do.”

(This is the only pun of which we have any record that was ever made by
Deerfoot.)

The shivering lads began donning their clothing, and then shook hands
with their friend. The meeting was a happy one. The Shawanoe was as glad
to see them as they were to meet him, whom they had missed more than
they had ever supposed could be possible. He told them he had nursed
Whirlwind until his lameness was gone, when he set out at a leisurely
pace to overtake his friends. On the way he fell in with Black Elk, the
Shoshone chief, and spent several hours in his company. Though it was
not easy for the two to understand each other, they managed to do so
through the universal sign language to the extent that the Shawanoe
learned that the chieftain had acted the part of a friend to the
Blackfoot and the boys when they were in danger from a roving band of
Cas-ta-ba-nas. So, knowing all was well, Deerfoot had not hurried to
overtake the party in advance.

“Where’s Whirlwind?” asked Victor, while hastily dressing himself.

“He is modest,” replied Deerfoot. “When my brothers are clad to receive
company he will come forward to greet them.”

“Seems to me you’re getting mighty particular, Deerfoot.”

It took the boys but a short time to dress, when, after hopping about
for a minute or two, to restore their numbed circulation, they became
comfortable. Being satisfied with an inspection, Deerfoot emitted a
sharp whistle. It was immediately answered by a neigh, and the next
moment the magnificent black stallion trotted into view around a bend in
the trail and approached the party. Proud as ever, he paid no attention
to the other horses, who raised their heads and saluted him as he came
in view.

Halting a few paces away, he looked at his master as if awaiting his
commands.

“Cannot Whirlwind bow to his friends?” gravely asked the Shawanoe;
“since they are not polite enough to salute him, let him teach them what
is right.”

The horse bent his head forward, drawing in his nose slightly and making
a graceful obeisance.

“This is George Shelton; my brother does not know much, but he means
well.”

Whirlwind stepped slowly forward and then sank on one knee. It was the
one that had been lame, but it was now as strong as ever.

“This is my brother Victor; he means well _sometimes_, but my brother
must not be trusted too far.”

“I wonder that he pays us any attention after the character you have
given us,” remarked Victor, who nevertheless bowed low to the salutation
of the stallion.

Deerfoot now gave a striking demonstration of the intelligence of
Whirlwind and of the training which he had received during the
comparatively brief time that he and his master had been alone together.
Not looking at him, the Shawanoe addressed Victor:

“Deerfoot would be glad if Whirlwind would stand up for him.”

That the stallion understood these words was proved by his instantly
rising as nearly erect as possible on his hind feet.

“Now let him give my brother’s handkerchief to his brother.”

Whirlwind thrust his nose forward and began fumbling about the breast of
Victor. In a moment he drew his handkerchief from an inside pocket,
stepped across to the pleased and wondering George, and shoved it into
his coat.

“That gives my brother two handkerchiefs. It is not right. Let Whirlwind
put the first one back where it belongs.”

Without hesitation the animal obeyed.

“The gun leaning against the rock—the one nearest us—belongs to my
brother Victor. He is lazy; therefore let Whirlwind bring it to him.”

The stallion walked the few steps necessary, turned his head sideways
and, grasping the rifle of Victor near its stock in his teeth, brought
it to the amazed youth.

“Now make him bring mine to me,” said George.

“No; he has done enough of that; get it for yourself. Now, Whirlwind,
Deerfoot is pleased with you; come forward and kiss him.”

The horse walked up in front of the Shawanoe, thrust out his tongue and
licked his cheek. His master kissed his nose, patted his neck and spoke
endearingly to him. There could be no question that the wonderful animal
was happy and proud in the affection of his master, who, in his way, was
more remarkable than he, since he had taught him all this.

“Only one thing is lacking,” remarked Victor, after he and George had
expressed their amazement; “you ought to teach him to talk.”

“Though he may not use words like men, yet he can make his meaning known
to Deerfoot, and that is enough.”

“There isn’t any doubt about his knowing what _you_ say. You ought to
teach him to be more considerate of the feelings of Bug and Jack and
Prince and Zigzag. He doesn’t seem to care anything for them.”

“Whirlwind has the right to treat those of his kind as he pleases. None
of them is his equal. Deerfoot is glad to see how careful he is of his
company. If he is willing to notice my brothers,” added the Shawanoe
with a smile, “isn’t _that_ enough?”

It was at this juncture that the stallion gave the most remarkable proof
of his intelligence that had yet been seen. It almost struck the boys
dumb with astonishment.

You remember that after washing their underclothing they spread them out
on the ground to dry in the sun. Deerfoot brought the garments from
where he had hid them and again spread them out. They had lain a
considerable time, and Victor was about to inspect them to see if the
moisture had evaporated, but Deerfoot checked him. Addressing the
stallion he said:

“Let Whirlwind examine the clothes lying on the ground; if they are dry,
he will hand them to my brothers; if they are wet, he will leave them
lie where they are.”

Victor’s first fear was that the brute was about to chew up his
garments, for he closed his teeth in a corner of his shirt, held it a
moment, sniffing at it, and then came over and laid it at the feet of
the youth. Of course he could not know that the article belonged to this
lad, for he had not been told.

He returned and in the same manner picked up the other garment belonging
to Victor and started to lay that also at his feet. After a single pace
he stopped, shook his head and flung the article back where it had been
lying.

“That isn’t quite dry enough,” said the wondering and laughing owner. “I
wonder how it is with your clothes, George.”

Precisely the same thing was repeated with the underclothing belonging
to George Shelton. One garment was dry, but the other retained a little
dampness, which, however, would soon disappear.

“Don’t ask him to do anything more,” said Victor; “I shall be scared. It
does seem that such animals should have souls.”

“Deerfoot is sure they have,” replied the Shawanoe with deep feeling.

Deerfoot now told Whirlwind to leave them for the time. He strolled off
to the more abundant growth of grass on the other side of the trail. The
three watched him amusedly, and noticed that he kept apart from the
other horses. He was a born aristocrat, and always would remain so.

Zigzag was munching and looked up at the stallion, as if he felt like
renewing the acquaintance that had not been of a very pleasing
character. He kept an eye on Whirlwind, and when he began cropping the
grass Zigzag had the temerity to try to join him. Before he reached the
stallion, however, he received too plain a hint to disregard. Whirlwind
deliberately faced the other way, thus placing his heels toward the
horse, so as to be ready for use when Zigzag came within reach. The
latter paused, looked reproachfully at Whirlwind, and then solemnly
walked back to his former companions. The snubbing was as emphatic as
the former and was sufficient.

A few minutes later Mul-tal-la came in sight and joined his friends. All
sat down on the boulders and exchanged experiences. Deerfoot had little
to tell that was of interest. He was not disturbed by the cloudburst,
and his occupation while absent from his friends had been, as he stated,
the looking after and training of Whirlwind. The animal recovered from
his lameness sooner than his master expected, and the latter could have
rejoined his companions sooner, but he spent hours in “getting
acquainted” with his prize and in training him to understand the words
spoken to him. It has already been told that some of the commands of
Deerfoot were uttered in a mixture of languages, or rather in no
language at all, the object being to throw difficulties in the way of
anyone who might possibly gain possession of the stallion for a time.

The Blackfoot gave it as his belief that they would have no further
trouble with people of his own race. They were approaching the Blackfoot
country, and, though some of the tribes through whose grounds they must
yet pass warred with one another, there was no hostility between any of
them and the Blackfeet, unless it had broken out during the absence of
Mul-tal-la, which was not likely.

While the friends were holding this familiar converse, the Blackfoot
thought the time had come to warn them against a danger they were likely
to be called upon to face, though it had not presented itself as yet. He
told them of a species of bear, sometimes seen farther north, which was
of such enormous size and ferocity that no single hunter dare fight him
alone. Mul-tal-la said that he and three of his people had had such a
fight, with disastrous results to the Blackfeet. Two of the latter had
guns, which, though of an antique pattern, were effective and would have
quickly killed an ordinary animal. The bear was shot repeatedly, but he
slew one of the warriors who had firearms and wounded another so badly
that he died a few weeks later. And in the end the bear got away,
apparently none the worse because of the bullets and arrows that were
driven into his body.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXI

                          PRESSING NORTHWARD.


YOU know, of course, that the Blackfoot was describing the grizzly bear,
though he did not call it by that name, any more than he referred to the
Rocky Mountains as such. George and Victor were inclined to think that
Mul-tal-la was exaggerating, for it was hard to believe that so
formidable a creature existed. They had learned in Ohio and Kentucky
that no brute traversed the solitudes that could not be slain by a
single bullet if rightly directed, and several bullets, even when not
aimed at the most vulnerable point, were generally sufficient to do the
business.

Deerfoot, however, was impressed by the words of his friend. He had
hunted with Mul-tal-la long enough to know his bravery and skill. He
knew that if he entered any conflict with man or beast he would give a
good account of himself. It was certain that he had put up a sturdy
fight with his companions, but the fact that a single animal had
defeated the four and slain two proved that he must have been a
formidable monster indeed.

When Mul-tal-la, after answering further questions, gave it as his
belief that they were likely to meet one or more of these terrors, the
eyes of Deerfoot sparkled. He dearly hoped that such an encounter would
take place, for he could never forget the ecstatic thrill of a fight in
which all his unequalled prowess had to be brought into play.

But the Shawanoe saw the danger that threatened the boys. Inasmuch as
all four were likely to be separated for hours at a time while on their
journey, it might fall to the lot of George and Victor to meet a grizzly
bear. If so, the most natural thing for them to do would be to open
hostilities at once. Deerfoot warned them against such fatal rashness.

“My brothers must not try to shoot or hurt the bear unless they have no
other way of saving themselves.”

“What shall we do?” asked Victor.

“Run as hard as my brothers can.”

“Victor is mighty good at _that_. You don’t know how fast _he_ can run,
Deerfoot.”

The Shawanoe looked inquiringly at George, who at that moment caught a
warning grimace from his brother. Deerfoot saw the by-play and had his
own suspicions, but kept them to himself. He was determined to learn the
truth from Mul-tal-la, and he did so before the close of day.

The halt had already extended beyond the time set by the Blackfoot, and
the journey was now taken up and pushed till night. Mul-tal-la kept in
the lead, with the Shawanoe next and the boys at the rear. When the
afternoon drew to a close they were well through the narrow portion of
the range and among the foothills on the farther side. Although the
country was broken and rough in many places, the traveling was not
difficult, and the party hoped to make good progress until at the end of
a few days they would again enter a mountainous region. This would take
a long time to traverse, and when it was passed they would be on the
border of the Blackfoot country, though still a long way from the
Pacific.

That night Mul-tal-la and Deerfoot shared the watch between them, the
boys resting undisturbed throughout the darkness. The weather remained
clear, and at an early hour they were on the road again and pressing
forward with vigor. The Blackfoot showed that peculiarity which comes to
many in drawing near their destination; the closer he approached to home
the greater became his haste.

The following day the boys met a pleasant experience. At the noon halt,
while Mul-tal-la and Deerfoot were sitting on a fallen tree and talking,
with the horses browsing near, George and Victor wandered off to look
for fruit. They had seen some of it earlier in the forenoon, but it was
too unripe to be edible. After living so long on meat they felt a
natural craving for lighter food. The Blackfoot told them they ought to
find that for which they were hunting, for they were in a region where
fruit was plentiful and the season was now far enough advanced for some
of it to be ripe.

George was the first to succeed in the hunt. A shout brought his brother
to his side. George was busy among some bushes that were crimson with
wild currants, and he was picking and eating them greedily.

“Better not eat too many,” warned Victor, proceeding straightway to
violate his own advice. “You know we are not used to this kind of stuff,
and it may play the mischief with us.”

“If I ate as much as _you_ I should expect to die,” was the rather
ungracious response of George, who nevertheless heeded the counsel and
began searching further for some other kind of fruit that had less
acidity.

He succeeded sooner than he expected, for he ran directly into a growth
of raspberries, many of which were purplish black in color, soft, mild
and delicious to the palate. He called to Victor and the two enjoyed a
veritable feast. In the midst of it they were joined by Mul-tal-la and
Deerfoot, who partook as bountifully as they. Later in the season they
found an abundance of plums, wild apples and no end of mulberries.

The journey continued for several days without special incident. When
they reached the stream now known as the Great Horn they faced a serious
problem. The current was rapid and deep, coursing violently between high
ridges, some of which were so lofty that a regular cañon was formed.
Mul-tal-la said they had come upon this river a considerable distance
above the place where he and his companion forded it, and on the
suggestion of Deerfoot he began searching for the ford or ferry, as it
might prove. When nightfall came it had not been found, and the
Blackfoot expressed doubts of his being able to locate it.

This unexpected difficulty gave Whirlwind an opportunity to display his
skill and intelligence. The party had paused at a place where the stream
was a hundred feet or more in width, and with the current so roiled that
there was no way, except by actual test, of ascertaining its depth. By
hard work the horses might be able to swim or work their way across, but
the necessity of taking care of the property on the back of Zigzag added
to the difficulty. It was important that it should be protected from
wetting. It would take a long time to build a raft on which to carry the
stuff to the other side, and even then there would be risk of its being
swept down stream. A dull roar that came to the ears of our friends
through the solitude showed that there were falls or violent rapids at
no great distance below, into which the raft would be likely to be
driven with the loss or irreparable injury of much of the merchandise.

Deerfoot was disposed at first to divide this among the four, who could
hold the articles above their heads while their horses were swimming,
but he distrusted the ability of the boys to do their part.

The important thing was to learn the depth of the stream. He therefore
asked Whirlwind to cross to the other rocky bank. If he could do this
without swimming all difficulty was removed. The stallion was quick to
understand the request made of him, though it is hardly to be supposed
that he comprehended its full significance. When told to enter the
stream he did so with only natural hesitation, feeling his way as his
kind do when the ground in front is uncertain.

All attentively watched the noble animal as he waded out into the swift
current, his foothold firm and strong. The water crept higher and
higher, and when the middle was reached it touched his body. This was
encouraging, but the channel might run close to the farther shore, and
none breathed freely until the depth was seen to be decreasing. Finally
the steed stepped out without once having been in water that was four
feet deep, and at no point, despite the velocity of the current, did he
have serious trouble in keeping upright.

“No place for crossing could be better,” said the pleased Shawanoe.
“Here we will pass to the other side.”

He whistled to Whirlwind, who instantly stepped into the water again,
and came back much more quickly than he had gone over. His master leaped
on his back, and, giving the word to his horse, led the way, with
Mul-tal-la almost at his side.

“It will be just like Zigzag to take a notion to roll when he gets out
there,” said Victor, as he drove the packhorse in ahead of him.

“If he does it will be the worst roll of his life,” replied George, who
half feared the stubborn animal would try to do something of that
nature. But, of course, Zigzag had too much sense to attempt anything of
the kind. Indeed, he did his part so faithfully that he emerged from the
river with his load as intact as at the beginning.

Matters were not pleasant that night. No food had been eaten since
morning, for Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la had come to look upon the noonday
halt as solely for the horses. It was a waste of time to hunt and
prepare a dinner, and it had not been done since Deerfoot last joined
the party. The expectation, however, was that of having an evening meal,
which was welcome after the long day’s ride.

Although passing through a country abounding with game, our friends
could not catch sight during the afternoon of elk, deer, bison or even a
wild turkey. It was as if those creatures knew of the coming of the
strangers and kept out of their way. It was not a good season to fish,
though it was not so long since several meals had been made upon them.
Still, more for the sake of the boys than himself and Mul-tal-la, the
Shawanoe brought out the lines with a view to trying his luck in the
Great Horn, but he was unable to find any bait. Both he and the
Blackfoot searched until the growing darkness stopped them, without
finding so much as an angleworm or any insect that could serve them to
help woo the inhabitants of the river to shore. Still more, the ground
was so rough, broken and overgrown that the horses were unable to do any
better than their masters in the way of food.

And this was not the worst. They had been pestered by mosquitoes through
the day, and at night the insects swarmed about the camp by the
millions, tormenting animals as well as men. The poor beasts stamped the
ground, switched their tails, bit and kicked, and at times were on the
point of breaking off and dashing into the solitude. It was the turn of
George Shelton to stand guard throughout the first portion of the night,
and of Victor to act for the remainder of the hours of darkness.
Deerfoot told them that inasmuch as none could sleep with comfort he
would mount guard and divide the watch with Mul-tal-la. The boys did not
suspect what was the truth—that the kind-hearted Shawanoe did this out
of consideration for them.

Only partial relief was obtained by the recourse of travelers caught in
such a trying situation. By enveloping themselves in the smoke of the
fire until it was hard to breathe, they managed to fight off the pests
for a part of the time. When the boys lay down each left only the point
of his nose obtruding from the folds of the blanket. Even then that
organ was punctured as by innumerable needle points, and most of the
time was spent in slapping at the torturing insects.

There must have been a score of porcupines which busied themselves
nosing about the camp in search of food. They were so familiar that in
moving around one had to be careful to avoid stepping on the prickly
things. They did not molest our friends, but their society was anything
but agreeable. Victor expressed himself as envious of the protection
nature had given these things against the mosquitoes.

Amid these trials Deerfoot and George Shelton felt grateful over a fact
that had become apparent long before. It has been shown that from the
very hour when it was agreed that Victor should form one of the little
party to cross the continent, he began rallying from the decline into
which he was rapidly settling, and which threatened his life. Except for
some such radical change he must have been crushed by the incubus that
was bearing him to earth. But the rough out-door days and nights had
wrought their beneficent work. He had regained his former vigor and
rugged health, and even before they crossed the Mississippi was his old
self again. True, moments of sad depression came to him during the
lonely watches, when his grief over the loss of his parent brought tears
to his eyes and made him sigh for the sweet companionship that could
never again be his in this world.

It is a blessed provision that, if time cannot fully heal all wounds, it
can soften the pangs that otherwise would make existence one long misery
and sorrow.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXII

                           A CHANGE OF PLAN.


THE summer was well advanced when Mul-tal-la, Deerfoot and the Shelton
boys drew rein in the Rocky Mountains, south of the stream known as
Medicine River, and far to the northward of the headwaters of the
Yellowstone.

They had had a hard time in reaching this point on their long journey.
Numerous streams had been crossed, deep and dangerous defiles threaded,
treacherous paths followed, and several accidents encountered. Once in
following a narrow, winding path leading around a vast mountain wall,
Zigzag lost his footing and rolled over several times in his descent to
the bottom, fully fifty feet below. Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la hurriedly
scrambled after him in order to recover the goods and to put the animal
out of his misery. When they reached Zigzag they found him standing on
his feet, with his pack somewhat askew, but seemingly suffering from
only a few trifling bruises. He was extricated with much labor from his
position, and resumed his plodding task. One fact was evident; he knew
more than he did before, and nothing in the nature of a similar mishap
occurred again.

The mosquitoes still pestered our friends at times, but not to the
degree that they suffered on the shore of the Great Horn. Once or twice
they were pinched with hunger, but to no serious extent. They were now
comparatively close to the Blackfoot country, and, if all went well,
ought to reach it within a week. In fact, as Mul-tal-la declared, they
were liable to meet some of the hunting parties of his people at any
time.

On the night succeeding this statement two mounted Blackfeet, from the
principal village, rode into camp and greeted the travelers. The couple
were old acquaintances of Mul-tal-la, and, as may be supposed, the
meeting was pleasant indeed. Deerfoot’s friend had an absorbing story to
tell of his experiences during the year that he had been as far removed
from his own people as if out of the world. They listened like a couple
of children enthralled by a marvelous fairy tale, and would have sat in
delighted attention the night through had their old comrade been willing
to keep up the thread of his narrative, whose charm could never pall for
them.

They were astonished to find the young Shawanoe able to speak their own
tongue like one of themselves, and when Mul-tal-la dwelt upon the
prowess, wisdom, chivalry and daring of the youth, they stared at him as
if he belonged to another order of beings. Mul-tal-la would have told
much more of his friend had not the youth checked him with a sternness
that the Blackfoot dared not disregard.

The visitors were very friendly and George and Victor Shelton were much
pleased with them. They got on quite well through the language of signs,
and the warriors were again amazed when they heard their countryman
speak to the lads in their own language. It must have been a marvelous
country and people that sent the youths forth, and which had been
visited by Mul-tal-la. It was plain that the couple, when they sighed
and looked into each other’s face, longed for the same experience that
had befallen their countryman.

But with all this Mul-tal-la had also a sad story to tell. He had left
home with a companion, but returned without him. It was a strange
accident that overtook that comrade after he had surmounted so many
perils, but his body rested many hundreds of miles away in a wondrous
country, and his friends must wait to see him until he and they met in
the happy hunting grounds that are the final home of all true and brave
red men.

This visit caused an important change in the plans of Deerfoot and
Mul-tal-la. As you know, the party had been steadily following a general
northwest course, with the Blackfoot country as their chief destination.
The intention was to remain there for a few days or weeks, and then
press westward to the Pacific. When in the Blackfoot region a fourth of
their journey would still be before them, and it led through a section
the most difficult of all to travel. The understanding was that
Mul-tal-la would accompany Deerfoot and the boys until all were given to
look upon the mightiest body of water on the globe. By the time they
reached the Blackfoot country again winter would be so near (if not
already upon them) that our friends purposed to remain among that tribe
until the opening of spring, when they would set out on the return to
their own home.

But Mul-tal-la, after a long conversation with his countrymen, told
Deerfoot that when he joined his people he would not be allowed to leave
them again. An unprecedented favor had been granted him and his
companion. The one who had received such an indulgence could not receive
it a second time. Moreover, the death of the comrade increased the
difficulty, if that were possible, for the head chief of the Blackfeet,
who was an autocrat among his tribe, would be offended with Mul-tal-la
when he learned all that had taken place. Many Indian tribes follow the
custom of the Chinese and punish an unfortunate leader, no matter how
blameless he may have been for his misfortune.

Had Mul-tal-la returned with his former companion it is not unlikely
that the chieftain would have permitted him to accompany Deerfoot and
the boys to the Pacific, but, coming back without the other, such
permission was impossible.

Long after the brothers had stretched out by the fire the Shawanoe and
the Blackfeet talked together. Convinced that the life of Mul-tal-la was
in danger from the chieftain, Deerfoot was determined that his friend
should not run the risk that awaited him if he went back with the couple
or followed them after a brief interval.

He proposed, therefore, that the party with Mul-tal-la should turn off
from the route they were following, force their way through the Rocky
Mountains to the headwaters of the Columbia, and pass down that to the
Pacific, after which the four would visit the Blackfeet and stay with
them till spring.

Meanwhile the two Blackfeet would return to their countrymen and report
what they had seen and learned. An outburst against Mul-tal-la was
certain, but it would be given time in which to spend its force. The
visitors would do all they could to placate and show their chieftain
that Mul-tal-la would have been glad to hasten home had he not been
under pledge to guide the Shawanoe and his friends to the Pacific. The
Shawanoe would give his life at any time rather than break his promise,
and he had taught the same high principles to Mul-tal-la.

Deerfoot was unwilling to admit that any credit in the matter was due to
his teachings, but he was forced to hold his peace when his friend
unhesitatingly told him that among his people the violation of a pledge
was not regarded as wrong when the interests of the one making the
pledge called for such a course. “And,” added the grinning Mul-tal-la,
“I am a Blackfoot.”

Deerfoot with all his sagacity failed to note one phase of the situation
that was apparent to Mul-tal-la. The latter, despite the protest of the
Shawanoe, managed secretly to tell his countrymen a good deal about the
remarkable youth who had proved so unselfish a friend to him when such a
friend was needed. He gave the story of his conquest of the wild
stallion, of Deerfoot’s incredible fleetness of foot, of his skill with
the bow and rifle, of his courage and readiness of resource, which
surpassed that of any of his race, and of his admirable character, which
Mul-tal-la had never seen equaled by any white or red man.

There was one subject upon which the four red men talked freely, for it
was always a welcome one to Deerfoot the Shawanoe. Unto the visitors had
come vague, shadowy rumors of a religion different from that which they
had been taught, and which had been followed by their people from time
immemorial. In some cases these reports were definite enough to awaken
curiosity and inquiry. Stories were told of self-sacrificing
missionaries who had spent years in teaching the new faith, and who had
given their lives for its sake. It was a strange doctrine, indeed, which
taught the sin of revenge, of deceit, of cruelty, of wrong-doing, and
replaced them with love, forgiveness, mercy and the Golden Rule, and the
assurance that a reward of eternal life awaited those who lived
according to the will of the one and true God.

Immortality is not capable of scientific proof, but one of the strongest
evidences of its truth is that yearning which is implanted, to a greater
or less degree, in every human heart, and in every race, no matter how
low or degraded its order in the rank of civilization. All religions,
whether true or false, are based on the idea of a life beyond the grave.
It accords with reason and with the self-evident fact that no man can
feel that his life’s work is rounded out and completed on earth, and
that consequently there must be another existence in which that work
shall be carried on.

That these longings, these yearnings, this instinctive reaching out for
the things beyond mortal grasp, are an inherent part of our being show
that they have been divinely planted there by One who is capable of
satisfying them all, and who, in his own good time, will satisfy them.
So reasonable and so well founded is this belief that the burden of
proof is thrown upon those who dispute it. Let them demonstrate, if they
can, that that which we call death ends all. But it is beyond their
power, and from the nature of things always will be beyond their power,
to do this impossible thing.

At the opening of this century we stand on the threshold of the most
marvelous discoveries and achievements made since the world began. Some
of these discoveries fill us with awe, and clearly presage the greater
that are close at hand. Among them may be the scientific proof of a
future existence, though such proof is not necessary with the most
exalted intellects, any more than it is with the simpler and more
child-like minds.

We must not wander, however, from the thread of our narrative, though
the subject is the most momentous that can engage our mental powers.
When Mul-tal-la put into more definite form the dim glimpses that his
countrymen had caught of the true light, he appealed to Deerfoot, who in
his modest, convincing manner told the story of his conversion and of
the sweet communion he held every day with the Father of All Good. It
was a faith which no trial, no suffering, no torture could change or
modify, and he impressed upon his absorbed listeners the ineffable
beauties of the religion which made a man a new being and fitted him for
the life to come.

Deerfoot had that rare tact of not pressing an important question too
far. He knew he had said enough, and when his hearers ceased to question
him he ceased to exhort. He, like all true Christians before and since,
had to meet that most troublesome of questions: the evil-doing of those
who profess the white man’s religion. The Blackfeet had met Caucasians
who prayed and bellowed their faith, yet whose lives belied every word
of their profession. They wronged and cheated the Indians; they broke
their promises; they maltreated them, and in short did everything that
was evil. If the Christian religion made such men, the pagans might well
declare they wanted none of it, for they were unquestionably better than
those hypocrites.

Deerfoot ranked such men far below those who were called heathens. He
despised them utterly, and was sure their punishment would be greater
than that meted out to those who live in open sin. He strove to impress
upon his listeners—and it is fair to believe he succeeded—the
distinction between true and false Christians, and assured the Blackfeet
that they were justified at all times in rating a person, not by what he
professed, but by his daily life, for it is thus that at the last day
the great Arbiter will judge us all.

And so, without fully realizing it, the young Shawanoe sowed the good
seed as the soil presented itself. It was he who had brought George and
Victor Shelton to see the truth; under whom Mul-tal-la had become a
believer; hundreds of miles away he had planted the germ in the ground
offered by the trapper Jack Halloway, of whom he was to hear further;
and now he had given the first glimmerings of light to these benighted
Blackfeet, and it was a light that was not to be extinguished, but would
grow and become luminous to a degree that only the Judgment Day would
make clear.

Thus it is with all of us. We have only to use the opportunities as they
present themselves; to do the kind deed; to utter the encouraging word;
to help the fallen; to relieve the suffering; to purify our own actions,
words and thoughts, and, all in good time, the harvest shall appear.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                     THE MONARCH OF THE SOLITUDES.


DEERFOOT, Mul-tal-la and the Shelton boys were encamped in the heart of
the Rockies. The Blackfeet visitors had departed two days before and
were well on their way to their own villages. The air was keen and
bracing, and the sun that had been obscured now shone from a brilliant
sky.

The halt was made at noon to give the horses a needed rest, for they had
done considerable hard climbing. Even the peerless Whirlwind showed the
effects of the unusual task. It being understood that the pause was to
be for several hours, a general break-up of the company followed. The
Blackfoot and the Shawanoe strolled off by themselves, and George and
Victor Shelton took another direction, with a caution not to wander too
far and to return before sunset.

The boys soon found themselves in a region where progress was difficult.
They were not following any trail, and were forced at times to clamber
over boulders and other obstructions, or to flank them; to descend into
deep depressions and to climb ridges at whose summits they were obliged
to sit down for a breathing spell. Such hard work made them thirsty, and
when they came to one of the numerous tumbling brooks, whose waters were
as clear as crystal and as cold as the snow and ice from which they
sprang, they refreshed themselves with a deep draught and sat down for a
rest.

“Whew!” sighed Victor, removing his cap and mopping his moist forehead;
“there isn’t as much fun in this as I thought. I wouldn’t mind the
walking and climbing if a fellow didn’t get tired.”

“And if you didn’t get tired you wouldn’t enjoy a rest like this.

“Do you remember,” he continued, “how Simon Kenton used to say at our
house that no man could know what a good night’s sleep is unless he sat
up one or two nights beforehand. I suppose there’s something in that,
though we don’t have to try it on ourselves. I know that water doesn’t
taste one-half so good unless you are as thirsty as you can be. It seems
to me, Victor, that it’s time we bagged some game.

“We haven’t bagged much,” George added; “Mul-tal-la got an elk
yesterday; Deerfoot brought down an antelope; I shot a turkey, and you
came pretty near hitting a buffalo that was several yards off.”

“Came pretty near hitting him!” repeated Victor, with fine scorn. “I hit
him fairly, and you know it, but these buffaloes have hard heads, like
some persons I know.”

“Then you shouldn’t aim at their heads. Other people don’t, and it’s
time you learned better.”

“I don’t know any relative of mine that is too old to learn a good many
things,” replied Victor, without a spark of ill-nature.

“That sounds as if you mean _me_. I’ll own up that Deerfoot and I are
liable to make mistakes now and then, but I don’t quite think either of
us would run from a wounded antelope and keep up a yelling that could be
heard a mile off.”

“It is sometimes a wise thing to run; you see it tempts your game to
follow and brings him within range.”

“Where is the need of that when he must have been in range at the time
you wounded him?”

“But couldn’t he turn and make off in another direction and get beyond
reach before you could load again? I tell you, George, there was science
in what I did. I advise you to try the same trick when you have a
chance, and then”——

A peculiar hog-like grunt caused both to look behind them. The sight
that met their gaze was enough to terrify a veteran hunter. Hardly a
hundred feet away stood the most gigantic grizzly bear of which they had
ever dreamed. They had listened spellbound to the story of Mul-tal-la,
but believed that the panic he underwent at the time of his encounter
with one of those western terrors caused him to exaggerate his account,
though it must have been a fearful brute that could have wrought the
havoc he did. [Illustration: A Western Monarch.]

This bear had his hind feet on the ground and his front ones on a
boulder, so that his massive back sloped downward from his head, and he
was looking at the boys as if speculating as to what species they
belonged. His size was tremendous. To the lads he seemed to be three or
four times the bulk of any of his kind they had met in the forests of
Ohio or Kentucky. It is not improbable that the estimate of the brothers
was right. You know that the grizzly bear (which the early explorers
referred to as a white bear) is now, as he has been from time
immemorial, the monarch of the western wilds. So prodigious are his size
and strength that he is absolutely without fear.

And he is justified in this self-confidence. One stroke of that mighty
paw, whose claws are often six inches in length, will break the back of
a horse or tear a man to shreds, and enveloping his victim in those
beam-like front legs, he will crush him to pulp without putting forth
more than a tithe of his power. A score of bullets have been pumped into
that immense carcass without causing any apparent harm. The Rocky
Mountain grizzly saves the hunter the trouble of attacking him. It is
the bear himself who starts things moving and keeps them going at a
lively rate. The advice of the most experienced ranger of the wilds is
that if a man is alone and without an inaccessible perch from which to
shoot, he should not disturb the grizzly. This advice is equally good
for two persons, and would not be inappropriate for three in most
circumstances.

It may be doubted whether the entire West at the time of which I am
writing contained a more colossal grizzly bear than the one upon which
George and Victor Shelton gazed when they turned their heads. His bulk
was so immense that they recognized him on the instant as the dreaded
brute of which they had heard more than one terrifying story.

Why he did not advance upon the lads at once is not easy to explain. It
probably was because the whim did not come to him, or he may have looked
upon the couple as too insignificant for notice. It is not unlikely that
curiosity had something to do with it, for no doubt they were the first
examples of the Caucasian race that he had seen, though he must have met
Indians and may have crushed an indefinite number to death.

The strange spectacle was presented for the next few minutes of the boys
staring at the monster, while he stared back at them, no one moving or
making any sound. George and Victor were literally paralyzed for the
time and unable to stir or speak.

Victor was the first to rally. Forgetting the warnings of Deerfoot and
Mul-tal-la, he sprang to his feet, faced wholly around, and brought his
gun to his shoulder.

“What a splendid shot!” he exclaimed. “See me tumble him over!”

But George remembered the words of their dusky friends, and, knowing the
fatal folly of what Victor was about to do, protested.

“Don’t you do it! He’ll kill us both!”

In his fright Victor was cool. He took deliberate aim, and while the
words were in the mouth of his brother pressed the trigger. The report
and act threw George into an irrestrainable panic, and bounding to his
feet he dashed off at the utmost speed. Across gullies, over and around
rocks, threshing through undergrowth, he sped, not daring to look around
and hardly conscious of what he was doing. He forgot the peril of Victor
in his panic until he had run several hundred yards, when, realizing
what he was doing, he abruptly stopped and looked back.

He had gone so far that he saw neither the bear nor Victor, and he began
picking his way to the spot, shivering with dread, and expecting each
moment to come upon the mangled remains of his brother.

Meanwhile Victor had a remarkable experience. Had he not been so
impulsive by nature, and had he been given a few moments for reflection,
he would have let the brute alone; but, as I have shown, he fired
straight at him. More than that, he hit him. In accordance with the
almost invariable rule in such circumstances the grizzly should have
swept down upon him like a cyclone. Instead of that he slowly swung his
front around, dropped to his natural posture on the ground, and began
lumbering away.

Incredible as it may seem, he probably was not aware that he had served
as a target for an American youth. He must have been conscious of the
landing of the bullet somewhere about his anatomy, but the matter was
too trifling to disturb him. The annoyance from mosquitoes was more
serious, especially when they attacked his eyes. In Alaska these pests
often blind the bears by their persistent assaults, and the miserable
brutes wander aimlessly around until they starve to death.

Even Victor Shelton was puzzled by the action of the grizzly. It would
not have been so strange to him had the quadruped rolled over and died,
for that would have indicated that a lucky shot had been made; but that
he should turn and make off was more than the youth could understand. He
would have believed the bear had been frightened had he not recalled the
accounts of Mul-tal-la, which showed the impossibility of such a thing.

In one respect Victor displayed wisdom. Without stirring from the spot
he carefully reloaded his gun, keeping a lookout all the time for the
return of the monster. He had caught sight of the mountainous, shaggy
bulk as it swung through the undergrowth, which was trampled down as if
it were so much grass, and then disappeared. Would he come back?

While the lad was debating the question he heard the sound of some one
approaching from the other direction. Turning, his eyes met those of his
white-faced brother, who seemed to find it hard to believe that he saw
Victor alive and unharmed.

“Where’s the bear?” gasped George, when he could master his emotions.

“Why didn’t you wait and see me shoot him?” asked Victor loftily.

“It can’t be you killed him.”

“He may live a few minutes longer, but I guess he’s gone off to die by
himself. You know wild animals don’t like to have spectators when they
give their last kick.”

“It can’t be,” said George as if to himself; “you couldn’t have hit
him.”

“Then what made him leave so suddenly? Tell me _that_.”

“I don’t know; I never saw one of them before; but why didn’t he attack
us? This bear is a bigger one than Mul-tal-la ever met, and it couldn’t
be he was afraid of us.”

“Not of _us_—of course not, for only one of us held his ground, and I
don’t think his name is George Shelton, but he saw _I_ was here; he took
one good squint at me, and things looked so squally he decided to
leave.”

The complacency and self-pride of Victor were warranted, provided they
rested upon a sure basis; _that_ would soon be known. Few living woodmen
have ever driven off a grizzly bear by a single shot, and it seems
beyond the range of possibility for the feat to be performed by a boy.

Victor peered in all directions, and seeing nothing of the monster,
turned and proceeded to “rub it in” with his brother.

“Let me see, George, you were saying something a little while ago about
a fellow that you saw run away from the charge of an antelope.”

George knew what was coming and rallied to “repel boarders.”

“Yes; I saw a great hulking youngster do that very thing. You will find
it hard to believe anyone could show such cowardice, but Mul-tal-la was
with me, and he’ll tell you it is true.”

“Do you think that the chap, who no doubt was trying to lure the
antelope to his destruction, made better time than _you_ did when you
deserted me at sight of this big bear?”

“There may not have been much difference in the speed of the two, but
you see the case is different. One boy ran from an animal that is as
harmless as a rabbit, while the other fled from a beast that would have
sent a half-dozen veterans flying, even though they had loaded rifles in
their hands.”

“But I stood my ground.”

“Because you didn’t know any better. You were too scared to run.”

“But not too scared to shoot and hit the game. Folks generally say that
the fellow who runs away is frightened and not the one who keeps his
place and sends a bullet right into the face of the danger. What do
_you_ think of it, George?”

“I have already told you what I think. Let us leave the question to
Mul-tal-la and Deerfoot to settle when we go back to camp.”

But Victor, unaware that the Shawanoe had heard the story long before
from the Blackfoot, was unwilling to have it brought to his knowledge.
He knew he cut a sorry figure when fleeing from the frantic antelope,
and he did not like to hear references to it. He would prefer to appear
ridiculous in the eyes of any person in the world rather than in those
of the young Shawanoe. He saw his chance and used it.

“I’ll agree to say nothing about this if you don’t talk about antelopes
when Deerfoot is around. Are you willing?”

Before George Shelton could refuse or give assent the conversation was
broken in upon in the most startling manner.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                         A MEMORABLE ENCOUNTER.


THE sound was like that of a score of bison charging through the
undergrowth. The affrighted lads glanced around and saw the grizzly
crashing down upon them. Possibly he had awakened to the fancy that they
were enemies, and one of them had sought to do him harm. At any rate,
here he was!

George and Victor instinctively did what any two persons with loaded
guns in their hands will do when assailed by a furious wild beast. They
brought their weapons to a level and blazed away straight into his face,
but they might as well have sent their bullets against a solid rock for
all the good it accomplished in the way of checking the rush of the
monster, who emitted his hog-like grunts and swept down upon them like a
whirlwind.

Without any thought of the wisdom of what they were doing, the brothers
separated, their line of flight being almost at right angles from the
beginning. Since it was impossible for the beast to pursue both at the
same time, he had to select his victim. His choice fell upon Victor, but
it is not to be supposed that he recognized him as the original offender
in this business.

The gait of a grizzly bear, or for that matter of any of his species, is
awkward when he is running at full speed. He has a grotesque way of
doubling and humping his body, which seems fatal to high speed.
Nevertheless, he can get forward at an astonishing rate, faster than a
man can run at his best. If it should ever fall to your lot to meet a
grizzly in his western haunts, don’t fancy you can escape him simply by
running. Keep out of his way from the first.

George Shelton ran and tumbled and scrambled over the rough ground for a
considerable distance before he glanced behind him. Then he discovered
he was not pursued. Panting from his exertions, he halted and began
reloading his gun with a haste which made the work doubly as long as it
would have lasted on any other occasion. As soon as his weapon was ready
he hurried back to the help of his brother, who was having a perilous
time indeed. As he ran he called as loud as he could for Deerfoot and
Mul-tal-la, for the crisis could not have been more serious.

Less than fifty feet separated Victor Shelton from the grizzly when the
race for life opened. For a little way the ground was favorable, and the
lad ran fully as fast as when fleeing from the wounded antelope. A
glance over his shoulder showed the vast hulk doubling and lumbering
along and gaining rapidly. In a straightaway race the fugitive was sure
to be overtaken within a few minutes.

Something must be done without an instant’s delay. There was no time to
reload his old-fashioned gun, nor could he descry any refuge. A sapling
appeared a little to his right, but he dared not resort to that. He
believed the bear would jerk it up by the roots to get at him, and he
was probably right in his supposition. So he kept on.

The situation was so critical that Victor Shelton did a desperate thing.
Throwing away the rifle which impeded his flight, he turned to the left
and headed, still on a dead run, for the edge of a cliff. Of the depth
of the ravine beyond he had not the faintest idea. It might be a few
feet or it might be a hundred. He had no time to find out. Over he must
go, and without checking his flight in the least, he dashed to the edge
and made the leap.

Providentially the distance was barely a score of feet, and instead of
alighting upon a rock almost in his line of flight, he landed on the
comparatively soft earth. He was severely shaken, but in his fright he
heeded it not. He fell forward on his hands and knees, scrambled up
instantly, and was off again. He had dropped into a gorge only a few
yards in width, which wound indefinitely to the right and left. There
was no way of knowing the better line of flight, and he turned to the
right.

He had gone only a few paces when he looked back to see what had become
of the grizzly. He had stopped on the margin of the bluff and was
looking down at the terrified youngster, who was striving so frantically
to get beyond his reach. For a moment Victor believed the brute was
about to follow him; but instead of doing that he lumbered, growling and
grunting, along the side of the ravine, easily keeping pace with the
fugitive, despite the fact that the surface was more broken than in the
bottom of the gorge.

Still, so long as the relative positions of the grizzly and fugitive
remained the same, no harm could come to the latter. But a change
speedily took place.

Victor had not gone far when to his dismay he noticed that the ground
over which he was running began to slope upward. If this continued he
must soon rise to the level of the bear, who acted as if he saw how the
situation favored him. The plum which for the moment was out of his
reach must soon pass into his maws.

The fugitive slackened his speed, wondering what he could do. He glanced
at the opposite side of the ravine in search of a way of climbing out
and thus interposing the chasm between him and his enemy. But the wall
was perpendicular and comparatively smooth. If he kept on he would soon
be brought face to face with the beast. He must turn back, with no
certainty that the same hopeless condition would not confront him in
that direction.

Just then a shout fell upon his ear. George Shelton appeared on the edge
of the cliff within a hundred feet of the bear. A flash and report
followed. He had fired at their terrible enemy and the bullet could not
miss; but the grizzly seemed as unaware of it as of the former pin
pricks. Giving no heed to the shouts, the report and the slight sting,
he saw only the lad below him, upon whom he had centered his wrath.

Victor had halted, glanced up, and was in the act of turning back over
his own trail when the brute took advantage of the decreased depth of
the gorge, leaped the short distance necessary to land him on the
bottom, not more than eight or ten feet below, and tumbling, rolling,
grunting, scrambling and flinging the pebbles and dirt in every
direction, renewed his direct pursuit of the fugitive, with less
distance than before separating them.

All that Victor could do was to run, and if ever a youngster did that it
was he. Unquestionably he must have exceeded the pace he showed when
fleeing from the wounded antelope. And yet it did not equal that of the
grizzly, who lumbered forward like a locomotive running down a
panic-stricken dog between the rails.

Suddenly another form dropped lightly into the gorge, landing on his
feet a few paces behind the fugitive, who, as he sped past, recognized
Deerfoot the Shawanoe. Neither spoke, for it was not necessary. The lad
did not slacken his speed, which was at the highest tension, and the
lithe young Indian, standing motionless, raised his rifle and fired at
the grizzly when the space separating the two was barely a rod.

Deerfoot aimed at one of the eyes. He must have brought down the
terrific brute had not the latter at the very instant of the discharge
started to rise on his hind legs, as his species do when about to seize
their victim. Despite the brief distance separating the two there was
just enough deflection in the aim to save the eye. The bullet struck
below that organ and did no more harm than the missiles that had
preceded it.

But Deerfoot had interposed between his friend and the grizzly, and the
fight was now between him and the furious Goliath. Never was a more
thrilling sight witnessed than that upon which George Shelton gazed from
the top of the ravine, and which his brother viewed from a safe point
within the gorge.

The Shawanoe saw on the instant the cause of his failure to kill the
bear. His gun was of no further use for the time, and, like Victor
Shelton, he flung it aside. He did not doubt that he could outrun the
grizzly in a fair race, and he would have fled had he thought Victor was
beyond reach, but there was no saying whether the gorge was not in the
nature of a blind alley or cage, from which the lad could not escape. To
save him the Shawanoe held his ground.

At the instant of flinging aside his rifle Deerfoot drew his knife from
his girdle and gripped it in his good left hand. The grizzly, as I have
said, had risen on his haunches and reached out for his victim, but the
space was too great. He sagged down on all fours, plunged a few paces
forward, and reared again.

As he went up he must have caught the flash of flying black hair, of a
fringed hunting shirt and a gleaming face. And as he saw all this like a
phantom of his dull brain, he awoke to the fact that a dagger was driven
with merciless force into his chest and withdrawn again, both movements
being of lightning-like quickness.

He had seen that face almost against his nose, and the ponderous fore
legs circled outward and swept together in a clasp that seemingly would
have crushed a stone statue had it been caught by those mighty legs. But
Deerfoot ducked with inimitable agility and leaped back a dozen feet.

If the grizzly had not felt the bullets he now felt that knife thrust,
and all the tempestuous fury of his nature was roused. He dropped on all
fours, charged forward, rose again and grasped at the audacious
individual that had seriously wounded him and dared still to keep his
place an arm’s length away.

Precisely that which took place before occurred again. As the shaggy
monster reared, his head towering far above that of the Shawanoe, the
latter bounded forward past the guard, as it may be called, and drove
his dripping knife with fierce power into the massive hulk, dropping and
slipping beyond grasp before the brute could touch him.

Deerfoot knew where to thrust to reach the seat of life, but the
enormous size of the grizzly actually seemed to hold it beyond reach of
an ordinary weapon, for after several blows the bear showed no evidence
of harm beyond that caused by the crimson staining of his great hairy
coat. Apparently he was as strong as ever.

George and Victor Shelton held their breath at times when viewing this
remarkable combat. They knew that if the bear once seized the Shawanoe
he would not live a minute. Repeatedly it looked as if the youth had
been caught. Once when the huge fore leg showed outside the shoulder of
Deerfoot and seemingly against it, and his head almost touched the snout
of the bear, both lads uttered a wail of agony, and George, from his
place at the top of the gorge, called to his brother below:

“Poor Deerfoot! He is gone!”

“So he is!” chuckled Victor; “gone from the claws of the grizzly.”

Just then Mul-tal-la hurried forward to the side of George Shelton. The
youth suspected the truth. The Blackfoot, although ordinarily a brave
man, had no wish for a close acquaintance with so overwhelming a
specimen of “Old Ephraim,” as he is now often called. He knew too well
the tremendous prowess of the monarch of the western solitudes.

But Mul-tal-la could not stay in the back ground when his friend was in
danger. Standing beside George Shelton, it took but a glance for him to
understand the situation. Deerfoot was engaged in a hand-to-hand fight
with the most formidable grizzly bear upon which the Blackfoot had ever
looked or of which he had ever heard.

A minute told the Blackfoot further that the youth was certain to win,
for, while he was continually thrusting and wounding his antagonist, who
must soon succumb, the latter had not harmed a hair of the other’s head.

To such a struggle there could be but one issue, provided no accident
intervened. But a mishap is always possible in the case of the bravest
and most skilful combatant. Deerfoot might slip at a critical moment and
be caught. Amazing as was his prowess, he was not infallible, and death
was likely to seize him at any moment.

The action of the Blackfoot, therefore, was to be commended, when he
knelt on one knee and aimed with the utmost care at the brute. While he
and the youth were interlocked there was danger of injuring Deerfoot.
Mul-tal-la, therefore, waited until a brief space separated the two and
just before the Shawanoe made another bound forward.

Mul-tal-la held his aim for several minutes, for he was resolved not to
make any mistake. He aimed just behind the ear, and when he pressed the
trigger the little sphere of lead bored its way into a vital part, and
then it was all over.

Deerfoot had struck again and leaped back when he heard the report of
the rifle, saw the outreaching paws droop, the snout dip, and the
mountainous mass sag downwards and sideways, tumble over, and that was
the end.

“Mul-tal-la only hastened the death of the bear”, remarked the Blackfoot
when he and the boys clambered down into the ravine and stood beside the
victor; “my brother had done the work, and the bear could not have
lasted much longer.”

“Perhaps my brother is right,” replied the Shawanoe. Then he looked
sternly at the lads and added:

“If my brothers do not heed the words of Deerfoot he will not be their
friend.”

The boys succeeded after much talking in putting matters in such a light
that Deerfoot finally agreed to soften his rebuke, though they felt it
hardly the less keenly.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXV

                       THROUGH THE GREAT DIVIDE.


THE month of August was well advanced when our friends reached the
junction of two streams where to-day stands Salmon City, Idaho. They
were well received at an Indian village, whose people showed a wish to
do all they could to help the travelers on their way to the headwaters
of the Columbia. When Mul-tal-la made known their destination several of
the red men, including the chief, shook their heads and said it was too
late in the season to make the journey; but the party were resolute, for
it was not only their intention to traverse the long distance, but they
meant, if possible, to return to the Blackfoot country in time to spend
the remainder of the winter there.

The Indians were right in declaring the way difficult, for the road led
over a path so strewn with broken and sharp bits of rocks that in the
course of time had fallen down the mountains, that all feared the unshod
horses would be too injured to travel. But, to the pleased surprise of
everyone, no trouble of the kind appeared. Men and boys walked most of
the time, and the animals kept pace with them.

Had the little company failed to provide themselves with fishing tackle
they would have suffered for food, for day after day passed without
gaining a shot at any kind of game. The streams, however, abounded with
salmon, which were easily caught and much relished. It was oppressively
warm during the middle of the day, but as the sun went down a rapid
lowering of temperature followed, and in the morning frost whitened the
vegetation and needles of ice put out from the shores of the streams.

You have heard something of the Shoshone or Snake Indians with whom our
friends had had an interesting experience. This tribe a hundred years
ago embraced the Indians of the southern ranges of the Rocky Mountains
and of the plains on both sides. A village of Shoshones, where the
explorers halted, contained hardly a hundred warriors and two or three
times as many women and children. Regarding these people some noteworthy
facts were learned. They formerly lived on the prairies, but were driven
to take refuge in the mountains from a band of roving Pahkees, who came
down from the Saskatchewan country and attacked them with great
ferocity. From the middle of spring until the beginning of autumn these
Shoshones lived around the headwaters of the Columbia, where they were
not molested by the Pahkees. Through these months the Indians depended
mainly upon salmon, but the fish disappeared with the approach of cold
weather, and other means of subsistence had to be found.

This little fraternity of Shoshones then made their way over the ridge
to the waters of the Missouri, down which they cautiously moved until
they were joined by other bands, either of their own people or of
Flatheads. Thus strengthened, they had little fear of the Pahkees, and
were not afraid to hunt the bison to the eastward of the mountains. They
remained till the salmon returned to the Columbia, when they migrated to
that section. Nevertheless, the dread of their enemies was so great that
the Shoshones never left the mountains till impending starvation drove
them out.

These people displayed some excellent qualities. Lewis and Clark
reported them frank, fair and honest, and he and his men received
generous hospitality at their hands. As with most of their race, war was
the most exalted occupation, and no warrior could look for preferment
until he earned it by some daring exploit. The triumph of killing an
adversary was not complete if the victor failed to wrench the scalp from
his head. If he neglected to do this and some other warrior secured the
scalp, all the honor went to him, since he had brought away the trophy
of victory.

After parting with the Shoshones, who showed regret at losing the
company of the explorers, the latter began their final journey across
the mountains. The first camp was on the southern bank of Lemhi River.
Here Zigzag showed signs of slight lameness. He could be ill-spared, and
it was deemed best to run no risk with him. His load was therefore
distributed among Jack, Bug and Prince. It was not thought well to make
Whirlwind a beast of burden. His proud spirit was likely to rebel and
there was no necessity for offending him.

Early the next day Zigzag was better, but the other three horses
retained his load, while he plodded to the rear of them. Men and boys
remained afoot. The Blackfoot took the lead, for though he had never
been through this country, he had met some of its inhabitants, and their
accounts gave him a more extended knowledge than any other member of the
company could possess.

Victor declared that Zigzag was shamming, for though he limped slightly
most of the time, now and then he seemed to forget it, but then Victor
never had much respect for that particular horse. It was deemed best to
humor him, however, and perhaps because he was ashamed to keep up the
deception he was soon so far recovered that he walked without trouble
after the burden had been replaced upon his back.

Beaver dams were often passed, but, singular as it may seem, nothing was
seen of the animals themselves. Their rounded, cone-like dwellings
extended long distances, and many proofs of their skill in cutting down
and preparing wood were observed. These sagacious creatures will cut up
the limbs and trunk of a large tree as smoothly and evenly as a
professional woodchopper could do the work, and in constructing their
dams, some of which are of great extent, they display astonishing skill.
No freshet is strong enough to break down these dams, and the architects
provide for the overflow as men provide sluiceways and gates to set free
the surplus of ponds and lakes. The doors of their houses are generally
under water, and the structures themselves are often two or three
stories high. They generally have sentinels on duty, and the slaps of
their tails on the surface of the water never fail to warn their
comrades in time to seek shelter.

These tails, it may be said, are quite a delicacy. When boiled or
prepared by cooking they suggest buffalo or beef tongue, and are
nourishing and palatable. A meal on beaver tails is always welcome to
the traveler through any region where the animals make their home.

There is one accomplishment possessed by beavers not generally known,
and of which I have never heard the explanation. Sometimes after cutting
a large limb into the right length to be used in the construction of a
dam, the animal, finding he does not need it immediately, floats it out
into the middle of a stream and sinks it to the bottom. If the water is
clear you may see a number of such sticks lying here and there ten or
fifteen feet below the surface. When the material is needed the sticks
are released, rise to the top, and are transported whither they may be
wanted.

Now, how is it the beaver sinks the buoyant wood? How he makes it stay
on the bottom is, so far as I have ever been able to learn, beyond
explanation. The most experienced trapper will tell you he doesn’t
understand it. More than once one of these men has pushed the pieces of
wood loose. The moment he did so they would come to the surface and stay
there. By no trick or device could he make them sink again, unless by
attaching a heavy weight. That, however, does not solve the difficulty,
for any substance can be sunk by such means, which is not the one the
beaver employs.

As the party advanced deer began to show themselves again. It was no
trouble to bring them down, and when the chance did not offer the fish
always remained, so it will be seen that the food question gave the
explorers no concern. The grass at times was not as plentiful as they
wished, but take it altogether the horses had no reason to be
dissatisfied and the journey went promisingly forward.

The next important stopping place of the explorers was in the country of
the Chopunnish Indians, who lived along the Clearwater and Lewis or
Snake Rivers, which you will remember were both tributaries of the
Columbia. The Chopunnish Indians were known as _Pierced Noses_, though
it is difficult to understand why this name was given, since, so far as
known, they never pierced their noses. The name was changed to Nez
Perces by the French _voyageurs_, and has so remained ever since. You
may have heard of Chief Joseph, who some years ago made his remarkable
retreat northward to Canada, and repeatedly outwitted the United States
regulars sent against him. Joseph was one of the most remarkable Indians
that ever lived. He was the friend of the white people, and was held in
great respect as the head of the Nez Perce tribe.

Our friends were impressed by these red men, who were large,
fine-looking and of dark complexion, and whose women had attractive
features. All were fond of ornaments. They wore buffalo or elk-skin
robes, decorated with beads, and the hair, which was plaited in two
queues, hung in front. Seashells fastened to an otter-skin collar were
displayed as belonging to the coarse black hair, and feathers, green,
blue and white, were plentifully seen. In cold weather each man wore a
short skirt of dressed skins, long painted leggings and moccasins, and a
braid of twisted grass around the neck. The women used a long shirt of
bighorn skin, without a girdle, and reaching to the ankles. Bits of
brass, shells and small ornaments were tied to this shirt, but the head
showed nothing except what nature had furnished.

The Nez Perces had a hard time of it. They were forced to toil during
the summer and autumn to gather salmon and their winter supply of roots.
In winter they hunted deer on snowshoes, and at the approach of spring
crossed the mountains to the headwaters of the Missouri to traffic in
buffalo robes. Added to this unceasing labor they had many fights with
enemies from the west, who often killed members of the tribe, stole
horses and drove the owners over the mountains.

The Nez Perces showed a very friendly disposition to our friends, who
visited their village and were invited to partake of their hospitality
for a long time. Although the Indians had a scant supply of food, they
offered the visitors all they wished. Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la, out of
courtesy, partook of salmon, but would not consent to deprive them of
anything further when the travelers felt fully able to provide for
themselves.

The visit to the Nez Perces solved a problem that had given the
Blackfoot and Shawanoe no little concern. The party had progressed so
far that the remainder of the journey could be made much more readily by
water than by land. All they had to do was to descend the river in
canoes to its mouth, or tidewater, or at least far enough to gain the
coveted view of the Pacific Ocean. They would have to make a few
portages and exercise skill and care in shooting some of the rapids, but
the road was open and they could not go astray.

The question was as to what should be done with their horses. These
could continue toiling forward as before, but the way was rough and
tortuous, and would occupy a much longer time than the water route. It
would wear upon the animals, all of which, with the exception of
Whirlwind, showed signs of the draught already made on their strength
and endurance. If they could be left behind, the rest would do them a
world of good, and they ought to be in prime condition when their
masters returned to them.

Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la discussed the plan of leaving their animals with
the Nez Perces. These Indians, like all their race, are exceedingly fond
of horses, and the fear of our friends was that when they came back
their property would be gone beyond recovery. While the warriors might
not openly steal them, they could frame ingenious excuses for their
absence. The loss of the four ordinary horses might not be so serious,
for Mul-tal-la was sure he could replace them from among his own people,
but the real problem was the black stallion. He was such a superb steed,
so superior in beauty, strength and speed to any of his kind in that
region, that wherever he appeared he attracted admiration and envy. But
for the watchfulness of his owner he would have been stolen long before
crossing the Divide. To part company with Whirlwind in what may be
called a hostile country looked like voluntarily giving him over to the
spoiler. No sum conceivable would have induced the Shawanoe to sell
Whirlwind. He was ready at any moment to risk his life for the animal
who was equally ready to die for his master.

This was the situation when, as the party were about to resume their
journey, they were approached by a tall, handsome warrior, whose dress,
more gaudily ornamented than the others, showed that he was one with
authority. He was absent while the visitors were receiving the
hospitality of the Nez Perces, and now hastened forward to pay his
respects while the opportunity remained.

The moment he drew near, Deerfoot and the boys saw from the expression
of his face and on that of Mul-tal-la that the two were old
acquaintances.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXVI

                            PARTING COMPANY.


IN fact, Mul-tal-la had made inquiries for his friend, and was told that
he was absent on a hunt, and there was no saying when he would return.
He was Amokeat, or the Man-who-never-Sleeps, and one of the leading
chiefs of the Nez Perces.

Two years before, when a party of the latter were hunting on the
Missouri, they were attacked by their enemies from the west, and all
would have been cut off had not some Blackfeet hunters arrived at the
critical moment. The tables were speedily turned and the assailants
routed. During the fight Mul-tal-la saved the life of Amokeat, when he
was hurled to the ground and a savage warrior was bending over to
deliver the final stroke. Not only that, but Mul-tal-la scalped the
enemy with his own hand and presented the trophy to the Nez Perce
leader. No greater honor could be done by one warrior to another, and
the gratitude of Amokeat was deep.

You will understand; therefore, how cordially this chief and the
Blackfoot greeted each other. Mul-tal-la slipped off his horse and, as
the grinning Victor said, seemed about to eat up the other, while
Deerfoot looked on and was pleased with the effusive meeting.

Mul-tal-la and his people often mingled with the Nez Perces, and he
understood their tongue well enough to make his meaning clear. He told
Amokeat of the question he and the Shawanoe (to whom the Nez Perce was
introduced) had been debating, and that they had about decided to make
the rest of the journey on horseback. Amokeat instantly volunteered to
take care of the animals until the owners returned. Mul-tal-la frankly
told him that Deerfoot could not feel certain of finding Whirlwind when
he came back. Amokeat reminded Mul-tal-la that he was a chief, and
pledged his life to hand over the black stallion and the rest of the
horses to the right parties.

“And he will do it,” added the Blackfoot, when he made known the pledge
of the Nez Perce leader. “He is true and honest and loves Mul-tal-la too
well to harm a friend of his.”

“Deerfoot does not doubt what his brother tells him; he does not doubt
that Amokeat speaks with a single tongue, but” added the Shawanoe
significantly, “there are other Indians who are not as true as Amokeat.”

“My brother is wise; he is always so; he must not forget that Amokeat is
a chief and not a common warrior. He will do as he says.”

Deerfoot allowed himself to be persuaded, though no means convinced that
he was doing a wise thing in leaving Whirlwind behind. He assented to
the proposal, but his friends saw that he did so with misgiving.

The decision having been made, there was no unnecessary delay in
carrying it out. From the scant supply of trinkets a number were
presented to Amokeat, with the promise of more upon the return of the
explorers, provided they found the horses awaiting them. The pleased
chief secured a large canoe, capable of carrying the four persons and
the indispensable portions of their luggage. The transfer was soon made,
and the horses turned over to the care of the Nez Perce leader.

Mul-tal-la and the boys felt a little sentiment in parting for a time
from their animals. There was something saddening in the thought that
the quadrupeds, who had been their companions through so many hardships,
trials and dangers, might never be met again. No person can fail to feel
an attachment for the dumb creature that has served him faithfully. The
brothers patted the necks of their beasts and expressed the hope of
having them again as comrades on their journey back across the
continent.

Deerfoot could be stoical if he chose, but he made little attempt to
hide his feelings when the moment came for him to say good-bye to
Whirlwind. He explained to him as well as he could the necessity of
their parting company for awhile, and there is no saying to what extent
he succeeded in conveying the truth to the noble creature.

“Whirlwind,” he said, as he gently stroked the silken nose and looked
into the dark luminous eyes, “Deerfoot must leave you for a time, but he
hopes soon to come back, and then you and he shall be comrades for the
rest of their lives. If when Deerfoot asks for Whirlwind he sees him
not, and they tell him he is gone, then Deerfoot will not go to his home
beyond the Mississippi till he meets Whirlwind. He will hunt everywhere
for him; he will find him if he is alive. If any harm has come to
Whirlwind he who has harmed him _shall give an account to Deerfoot_!”

Victor was standing beside his brother and now spoke in a low voice:

“Those words mean a good deal, George. Deerfoot doesn’t feel easy over
leaving Whirlwind behind. I believe trouble will come from it. I pity
the Indian that tries to steal the stallion.”

“I believe he will be stolen. I don’t know why I believe it, but
Deerfoot thinks the same, and I don’t understand why he consents.”

“Do you suspect Amokeat?”

“No; but even if he is chief he can’t help some of his people getting
the best of him. Can you blame anyone for trying to steal such a horse?”

“I blame him, of course; but I don’t wonder at it. Look at Deerfoot and
Whirlwind.”

Almost a hundred Nez Perce warriors, women and children were grouped
about watching the departure of the visitors. Some whispered among
themselves, but the majority silently looked upon the little group that
was leaving them. The river lay a few rods away, and the goods had been
placed in the large canoe, which was to bear the owners on their voyage
to the ocean, still many miles to the westward.

When the young Shawanoe finished the words quoted Whirlwind laid his
nose over his shoulder. Deerfoot placed his arms about the satin neck,
fondled the forelock, patted the nose, kissed it, and then turned
abruptly to his friends:

“Let us wait no longer. The sun is high in the sky and we have many
miles before us.”

He led the way to the side of the rapid current, where the canoe with
the luggage awaited them. George and Victor Shelton carefully seated
themselves in the stern. Deerfoot, first laying his rifle in the bottom
of the boat, stepped after it and caught up the long paddle, placing
himself well to the front. Mul-tal-la sat just far enough back of him to
allow the arms of both free play. Deerfoot rested the end of his paddle
against the bank, gave a vigorous shove, the boat swung into the
current, and the long, arduous voyage began.

The boys, who were watching their dusky friend, saw that he studiously
avoided looking back, but kept his attention upon the management of the
boat. He did this until they reached a bend in the stream, when
apparently he could stand it no longer. Resting his paddle across the
gunwales, while Mul-tal-la attended to the craft, Deerfoot turned his
head and cast a long, lingering look behind him. George and Victor did
the same.

The group of Nez Perces were still there, gazing after the canoe and its
occupants. Amokeat could be recognized at the front, but in advance of
him stood Whirlwind, with head high in air, his perfect outlines stamped
as if with ink against the gaudy background of color, the slight wind
blowing his luxuriant mane and tail aside, while he watched his master
rapidly fading from view.

When he saw the face of Deerfoot he whinnied in recognition. The
Shawanoe waved his hand, and those who looked at him observed the tears
in his eyes. The next minute the bend in the river shut horse and master
from sight of each other.

Facing down stream Deerfoot plied his paddle with a power that sent the
boat swiftly with the current. He had taken less than a dozen strokes
when he abruptly ceased and sat as motionless as a statue.

“Do you know what that means?” whispered Victor.

“I suppose it is because he feels bad.”

“No; he felt worse when he was paddling so hard. He is asking himself
whether he ought not to turn back and bring Whirlwind with him. It won’t
take much to make him change his mind.”

Victor was right. That was the question the Shawanoe was debating with
himself, and more than once he was on the point of acting upon the
impulse to undo what had just been done. Mul-tal-la suspected the truth.
He believed the return would take place. So he also stopped paddling and
waited for the word.

The cessation turned the question the other way. Deerfoot did not look
around again, but dipped the paddle deep in the roiled current, making
his sweeping strokes on one side and leaving to the Blackfoot to
preserve the poise by doing the same on the other side of the boat.

It was fortunate, perhaps, that Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la were compelled
to give attention to the management of the craft, for the river abounded
with rapids, most of which were dangerous. Often a single false stroke
would have sent the boat against the rocks which reared their heads in
every part of the stream. Some protruded several feet above the surface,
some only a few inches, while others were located by the peculiar
eddying of the current as it whirled over and past them. These were the
most to be feared, for they would rip out the bottom of the canoe like
the sweep of a broadaxe. But you know the consummate skill of the young
Shawanoe in handling a canoe. His quick eye, his unerring stroke, his
great power, his instant decision and faultless judgment had been
trained from early boyhood on the streams of the East, and, though he
was now passing down a river he had never seen before, he read all its
“signs” as you would read a printed page.

And the Blackfoot was hardly inferior, for he had passed through long
and severe training, and he handled his paddle like an expert. Where
both were so skilful they worked smoothly together. Sometimes the
Blackfoot called out a warning to Deerfoot, but soon found it was
unnecessary, for the youth was as quick, if not quicker than he, to
detect the snags, rocks, eddies, bars and all manner of obstructions.

The shores were wooded and rocky at times, and now and then the
explorers saw one or more Indians, who paused on the banks and surveyed
them as they sped past. Generally one or both of the red men in the
canoe saluted the others, and the same friendly spirit was shown by the
strangers. George and Victor commented upon the experience which
impressed them as singular, since it was so different from what they
were accustomed to at home.

The explanation was the old one. These Indians knew too little about
white civilization to fear the palefaces; that fear would come with
greater knowledge. At intervals piles of planks were observed, these
being the timber from which houses were built by the natives who came
thither during the fishing season to catch salmon for the winter and for
trading purposes.

Fuel was so scarce that it was often hard for our friends to find enough
for a fire when they went ashore to camp for the night. Victor and
George proposed to supply themselves from the piles that had been left
by the fishermen, with the understanding that the owners should be
repaid if they could be found; but Deerfoot would not permit it. He said
they had no reason to believe they would ever meet the owners, and it
was wrong to use their property without permission. So all had to shiver
in their blankets and go to bed hungry.

Watchfulness generally prevented much suffering on account of this
deprivation. Bits of driftwood were picked up at several points, so that
at dusk the party had enough for cooking purposes, but on the fifth
evening they found themselves without a stick of fuel, though encamped
within a few rods of a pile of lumber. Deerfoot was inexorable, and all
had settled themselves for the night when three Indians came down the
bank for a social call. They had seen the canoe put into shore, but were
timid at first, though they recognized two of the occupants as belonging
to their race. One of the visitors had never seen a white man before.
Their wondering scrutiny of the brothers made the latter laugh. Victor
rolled up his sleeve to show the whiteness of the skin. The three
grunted and seemed filled with amazement. He who met a Caucasian for the
first time kept up a series of grunts, passed his hand gently over the
faces of the lad, looked into his eyes, and then made Deerfoot,
Mul-tal-la and George laugh by his attempts to pluck out the tiny,
feathery hairs that were beginning to show on the boy’s upper lip, and
which, if left to themselves, would in due time grow into an attractive
mustache.

“A-o-uah! what are you trying to do?” called Victor, recoiling, the
involuntary tears coming into his eyes because of the smarts made by the
nails of the Indian’s thumb and forefinger.

“He never saw anything like that before,” said George. “I don’t wonder
he is puzzled.”

“He wishes to shave my brother,” gravely explained Deerfoot. “When the
hairs come on his own face he plucks them out. He would do the same with
my brother.”

“I’ll do my own shaving when the time comes; let him understand _that_,”
said Victor, showing his displeasure so plainly that the visitor gravely
desisted.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXVII

                           DOWN THE COLUMBIA.


THE Blackfoot was gratified to find himself able to understand the
jargon spoken by the visitors, although he did not know to what tribe
they belonged. A marked similarity showed between many words in the two
tongues, and conversation progressed better than would have been
supposed, Deerfoot being able to comprehend almost as much as his
friend.

Night was closing in, and the fact that the explorers did not start a
fire when such an abundance of fuel was at hand clearly surprised the
strangers. They looked at the ground and then pointed to the lumber. He
who was apparently the leader began talking earnestly to Mul-tal-la. His
meaning soon became clear. He was urging him and his friends to make use
of the timber. The Blackfoot shook his head and replied they could not
take it without the consent of the owner. The leader grinned and said it
belonged to him and the two men with him.

That put another face on the matter. Deerfoot told the boys to go to
work and bring all the wood they needed. He sympathized with them, but
he would not yield on a question of principle. It need not be said that
the brothers did not let the grass grow under their feet. It was almost
cold enough for ice, but, more than all, they needed the fire for
cooking the salmon that had been taken from the stream.

The visitors became very friendly. They were armed with bows and arrows,
and showed a willingness to help in gathering fuel, but their offer was
declined, and the steel and tinder—another source of astonishment to
them—soon set a vigorous blaze going, and the broiling fish sent out a
fragrant and appetizing odor. There was an abundance for all, and the
visitors accepted the invitation to join in the meal. They ate
sparingly, as if afraid of depriving their hosts of what they needed,
and when through, each produced a long-stemmed pipe, filled it with
tobacco, and smoked with apparent enjoyment.

The strangers remained for an hour after the meal. Then, having smoked
all that was in the bowls, they gravely shook out the ashes, carefully
stowed the pipes under their blankets, and rose to go. The leader
beckoned to Mul-tal-la to accompany him for a few paces, so as to be
beyond hearing of his friends. The Blackfoot complied, and the
conversation between the two may be thus liberally interpreted:

“A bad Indian lives down the river,” said the visitor.

Mul-tal-la agreed to the statement by a nod of his head.

“He catches a great many salmon.”

“I observe that he isn’t the only Indian who does that.”

“I do not like him.”

“I am sure my friend has good reason not to like him. He must be _very_
bad.”

“I owe him much ill-will. He will be mad when he comes to build him a
home to use while he gathers salmon.”

“Why will he be mad?”

“Because the lumber you have used belonged to him, and he is gone so far
away that you and your friends cannot pay him for the wood; therefore he
will be mad when he comes here again.”

“I should think he would boil over. Who can blame him?”

Having delivered himself of this interesting information, the visitor
signed to his companions, and the three strode off and were seen no
more.

The humor of the thing struck Mul-tal-la, and he grinned while telling
his story to Deerfoot and the boys. The Shawanoe was displeased, but had
sufficient philosophy to see that there was no help for it. The wood had
been burned, the food prepared and eaten, and though they might refrain
from consuming more fuel—as they did—the mischief could not be undone.

“I’m trying my best to feel bad over it,” chuckled Victor to his
brother; “but somehow or other I can’t.”

“That’s because you don’t feel as conscientious as Deerfoot.”

“How is it with _you_?”

“I feel exactly like you; so let’s say no more about it.”

There is no end to the salmon in the Columbia River. At numerous islands
mat houses were seen where the people were as busy as beavers in
splitting and drying the fish. Looking down in the clear water they
could be seen twenty feet below the surface, sometimes moving slowly and
then darting hither and thither so swiftly that they looked like
flitting patches of shadow. They floated down stream at this season in
such enormous quantities that winrows drifted ashore and the Indians had
only to gather, split and dry them on the scaffolds. Some of the people
explained by signs that, owing to the scarcity of wood, they often used
the dried fish for fuel. The material for the scaffolds must have been
brought from a considerable distance, for no suitable wood was seen for
many a mile.

As our friends descended the Columbia they were compelled at times to
make portages around the more difficult passages. The canoe with its
contents was carried on the shoulders of the four, who thus lightened
what otherwise would have been a heavy burden. Landing on a small island
the explorers came upon an interesting vault which was used by the
Pishquitpahs for the burial of their dead.

Large forked sticks had been driven into the ground at about a man’s
height, and a ridge-pole, fifty feet long, rested upon them. Over this
were placed pieces of canoes and boards, which slanted down to the
eaves, and thus formed a shed that was open at both ends. Impressed by
the sight, the visitors peeped into the interior. Bodies wrapped in skin
robes were arranged in rows, over which a mat was spread. Farther on
skeletons were seen, and in the middle of the building was a large pile
of bones thrown together without regard to order. On a mat at one end of
the structure were a score of skulls placed in the form of a circle. The
method of these people was first to wrap a body in robes and, after it
had decayed, to throw the bones in a heap and put the skulls together.

That the friends of the departed kept them in remembrance was shown by
the numerous fishing nets, wooden bowls, blankets, robes, skins and
trinkets suspended from under the roof. The sight of numerous skeletons
of horses near at hand indicated that the Pishquitpahs sacrificed them
to their dead.

The manner in which the Indian tribes of the Columbia formerly dried and
packed their salmon may be thus described:

The fish were first opened and exposed to the sun on the scaffolds.
There they remained until perfectly dry, when they were pulverized by
pounding between stones, and then were placed in a large basket, made of
grass and rushes and lined with the skin of a salmon that had been
stretched and dried for the purpose. The fish were pressed down as hard
as possible and the top covered with fish skins, which were tied by
cords passing over the top. Thus prepared the baskets were placed in a
dry place, wrapped up with mats, secured again by cords, and once more
covered with mats. Salmon thus preserved will keep sweet for several
years. Immense quantities were bartered to the Indians below the falls,
whence they found their way to the mouth of the Columbia, where they
were sold to white visitors.

George and Victor Shelton heard so many reports of the Falls of the
Columbia that their expectations were at a high point, but the reality
was less than they anticipated. Their height is less than fifty feet in
a distance of nearly three-fourths of a mile. The first fall was passed
by means of a portage a quarter of a mile in extent, for this fall has a
perpendicular height of twenty feet. During the floods in early spring
the waters below the falls rise nearly to a level with those above, and
the salmon pass up the river in inconceivable numbers.

Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la watched with some anxiety their approach to the
second fall, of which their Indian friends had warned them. They first
observed a smooth basin, at whose extremity on the right bank rose an
enormous black rock which seemed to extend wholly across the river.
Since, however, the stream must have a channel, this, of course, was
impossible. A loud roaring came from the left, where the current ran
more swiftly. Climbing to the top of the rock it was seen that the river
was compressed into a channel a little more than a hundred feet wide, in
which the water swirled and eddied so furiously that the boys were sure
it was impossible to steer the canoe through the wild battle of
whirlpool and rapids. [Illustration: In the Rapids.]

But the choice lay between that and the labor of carrying the boat over
the towering rock at the expense of great time and labor. Neither
Deerfoot nor Mul-tal-la hesitated, and George and Victor braced
themselves for the struggle. It proved to be hair-raising. Gripping the
sides of the canoe, the boys often held their breath and crouched ready
for a leap and swim for life, but the coolness and skill of the two
Indians never faltered. Without speaking a word, each understood on the
instant the right thing to do, and did it. Repeatedly the craft touched
some of the jagged dripping points of rock, and an inch or two more to
the right or left would have brought quick destruction to the frail
craft, but that slight distance was never passed and they sped onward
like a race horse. A vicious wave would fling the boat almost out of the
water, and then a foaming breaker seemed about to seize it in its
remorseless grasp. A moment later a whirlpool or eddy would have spun
the canoe around like a top but for the powerful sweep of those two
paddles, which worked like the spokes of the same wheel.

When the lads began to breathe more freely they would gasp and make
ready to spring into the water, for disaster seemed rushing upon them,
but the swarthy, muscular forms never wavered nor lost control. George
and Victor had been with Deerfoot in many situations of peril, but they
were sure he never displayed such skill as when guiding the craft
through these rapids. Being at the front, his hand was the master one,
but, as I have said, it was as if the same impulse guided the arms of
Shawanoe and Blackfoot.

This wild charge lasted for half a mile, when the river expanded to a
width of two hundred yards; but before the brothers could find much
comfort in the fact the situation suddenly became more trying than ever.
The channel was divided by two rocky islands, the lower and larger being
in the middle of the river. Few Indians dared risk a passage past these
obstructions, but the Shawanoe and Blackfoot took it without a moment’s
hesitation, and, shipping a little water, sped through without mishap.
Turning into a deep bend of the river on the right the explorers went
into camp for the night.

A short distance below was a village of some twenty houses, in which
lived a tribe of Indians called Echeloots, who belong to the Upper
Chinooks. They were hospitable to the visitors, who noted several
interesting peculiarities in them, of whom only a very few survivors now
exist. For the first time in their travels among the Indians our friends
saw wooden houses. They were rude structures, whose chimneys consisted
of a single hole each, with a small door at the gable end, which was
partly underground.

You have heard of the Flathead Indians, also called Salish or Selish,
who used to live in a part of the present State of Washington. To-day
they number about a thousand. They are short of stature, badly formed,
with large nostrils and thick lips and nose. It was formerly their
practice to flatten the heads of their children during infancy, when the
bones are soft and yielding, and from which fact came their popular
name.

At the time of the visit of our friends the strange practice prevailed
among the Echeloots, as it did with nearly all the tribes of the Chinook
family on the Columbia. The flattening of the skull was not done by
pressure upon the crown, as you might suppose, but by binding a flat
board on the forehead of an infant. A little way above the crown this
board joined the upper end of the plank upon which the child was
stretched on its back, but the two boards diverged as they extended in
the direction of the feet. You will understand the process better if you
will think of the letter V lying on one side, with the head of the
infant thrust as far as possible into the narrow end. This brought the
pressure over the upper part of the forehead, which was gradually forced
down until from the eyebrows to the extreme rear of the crown was a
single slope like that of the roof of a house. The skull rose into a
peak behind and sloped away, as I have said, to the ridge of the
eyebrows.

An Indian who had been subjected to this senseless treatment was
shockingly deformed, and no one could look upon such creatures without a
feeling of repulsion. Nevertheless, the process did not injure the brain
nor diminish its volume. A warrior who had been made a “flat head” knew
just as much as if his brain had been left to grow as nature intended.

For centuries the Chinese have compressed the feet of their females; the
Flatheads have forced the heads of their infants out of shape, and the
Caucasian women have squeezed their waists into the narrowest possible
limits. A careful comparison of the three crimes must lead us to think
that the last-named is the most injurious and, therefore, the most
criminal.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXVIII

                                AT LAST.


INTERESTING and thrilling as was the descent of the Columbia, a detailed
description of the voyage of the little party of explorers would become
monotonous. They were hardly ever out of sight of Indians, all of whom
were friendly, although precautions had to be taken against many of them
that were thieves and eager to steal anything upon which they could lay
hands.

You need not be told that the Columbia is one of the most important
rivers on our continent. The scenery in many places is picturesque,
grand and inspiring. The boys felt that the sight was well worth the
journey across the country. Their enjoyment increased day after day as
they drew near the sea. Game was so abundant that they never lacked for
food, and the Indians were always ready to share with them. At different
times they saw natives who gave evidence of having met white men at the
mouth of the Columbia. There were numbers of guns, civilized coats and
trousers, brass buttons and various ornaments which could have been
obtained from no one else, and, now and then, some intelligent Indian
showed himself able to speak a few words of English.

One of the counties in the present State of Washington is Wahkiacum,
which received its name from a tribe of Indians that have been extinct
for years. Our friends paid a visit to a Wahkiacum village on the right
bank of the river. After procuring some food and a beaver skin, the
explorers climbed to the crest of an adjoining hill and with feelings of
expectant wonder gazed to the westward.

At last! As the vision ranged over plain and wood and elevation they saw
stretching away to the horizon the mightiest expanse of water on the
globe. North, west, south, rolled the Pacific Ocean, extending at its
widest part to more than one-third of the distance around the world.

No one spoke, but, grouped together, the spyglass was silently passed
from one to the other, and each gazed in rapt admiration and awe. George
first offered the instrument to Deerfoot, but he shook his head. He then
handed it to Mul-tal-la, but he also declined, as did Victor, and then
George leveled the instrument and held it for several minutes, while the
others made the best use they could of their eyes. Finally George sighed
and passed the glass to his brother. When he had finished he proffered
it to the Shawanoe, but he indicated by a gesture that Mul-tal-la’s was
the next turn.

At last Deerfoot, standing erect, with his gun leaning against a near
boulder, where his companions had placed-their weapons, slowly directed
the instrument westward, while all looked at him instead of at the
ocean.

The Shawanoe’s eye roved over the immense expanse, as he gradually
shifted his gaze from point to point. Over hundreds of square miles
nothing was to be seen but the limitless waste of waters. Ridges of foam
and a faint roar showed where the long swells broke upon the beach. From
the tops of cone-like lodges climbed little twisting wreaths of smoke,
indicating the villages of the dusky inhabitants of the region between
the ocean and the spectators.

Deerfoot now descried something which the others had not seen. In a
direct line to the westward and almost on the rim of the horizon was a
tiny white object, like a peculiarly shaped cloud that would soon
dissolve into thin air. It was a ship, and the snowy spread was its
sails that caught the favoring breeze.

The vessel was many miles distant and heading for the mouth of the
Columbia. It was the only vessel visible in that vast sweep of ocean.
The Indian watched it as it gradually grew more distinct. He wondered as
to the people on board, and speculated as to what part of the world they
had come from. He finally lowered the instrument and peered in the
direction without the artificial help. Yes; he could now see the vessel
with the eye alone.

Pointing toward the right point he handed the glass to George Shelton
and said:

“Let my brother look.”

The lad did so and the next moment exclaimed:

“It is a ship! Victor, you must see it!”

“I do,” replied the other, who nevertheless took the spyglass, which was
next passed to Mul-tal-la. Then it went around in turn again, and the
feast of vision was enjoyed to the full.

For an hour the party held their place on the elevation, studying the
sea and the grand and varied panorama spread before them. They could
have stayed all day and been content, for there was much that was
impressive in the thought that they had reached the end of their long
journey over mountain, through tangled wilderness and across prairie and
river. Victor Shelton suggested that they should keep on down the
Columbia to the mouth and take a bath in the chilling waters of the
Pacific, but Deerfoot shook his head. It had been the understanding from
the first that they were to press westward until they saw the ocean, but
to go no farther. They had touched tidewater some time before, and could
feel that at times they were really paddling through the waters of the
Pacific. It would take several days to reach the mouth of the river and
time had become valuable. The season was so far advanced that winter
would be upon them by the time or before they arrived in the Blackfoot
country, for a good deal of the return journey must, from its nature,
prove much more laborious than the one just completed had been.

Deerfoot unexpectedly revealed one cause of anxiety. He was disquieted
over Whirlwind, whom he had left with Amokeat, the Nez Perce chieftain.
He could not free himself of the belief that trouble was to come from
what he declared was a wrong act on his part. Had the stallion been only
an ordinary “every day” animal, the owner would have felt no concern,
but the steed was sure to be coveted by more than one warrior, and
Amokeat could not have understood the worth of the treasure he had
undertaken to guard and keep for the return of the owner.

“Deerfoot did not use Whirlwind right,” said the Shawanoe, shaking his
head. “The heart of Whirlwind was grieved when he saw Deerfoot leave
him.”

“But,” said Victor, sympathizing with the depression of his friend, “he
is so wise a creature he surely understood why you left him.”

“Yes; he understood, and that is why his heart was sad, for he knew that
Deerfoot had no right to treat him so.”

The Blackfoot now summed up the question by a remark with which the
brothers ardently agreed.

“They will not kill Whirlwind, for they have no reason to do so. He will
be alive _somewhere_; he will seek Deerfoot and Deerfoot will hunt for
Whirlwind, and _he will find him_!”

The boys noted the flash in the eyes of the Shawanoe as he said:

“Yes; Deerfoot will find him if he has to hunt many moons and follow
Whirlwind among tribes that are hundreds of miles away and who seek the
life of Deerfoot.”

All understood the feelings of the youth who thus condemned himself for
an act whose wisdom at the most was an open question.

Having uttered the words, the Shawanoe showed an indisposition to say
anything further about the matter. He took the spyglass from the hands
of George and once more pointed it at the incoming ship. He could make
out the sails more plainly, and even caught the white rim of foam
curling from the bow. He noted too that the wind was blowing briskly
enough to make the vessel careen considerably under the impulse of the
bellying canvas.

As it was still early in the day, it was evident the ship would be at
the mouth of the river by nightfall. It would have been an interesting
visit if the little party had pressed on and met the captain and his
crew. It is not impossible, too, that had it not been for Deerfoot’s
anxiety over his horse he would have modified the original plan to the
extent of rounding out the journey across the continent by touching the
Pacific itself.

But after all, what did it matter? The continent had already been
crossed and, as the leader had said, the days and nights had become of
the utmost value. Mul-tal-la believed it was safe to return to his
people, and in point of fact he had grown homesick. Moreover, there was
something in the fact that they were so many hundred miles from home
that made George and Victor Shelton quite ready to give up the plan of
going any farther.

And so our friends now turned their backs upon the Pacific and once more
faced eastward. “Now for home!” was the thought in the minds of all
four.

And here we must pause for the time. The incidents through which our
friends passed and their adventures will be told in the final volume of
the NEW DEERFOOT SERIES, under the title of

                      “DEERFOOT IN THE MOUNTAINS.”

                               [THE END.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.
    ○ Unbalanced quotation marks were left as the author intended.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent when a
      predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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