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Title: With Carson and Frémont - Being the Adventures, in the Years 1842-'43-'44, on Trail - Over Mountains and Through Deserts From the East of the - Rockies to the West of the Sierras, of Scout Christopher - Carson and Lieutenant John Charles Frémont, Leading Their - Brave Company Including the Boy Oliver
Author: Sabin, Edwin L. (Edwin Legrand)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "With Carson and Frémont - Being the Adventures, in the Years 1842-'43-'44, on Trail - Over Mountains and Through Deserts From the East of the - Rockies to the West of the Sierras, of Scout Christopher - Carson and Lieutenant John Charles Frémont, Leading Their - Brave Company Including the Boy Oliver" ***

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Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



                            WITH CARSON AND
                                FRÉMONT


                            SECOND EDITION



THE “TRAIL BLAZERS” SERIES


CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH

By C. H. FORBES-LINDSAY

An interesting work on the life and times of this famous soldier of
fortune and American colonist, intended primarily for the young, but of
such a character as to appeal to all.

  _With Four full-page Illustrations in Color by_
  HARRY B. LACHMAN

  12mo.    Cloth, $1.50


DANIEL BOONE, BACKWOODSMAN

By C. H. FORBES-LINDSAY

It is such a story of stirring adventure in the wilderness, based as it
is on solid fact, that makes one thrill with pride in the bravery and
manhood of the pioneers.

  _With Four full-page Illustrations by_
  FRANK McKERNAN

  12mo.    Cloth, $1.50


DAVID CROCKETT, SCOUT

By CHARLES FLETCHER ALLEN

A story setting forth all Davy’s versatility and recounting his many
exploits in the East and in the new South-West. It tells of him as
Indian Fighter, Bear Hunter, Statesman, and Defender of the Alamo.

  _With Four full-page Illustrations by_
  FRANK McKERNAN

  12mo.    Cloth, $1.50



[Illustration: “WE TAUGHT THOSE THAR RED DEMONS A LESSON THEY’LL NOT
FORGET.”]



                              WITH CARSON
                              AND FRÉMONT

            BEING THE ADVENTURES, IN THE YEARS 1842–’43–’44,
              ON TRAIL OVER MOUNTAINS AND THROUGH DESERTS
              FROM THE EAST OF THE ROCKIES TO THE WEST OF
             THE SIERRAS, OF SCOUT CHRISTOPHER CARSON AND
               LIEUTENANT JOHN CHARLES FRÉMONT, LEADING
             THEIR BRAVE COMPANY INCLUDING THE BOY OLIVER


                                  BY
                            EDWIN L. SABIN

             AUTHOR OF “BAR B. BOYS,” “THE MAGIC MASHIE,”
                        “BEAUFORT CHUMS,” ETC.


                        _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY_
                          CHARLES H. STEPHENS
                            _AND PORTRAITS_


             “We live in deeds, not years.”
                                 ――PHILIP JAMES BAILEY


                            [Illustration]


                         PHILADELPHIA & LONDON
                       J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                                 1913



             COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY


                       PUBLISHED, OCTOBER, 1912


                  PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                    AT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS
                        PHILADELPHIA, U. S. A.



                       TO THAT BOYS’ BEST FRIEND

                              THE MOTHER

                  AND IN PARTICULAR TO MY OWN MOTHER

                         ESTHER FRANCES SABIN

                       ABOUT WHOSE GRACIOUS NAME
                        CLINGS THE EVERLASTING
                        SWEETNESS OF HER MEMORY



PREFACE


The trail journals of the first two government exploring expeditions
commanded by Lieutenant John Charles Frémont, of the United States
Engineers, and advised by Kit Carson, mountain-man, are to be found
together published, spring of 1845, as reports transmitted by the
Secretary of War to the National Senate and House.

These journals, recording peril and privation faced for the wide public
good and not for narrow private gain, occupy their honored niche among
the golden archives of the Republic, and should be better known in
American school and home. The trails themselves are eternal, denoted by
names which have endured, many of them, unto this day. Of the men who
may proudly and truthfully say, “I was with Frémont,” or “I was with
Carson,” few indeed remain; and they will soon be gone, for man passes
on, while that which he has wrought survives.

The Oliver Wiggins in this narrative is real. I have talked with him.
He was the little boy under the wagon, and he was the Taos lad who
won the Kit Carson rifle; he was upon the Frémont and Carson First
Expedition, and he was upon the Second Expedition, by way of the Salt
Lake to Fort Hall. However, there he turned back, with the other Carson
men. In taking him through, as in having him ascend the highest peak,
voyage the Salt Lake in the rubber boat, and be prominent in various
such adventures, I have added to his biography as told to me. Yet in
these credits I have not exalted him more than is his due, for brave
men rarely tell of all that they have done well.

The other personages also are real, as members of the Frémont or of
the Carson party. Some of the conversation is quoted from the Frémont
reports; the remainder is applied according to the characteristics
of the speakers, or is adapted from sentiments expressed at divers
times and places. The incidents of course are based upon the Frémont
journals, with sidelights from the recollections of Major Wiggins, and
from the Frémont “Memoirs of My Life,” and like chronicles bearing upon
the day.

The two principals, Lieutenant (later Captain, Colonel and General)
Frémont, and Scout (later Colonel and General) Christopher Carson,
thought highly each of the other; and this is warrant that they were
manly men. Manly men respect manly men. Lieutenant Frémont said: “With
me, Carson and truth are the same thing;” and he refers to their
“enduring friendship.” Kit Carson left all――new ranch, home, wife,
dear associates――which, save honor, he valued most, to accompany the
lieutenant upon a Third Expedition, and in every crisis of march,
camp, battle and politics he stuck stanchly to him. “I owe more to
Colonel Frémont than to any other man alive,” he declared. Thus friend
should stand by friend.

This Third Expedition, of 1845–1846, again into the Great Basin and
across the Sierra Nevada Range to the Valley of the Sacramento, was
timed to the conquest of California by American arms; but it is another
long story. Following the Third Expedition, having resigned from the
Army Colonel Frémont, in 1848–1849, voluntarily conducted a Fourth
Expedition, upon which many lives were lost to cold and hunger amidst
the winter mountains of south central Colorado; and in 1853–1854, a
Fifth Expedition, once more across the Great Basin to California. In
these two expeditions Kit Carson did not take part. He had the duties
of home, and family, which also are man’s duties; and the duties of
agent over the Ute and Apache Indians.

After that, came Civil War service for both friends, in fields separate.

  EDWIN L. SABIN.

  SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.
      May 15, 1912.



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                 PAGE
      I. KIT CARSON TO THE RESCUE          17
     II. UNDER THE WAGON                   30
    III. OLIVER WINS HIS SPURS             43
     IV. WORD FROM OLD FORT LARAMIE        56
      V. FRÉMONT SAYS “ONWARD!”            68
     VI. INTO THE WILDER WEST              87
    VII. OVER THE FAMED SOUTH PASS         96
   VIII. PLANTING THE HIGHEST FLAG        111
     IX. THE VOYAGING OF THE PLATTE       124
      X. FRÉMONT CALLS AGAIN              135
     XI. IN HOSTILE TERRITORY             147
    XII. THE EMIGRANT TRAIL               155
   XIII. TO THE GREAT SALTY LAKE          167
    XIV. SAILING THE INLAND SEA           178
     XV. ON TO THE COLUMBIA               192
    XVI. SOUTHWARD FOR THE UNKNOWN        203
   XVII. SCANT CHRISTMAS COMFORT          216
  XVIII. FORCING THE SNOWY SIERRAS        225
    XIX. AT THE LAST GASP                 235
     XX. DOWN THROUGH CALIFORNIA          248
    XXI. THE VENGEANCE OF KIT CARSON      259
   XXII. POOR TABEAU PAYS THE PRICE       276
  XXIII. THE HOME STRETCH                 288



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                PAGE

 “WE TAUGHT THOSE THAR RED DEMONS A LESSON THEY’LL NOT
    FORGET.”                                _Frontispiece_

 CHRISTOPHER CARSON                                               22

 JOHN CHARLES FRÉMONT                                             71

 THE FIRST BUFFALO HAD FALLEN TO THE CRACK OF KIT CARSON’S
    RIFLE                                                        104

 AS THE BOAT CAME WHIRLING DOWN, HELPLESS AND INERT, HEADS
    BROKE UP AROUND IT                                           130

 KIT AND THE LIEUTENANT SHOWED THE THREE, BY SIGNS, HOW
    FROM THE RIFLES AND CARBINES COULD SPEED A BULLET AND
    BORE THEM THROUGH AND THROUGH                                232



CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE


       CHRISTOPHER CARSON                 JOHN CHARLES FRÉMONT

 Born Madison County, Ky.,           January 21, 1813, born at
   December 25, 1809.                  Savannah, Ga.

 Father: Lindsay (Linsey) Carson,    Father: John Charles Frémont, of
   of North Carolina and               France and of Virginia.
   Kentucky.

 Mother: Rebecca Robinson, of        Mother: Anne Beverley Pryor, of
   Virginia.                           Virginia.

 Reared without education, on the    Educated by tutor and college at
   Missouri frontier.                  Charleston, S. Carolina.

 Apprenticed to a harness-maker      1833–1836――Teacher of Mathematics
   at Franklin, Mo.――1825.             to Midshipmen on Sloop-of-War
                                       Natchez.

 On the Santa Fé Trail at            1836――Commissioned Professor of
   Fifteen――1826.                      Mathematics in the Navy,
                                       Assigned to the Frigate
                                       Independence.

 Interpreter and Teamster, in        1837–1838――Railroad and Army
   New Mexico and Old                  Surveyor.
   Mexico――1827–1829.

 Trapper to                          1838――Commissioned Second
   California――1829–1830.              Lieutenant, Topographical
                                       Engineers, U. S. A.

 Rocky Mountain                      1838–1839――Government Survey of
   Trapper――1830–1838.                 Upper Mississippi River, under
                                       J. N. Nicollet.

 Married an Arapahoe Indian          1841――Married Jessie Benton of
   girl――1835.                         Washington.

 Hunter and Captain of Trappers,     1841――Survey of Lower Des Moines
   at Bent’s Fort and                  River.
   Taos――1838–1842.

 Hunter with the Frémont First       1842――First Government Exploring
   Expedition――1842.                   Expedition, to the South Pass
                                       and Frémont’s Peak.

 Married Josefa Jaramillo of         1843–1844――Second Government
   Taos――1843.                         Exploring Expedition, to the
                                       Salt Lake, to the Columbia,
                                       south through California, back
                                       by the Spanish Trail and the
                                       Rocky Mountains.

 Hunter and General Assistant        1845――Promoted by brevet to
   with Frémont Second                 First Lieutenant and Captain.
   Expedition――1843–1844.

 Goes to Ranching in New             1845–1846――Third Government
   Mexico――1845.                       Exploring Expedition, across
                                       the Great Basin into Northern
                                       California.

 Guide and General Assistant         1846――As Major Commands a
   with the Frémont Third              Battalion for the Conquest
   Expedition――1845–1846.              of California.

 Scout and Express Bearer under      1846–1847――Military Commander
   Colonel Frémont, Commodore          and Governor of California.
   Stockton and General Kearny,
   in the Conquest of
   California――1846.

 Express Service with Despatches     1846――Promoted to
   Across the Continent to             Lieutenant-Colonel of Mounted
   Washington――1847–1848.              Rifles, U. S. A.

 Commissioned Second Lieutenant      1847–1848――Court-martialed at
   of Mounted Rifles, U. S. A.,        Washington for Insubordination,
   but the Commission not              Found Guilty, but Recommended
   confirmed――1847.                    for Leniency.

 Serves on Outpost Duty in           1848――Resigns from Army.
   California――1847.

 His Express Duty of 1848            1848–1849――Fourth Exploring
   Completed, Becomes Private          Expedition, into the Southern
   Citizen at Taos――1848.              Colorado Mountains; thence
                                       Forced Back, and to California
                                       by a Southern Route.

 Seeks ranch life in New Mexico      1849–1850――Seeks ranch life in
   ――1849–1850.                        California.

 Scout Duty against the Indians,     1850–1851――Senator from California.
   with Army Detachments――1850.

 Overland to California with a       1851–1853――California and
   Drove of 30,000 sheep――1853.        Europe.

 Government Indian Agent over        1853–1854――Fifth Exploring
   Utes and Apaches, Quarters at       Expedition, across the Great
   Taos――1854–1860.                    Basin of Utah and Nevada to
                                       California.

 Scout Duty against the Indians,     1856――Nominated by the Republican
   with Army                           Party for the Presidency.
   Detachments――1854–1855.             Defeated by Buchanan.

 Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel,     1861――Major-General, Department
   First New Mexican Infantry,         of the West, U. S. A.,
   U. S. Vols.――1861–1862.             headquarters at St. Louis.

 Colonel of First New Mexican        1862――Resigns from Army, after
   Cavalry, U. S. Vols.,               service in Command of the
   conducting campaigns against        Mountain Department of Virginia,
   the Apaches, Navajos and            Tennessee and Kentucky.
   Kiowas, New Mexico and
   Arizona――1862–1864.

 Military Service on the Santa Fé    1864――Nominated for Presidency.
   Trail and Special Commissioner      Withdraws.
   to treat with Cheyennes and
   Arapahoes――1865.

 Lieutenant-Colonel (Brigadier       1866–1878――Railroad Construction,
   General by Brevet, for              etc.
   Distinguished Service) in
   command at Fort Garland,
   Colorado――1866–1867.

 Resigned from the Army, on          1878–1882――Governor of Arizona.
   Account of Ill Health――1867.

 Special Commissioner to Treat       1890――Appointed Major-General,
   with the Utes, at                   on the Retired List.
   Washington――1868.

 Died at New Fort Lyon, Colorado,    July 13, 1890, died in New York
   May 23, 1868.                       City.



WITH CARSON AND FRÉMONT



I

KIT CARSON TO THE RESCUE


It was the middle of November, 1840; and across the sandy face of
southwestern Kansas was toiling, outward bound from Missouri, a Santa
Fé caravan: fifty-two huge, creaking canvas-topped wagons, drawn each
by six or eight span of mules or yoke of oxen.

In this day the so-called foreign government of Mexico extended north
through New Mexico to the Arkansas River in Colorado and southwestern
Kansas. The United States stopped at the Rocky Mountains; and,
moreover, from Missouri to the Rockies all was “Indian Country” and
the “Great American Desert.” From Missouri extended two long roads
or trails, separating like a “V” with its point near present Kansas
City. Up the Platte River, for the Northwest, ran the old trappers’
and fur-traders’ trail, now being made the Oregon Trail of emigrants.
Up the Arkansas River, for the Southwest, ran the trail of the Santa
Fé caravans. The desolate, unimproved Great American Desert was
like a sea; and across this sea sailed, spring and fall, upon an 800
mile voyage, fleets of American wagons, to trade with the capital of
northern Mexico.

They took out cargoes of calico, powder, lead, flour, shoes, and such
American products; they brought back, at profit in money and at loss
in life, cargoes of furs, hides, gold, gay blankets and such Mexican
products.

This caravan of November, 1840, with its fifty-two wagons and harnessed
teams, had at the beginning of the journey stretched out in a line
almost a mile of length. Each wagon had a teamster. Some of the
teamsters straddled the near animal of the wheel span (the span next to
the wagon); others, in their boots and flannel shirts and broad hats,
walked beside the wagon; horsemen, escort to the wagon-captain, who
was the boss of the train, led the march, reconnoitering ahead; other
horsemen paced at right and left; and at the rear of all, upon an old
mule, driving a collection of loose horses and mules, rode a ragged
little boy――Oliver Wiggins.

This was Oliver’s place――in the dust, at the tail of the long caravan.
His duty was to herd the “cavvy,” as was styled for short the
_caballada_ (Spanish for horse-herd). His pay was five dollars a month,
and the fun and the glory, and the work, of fifty days’ travel, at
the rate of fifteen miles a day, across the plains of sand and sage,
buffalo and antelope, hunger and thirst, storm and Indians, to strange
far-off Santa Fé.

At first the march had been very pleasant. The caravan sometimes had
spread out over the prairie in formation of four abreast. By day the
teamsters had sung and cracked their long whips, beside the wagons;
by night they had sung and told stories, beside the camp-fires.
Everybody had been happy. But within the last two days the atmosphere
had changed; for there had come riding fast, on the homeward way from
Mexico, two traders, and had left the word, with the captain:

“Watch sharp! The Kiowas are out!”

That was enough. Quickly through the caravan spread the news――“THE
KIOWAS ARE OUT!” All carelessness, all singing, ceased; and the order
of march was made double file or two abreast, so that in case of attack
the wagons could swing to right and left and quickly join in a great
circle.

The Kiowas! The fiercest fighting Indians of the Southwest plains
were they, outrivalled by neither Pawnee nor Comanche. Their name was
terrible to the Santa Fé traders. Their range was southwestern Kansas
and southeastern Colorado, thence south into the dread Comanche country
below the Arkansas. When the caravan had left Missouri, the Kiowas were
said to be at peace; but now they were said, on good authority, to be
_not_ at peace, and well might Wagon-Captain Blunt worry. He had a lot
of green teamsters, poorly armed with old smooth-bore yagers; and
whether, if given time to form a circle of wagons, they could beat off
the painted warriors, he did not know.

Holding the rear of all, boy Oliver Wiggins, aged thirteen, left to the
dust and the shuffling loose stock (defenseless beasts, a prize for the
Indians), also well might worry. He wished now that he had not run away
from home; and he began to wonder whether, after all, his pistol, about
the size of the palm of his hand, was large enough. This pistol had
seemed to him weapon in plenty for fighting Indians, in Missouri; but
the farther from Missouri he journeyed, and the more stories he heard,
the smaller the pistol grew.

Here in southwestern Kansas of to-day the Santa Fé Trail veered south,
beyond the Great Bend of the river, to cross and to head for the
Cimarron Desert and for New Mexico. This, the Crossing of the Arkansas,
was half way to Santa Fé; but the half already covered was the easy
half, the half to come was the dry, thirsty half, and the Kiowa and
Comanche half.

Through the shallow water and the quick-sands forged the wagons of the
Blunt caravan, upon the farther bank to halt, for camp and to fill
the water-casks. The sun was low and red in the west, the long, high
white-hooded wagons had been parked in the customary circle, outside
the circle camp-fires were curling, pots were bubbling, meat was
hissing, and before each camp tethered animals were grazing; sentries
had been posted, and boy Oliver, hungry and grimy, was guarding his
browsing cavvy, when a sudden commotion struck the peaceful scene. A
sentinel upon a sand-hill fired his gun to signal “Injuns! Injuns!” and
rushed like wild-fire the word. Every teamster sprang to round up his
picketed team, or to help collect the oxen; the sentries came in at a
gallop; and men sped to help Oliver with the cavvy. Through the opening
left in the circle of wagons poured men and animals, from outside to
inside. And against the sunset glow could be descried a long file of
black mounted figures, approaching at rapid trot.

However, Captain Blunt, viewing them by spyglass, shouted thankfully:

“Not Injuns, men! Whites! Look like traders.”

Whereupon a sigh of relief swept the tense cordon.

The cordon did not dare yet to open out again; nevertheless, as the
riders across the rolling sand-hills neared, they were seen by the
naked eye to be whites indeed. They resolved into a double file of
horsemen: trapper-clad in fringed buckskin shirts and leggins, in
broad-brimmed hats, in moccasins, and every man carried across his
saddle-horn a tremendously long rifle.

“Mountain-men! Trappers!” announced Teamster “Dutch” Jake, in Oliver’s
hearing. “Now if we only had _them_ with us――――!”

“They’re the chaps to make the Injuns stand ’round,” agreed another.
And many a head nodded.

The cavalcade was within gun-shot. A man riding alone was leader; and
as on they came, at the steady, fast “rack” or single-foot, straight
for the camp, he held up his hand, palm outward, in a peace sign.

“High jinks! I know that man!” exclaimed “Dutch” Jake. And he added:
“If it only be, now.”

Captain Blunt and two or three of his lieutenants, carrying their guns,
walked outside a few steps to meet this leader. The conversation was
wafted clearly through the still, dry air, while all the camp listened.

“Howdy?”

“Howdy?”

“Who’s yore captain?” This from the horseman.

“I’m the captain.” This from Blunt.

“Wall, my name’s Kit Carson. We’ve come over from Touse to ride the
trail through Kiowa country, with anybody that needs us. S’pose you
know the Kiowas air bad?”

[Illustration: CHRISTOPHER CARSON]

“So we’ve heard. And we’re mighty glad to see you, Mr. Carson,”
declared Captain Blunt, reaching up and shaking hands heartily.

Kit Carson! Kit Carson! The name passed from lip to lip around the
wagon cordon; and a hundred eyes were fastened eagerly upon the spot
where now this leader squatted beside a fire, as guest and counsellor
of Captain Blunt.

The others in the party (which numbered about forty) had unsaddled like
lightning, had turned their horses out, under a guard, and starting
fires or gnawing strips of jerked meat were making their own camp
near at hand. Darkly tanned, long-haired, broad-shouldered men were
they, the majority heavily bearded. They moved lithely in moccasins,
their buckskin suits were patched and stained, they scarcely stirred
without rifle in hollow of arm, their belts bore pistol or pair
of pistols, and knife; their talk was a curious jargon, but very
expressive, and they themselves were exceedingly business-like.

But the wonderful Kit Carson, famous hunter and Indian fighter――was
that really he? Of course, everybody on the Santa Fé Trail knew about
Kit Carson, the free-trapper and captain of trappers, who as merely a
boy had made such a name for himself in the mountains and who recently
had come out of them, to live at Fernandez de Taos and to supply meat
for Bent’s Fort, north. Ere leaving the Missouri frontier little Oliver
had heard of Kit Carson as though he were ten feet tall and four feet
wide, and bore a pine-tree for a club; but now little Oliver beheld an
ordinary-looking person, not much taller than himself and not nearly so
tall as many of the other trappers; with wiry body, bandy legs, flat
features, and a voice so ridiculously low that his present conversation
with Captain Blunt did not carry beyond the camp-fire light.

Murmured comment by teamsters, here and there among the wagons, showed
to Oliver that he was not alone in his disappointment.

“That’s Kit Carson, is it?”

“That leetle feller, with the captain yon?”

“Wall, naow, I thought Kit Carson war some punkins!”

“A big Injun’s liable to pick him right up!”

“Whar’s his whiskers?”

But Dan Matthews, Captain Blunt’s first lieutenant, came hurrying, from
point to point in the circle.

“Turn out your critters, men; and you guards post yourselves as before.
Lively. There’s likely no danger to-night, Carson says; but keep your
eyes and ears open, jest the same.”

“Is that thar reely Kit Carson――that leetle chap?” queried Teamster
Henry, as the camp bustled to resume its routine.

“Yes.”

Henry grunted.

“Wall, he’s the smallest pea for the amount of pod ever _I_ see!”

“Don’t you be fooled, Henry,” retorted Lieutenant Matthews. “You wait a
bit, and if you don’t find that he’s got the biggest _do_ for the size
of his _tell_ that ever you ran across, I’ll eat my hat.”

“That’s right,” affirmed “Dutch” Jake, overhearing. “Brag’s a good
dog but he won’t fight; an’ you mustn’t jedge a race-hoss by the
color of his hide. You’re seeing one Kit Carson, a gentle-speaking,
mild-appearing, sort o’ nincompoop who you might think didn’t know
beans. But there’s another Kit Carson, half hoss an’ half alligator,
as they say on the Mississippi, or half grizzly b’ar an’ half charging
elk, as _I_ say; an’ I reckon you’ll see him, too, ’fore we’re through
Injun country.”

These words of “Dutch” Jake impressed Oliver deeply, for Jake spoke as
if he knew. At any rate, ’twas pleasant to have the reinforcements:
to watch their easy figures, to hear their voices, to stroll through
their camp and catch their conversation, to note their fringed, beaded
clothing, their worn weapons, and their wildly shaggy faces; and to
feel their presence, so handy, when in the darkness the fires died and
both camps went to sleep.

All the next day the march proceeded, southward from the Arkansas,
amidst sand hills and sparse vegetation. The trappers from Taos rode
in a line along either side of the train, with scouts ahead and out
upon the flanks. The men of the train laughed and talked, bantering
back and forth. And behind, in the reek of the procession, boy Oliver,
ragged and upon his old mule, driving the cavvy, strained eye and ear
to keep tab upon what was being done and said. At the noon camp he had
opportunity to scan, close by daylight, Kit Carson again.

Kit Carson proved to have a square face, rugged and weather-beaten,
with sandy moustache, and framed in long brown hair combed smoothly
down behind the ears. His cheek-bones were high, somewhat Indian-like,
his forehead was high and full, his mouth straight and his chin firm.
His most remarkable feature was his eyes――wide apart, level-set, and of
an intense steely gray that fairly bored a hole where they looked. His
movements were quick and sure; and how he stuck to a horse!

Oliver the more believed that “Dutch” Jake and Lieutenant Matthews both
knew better than Henry and the other grumblers. Something about Kit
Carson said so.

Despite the rough joking, the march was an earnest one. No straggling
was permitted, to shoot antelope or elk. Yet the day was not
uneventful, for once a great brown-bearded man――his beard reaching
almost to his belt――who was Solomon Silver, a Carson man, dropping
back, rode beside the cavvy until, having good-naturedly eyed Oliver,
he joined him, to query, perhaps as a joke:

“Wall, boy; what’d ye reckon to do if the Injuns come down sudden?”

“I’d fight ’em,” said Oliver, bravely. “Here’s my pistol. See?”

“Haw! Haw!” boomed Sol Silver the trapper, in a rousing laugh; and
behind his beard he chuckled. “That’s right, boy. Let’s see that
shooting-iron o’ yorn,” and he laid it in the palm of his scarred hand.
“No use o’ Kit an’ us a-riding the trail, when this air riding it too.
I’ll tell him. ’Spec’ if you shoot an Injun with this, son, an’ he gets
to find out, he’d be powerful mad at ye! But thar, boy; do yore best.
Hyar’s ’nother kind o’ pistol. Ever see one?” And he pulled it from his
buffalo-hide belt.

“No,” confessed Oliver.

It was an odd-looking pistol, with long barrel and a round bulge
between barrel and stock.

“That air a pistol to shoot six times without reloading,” declared Sol.
“It has one barrel an’ six chambers, in this cylinder; the barrel stays
put, but the cylinder turns ’round, with a fresh load ready, whenever
trigger air pulled. Wagh! It air made by a man named Colt, in the
States; it air called Colt, but it air a full-size hoss.”

“Have you all got them?” asked Oliver.

“All we Carson men have ’em, an’ percussion-cap rifles, to boot. When
Kit Carson goes into a fight, he goes in to win, an’ the best weapons
air none too good for his men. We air Carson men.” Sol proclaimed this
with a certain degree of pride.

“Will the Kiowas attack us, sure?” invited Oliver.

“’Bout to-morrow, Kit thinks. When they do, you give us fellows a
chance ’fore you open up with yore battery an’ take all the scalps.”

But Oliver suspected that Sol was joking again. Still, he liked this
jovial, burly Sol Silver, and hoped that he _would_ tell Kit Carson.

Nothing especial happened this night in camp, save that Captain Blunt
and lieutenants passed about, examining all the guns and asking if
powder-horns were full. But at the breaking of camp, in the dawn, when
the wagons were forming to pull out in the double-column, something
very especial happened. Behold, into every wagon climbed a trapper
or two, and stowed themselves safely away amidst the goods under the
protective canvas hoods! Just a corner of the canvas was left looped
up a few inches, as if for air.

Now throughout the caravan eddied a gale of jeer and derision and
protest.

“This is the way they ride the trail with us, is it!”

“These ain’t mountain-men; they’re gophers!”

“Have we got to haul ’em an’ fight for ’em, both?”

Even Kit Carson had disappeared, for cover. But no response was made
by the trappers; Captain Blunt and his assistants bade the teamsters
“Ketch up!” and straighten out, for the march; and two by two on rolled
the wagons, the teamsters angry, the trappers comfortably inside, and
the trappers’ horses tethered to the end-gates.

The action on the part of the trappers seemed as strange to boy Oliver
as it did to the teamsters. Was that how Kit Carson men battled――by
hiding behind other men, and by crawling under cover and making the
people they were pretending to defend fight outside? Humph! Maybe this
wasn’t Kit Carson, after all.

The sand-hills were increasing in number and extent; dusty and dry was
the way but nobody could drink, for it was against orders to drink out
of the casks, or to fill canteens except once a day. The “dry march”
of over fifty miles was beginning, and sometimes water gave out before
it was traversed. So every drop must be cherished.

With the hot sun about two hours high the caravan was entering upon a
long, rather narrow swale leading between rounded sand-ridges whereon
only cactus and a few sprawly weeds grew. Captain Blunt and several
other riders were in advance; out upon the right flank, and somewhat in
advance rode Lieutenant Dan Matthews and two men, and similarly upon
the left flank rode another wagon-train lieutenant. They climbed hill
after hill, and ridge after ridge, and surveyed closely the country. As
a rear-guard, behind even Oliver, rode a squad of half-a-dozen traders
and free-lances. Thus the caravan was apparently well provided against
surprise; and as evidently the Kiowas were thought to be near at hand,
the rear-guard gave Oliver a more comfortable feeling.

If the train must take care of itself, with those trappers cravenly
putting greater store on their own hides than on the purpose for which
they had pretended to join, then the more precautions the better.



II

UNDER THE WAGON


How quietly wound the train, between the low dun hills! No lashes
cracked, no voices shouted, mule, ox and horse steadily plodded, and
the only sounds were the subdued words of the teamsters encouraging
their animals, and the creaking of the dry wagon-frames. But hark!
Right in the midst of this brooding atmosphere drifted down from the
hills upon the right a rifle-report; and when Oliver caught sight of
the place, here came, full tilt, from flankers’ duty, Dan and his
comrades; behind them the smoke of the report was still wafting.

“Injuns!” This was the alarm. Instantly the caravan was again in a
frenzy of commotion. Teamsters curled their lashes and sent their mules
into a lope, their oxen into a lumbering trot; loud rose a medley of
exclamations, orders, rumbling of wheels. From behind little Oliver,
who, his heart in his mouth, was shouting at his lazy cavvy, urging
them forward (Oh, such a long way must he go!), rode for him the
rear-guard.

“Quick! Roust these critters!” they bade, one to another, and helped
him. The cavvy was forced into a trot.

From right and left and before, the flankers and van-guard were
hustling in, bending low and lashing their horses. Now another report
of rifle drifted in; another, and another! Barely pausing in their mad
flight, Dan and his two comrades were turning in saddle and aiming to
their rear; jets of white smoke sped from the muzzles of their guns, as
one after another they fired. For there were the Indians――issuing from
the crest of the sand-ridge, as if springing out of holes, and pouring
over, down the slope, trying to catch Dan and the other men. They must
be Indians, because they flourished lances, and because they were
naked, with feathers streaming in the breeze.

But they couldn’t overtake Dan and his men.

Now from the opposite slope echoed more shots. Indians here also! See
them come, after that squad of scouts! Why didn’t the trappers get out
from the wagons, and help? Why didn’t the cavvy travel faster? What
a lot of Indians! And would the wagons be parked, in time, and would
there be a hole left for the cavvy? Supposing there wasn’t, and he,
Oliver, must stay outside!

“Roust those critters! Roust those critters!” urged the men with
Oliver, as in the dust and the hubbub and the excitement they all
shrieked together.

Almost crying, in his earnestness, little Oliver did his best.

As fast as they arrived at trot and gallop the wagons swung to right
and to left, tongues inside, front wheels locked with hind wheels
of the previously arrived, the teams were unhitched, the teamsters
knelt to thrust their yagers between the spokes and aim. Smaller and
smaller grew the opening, as the oval closed――but amidst yell and murk,
in through the opening galloped at last the cavvy, and like the rest
little Oliver, breathless, gasping, found himself “forted.”

None too soon was it! Down streamed, on either flank, the foe――a
hideously screaming, whooping, feathered, painted foe: riding, many of
them bridleless, most of them garmentless, brandishing tufted lance and
strung bow, with here and there a gun, face and body daubed lavishly
with red and yellow.

“Kiowas!” ran through the wagon-fort the muttered exclamation. And――――

“Get out o’ there, you trappers! You Kit Carson men!” rose the angry
cry. “Get out o’ yore holes an’ show what you can do!”

But from within the wagons answered never a sound nor a stir.

However, ’twas no time nor place, now, to berate the dastard
mountain-men, so false to their reputation. The teamsters were green;
the wagon-fort had been poorly formed, in the haste; the location was
bad, for defense; and darting from wagon to wagon, along the circle,
Captain Blunt and other leaders besought the defenders to keep cool and
hold their fire.

The painted Kiowas on-rushed as if they were to ride right over the
wagons! “Bang!” spoke the yager of a teamster. And “Bang! Bang! Bang!
Bang! Bangity-bang!” bellowed the smooth-bores as his excited mates
pulled triggers. In vain Captain Blunt and his aides ran, ordered,
implored, threatened. The Kiowas were two hundred yards away; too far
for a clumsy yager――but at the volley every one fell from his horse.
Were they all killed? Were they? Hurrah, thought little Oliver. No――a
fellow in bright yellow leggins was left! But at the “pop!” of little
Oliver’s pistol he, also, fell over! Then――――

No! More were left, on this side; and on the other side! See? Even
the yellow-leggins had come to life. Saddle-pad after saddle-pad
miraculously grew a figure, and on dashed the Kiowas again, as many as
ever, with joyous yelps charging empty guns. That was what they had
hoped for――empty guns.

Realizing, the panicky teamsters fumbled and made mistakes, as rattling
their pieces among the wagon-spokes they would pour powder, ram ball,
prime pan, cock, aim, fire. Disdaining to hang now by thong-loops upon
the opposite side of their horses, with bows drawn, lances poised, and
a gun or two speaking, the wild redmen of the sand-hills bore headlong
for the weakly answering caravan.

So swiftly they neared! Ere half the yagers had been reloaded they
were within fifty yards. Could anything stop them? With thud upon thud
their arrows pelted in and through. Their paint patterns were plain,
their faces glared, their guttural exclamations could be heard――and
boy Oliver, with one last frantic glance about, dived under a low-hung
wagon.

Even as he did so, he heard a new sound. It was not “Bang!” and “Bang!”
It was “Spat!” “Spat! Spat!” and “Whing!” The wagon over him swayed, a
fresh fume of powder-smoke floated to his nostrils. The trappers! He
had forgotten the trappers! They had fired, at last, from beneath the
wagon-covers――but they were too late.

It seemed to little Oliver that he waited a long time for the charge.
He still heard the whoops and grunts of the Kiowas, right at hand――they
were coming, coming, coming! They would scalp the whole caravan, and
steal all the cavvy! And while he waited, clutching his pistol, another
sound arose. Inside the wagon-fort was a new commotion――a clamor of
voices, a shuffling of hasty feet, a rattle of stirrup and a thud of
many hoofs!

Had the Kiowas broken through? They must! The wagon over him swayed
again, something struck it, almost shoved it to one side; he peered,
craning his neck to see into the dust――and a set of hoofs passed right
over his head. He glimpsed a buckskin rider, on the _outside_; a
trapper had forced his horse between the loosely locked wheels of the
two wagons, and was on the _outside_!

The Kiowas were here, too. Many were upon the ground, and the red which
stained them was redder than the red of vermilion paint. Yes, many and
many were upon the ground. But the others were charging about; little
Oliver had not been waiting long, after all. He knelt, trembling in his
eagerness. There were still a host of Kiowas, and they were very angry.
The wagon-fort must be fairly oozing trappers, mounted; for from either
direction they were galloping into the field, their lines loose, their
buckskin-clad, fringed bodies leaning forward, pistol in hand.

Across the little space, to the line of prone and doubled figures they
raced. “Bang! Bang!” jetted their pistols. The live Kiowas, dodging and
hanging to the necks of their ponies, parted before the counter-charge,
swerved at the volley, let the trappers into their midst――and with a
great savage yell of vengeance turned, to close. For the trappers’
pistols were empty, as the teamsters’ yagers had been! Now long scores
would be settled; a trapper’s scalp was worthy many a dance.

But what a surprise! With “Bang! Bang!” the pistols spoke again and
yet again and again, and needed no reloading! Down from their ponies
plunged stricken Kiowas, fierce career ended; around wheeled the
unstricken, lying low upon pony backs, hammering pony sides with
desperate heels, fleeing the wondrous medicine of the whites. And
through the lodges of plains and desert spread the wail: “White man
shoot one time with rifle and six time with butcher-knife!” Thus before
the eyes of boy Oliver, under the wagon, was broken by Kit Carson and
his men the power of the caravan pirates.

Cheering and lashing, the trappers made pursuit clear out of sight.
All around the wagon-fort the battle had resulted the same. With
that result the teamsters really had little to do, after their first
ineffective volley; and they could only stare, open-mouthed, when so
unexpectedly the trapper rifles emptied the saddle-pads in earnest, and
without hesitation out the trappers charged. They still were staring,
scarcely crediting, when back the trappers rode, in little squads, grim
and weary, but not without their banter. Slipped under the belts they
brought scalps. Oliver saw Sol Silver, and he recognized others――and he
found Kit Carson.

Kit Carson chanced to ride close in, past Oliver’s wagon, and paused
here to shake hands with Captain Blunt. His face was flushed and his
lips tight together; and his eyes! They were terrible eyes, not now
steel-gray but a vivid blue, flaming like living amethysts or like blue
stars.

“Yes, sir,” he said, in reply to Captain Blunt’s congratulations. “We
taught those thar red demons a lesson they’ll not forget. It’s all
over. Go ahead with yore caravan.”

Hearing, Oliver shame-facedly crawled out from beneath the wagon; and
it seemed to him that Kit Carson the Great saw him, and smiled friendly
at him.

Some of the teamsters would have liked to mingle with the trappers and
to rehearse what had been done, and what had not been done, and what
might have been done, in the short fight; but “Catch up! Ketch up!” and
“Fall in, men!” rang the sharp orders of the caravan officers. Time had
been lost, water was dwindling, every moment was precious; the march
must proceed at once.

So team after team settled to collar and yoke, wagon after wagon
lurched forward; and presently little Oliver was once more in the rear
of all, driving his cavvy through the drifting dust. Strangely enough,
not a man of caravan or trappers had been wounded, and only one mule
had received an arrow, in the hip.

“Wall, boy, how’d you like the Kiowas?” It was Sol Silver, again, back
beside Oliver. Brown-bearded and burly, he looked the same as ever and
as if he had not been in any fight. But tucked in his belt were two
scalps. “Whar’s yore pelts for trophies?”

“I haven’t any. I wasn’t close enough,” answered Oliver, truthfully.

“Didn’t I see you chasing the chief on yore mule?” invited Sol. “Kit
took one chief an’ you took t’other.”

Oliver flushed, and shook his head.

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t try.”

“Whar war ye, then?”

Oliver flushed more and hung his head.

“Under a wagon.”

“Haw! Haw!” roared Sol, and chuckled through his beard. “What war the
matter?”

Oliver wanted to cry.

“I guess I was afraid.”

“Haw! Haw!” roared Sol. “Guess mebbe you war.” Then he sobered. “You
fetched yore cavvy in, though, I hear tell.”

“Men helped me.”

“But you come in behind an’ not ahead, jest the same,” asserted Sol.
“That war right. Warn’t ye afraid the Injuns’d get ye, ’fore you war
forted?”

Oliver nodded.

“That’s right, that’s right,” said Sol. “You corralled yore cavvy fust,
an’ then you crawled under the wagon. Don’t blame ye for being afraid.
Only a fool’s never afraid. Being afraid doesn’t make anybody a coward.
I ’spec’ you thought us trappers war afraid, too, when we crawled into
the wagons, ’fore you crawled under one.”

Oliver must nod again.

“We warn’t; not this time. But I reckon we’ve all been afraid, many
another time. This time we crawled into the wagons so the Injuns
wouldn’t see us. If the Injuns spied Kit Carson men riding with a
wagon-train they’d never attack, you bet. These Southwest Injuns know
us Kit Carson men by sight, now. An’ you jest say ‘Kit Carson’ to ’em,
an’ out comes the peace-pipe mighty quick. They can depend on Kit to
fight ’em if they’re bound to fight, or to talk straight with ’em
if they want to talk straight. He air a bad enemy, an’ he air a best
friend. He shoots plumb centre, with both tongue an’ rifle.”

The noon camp was very brief; long enough only for the animals to
breathe, and for the men to munch a strip each of dried meat, while
coffee boiled. But it was long enough for Oliver to sidle near where
Kit Carson appeared to be telling stories to a group of caravan men.
Anybody should know that Kit Carson must have marvellous stories to
tell.

“But what about that time you sneaked on hands an’ knees, through the
snow, close to the Injun fort, near head o’ the Arkansas, an’ cut the
hosses loose an’ drove ’em off with snow-balls?” asked Teamster Henry.

“When war that?” inquired Kit Carson, as if mildly surprised.

“Some years back. When you fust went into the mountains.”

“Oh,” said Kit Carson, slowly rubbing his chin. “That war some o’
Captain Gant’s men. Captain Gant had lost some hosses, by these
Crows, an’ his men went an’ got ’em. Can’t do without hosses, in the
mountains.”

“But weren’t you along?”

“Wall, I might have followed,” drawled Carson, uneasily. “I don’t
exactly remember ’bout that. They war brave fellows, though. They――――”

“Reckon you’ve made a heap o’ Injuns run, all the same,” interrupted an
admiring caravaner.

“Sartinly, sartinly,” agreed Kit Carson. “Part the time I’ve been
running after them, an’ most the time they’ve been running after _me_.”

“You gave ’em a good dose this time, though.”

“Wall, we had to; we had to. My men had to,” declared Kit Carson, and
he brought down his clenched hand. “But we didn’t like to; that is,
we oughtn’t to like to. Nobody likes to kill human beings; an’ these
Injuns, pore critters, ain’t been raised to know any better’n to rob
an’ murder. They think this hyar’s their country, an’ we whites air
using up the game they depend on. But o’ course, these Kiowas come down
’specting to wipe out a defenceless train that warn’t doing ’em any
harm, an’ we simply _had_ to shoot into ’em. If this caravan didn’t
lick ’em, proper, some other caravan must. Now the job’s over.”

“How many did you kill, of ’em? You got the chief, didn’t you?”

“Me?” queried Kit Carson, again mildly surprised. “Oh, thar war jest a
lot o’ shooting an’ riding around, an’ we did the best we could. We war
lucky to have these six-shooter pistols――revolvers, they call ’em. Ever
see ’em before?”

“You’ll never get him to talk about himself,” warned a trapper to a
listener near Oliver. “Sometimes he will, with Injuns, ’cause they
understand boasting, an’ they all know Kit Carson. But ’tain’t white
man way with him. So you might as well quit. He hates the leetle letter
‘I.’”

“That’s heap weepon, shorely,” commented a teamster, examining. “Beats
the big gun of that boy, yonder.”

Now, this caused everybody to look at Oliver, which was most
embarrassing. He was well aware that his little pistol was not so grand
as these new-style revolvers; and he did not like to be laughed at. But
Kit Carson, as if glad to change the subject from himself, smiled and
said quickly:

“Hello, boy. You’re safe, they say, an’ so’s yore cavvy. You’ll make a
warrior yet.”

Oliver must hang his head and turn and twist. He didn’t deserve such
praise.

“Yes, sir; but I crawled under a wagon,” he blurted. “I didn’t fight
any.”

“Haw! Haw!” rose the laughter.

“Wall,” remarked Kit Carson, quietly, but clearly, “I’ve seen many a
time when I wished I war under a wagon, myself.”

At this moment “Catch up! Ketch up!” sounded the calls, and the talk
must end, while the caravan resumed the trail.

Not another Indian came into sight, as the train plodded on, with the
Kit Carson men still acting as escort. At sunset camp was made for the
night, beside a dried water-course where grew a few hardy cottonwoods.
Sitting wearily his old mule, watching his cavvy until the night
guard should relieve him, little Oliver wished that he was by one of
the trappers’ mess-fires instead, where Kit Carson might smile upon
him, again. However, while he sat upon the mule, a figure rode to him,
through the dusk. It was the booming Sol Silver, once more. Sol spoke
direct.

“Boy, Kit sent me to ask how’d you like to go on to Touse with us,
’stead o’ to Santy Fee with the caravan?”

Oliver gasped.

“Can I? With you!”

“If you want to, an’ if Kit decides so. We take the Touse trail in the
morning. Now, if you’re to come, thar’ll be a fire made at the foot o’
that thar cottonwood, standing out alone. See it? Wall, if you see the
flare, pretty soon, you’ll know. But you’ll lose yore wages from the
caravan. They’ll not pay ye less you go through to Santy Fee with ’em.”

“I don’t care,” stammered Oliver. “I’d rather go to Touse, with you.
Can I be a Kit Carson man?”

“Reckon you can, some time, if you got it in you; an’ if Kit thinks you
have, you have. All right; don’t say anything, an’ watch for the fire.”

Sol rode back to his mates. Oliver watched anxiously. Hurrah, the fire
flared, just as he was trudging to supper. And when, in the morning,
caravan and trappers parted company, into the west on the Taos trail
rode with the Kit Carson men little Oliver Wiggins.



III

OLIVER WINS HIS SPURS


That evening, with clatter of hoof and volley of victorious whoops
and rifle-shots, amidst the sunset they galloped into the New Mexican
village of Don Fernandez de Taos, sixty miles west from where they had
parted with the Santa Fé bound caravan.

Taos, or “old Touse,” as it was affectionately styled, lies in a
mountain valley eighty miles north of Santa Fé. Here had his home
and headquarters Kit Carson, captain over his company of forty-five
trappers. He lived in one of the box-like clay houses, with his little
daughter Adaline. Adaline, four years old, was a dark, elfish lass,
half Indian; for her mother, Kit Carson’s wife, had been an Arapahoe.
Kit had married this Arapahoe in the mountains, in the summer of 1835,
but she had died soon after the birth of little Adaline.

“Kit thought a heap o’ Alice,” declared Sol Silver, to Oliver. “Some
trappers jest take a squaw as cook an’ lodge cleaner, an’ all that. But
Kit air true man. He named his squaw Alice, an’ when she died he felt
mighty bad. He’s got that gal to raise, now.”

The Kit Carson company of trappers were divided into two bands, under
Lieutenant Ike Chamberlain and Lieutenant Sol Silver. They took turns
going upon excursions after beaver――or sometimes they all were out
together.

Besides the beaver-hunting, there was the buffalo-hunting for Bent’s
Fort. Northeast of Taos, 250 and more miles, upon the Arkansas River
in southern Colorado of to-day, was the large clay-built trading-post
of Bent’s Fort, or Fort William, its hardy garrison trafficking with
20,000 wild Cheyennes, Utes, and Arapahoes.

Kit Carson had the contract for supplying the garrison with meat. So
twice a year, in spring and in fall, the Carson men gathered at Bent’s
Fort, for a great buffalo-hunt. Into the fort were brought thousands of
pounds of buffalo-meat.

The great Kit Carson did not seem to think much of Oliver, after
landing him in Taos. He gave him a place to sleep and a place at table;
but he did not send him out to trap beaver, or hunt buffalo, or rescue
traders. He put him upon the shabby mule, and set him at his old job of
tending a horse-herd.

“It’s this way, boy,” consoled Sol Silver, when Oliver would complain.
“You do well what’s yores to be done, an’ chance at more will come.”

The extra horses and mules belonging to the Kit Carson company were
pastured in the open on the outskirts of town. Every morning they must
be driven out to graze, and every evening they must be brought back to
the corral. It was Oliver’s business to drive them out and to drive
them back――which he did with many shouts and much rope-waving and
gallant racing by his ancient mule. Thus for a year he was the official
herder for the Carson company.

The Carson men came and went. Oliver heard their stories, of stirring
deeds by themselves or by Bill Williams, Jim Bridger, Captain Billy
Sublette, and others; and by Kit Carson. On the other hand, he never
heard “Kit” (as his friends lovingly called him) make much mention of
himself in any adventures; somebody else always was the hero.

When home in Taos Kit played much with his swarthy little daughter,
Adaline. Just what to do with her appeared to bother him. Oliver once
noted him saying, in his soft voice, with broad accent of the South and
the border mingled:

“I war raised without schooling; then I ran away an’ I war twelve years
on the trail an’ in the mountains ’fore I came out to Bent’s an’ to
Taos again. Now I’m thirty-two, an’ without any education ’cept trapper
education. ’Tisn’t human for a man not to be able to read or write; an’
what I’m to do with my leetle gal I don’t know. But I want her to have
education.”

This seemed to Oliver rather a queer idea from the great Kit Carson,
who could shoot and ride and trail and talk Indian talk and make Indian
sign, besides speaking a rude Spanish and some French. Why should such
a man care to read and write, or wish that his children should read and
write? But Kit Carson had been much in earnest, nevertheless.

Now was it the late fall of 1841, and Oliver still was the official
herder for the Carson company. However, he had grown very much during
these twelve months in the fresh air, riding and tramping and doing
man’s work. Tough of muscle and sturdy of frame, he was becoming
full-chested like Kit Carson himself. But he could not yet be called a
trapper.

The men were kind to him; he liked them; he stood their joking and
their rough ways, and tried to do what they told him was best to do. So
they apparently liked him, in turn, and would teach him how to shoot
quick and straight, and to ride easily and surely.

On this, an afternoon in the last week of November, he had been
permitted by Lieutenant Ike Chamberlain (a stalwart six-footer was Ike,
and a tremendous fighter, they all said) to take out upon herd Ike’s
favorite rifle――a heavy flint-lock, made by the celebrated gun-smith
Hawkins, of St. Louis. It was taller than Oliver, and the long barrel
was so heavy that he scarcely could hold it out; so when he shot it he
rested it upon brush, or crossed sticks, or whatever else was handy.
But the bullet sped true to the sight. “Plumb centre” shot a Hawkins
rifle.

With the heavy rifle balanced across his lap, with buffalo-horn
powder-flask and beaded hide bullet-pouch slung from his shoulders,
and with broad, keen skinning-knife belted by hide belt at his right
thigh, he was prepared to shoot rabbits. Obeying instructions of Ike
and Sol and the other men, he had learned to hit the rabbits only in
the head. It was fairer to the rabbit, for the rabbit had more chance
of escape by being missed. To hit a rabbit in the body was scorned by
mountain-men, and was deemed careless, slovenly work.

Bearing thirteen rabbits shot each through the head by single ball from
the flint-lock Hawkins mountain rifle, Oliver proudly drove the Carson
“cavvy” home at evening. Laden like valiant hunter he trudged through
the village, to exhibit his spoils――and to get his supper.

He found Taos stirred by excitement. Several strange teamsters were
forming centres of little groups of listeners. These were Santa Fé
caravan teamsters; they had sought Taos to report that between Taos and
Santa Fé a band of Indians had stampeded fourteen span of their mules,
and to ask help from the Kit Carson men.

At an unfortunate moment had the teamsters applied for the succor.
Trappers were out upon the final fur hunt of the year; a buffalo hunt
for Bent’s Fort was in progress; Ike Chamberlain had ridden away that
morning, upon errand bound; and Kit Carson was temporarily pallet-laid
by reason of a pistol wound through the left leg. His new Colt’s
revolving pistol had fallen from his belt, and striking upon its hammer
had discharged its ball diagonally through between knee and ankle.

As for the other men in Taos, they were slothful Mexican loungers, not
at all of a spirit to help the Americans fight the Indians. “Let the
Americans do their own fighting,” they said; “we want only to be let
alone.”

Kit Carson was much perturbed, half sitting, restlessly, on his couch
of blankets and robes.

“What you got thar, boy?” he demanded.

“Rabbits. I shot every one in the head,” informed Oliver.

“Let me see ’em.”

Oliver brought in the bunch, and threw it down before Kit Carson, who
explored it with his sound foot.

“Wall!” he mused, slowly. “A lad who can shoot like that needn’t herd
cavvy. It’s time you went on the hunt. I’ll put a Mexican at herding.”
Oliver’s heart leaped gladly. Kit Carson fidgeted, ill at ease, and
continued: “Now those teamsters have come in, expecting us to help ’em
get back their stolen critters, an’ I haven’t got a single man to send
out after the red rascals. An’ hyar I’m laid up, myself! What do you
think, boy? You know the country. Do you reckon you could take these
fellows an’ help ’em get back their critters, if I told you exactly
whar to go?”

Oliver nodded. His eyes were big, his heart thumped in his throat so
that at last he could only stammer:

“I’ll try. I guess I could. I’ll try.”

“Wall,” said Kit, still restless, “nobody can do more than try. An’
hyar’s a chance for you at mountain-man work. ’Less I’m much mistaken,
those red rascals air making straight for――――” and he described to
Oliver a well-known box-canyon or enclosed pocket, among the hills
150 miles westward. Oliver nodded; he had been that far, once, upon
a little trip with Kit Carson, and he remembered the trail. “They’ll
take the critters thar an’ hide ’em; an’ now they won’t be expecting
pursuit. With everybody fresh mounted, if you leave right after eating
this evening you ought to get thar to-morrow evening, so as to rush the
camp in ’arly morning. Pick a good hoss out o’ the cavvy, for yoreself.
Fust go get something to eat. Thar come some o’ the men; I’ll tell ’em
what we’re to do.”

Treading air and vastly excited, himself, Oliver sped away to make his
preparations.

“Better fill yore powder flask, boy,” called Kit, kindly. “Help
yoreself from my horn, yonder. An’ thar’s the bullets. They fit Ike’s
gun. But don’t shoot ’less you have to; an’ if you do shoot, shoot as
straight as if you war shooting rabbits. Remember, it air the bullets
that hit that count.”

“Yes, sir; I’ll remember,” engaged Oliver, working eagerly.

So presently into the twilight glow rode the dozen teamsters, armed and
mounted as well as practicable. Two and two they rode: their bearded,
booted, flannel-shirted captain, and ragged Oliver high on a yellow
horse, side by side in the lead.

Through the twilight, and through the gloaming, and through the starry
night, at trot broken by now and then a brief space of walk, westward
rode the little cavalcade, to surprise the Apaches.

The dark blue sky gradually paled; paled the dusky earth; coyotes
homeward slinked; little brown birds twittered amidst the brush; from
the east spread upward a pink radiance; and stiff and chilled from the
night’s travel through the great open sage country, at rising of the
sun the pursuit jogged into the first of the hill defiles.

As they rode, the horsemen ate; chewing at strips of dried buffalo meat.

Higher and more numerous waxed the hills, their long steep slopes
covered with chaparral and stunted timber, and separated by bouldered
water-courses, many of them dry. The trail seemed a blind one.

“Do ye know whar you’re going, boy?” queried the teamster captain,
doubtfully.

“Yes, sir. I’ve been in here before, and Kit Carson told me,” answered
Oliver, hard at work thinking, and peering keenly.

At noon they rested by a stream, and let the horses graze, and dozed,
themselves, while down upon the wild maze of quiet wooded hills poured
the generous sun――his beams hot in the thin atmosphere.

After their nooning, again they rode. The country had grown wilder;
the hills had become peaks, snow-capped; the water-courses had cut
deep gulches and canyons. It was the favorite region of the Jicarilla
(Heek-ah-ree-yah, _i.e._, Basket) Apaches; the ancient volcano land of
northern New Mexico west of the Rio Grande. Here the Jicarillas had
their retreats.

Now the pursuit must ride more carefully, for Oliver was not certain
but that they might be near the Indians. So they scanned every ridge to
catch timely glimpse of Indian scout, and every hollow to catch glimpse
of tell-tale smoke. An oddly-shaped little peak was the landmark; and
as by way of draw and pass, from valley to valley, they neared it,
Oliver’s heart beat faster. Below the peak was that box-canyon or
enclosed basin where, according to Kit Carson’s judgment, the stolen
stock would be hidden.

At last the wearied little cavalcade wound around a wooded shoulder and
could scan the spot where lay the outlaw refuge. Up-wafted lazily, as
from the basin itself, into the sunset atmosphere above the fringing
trees and rocks, a film of hazy blue smoke. Indian camp!

However, too late was it, this day, to attack; darkness would
interfere. So the pursuit rode nearer, and sent two men forward afoot
to spy. They left; and they returned, scratched and grimy, in the dusk,
to report that a Jicarilla camp was located in the basin, that the
Indians were gorging and making merry around a fire, and that more than
fourteen span of mules, evidently stolen, were grazing freely, hobbled
not nor tethered, upon the grass of the secluded niche. Having driven
their spoil 150 miles into the heart of the Apache mountains, the
Indians evidently were expecting no interference.

And here, likewise 150 miles from white settlement, the pursuit grimly
squatted down to a fireless night and a long wait until dawn. They
slept at intervals; even Oliver slept, exultant though he was at having
led true, and anxious though he was for further results.

The dawn grayed; the men stiffly stirred about, saddling their hunched
horses and priming afresh their weapons.

“Let the boy show the trail,” bade the teamster leader, gruffly. “He’s
been hyar’bouts before, he says.”

Oliver was nothing loth; Kit Carson had told him exactly where to
strike the one entrance into the basin――the one entrance which also was
the one exit. Therefore, carrying the Ike Chamberlain rifle in approved
fashion in hollow of left arm, ready, Oliver forced his yellow horse
into the advance.

“When we charge, everybody yell ‘Kit Carson! Kit Carson!’” he proposed,
huskily. “When they hear that they’ll run, sure. They’re afraid of Kit
Carson.”

The teamster leader gravely nodded; and down the dim file, following
the yellow horse, was passed the word: “Yell ‘Kit Carson’!”

The mist of dawn enveloped the world, and lay moist upon twig and leaf.
In silence the single file threaded the pines; the moist carpeting of
needles gave no sound. Into a gravelly draw through which ran a newly
hoof-cut trail they rode; boulders closed about them; a stream flowed
past for the outer country; they quickened their pace to a trot; and,
every rifle poised, at a gallop they poured through the narrow entrance
and charged across the open park inside.

“Kit Carson! Kit Carson!” shrilled little Oliver, excitedly hammering
with his moccasined heels the flanks of his yellow horse.

“Kit Carson! Kit Carson!” welled hoarsely the chorus behind him.

Barked Apache dogs; snorted Apache pony and stolen mule, stampeding
here and there in the grayness. Spreading, on left and right, the
charging teamsters overtook Oliver. Before, recumbent figures around
the smouldering fires had up-leaped, throwing off blankets and robes,
seizing weapons, hesitating, to discharge hasty bullet or arrow, and at
thud of hoof, crack of rifle, and that terrible cry, “Kit Carson! Kit
Carson!” half-naked to flee, through the grayness――scurrying across the
level and scrambling amidst the rocky walls.

“Whang!” spoke Oliver’s Ike Chamberlain rifle――its butt half-way to his
shoulder, its heavy muzzle pointed out in the general direction of the
rout.

And “Whang!” “Bang!” spoke the pieces of the teamsters.

Fleeing figures pitched headlong to the dewy sward; from amidst the
rocks of the crumbling, sheer walls, where, at bay, they vainly
answered with shot and yell, others pitched headlong, or sank back, to
be still. While two or three of their number guarded the exit, that the
ponies and mules might not escape, the teamsters charged on, searching
the rocks with rifle and pistol; and not an Indian of the eighteen
thieving warriors was left alive.

But young Oliver found that this was very different from shooting at
rabbits; and in after days he never was certain whether he had killed
all――or none. However, he fired only the one shot; and at the close of
the battle he still was trying to reload!

In the sunrise, with eighteen ponies bearing Apache brands or
ear-marks, and with thirty-five mules and horses bearing trader or
trapper brands or ear-marks, the triumphant little cavalcade rode out
from the trampled strong-hold, upon trail for Taos. Sharing with the
teamster leader the advance, Oliver sat proudly his yellow horse. He
had earned his place.

At the close of the second day they entered Taos. Summoned by the
great clatter of hoofs and the loud volley of triumphant whoops, the
villagers cheered.

“Buen’ muchacho!” praised the natives, calling to Oliver: “Good boy!”

And Oliver passed on, to share in the report by the teamster captain at
the house of Kit Carson.

Kit Carson said little, but his blue-gray eyes brightened.

“Wall, I reckoned you’d find ’em thar,” he said, from his couch against
the wall. “Hyar, boy; fetch me that gun yonder.”

Oliver brought over to him, from the corner, the weapon. Kit Carson
handed it back to him.

“Take it. It’s yores,” he said. “Now you’re a mountain-man, an’ what’s
a mountain-man without a rifle? You’re a mountain-man an’ a Kit Carson
man, an’ it’s ’bout time you went on the trap trail. But,” he added,
with a twinkle, noting Oliver’s confusion, “you’ll have time to eat,
fust, an’ sleep.”

Clutching his treasure, and crowded with thanks which he could not
utter yet, Oliver staggered away.

Kit Carson’s rifle! Kit Carson’s own rifle! A rifle better than even
Ike Chamberlain’s; for Ike’s was a flint-lock, whereas this, scarce
a year old, was of the convenient new percussion-cap invention, and
had cost sixty dollars, gold. Moreover, in the stock were nineteen
brass-headed tacks, stuck there by Kit Carson, and each counting as an
Indian scalp!



IV

WORD FROM OLD FORT LARAMIE


Spring and the beaver-hunt season opened. The whole Carson company
organized for a trip far to the north. Oliver was apportioned his dozen
traps, and his name was upon the pay-roll. The company left early in
March; but Ike Chamberlain was in charge, for Kit Carson had astonished
them all by announcing that he was going to the States.

“It’s time my little gal had education,” he said, quietly. “Touse or
Bent’s air no place for her, or Santy Fee either, an’ I’m no fit person
to raise her. I’ve got kin back thar in Missouri, an’ maybe I can put
her with some o’ them, so she’ll grow up with white people an’ learn
civilized ways.”

“Have you been back thar since you come out, Kit?” asked somebody.

Carson shook his head.

“Nope,” he said; “in the sixteen years the only settlements I’ve seen
air trading posts o’ plains an’ mountains, an’ Touse an’ Santy Fee. I
war a boy when in fall o’ Twenty-six I left home. Ought to have gone
back, but didn’t. They say now Missouri’s grown a heap, an’ I won’t
know Franklin town, an’ thar’s so many other towns I’ll be lost.”

“Independence air the outfit point o’ the Santy Fee caravans, now,”
observed Ike Chamberlain――a fact that all knew. “Franklin air too far
down-river. An’ thar’s a new movement on――to Oregon in the Northwest
country; starts from the Missouri at Independence same as Santy Fee
trade does. Those missionaries who went out to the lower Columbia, over
the South Pass an’ the Snake River trail, in Thirty-four an’ after,
have been making big talks through the States, ’bout how Oregon air the
place for ’Merican farmers ’stead o’ British fur-hunters, an’ Congress
has been argufying, an’ Lu has jest heard from some o’ his folks that
thar’s a regular movement afoot this spring to send a big wagon-train
o’ settlers out by the Platte an’ Laramie trail, over South Pass an’
clear through to the Columbia. Isn’t that so, Lu?”

Lucien Maxwell nodded. He was a dark, broad-shouldered young man, about
twenty-three, and a favorite of Kit Carson’s. He was not in the Carson
company, exactly, but was a trader with the Indians and for the Bent,
St. Vrain & Co., on the Santa Fé Trail and between Bent’s Fort and Fort
St. Vrain. He was much at Taos, where he had just married the Señorita
Luz Beaubien, daughter of Charles Beaubien, one of Taos’ most cultured
residents. As Maxwell was much upon the trader trail to the States,
and as he lived, or at least his parents lived, at old Kaskaskia,
Illinois, below St. Louis, he carried much news.

“Yes,” he answered. “I’ve a letter and a newspaper from home that
say that Doctor White――Elijah White, who’s been missionary doctor in
Oregon; you fellows have heard him――has been appointed Indian agent for
the United States in Oregon; and when he goes out this spring a lot of
settlers are going, too, so as to have him take ’em through.”

“Wagh!” grunted an old trapper. “Fat doings for Injuns! Thar’ll be
hosses to steal an’ ha’r to lift, I’m thinking. Sioux an’ Blackfeet
air half-froze for jest sech a caravan o’ greenhorns on a trail ’crost
continent. Wagh! This chile’d rather go it alone.”

“Thar ought to be a line o’ posts from the Missouri clear to the
mountains, all ’long the trail; an’ over across, too, if folks from the
States air going to travel it,” declared Chamberlain.

“That ees so. Dose Injuns, dey get mad when dey see so many whites
in buffalo country; an’ dose Britishers in Oregon, dey jus’ as soon
Americans stay on dees side Rocky Mountains,” agreed Mariano, Mexican
trapper.

“Well, this paper has a message in it from Washington, and there’s talk
of a government expedition going out over the trail this very spring,
to survey it and maybe see what can be done,” informed Maxwell.

“Wagh!” grunted the old trapper. “Hyar’s a coon that doesn’t need ary
government expedition to show _him_ the trail. He travelled it with
Ashley in Twenty-four, he did; an’ he war over the South Pass an’ into
the Green River country t’other side, an’ he’s trapped through to the
Columbia an’ Vancouver, an’ to Californy, too. Can’t tell mountain-men
’bout the way to Oregon.”

“Yep; an’ those missionary women crossed through in Thirty-six, an’
more in Thirty-eight,” chimed in another. “That broke the trail to the
Oregon country, sure.”

“Seems to me the government must be planning a line of forts, and the
expedition will spy out and report on that,” remarked Maxwell. “Like as
not an army man will lead it.”

“Oregon country air a fine country,” asserted somebody. “Think o’
trying it, myself. ’Most went thar as settler when Joe Meek an’ Doc
Newell an’ others took the Columbia Trail after last rendezvous in
Thirty-nine.”

“Trés-belle, ess eet. I hear so from my cousin, who leeve in la
valle Weellamette. He was Hudson Bay man, trapper; now he farmer,”
volunteered Henri Menard, French-Canadian of St. Louis.

Such was the talk following upon Kit Carson’s quiet announcement that
he would go back this spring by early caravan to Missouri, and there
leave his little half-Indian Adaline, to give her the schooling which
he had missed. And Lucien Maxwell said he “guessed” that he would go,
too, and visit his parents and other relatives at Kaskaskia.

For the remainder of the company, north led the trapper trail: from old
Taos up through the mountains of central Colorado, into the South Park,
thence on over by wild passes into the Middle Park. They set their
beaver traps in the side streams of the Grand River. It seemed best not
to go on further, for Indian trouble was rumored.

This was Ute country, and the friendly dark Utes with their squaws
followed the camps――the squaws skinning the beaver and asking only the
carcass or a pinch of sugar, the bucks gorging and trading. Deer meat,
elk meat, buffalo meat, and delicious roast beaver-tail which looked
like thick gelatin and tasted like saltless pig’s-feet, was the camp
menu. It was a very pleasant trapping trip.

About June 1, with eighteen packs of beaver, otter, and martin
pelts――each beaver or otter bale containing eighty skins――half the
company, led by Ike Chamberlain, rode out for Taos; the others stayed
in, to rest and “make meat” and repair equipment, until opened the fall
fur hunt. In the homeward travelling company was Oliver, now a seasoned
trapper as well as an accepted “Carson man.”

Old Taos had not changed in the three months. Only, Kit Carson had
gone, as promised, to the States. He had caught the first of the
Bent, St. Vrain & Co. goods caravans out of Bent’s Fort for Missouri,
five hundred and more miles, to put Adaline where she would get some
education. Lucien Maxwell had gone, too.

“Wall, Kit won’t stay long,” drawled Ike――his first remark after
hearing the facts. “He’ll find things are different; the frontier’s
grown up with people, an’ he’ll feel lonesome, ’mongst ’em. He’ll be
coming back to Touse, right soon.”

Indeed, according to opinion ’twas time for his return already; and
in mid-afternoon of the day after their own arrival, Oliver, upon the
front porch of the Carson house, his attention attracted to a bustle
and to the hurrying figure of Ike, thought that Kit might be in town
or at least at Bent’s Fort. Through the plaza hastened tall Ike;
straight-footed, slightly bow-legged, carrying, as customary, his long
rifle.

“Get yore outfit ready for the trail ag’in,” he bade, quickly, with
scarce a pause. “Word from Kit says to meet him at Fort Laramie,
pronto! Leave to-morrow.”

“All right,” answered Oliver, astonished, but knowing better than to
delay Ike for foolish questions.

Still, this was most sudden and unexpected. What was Kit Carson doing
up at Fort Laramie, on the Oregon Trail, when he should have been at
Bent’s Fort, on the Santa Fé Trail? Oliver set out after information.

The first of the company whom he encountered was Mariano Medino, the
Mexican, squatting and filling a powder-horn in a doorway.

“Ike has seen you?” queried Mariano.

“Yes. What’s news?”

“Ah, that Keet Carson, he say ‘Come to Laramie,’ an’ we come. That all
I know,” answered Mariano, busily.

“Who brought the word?”

“Dos (two) Injuns. See? Over there,” directed Mariano, with nod of head.

Oliver looked, and noted a little knot of towns-people――mainly Mexicans,
shoulders and heads shrouded in serapes or native blankets――standing
before the Bent, St. Vrain & Co. local warehouse and gazing at the
doorway. So across the plaza he trudged.

The knot was scrutinizing, without much comment, two Indians who
leaned, stolid and unaffected and haughty, against the doorway posts.
They were Indians of lighter coppery complexion than the Kiowas or the
Apaches or the Utes; they were as light as a Cheyenne, and one had a
scraggly moustache of black hairs. By this, and by the beading of their
shirts and the shape of their moccasins, Oliver (a mountain-man) knew
them to be Indians of a strange tribe. A voice at his elbow interrupted
his examination.

“Those are Delawares, boy.” It was Bill Williams who spoke――Bill
Williams, sometimes called “Preacher” Williams; not a Carson man, but
an odd old trapper who from his lone trail occasionally appeared in
Taos. “Eastern Injuns they be, who war moved by the government into the
Injun country ’long the Missouri frontier. Big hunters an’ fighters,
but don’t often get to the mountains.”

“Are they the express from Kit?”

“They are the runners from Kit. Sent ’em from the mouth o’ the Kaw, or
Kansas Landing ’bove Independence. Understand they came through, the
seven hundred miles, in ’leven days, which is good travel.”

So it was; and evidently, therefore, the message from Carson for his
men to meet him at Fort Laramie was urgent. And little time could be
spent preparing; none could be wasted; for as everybody knew, Fort
Laramie was four hundred miles from Bent’s Fort, and Bent’s Fort was
two hundred and fifty miles from Taos.

Now must the Kit Carson men at Taos fall to, making ready. Bullets must
be moulded, powder-horns replenished, repairs put upon saddle and shirt
and leggins, new moccasins found or the old ones soled again. Nobody
might tell whither this next trail led, nor how long ere it would turn
home; and few cared, even though they had just come in from another
trail of three months.

Two men were sent back to the summer camp to tell the Sol Silver party
what had happened; three were assigned to see the bales of pelts
through to market at St. Louis; and before noon of the following day
the rest, fifteen of them, under Lieutenant Ike, with plenty of horses
and mules for saddle and pack, clattered out of Taos, bound straight
for Fort Laramie, more than six hundred miles away.

Riding northward, on the sixth day the hurrying squad emerged in sight
of Bent’s Fort, above whose brown, high walls flew the Stars and
Stripes: a token and a challenge, planted here on the farthest border
where the United States met Mexico.

Fording the Arkansas, in this the southeastern part of present
Colorado, the Carson men were in American territory. Swarthy William
Bent, proprietor, who lived at the fort, and whose wife was a Cheyenne
woman, welcomed them into the broad gateway.

Mr. Bent was enabled to supply a little news.

“Why, yes, there’s a lot of talk this spring of emigration to the
Oregon country,” he said; “reports from Missouri are, that some one
hundred settlers, including women and children, left, middle of May,
over the trail for Oregon. And a government expedition’s afoot.
Maxwell’s been hired for it. Like as not you’ll find Kit’s mixed up in
some of that business, too.”

From Bent’s, with its brave flag, its brass cannon piece upon the wall,
and its sturdy garrison, on pushed the squad.

Two hundred miles more they rode, until, where green foothills met
green plains, under the eye of Long’s Peak, was stationed, as Oliver
well knew, Fort St. Vrain, brother post to Bent’s. He was wondering
whether Ike was not intending to swing into the west and visit this
post, when, like the others, he sighted a horseman approaching at a
gallop.

“Injuns!” cried voices in the cavalcade.

“White man, I reckon,” cried others.

“Close up, close up,” ordered Lieutenant Ike, gruffly. “An’ keep yore
eyes peeled for more.”

Rapidly the horseman approached. Nearer he drew, speeding recklessly,
his pony now and then jumping to avoid a badger hole or prairie-dog
hole. Presently could be descried his long hair and a kerchief turban
streaming in the breeze that he made; above his head he flourished his
rifle――its muzzle puffed smoke, as signal that he was a friend and was
coming with empty gun.

“White!” grunted several voices, simultaneously.

“Wagh!” uttered another. “Not exactly, boys. If that airn’t Jim
Beckwith, I’m a beaver!”

Jim Beckwith! Oliver knew Jim Beckwith――or Beckwourth, as he called
himself――and had seen him in Taos. He was a mixed blood, half French
and half negro, and was celebrated because, when early a trapper, he
had been adopted by the Crow Indians and made a head war-chief.

Arriving, while jogged the squad, he halted his pony by pulling it to
its haunches. A romantic figure he was, with head bare, Indian fashion,
with dark, handsome, almost Indian features, his sinewy, graceful
frame sheathed in gaily fringed and beaded buckskin.

“How,” he greeted.

“How,” and “Hello, Jim,” greeted the squad.

“From Touse?”

“Yep.”

“Where bound?”

“Up to Fort John.”

“What’s the news?”

“Nothing much. Kit sent for us, is all.”

“Wants you on that expedition.”

“What expedition?”

“Government.”

“How’d you know?”

“’Cause part of it’s just passed on up through St. Vrain. I was there
and saw it. Young army fellow by name of Frémont’s captain, and he
said Carson and rest of the crowd are waiting at Laramie. Maxwell was
along, too, and he said same. Maxwell’s hunter, Kit’s guide. Kit took
one party up by way the North Platte trail, Frémont and Maxwell came
in ’cross country by South Platte. They’re all to meet at Fort John or
Laramie.”

“Heap doings,” muttered Lieutenant Ike. “What’s the lodge talk?” he
asked.

“Oregon trail’s being broken by settlers. First company’s already
passed Laramie. Sioux are bad, and Gros Vents and Cheyennes have joined
’em, for war-path up Sweetwater. They’re hot for Crow and white
scalps, and Snake hosses. You fellows are liable to lose ha’r.”

“Wagh! But what’s this hyar expedition for?”

“To make the trail wider. To tell the government at Washington where
South Pass is, near as I could find out from Maxwell.”

“But who doesn’t know whar South Pass air!” exclaimed a chorus.

“Wall,” quoth Lieutenant Ike, “if we’ve all been thar once we can all
go thar ag’in. Kit’s sent for us, an’ that’s ’nough. Come on, boys.”



V

FRÉMONT SAYS “ONWARD!”


“Thar’s Fort John,” directed Oliver’s trail comrade, William New.

This was the fourth day after the meeting with Jim Beckwith; the march
had been steadily northward, with snowy mountains distant on the left,
and with far bleak ridges showing ever more clear, in the north.

“Thar’s Fort John,” directed William New. “Those mountains beyond it
are the Black Hills, whar the Sioux an’ Cheyenne cache themselves.”

“Is that the same as Fort Laramie?” asked Oliver.

“Yep. That beaver has two tails, is all. John war what the Company (and
by this Oliver knew that he meant the great American Fur Company) named
it, an’ that’s what most o’ us old trappers call it; but ‘Laramie’ is
the general name ’mongst traders, an’ some trappers too. You see, it’s
on Laramie Fork o’ the North Platte, an’ that peak over it is Laramie
Peak, so ‘Laramie’ ’s a natteral word.”

While still riding northward as if to pass by Fort Laramie on the other
side of Laramie Creek, the squad encountered a plain trail, almost a
road, running east and west; and into this turned at once Lieutenant
Ike and fellow leader. Therefore turned into it all, as matter of
course.

“Hyar’s yore way to Oregon,” announced William New, for benefit of
Oliver. “But thar’s been a heap o’ people passed along since a year
ago. Wagh, thar has! Sign’s fresh, too――people, wagons an’ cattle!”

“An’ thar’s whar we find Kit, I reckon,” spoke a horseman of the pair
in front, nodding before.

“Yes; an’ Injuns, too,” added his comrade. “’Drather find ’em thar than
on ahead.”

“See those lodges?” directed William New, to Oliver. “Sioux lodges. Few
Cheyenne, but mostly Sioux――Ogalallah.”

Before, beyond the sparse willows and cottonwood of the creek, stood
forth boldly upon a little knoll the post of Fort Laramie or Fort
John. The walls were of adobe clay, like the walls of Bent’s Fort, but
whitewashed, after Mexican fashion, like many of the houses in Taos.
The fort had towers, at diagonal corners, square and peaked; and over
the principal gateway was another tower or sentry-box, floating the
Stars and Stripes. Along the tops of the walls stood, like teeth, a
row of palisades. Close beside the walls and below the post were a
collection of conical white tents――evidently Indian lodges of tanned
buffalo hides.

Many figures were strolling about: figures in buckskins and wool, as
well as figures in blankets and robes.

“Thar’s Kit, or else this chile’s eyes don’t know fat cow from pore
bull!” exclaimed a voice. “An’ thar’s more of ’em camped nigh the
river, up above!”

Through the ford, where had crossed the wheels and hoofs of preceding
companies, plashed the squad, at trot; at gallop mounted the rise which
waited; and with trapper whoop and Indian yelp, and “Whang!” of sundry
rifle, charged for the gate of old Laramie.

The Indians, blanketed to their chins, stoically stared; from the walls
and from the gateway the post employés witnessed, unperturbed, for they
were accustomed to such arrival; a few other trappers, lounging about,
whooped back, with wave of hand; and a wiry, sandy, short-legged,
broad-shouldered little man, vaulting upon a horse, dashed out, full
speed for the short distance, hat-brim flaring, hair and fringes
streaming, to meet the incomers.

“Told ’ee it war Kit! Rides like an Injun!” chuckled the previous
speaker.

“Hello, Kit.”

“Hello, boys.” He checked his horse as quickly as he had started it.
“Glad to see ye. Thar’s our camp, up above.”

“Wall, got yore express, an’ hyar we air,” volunteered Ike, as all rode
on. “What’s the news?”

“Government expedition to the South Pass; maybe further. Lieutenant
Frémont, army man, is boss; Maxwell’s hunter, I’m guide. The
lieutenant’s got twenty or so fust-class St. Louis Frenchmen hired for
the trip, but seemed to me I’d feel more comfortable if I had some
o’ my own crowd. So I sent those two Delawares to Touse, with the word.”

[Illustration: JOHN CHARLES FRÉMONT]

As they were about to pass the post another horseman spurred out,
intercepting them. The fact that this was the “army man,” government
“boss” of the expedition, was impressed upon the cavalcade, and all
eyes turned to scrutinize the rider as he approached.

He rode well and easily――but with somewhat longer stirrup than the
short Indian-hung stirrup of the Carson men, and sitting rather more
erect than was trapper custom. His costume bore scarce a trace of army
uniform; he wore a short plain blue blouse, half unbuttoned, over blue
flannel shirt and ordinary jean trousers tucked into high moccasins,
while his head-gear was the broad curly-brimmed wool hat of the plains
and mountains. He carried no sword. However, athwart his saddle-horn
was lying the inevitable rifle. His figure was more slender than Kit
Carson’s; he was about two inches taller, and evidently he weighed
about the same. He had a full brown beard, rather compact and wavy,
oval face, white skin now tanned, bold clean-cut nose jutting like the
keel of a boat, and large eyes of flashing blue. He was not any older
than Kit, much handsomer, altogether a different style of man――more
excitable, more dashing, more like Kit was in an Indian fight. Yes,
here was another type of leader.

“Got your men, I see,” he addressed, reining in, with a rapid glance
along the column.

“Yep,” drawled Kit. “Hyar they are.”

“And one boy, too,” added the lieutenant, with a smile at Oliver. “That
will make my boys envious.”

“Wall,” remarked Kit, “he’s man an’ on the pay-roll. ’Tisn’t size that
counts, always.”

The camp was close ahead. It consisted of about a dozen small
cone-shaped tents of dingy canvas; one tent, slightly larger than the
others, and set apart, probably was Lieutenant Frémont’s tent. The camp
was thronging with whites in frontier costume, with Indians and dogs;
saddles and packs were stacked in piles; and out from the creek bank,
in a grassy place, were grazing horses and mules.

From the camp now came racing, like young Indians, upon their ponies,
two boys, as if eager to inspect. One was younger than Oliver, the
other was older. They, also, were dressed in easy but rough plains
costume, and the younger even wore Cheyenne moccasins. With brief
“Hello” they fell in alongside the leaders of the column, and
accompanied it while covertly eyeing its make-up. Oliver assumed his
best mountain-man pose, and with equal sly curiosity eyed them back.

“No, my men will mess by themselves,” was saying Kit Carson, to
Lieutenant Frémont. “O’ course, thar can be a general camp, but they’ll
make their own way. That’ll avoid any trouble.”

“Very well,” answered Lieutenant Frémont. “That’s understood, then. I
don’t feel authorized to enlist them.”

To the camp rode on the Carson squad; and at the lifted hand of Kit,
as signal, they were off saddle at once, to unpack and make another
camp――an extension of first. While Oliver was busy, a voice spoke to
him.

“Your name’s Oliver, Kit says.” It was Lieutenant Frémont, accosting
him with another frank smile; the two boys, bridle-lines upon arms,
were with him. “I want you young gentlemen to get acquainted. Oliver,
this is Henry Brant, and Randolph Benton, of St. Louis. They came out
by the North Platte trail, with Kit’s party.”

Oliver flushed, as he shook hands.

“Are you going all the way?” asked Randolph, eagerly. He was the
younger boy, with the Cheyenne moccasins; his age was about twelve.

“I don’t know. We go as far as Kit goes, I guess.”

“That’s all the way, then. You aren’t afraid of Indians, are you?”

“Naw,” grunted Oliver, disdainfully.

“We aren’t, either,” declared the older boy, Henry. He was about
nineteen. And he continued, gloomily: “But we can’t go on. We’ve got to
stay here at the fort, Mr. Frémont says.”

“A Cheyenne boy gave me these moccasins,” informed Randolph, proudly,
sticking out a foot.

“Yes. I knew ’em for Cheyenne moccasins, soon as I saw ’em,” answered
Oliver. “But why don’t you go on?” he invited――liking both boys. “Isn’t
the party going on?”

“Yes; but we’re too inexperienced, Mr. Frémont thinks. And he doesn’t
want to have the responsibility of us,” explained Henry; continuing,
gloomily as before: “_We’d_ go, if he’d let us; but if the Indians are
bad I suppose we might be in the way, and I’d rather stay here than get
anybody killed looking after us.”

“So would I,” agreed Randolph, quickly. He was the livelier of the
two. “We almost had a fight, coming out, anyhow; only they turned into
trappers instead of Indians.”

“We’ll have some fun, at the fort, I guess,” said Henry, more
hopefully. “But you finish up your work, Oliver. We’ll watch you.”

“Well,” admitted Oliver. “I’ll be done in a minute.”

He proceeded; his two friends strolled about, keeping in touch with him.

The Frémont party were composed all of St. Louis French――the majority
seasoned voyageurs and trappers who as American Fur Company men
had before met the Carson men on the beaver trail. They wore, some
buckskins, but the greater proportion baggy jean trousers stuffed
into high moccasins or boots, and belted at the waist, flannel shirts
adjusted outside the trousers, like blanket-coats and trimmed in red,
bright neckerchiefs, and handkerchief turbans or the wool hats. A
cheery, bustling, dark-faced and dark-eyed crowd they were, laughing
much and singing much and joking much.

“Let’s go down to the fort,” proposed Randolph, at once, when Oliver
turned from his last chore.

But the sun was setting behind great Laramie Peak of the Black Hills,
in the west; throughout the combined camps fires were blazing; and
Oliver, keenly aware of time and place, must reply:

“No; this chile’s wolfish, and pots are on the fire. Meat, first. Then
I’ll go.”

“You eat with us, at our mess,” invited Henry.

“Yes. You can, can’t you?” urged Randolph. “Buffalo meat, and coffee!”

“I suppose you’re used to buffalo meat, though,” hazarded Henry, as
they moved on.

“Yes. That’s what we live on, mostly. Don’t have much coffee. Didn’t
bring any, this trip.”

“We lost nearly all of ours――a whole bag full, in the Kansas River!”
chirped Randolph. “Almost as soon as we’d started. Our rubber boat
tipped over when we were crossing, and Kit Carson and Mr. Maxwell and
everybody had to jump into the river and rescue things. Some of the men
couldn’t swim, either; but they didn’t care! Kit Carson was sick two
days from his wetting.”

“He’s often been in rivers. Trappers wade to their waist in ice-water,
setting traps or finding ’em,” explained Oliver.

“Are you a trapper?”

“I’m learning,” answered Oliver, cautiously. And he added, with pride:
“I’m a Kit Carson man, though.”

“Do those tacks in your rifle mean scalps?”

“Yes.”

“Did you take them?”

“No; but Kit Carson did, before he gave the rifle to me. It was his
rifle.”

“I’d like to be a Kit Carson man,” declared Henry.

“I’d as soon be a Frémont man,” retorted Randolph, loyally.

“Well, it takes pluck to follow either of them, I guess,” admitted
Henry. “They’re both brave. You ought to have seen them riding after
buffalo! Kit Carson’s horse put his foot in a hole and threw him head
over heels and ran away with the buffalo till Mr. Maxwell caught him;
and the lieutenant’s horse chased so hard and got so excited that it
regularly foamed at the mouth! It’s a trained buffalo horse; name is
Proveau.”

They squatted, trapper fashion, guns against knees, near a fire upon
which a pot of stew bubbled and steamed attractively. At other fires
men were toasting strips of meat held on sticks.

“You came up from Taos, didn’t you?” asked Henry.

“Yes.”

“We came clear from St. Louis. That’s about as far,” piped Randolph.
“But I came from Washington, too. We left Missouri――or Mr. Chouteau’s
farm just this side, the tenth of June and we got here July thirteenth.
We’ve been here a week.”

“Did you have any scrimmages, on the trail?” queried Oliver.

“Naw,” said Henry. “Once we thought we were going to, but they were
just a band of trappers on their way back to Missouri. We had some fine
buffalo hunts, though. But Lieutenant Frémont almost got into a big
Indian fight. He separated from us, part way; and he and Mr. Maxwell
and a couple of others followed up the South Branch of the Platte River
to the mountains, while we took the Oregon Trail route, up the North
Branch.”

“Yes; and about three hundred Injuns charged _them_, and there’d have
been shooting if Mr. Maxwell hadn’t recognized one of the Injuns and
shouted, just in time: ‘You old fool! Don’t you know me?’ Then they
all shook hands, and went to the Indian village. They were Arapahoe
Indians.”

“What’s this expedition for, anyway?” ventured Oliver.

“I’ll tell you,” proffered Randolph. “I know because Lieutenant Frémont
married my sister――――”

“And his father’s Senator Benton of Missouri, too,” further explained
Henry. “We’re second cousins. That’s why we were taken along, I guess.”

“Well, I’ve heard the talk, at our house in Washington, anyway,”
resumed Randolph, interrupted. “It’s claimed to be an army expedition
sent out by the Secretary of War to examine the country between the
Missouri frontiers and the Rocky Mountains, and to get the latitude
and longitude of the South Pass; but my father and some other men
in Congress hope it will encourage colonists over into Oregon by
describing the way to get there.”

“Have you been to the South Pass?” asked Henry, of Oliver.

“No, not yet; but most of our men have. That’s the big pass on the
regular trapper and trader trail, over the Rockies from this side to
the other side. Everybody knows the South Pass.”

“Wish we were going on,” repeated Henry, wistfully. “But I guess it’s
mighty serious when Kit Carson makes his will.”

“Did he?”

“Yes. You see, our party met a party under Jim Bridger――you know Jim
Bridger, another trapper captain? (Oliver nodded.) And they all said
the country beyond Laramie isn’t safe, because the Sioux swear they’ll
kill every white man they find there. That scared our men pretty bad,
and Kit Carson got alarmed, too; and at the fort he made his will, so
that in case he’s killed his little girl he left in St. Louis at school
will be provided for. She’s half Indian.”

“Well, he’ll go on, though, if Frémont goes on,” asserted Oliver,
stoutly.

“Of course. That’s why he made his will. He’s sensible. It isn’t
because he’s afraid.”

When supper was practically over with, and the men had lighted their
pipes for a few minutes preceding night chores, a figure stepped into
the midst of the lounging groups and lifted his arm, for attention. It
was a slender, quick figure――that of Lieutenant Frémont.

“Men,” he addressed, clearly, “to-morrow we break camp, for the outward
trail again. We’re well armed, we know how to take care of ourselves,
in a fight, and Mr. Bissonette, head agent at Fort Platte, has agreed
to go with us, as far as we need him, as interpreter. He is a friend
of the Sioux and Blackfeet, and can talk with them if we meet them.
But as to these threats by the Indians and these rumors of danger, you
know as well as I do how much they can be relied upon. You’ve all been
in the Indian country before; you can’t expect to travel in it and not
risk a fight or two. In fact, you knew it before we left St. Louis. You
knew there that the Sioux and Blackfeet were unsettled, in the Laramie
region. I’m going on, right on, ready for peace or war. I don’t see any
good and sufficient reason why any of you should break your engagement
with the government and me; but I don’t want anybody in my party who
feels afraid or repents of his bargain. Let him step forward at once,
and I’ll release him with his discharge and his pay up to date.”

There was an instant of silence, broken by a laugh as one man arose,
and defiantly stood.

“You wish to stay, do you?” demanded Lieutenant Frémont.

The man nodded.

“Are you sick, perhaps?”

“No.”

“Tired, then.”

“Yes.”

“You did not know that the South Pass was beyond Fort John, I presume!”
pursued the lieutenant, sarcastically――creating another laugh.

The man maintained sulky silence, hanging his head.

“Well, my poor fellow, we are very sorry for you,” continued the
officer. “You are welcome to your pay and discharge, and you can be
making garden at the post so as to have nice vegetables ready for us
when we come back!” Thus having ridiculed him, the lieutenant asked,
generally: “Is there anybody else who is tired in heart or feet?”

None answered――for which Oliver was glad.

“Humph!” criticised Randolph, as the three boys trudged off to visit
the post. “Wish now they’d take us instead. But they won’t. I’ve got to
stay and wind the old chronometers every day!”

The next morning Oliver (accompanied by the envious and disconsolate
Henry and Randolph) was paying another visit to the fort. Lieutenant
Frémont, and Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell and several of the French
trappers in the Frémont company had entered the office of Mr. Boudeau,
the agent, as if to say good-by; when through the gate and across
the court, for the office, stalked, with great dignity, half a dozen
Sioux――all chiefs. They were finely built men, several of them old.

A clerk at the door of the office would wave them away; but they acted
as if they did not see him, and past him they shouldered, and on in.

“Come on!” whispered Randolph, to his comrades. “There’s something up.
They’re from Fort Platte, at the Platte River a mile below. I’ve seen
’em there.”

So, the way apparently being open, in after the Indians sidled the boys.

Lieutenant Frémont was just opening a folded note, evidently brought by
the Indians. They had seated themselves upon the floor, along the wall,
and were waiting for the result. The white men were eyeing the missive
anxiously, and waiting also.

“This is a note from Mr. Bissonette at Fort Platte,” announced
Lieutenant Frémont; “as follows,” and he read, in French. Then he
continued: “In case some of us may not have understood it all, I’ll
translate.” And again he read――flushing more as he proceeded:

    “FORT PLATTE, July 1, 1842.

    “Mr. Frémont: The chiefs in council have just told me to warn
    you not to set out before the party of young men which is out
    shall have returned. Moreover, they tell me that they are very
    certain that they (the young men) will fire upon you at the
    first meeting. They ought to be back in seven to eight days.
    Pardon me for thus addressing you, but it seems to me that I
    should warn you of the danger. Furthermore, the chiefs who
    forbid you to set forth before the return of the warriors are
    the bearers of this note.

    “I am your obedient servant,

    “JOSEPH BISSONETTE,

      “by L. B. CHARTRAIN.

    “The names of some of the chiefs――The Otter Hat, the Breaker of
    Arrows, the Black Night, the Bull’s Tail.”

As the lieutenant finished, one of the seated chiefs arose, and
dropping his blanket, as signal that he was about to speak, in guttural
tone, with now and then a gesture, delivered a short harangue. Mr.
Boudeau, the American Fur Company agent in charge of the post,
translated sentence by sentence.

“You have come among us at a bad time,” said the chief. “Some of
our people have been killed, and our young men who have gone to the
mountains are eager to avenge the blood of their relations, which has
been shed by the whites. Our young men are bad, and if they meet you,
they will believe that you are carrying goods and ammunition to their
enemies, and will fire upon you. You have told us that this will make
war. We know that our great father has many soldiers and big guns, and
we are anxious to keep our lives. We love the whites, and are desirous
of peace. Thinking all these things, we have decided to keep you here
until our warriors return. We are glad to see you among us. Our father
is rich and we expected that you would have brought us presents from
him――horses and guns and blankets. But we are glad to see you, anyway.
We look upon your coming as the light that goes before the sun; for you
will tell our great father that you have seen us, and how we are naked
and poor and have nothing to eat, and he will send us all these things.”

The chief sat down, and enveloped himself in his red blanket. Another
chief, doffing his blanket (which was blue trimmed with red), standing
also spoke. He said, like the first, that they loved the whites very
much, and could not bear to have them injured when they came as
friends, and that it was better for them to stay safely at the post and
not go on. Then the great father at Washington would be grateful and
would give his red children many blankets and horses and much food and
powder and lead!

Other chiefs spoke, in turn――and all blandly expressed the hope that
in reward for their tender care of the expedition in forbidding it to
proceed, the “great father” at Washington would liberally reward them!

When the half circle of chiefs had said their say, Lieutenant Frémont
replied――Agent Boudeau translating his sentences into Sioux.

“We thank you for your good words,” replied the lieutenant, to their
up-turned solemn visages. “We know that you do not wish us to be
harmed, and it will please the great father at Washington to hear about
it. We should like to stay with you a long time, but the trail is
waiting, we have not come to the end of it. We hope that your young men
will not take us as enemies. That would be a great pity, when we come
as friends. But in case that your young men might not see plainly, and
blood would be shed, and perhaps many of them killed, we ask that two
or three of you go with us, to signal the young men and tell them that
we are friends. We ask that you go with us, as our guests, to spread
your robes in my lodge and eat at my fire; and when we return safely I
will give presents.”

The chief in the red blanket arose.

“We have heard the speech of the white chief, and it is good,” he
said. “But we are old and poor and tired, and we cannot travel far on
horseback. We must sit in our lodges and smoke our pipes among the
women, and let our young warriors take the trail. Besides, we have no
power now over the young men, and it would be bad for us if we tried to
interfere on the war-path.”

He seated himself, and was applauded by a chorus of grunts from his
comrades.

Lieutenant Frémont answered, instantly and energetically――with a
glance at Kit Carson as if to read approval in his sober face.

“You say that you love the whites; why have you killed so many already
this spring? You say you love the whites, and you are full of words
about friendship; but you are unwilling to undergo the fatigue of a
few days’ ride to save our lives! We do not believe what you have
said; we will listen to you no more. Whatever a chief among us tells
his soldiers to do, is done. We obey our chiefs. We are soldiers of
the great chief your father. He has told us to come out here, and see
this country and all the Indians, his children. Why should we not go
on and do it? Before we came, we heard that you had killed his people
and wanted to be his children no longer; but we came anyway, holding
out our hands in peace. Now we find that the stories we heard are not
lies, and that your young men are on the war-path and you are no more
his friends and children. But we have thrown away our bodies, and will
not turn back. When you told us that your young men would kill us, you
did not know that our hearts were strong, and you did not count the
rifles that my young men carry in their hands. We may be few, and you
are many, in numbers, and you may think to kill us; but if you try
there will be much crying of women in your villages, for many of your
young men will stay behind and forget to return with the others from
the mountains. Do you think that our great chief will let his soldiers
die, and will not cover their graves? Before the snows melt again his
warriors will have swept away your villages as the fires in autumn
sweep the prairies. Look around. See! I have pulled down my white
lodges and my people are ready: when the sun is ten paces higher, we
shall be on the march. If you have anything new to tell us, you should
say it soon. I am done.”

With that the lieutenant turned his back, and strode out; after him
strode Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell and all, even the agent, with the
three boys forming the rear. Presently, at decent interval, filed forth
the chiefs, blanket shrouded; they crossed the court and passed through
the gate, for the lodges without.

“That was a good speech, wasn’t it!” praised Randolph. “And he means
what he says, too.”

“Guess you start right away,” said Henry; for Lieutenant Frémont had
immediately mounted his horse, at the post gate, and was dashing for
the camp, followed by the other men. So, hastily vaulting into their
own saddles, with a whoop the three boys, abreast, raced after.



VI

INTO THE WILDER WEST


Oliver secretly was pleased to see that Kit Carson, scouring the plain
like a centaur, soon overtook the lieutenant. No rider could beat Kit.
However, neck and neck they galloped into the camp, and simultaneously
checked their horses short.

“All right. En avant!” cried Frémont, his voice ringing keenly. And Kit
Carson shouted to his own squad: “Ketch up, boys!”

The mules and carts were packed and waiting; now into their saddles
clambered the men. Frémont and Carson and Maxwell and others proceeded
to shake hands with Agent Boudeau; gay salutations of parting were
exchanged.

“We’ll ride a little way with you, but we can’t go far, I suppose,”
vouchsafed Henry, to Oliver.

“We’ll be here when you come back, though. You can tell us all about
it,” proposed Randolph, hopefully. “You’ll see Independence Rock and
Devil’s Gate and South Pass and Wind River Mountains and everything!”

But they were interrupted, for just as amidst a jostling and confusion
of orders addressed to pack animals and mule teams the company were
forming upon the march, came galloping from the direction of the post
one of the Sioux chiefs.

“Thar’s Bull’s Tail,” grumbled Lieutenant Ike. “Wants to say something.”

“The chief says that they are sorry to see you go in anger,” translated
Agent Boudeau to Lieutenant Frémont. “It makes their hearts sad to
think that you are likely to run into danger. So they have found a
young man who will join you this evening and try to keep you safe. But
he is very poor; he has no horse, and he expects you to give him one.”

“That is good. Tell him to send the young man. We will camp about
fifteen miles from here, near where the river Platte issues from the
red rocks.”

The chief grunted acknowledgment and loped back to the post, probably
on his way to Fort Platte below, at the mouth of the Laramie.

Once again the company were set in motion; they strung out into a
long procession, Frémont and Kit Carson leading; the Frémont party
following, and the Carson party as the second division. The Frémont
party had eight stout two-wheeled covered carts, for the provisions
and tents and scientific instruments. These carts creaked; the drivers
cracked whips above the two-mule teams; the happy-go-lucky Frenchmen
laughed and sung and chattered; but the men from Taos rode more gravely.

Now at a turn of the trail, where it entered the hills, only a few
minutes’ ride from the post, must Henry and Randolph reluctantly
halt, and let the train continue without them. They waved hand at the
men; and with answering wave from Lieutenant Frémont and Kit Carson
and Oliver, and voyageurs and trappers all, the cavalcade passed on.
Glancing back, Oliver noted that the hill defile had at once closed,
shutting off view of Fort Laramie. The expedition was fairly started
for the South Pass, 280 miles westward, at the source of the Sweetwater
River. This was the great pass by which trappers and fur traders
crossed the Rocky Mountains from the east or the American side to the
west side shared by the United States and Great Britain; it was the
pass to Oregon.

The trail, plainly wheel-marked by the party of the first Oregon
emigrants which had travelled through only three weeks before,
traversed a wide, rolling sagy plateau which occupied much of the space
between the valley of the Laramie Creek, south, and of the North Platte
River, north. About ten miles from the post a shallow, dry creek-bed
was entered.

Down the creek-bed, which now ran with a little current of clear warm
water, continued the procession, and unexpectedly to Oliver they all
emerged at a rapidly flowing river.

“North Platte,” announced Trapper New, nonchalantly. “Yep; an’ a heap
beaver stream, wagh!”

The leaders had halted; the Frémont party already were unharnessing and
unsaddling; so evidently this was the camping-place for the night. The
upper end of the valley was closed by cliffs of scarlet, peeping over a
little swell that intervened.

“I’ve seen time when this hyar valley war full o’ buff’ler an’ elk an’
deer,” remarked Trapper New, as the Carson squad good-naturedly hustled
to beat the larger party in making camp. “But when Injuns air out, game
gets scarce. We’re going to have a lean trail, I reckon.”

At this moment a ripple of laughter flowed through the party. Oliver
followed the glances, and saw that the Frémont party were trying to
erect a large tent; rather, a buffalo-hide lodge which they must have
procured from the Indians at Fort Laramie. It was some twenty feet
high, to the peak, and eighteen feet across, at the base, and was to be
stretched like a cone over a framework of lodge-poles set in a circle
and slanted to meet at a point. Almost the whole party, including the
lieutenant and Kit Carson, were working at it. But twice it had toppled
and fallen, burying the workers under its folds.

“Now, Kit knows,” complained Ike Chamberlain. “He’s seen many a lodge
put up. But hyar comes somebody who knows better, I reckon. You watch.
It’s squaw work, anyhow; not man work.”

Into the camp had ridden Agent Bissonette, from Fort Platte, with two
Indians――man and wife. The woman, grinning broadly, at once trudged to
the struggling group, and by gestures and short exclamations, and by
applying deftly her own strength, soon had the skin tent stretched and
stationary.

Flushed and apologetic, Kit Carson strolled to his squad.

“That’s harder than I thought,” he said. “I’ve seen a thousand lodges
raised an’ struck, but I never touched one before. Thar always were
squaws to do it.”

“Camp hyar, do we, for the night?” commented Lieutenant Ike.

“Yes. Frémont wants to ride over an’ inspect the canyon mouth yon, whar
he’s coming down in his rubber boat, on our way back.”

“He air, air he!” grunted Ike. “Humph! Old White Head tried that once,
didn’t he――’fore his ha’r turned.”

By “White Head” Oliver knew that Thomas Fitzpatrick, a noted trapper
captain, was meant.

“Wall, he knows that Fitz lost all his furs an’ nigh lost his life,
voyaging into those canyons; but he’s bound to find out for himself,
an’ I guess he will.”

The canyon mouth was located at the red cliffs, up the valley about
three miles; and as the sun had not set, and as there was nothing
especial to do, a little bunch of the men from the two commands rode
over. Oliver saw that here at the red cliffs the Platte came tumbling
out of the mountain country. High upon either hand rose the scarlet
walls, about one hundred yards apart, their shelves dotted with a few
pines, their tops bearing a fringe of the same dark-green. The river
roared loudly, as it boiled down. Many rocks stuck up through the
current.

“It’s wuss above,” quoth William New, when they all emerged, and rode
away. “’Tain’t any place for human being to travel in. Thar’s one place
called Fiery Narrows――wagh!”

“Ah, who fears?” laughed Descoteaux, Frenchman, of the Frémont party.
“Where Monsieur Frémont go, I go.”

“I, too,” announced Clément Lambert, his comrade.

Frémont himself, with Basil Lajeunesse, his trusted adjutant, surveyed
the place, the next morning; and when they rode back it was rumored
that the lieutenant was more determined than ever to launch his boat,
on the return from the South Pass.

As the company continued to advance, the next day, the country grew
drier. Grasshoppers jumped in clouds from beneath hoof and wheel; so
that William New, with whom Oliver rode, shook his head.

“Signs air bad,” he mumbled. “When hoppers air many, grass air few.”

No Indians had yet been sighted; but early in the afternoon a sudden
commotion swept the line, as from scouting service in the advance back
galloped four Frémont men.

“Aux armes!” they shouted. “To arms! They come――the savages!”

Around whirled their horses Kit Carson and Frémont, and while the
lieutenant and Lucien Maxwell and Basil Lajeunesse urgently strove with
the van, Kit Carson sped recklessly adown the line to the rear.

“To the river, boys!” he shouted. “We’ll fort thar, an’ let ’em come!
Quick, now!”

How the men jumped to his clear tones! The river was near, on the
right; its hither bank was high and steep; pack animals and mule teams
were forced into trot and lope; the packs swayed and jolted, the carts
jolted and swayed; loud rose the cries of the drivers. Just as on the
Santa Fé Trail, in the attack by the Kiowas, now here upon the edge of
the river, under the steep bank the carts were instantly wheeled into a
semi-circle, enclosing the horses and mules. Over the bank peered the
defenders, rifle muzzles forward, Oliver ready with his tack-studded
gift from Kit.

“Bang! Whang!” sounded the reports as several of the Frémont men fired
their guns, to be certain of their condition.

Mr. Bissonette and the Indian who was to protect the march from attack
by his people had not “forted” with the column; they had at once ridden
on, to meet the enemy, and to explain. Now here they came, back, with
two new Indians.

“Wagh! Sioux!” grunted the men around Oliver.

Kit Carson, Lieutenant Frémont, Lucien Maxwell and Basil Lajeunesse
stepped out and received the approaching four.

A brief conference was held only a dozen yards beyond the bank rampart.
The twain Sioux were painted and half naked (save for the paint on
their chests); they seemed sullen and unresponsive, and spoke with few
words and many sign-gestures. Mr. Bissonette eked out their tale, and
in the fort Trapper New kept pace for the benefit of Oliver and the
others.

“Been on war path, up Sweetwater; looking for scalps――need scalps
to make their dead warriors happy by a dance, an’ to dry up the
tears o’ the women (wagh!); too many white people in their country;
overtook party o’ whites (emigrants, I reckon) at Indypendence Rock on
Sweetwater; Broken Hand (Oliver knew that this meant Thomas Fitzpatrick
again) war leading party; half o’ Sioux wanted to attack, half didn’t;
these two war in half that did want to――――”

“Give it to ’em, boys!”

“Feed ’em Galena pills!”

“Lift their ha’r!”

“Tirez! Tirez! (Fire! Shoot!)”

“Des coups de baguettes pour les scoundrels! (Shots for the
scoundrels!)”

Thus rose the indignant cries, at the announcement. But Frémont turned
and raised his hand commandingly; and the cries died to a mutter.

“They war in the half that did want to,” continued Trapper New.
“Finally, the war party busted, seeing they couldn’t agree, an’ have
scattered. Most went over into Crow country, north, after Crow scalps
an’ hosses; rest air travelling back down the Platte. Thar’s no grass
an’ no buff’ler.”

Lieutenant Frémont and the others were conducting the two Sioux around
the bank and into the little fort. Still sullen, the visitors were
permitted to gaze about, and see how angry and well-armed were this
white company. Then they were given a present of tobacco and told to go.

“Wall,” remarked the quiet voice of Kit Carson, as, among his men, for
a moment he reflectively watched the two Sioux ride off as if glad
to escape, “I’ve fought Injuns an’ they’ve fought me, in mountains
an’ on plains, for over fifteen year, now――but sometimes I don’t
blame ’em. ’Tain’t natural for ’em to sit by an’ let their country be
occupied by whites――their country that they’ve owned. An’ that’s what
it means――this settler travel to Oregon: it means white people on both
sides the mountains. Beaver air thinned, buff’ler air getting scarce,
an’ some day thar won’t be any room for the Injun. An’ they suspect it.
Pore critters!”



VII

OVER THE FAMED SOUTH PASS


“The best advice that I can give you is to turn back at once,” declared
Mr. Bissonette, flatly, to Lieutenant Frémont.

’Twas near noon of the fifth day after the adventure with the first
of the Indians. Other Indians, mainly Sioux, had been met, in small
parties, as the Frémont company had travelled on up the Platte. This
morning the trail finally had intercepted the road to Oregon, which
here crossed the river, and four miles beyond more Indians were met.
The obliging Mr. Bissonette had come far enough; by the Oregon Trail he
was going back to Fort Platte at the mouth of the Laramie Creek, but he
lingered to have an interview with these latest of the Sioux.

“They say that the country ahead is very bad,” he reported. “Their main
village has made a wide detour from the river to the south, looking for
game. There are no buffalo in this whole region, because on account of
the drought and the grasshoppers there is no grass. The trail of the
village is marked by lodges thrown away in flight, and by the skeletons
of the horses that the people must eat for food, or that have starved
to death. The best advice that I can give you, is to turn back at once.”

“No, sir; I am under instructions to go on to the South Pass, and on I
go,” replied Lieutenant Frémont, loudly enough for all the men to hear.
“But if anybody wishes to turn back with you, now that there is the
opportunity, he has my permission.”

Ensued a moment of expectancy, as man looked upon man; no one made the
move or said the word.

“Ma foi! (My goodness!)” exclaimed Basil Lajeunesse, breaking the
spell. “We’ll eat the mules!”

At this they all laughed. Mr. Bissonette shook hands around, and so
did the Indian whom the chiefs had sent along; and they rode away,
down the Oregon road, for the post――the Indian with his squaw and his
horse-present.

Henceforth Kit Carson was to be the guide, for he knew the country from
the Platte up the Sweetwater.

Ere proceeding, first they must get rid of their cumbersome baggage and
their carts, so as to be able to travel light and fast. The Kit Carson
party already were travelling light, trapper style; but for plains work
the Frémont party had their carts and the several tents. However, here,
after the discouraging report, through Mr. Bissonette, from the Sioux,
all turned to and made a cache or hiding place for the discarded stuff.

The carts were taken apart――hoods and frames and wheels――and these
pieces were stowed out of sight among thick willows growing near. A
hole ten feet square and six feet deep was dug in a sandy opening in
the midst of the same willows, and lined with brush, and tarpaulins;
and in this were stowed the other things not absolutely necessary. They
were covered with an old buffalo robe; the sand was thrown in, the top
was levelled and any suspicious “sign” smoothed away or disfigured; and
with pack-mules laden the company were prepared for the long hard trail
awaiting.

“Wagh!” grunted William New. “Hyar’s whar we shine. Now for Indypendence
Rock an’ the Sweetwater an’ the Pass over. We got a guide who air up to
trap. That agent purty nigh lost us, but you can’t lose Kit Carson.”

“How far to the Pass?” queried Oliver.

“Wall, by regular trail it’s ’bout fifty miles to the Rock, an’ then a
hundred to the Pass. But we aren’t going by regular trail; see? We’re
travelling on up the Platte, an’ it turns southward, for the Bull Pen
or what they call New Park; whilst the regular Oregon an’ trapper trail
cuts the curves, on other side, lining for the Sweetwater. It’s the
Sweetwater that flows down from the Pass an’ j’ines the Platte below at
head o’ those red canyons we saw.”

The stories by the Indians seemed not true; for when the next day the
march was resumed buffalo were sighted. Some would have been killed had
not Clément Lambert’s horse, just as Clément was closing in on the
tail of the fleeing herd, plunged headlong into a sudden ravine; while
Clément was climbing out, the buffalo, tails high, scrambled like goats
up a precipice ridge, and escaped.

Nevertheless, the camp that night was supplied with jerked or dried
buffalo meat from a previous hunt, and found plenty of grass.

Frémont had named the camp, several nights back, where the buffalo meat
had been obtained, Dried Meat Camp. Yesterday’s camp was of course
Cache Camp; on this all agreed. This afternoon’s camp was pitched near
a mud bank studded with large pebbles worn oval; therefore William New
dubbed it Goose-Egg Camp!

Now according to Lieutenant Frémont’s compass the Platte was inclining
more and more to the south; and it was rumored among the men that
unless they crossed pretty soon to the Sweetwater, so as to strike
it above its juncture with the Platte, they would be entangled among
precipices. The country was beautifully red, with brown and pink
sandstone and “pudding-stone” (as the pebbly formation was termed),
and even the soil was red; a curious landscape flowed through by the
greenish river. But twelve miles from Goose-Egg Camp Kit Carson, riding
ahead with Lieutenant Frémont, halted. So halted the column.

“Injun sign,” announced Ike Chamberlain, for the way was crossed by a
trail of an Indian village which, here camping, had left lodge-poles
and horse skeletons.

But not for “Injun sign” had halted Kit Carson; he was talking
earnestly with the lieutenant and with Lucien Maxwell and Basil
Lajeunesse, and pointing.

“We’ll have to turn off. Knew we would,” predicted Trapper New. “An’
that army fellow’ll find out why, if Kit hasn’t told him plain enough
an’ he goes on. Yonder’s whar the Platte comes out the Fiery Narrows,
an’ on above the Fiery Narrows (which are _some_, I say!) are nothing
but more canyons clear to mouth o’ Sweetwater. Even a beaver couldn’t
get through, an’ I don’t reckon we can, either. An’ it’d take a bird to
cross.”

Evidently Kit Carson had persuaded, for around swung the march, to
double on its trail as far as a fair island, divided from the shore
by only a shallow current. Close upon either bank of the river was
a red ridge――one set with the “pudding-stones,” some as large as a
football. Upon this island, grassy and containing about twenty acres,
was established the night’s camp. To-morrow would the march be directed
west across the angle from the Platte to the Sweetwater.

“Fifteen miles, an’ I’ll be glad to get thar,” asserted Ike, at the
evening fire. “Sweetwater trail is good trap trail; an’ if we’re
locating emigrant route to Oregon that’s the road.”

The camp was a cheerful spot, this night, being supplied with mountain
mutton; for Lieutenant Frémont and several of the men had ridden out
upon a little exploring tour, beyond a red ridge, and had returned with
mountain sheep. Now arose a discussion as to whether the sheep could
leap off high cliffs and land head-first on their broad-based horns.
Ike and William New, Joseph Descoteaux and others of the Kentuckians
and French in the two parties claimed to have seen the sheep make such
escapes, when pursued――but not one had seen them land! Mr. Preuss,
the funny, red-faced, bristly-haired German who was the map-maker and
sketcher with the Frémont party and helped Mr. Frémont in figuring,
said that the horns were for other purpose. However, as Kit Carson and
the lieutenant were inclined to believe that the sheep could perform
these leaps, the theory was generally adopted.

Goat Island was this camp named, because of the bag of sheep. At each
camp Lieutenant Frémont and Mr. Preuss fussed with various scientific
instruments――thermometer (which of course everybody knew, because it
told of heat and cold), and barometer (which somebody said measured
weight of air), and a watch-like thing called a chronometer (companion
to which had been left at the post, for Randolph to keep wound up),
and a sextant (which was claimed to be a sea instrument). By these
instruments were obtained figures, carefully noted down in a book.

As many of the figures were obtained at night, in the dark, William
New and the majority of the voyageurs and trappers were much puzzled.
Back at the post the Indians had deemed the lieutenant to be a great
medicine man, who read the sun and the stars; and his tent was a place
of tremendous mystery to them.

“Latitude so-an’-so, longitude so-an’-so, I hear said,” grunted Trapper
New. “That’s the camping spot. Now, what air the sense o’ that, unless
figgers air written on the grass an’ rocks so you can read ’em? When I
find a place I don’t look for figgers. It air one day travel nor’west
o’ the second left-hand fork o’ Goose Creek; or it air half-way ’twixt
Pilot Peak an’ the head o’ the Little Blackfoot; or some such. But
these hyar figgers! I never saw any figgers, anywhar.”

“What is this camp, Mr. Preuss?” asked Oliver, politely, of the busy
tow-headed German.

“By chronometer and lunar distances and an occultation of Epsilon
Arietis, it appears to be longitude one hundred and seven degrees,
thirteen minutes, and twenty-nine seconds, east; latitude forty-two
degrees, thirty-three minutes, and twenty-seven seconds, north,”
announced Mr. Preuss. “But we can’t be sure of what instruments we have
left. They are getting badly shaken up.”

“Thank you,” said Oliver, retiring, knowing no more than he did before.
And he was much inclined to agree with Trapper New.

When in the morning they plashed away for the farther bank, they left
upon the island a horse, as garrison. The horse was too worn and
lame to travel; but with its plentiful grass and its abundant water
the island was a perfect horse sanatorium. The poor animal gave one
astonished and glad whinny after them, and fell to cropping again
greedily, as if fearful lest they might change their minds.

“How far to Independence Rock now?” asked Oliver, of William New, as
Goat Island and the river sank from view behind the red sandy, pebbly
ridge.

“’Bout twenty-three or four mile, I reckon, or what Injuns call half a
sun,” answered Trapper New. “You must be heap anxious to see that ’ere
rock, boy!”

“Yes, I am,” admitted Oliver. “I’m going to put my name on it. Is yours
there?”

“Used to be; an’ if somebody or wind an’ weather hasn’t scratched it
out it’s thar yet. But it doesn’t ’mount to much ’longside names that
nothing can scratch out.”

“We ought to camp at the rock, to-night.”

“Can, if we don’t stop shorter,” agreed Trapper New, dryly.

But they did stop; for as they were descending a long slope of short
brush and flowers, and a glimmer of a stream, at the bottom, had
risen the glad cry: “Sweetwater!” another cry interrupted. “Buffalo!
Buff’ler!” At the mouth of a shallow valley, across, had appeared dark
masses that looked like moving gooseberry bushes.

Down dashed Lucien Maxwell, the official hunter of the expedition; down
dashed Kit Carson, and Clément Lambert, and Ike and William New, and
Oliver himself; and as soon as they could down dashed others: so that
by the time camp was located beside the Sweetwater and fires had been
made, the first buffalo had fallen to the crack of Kit Carson’s rifle.
Oliver killed a fat cow and a huge bull; his Kit Carson rifle shot
strong and true. Every hunter was successful, so that this night there
was much meat in camp, and the company did not mind sleeping under
sage-bushes, in a rain. Only the big lodge had been brought along, and
here was no tree to serve as lodge-pole.

[Illustration: THE FIRST BUFFALO HAD FALLEN TO THE CRACK OF KIT
CARSON’S RIFLE]

The next morning they moved up the Sweetwater to Independence Rock.

“Thar she is――the Sign-board o’ the Sweetwater Trail to South Pass,”
directed Ike, as the Carson squad came in sight of a gray mass
up-swelling like an enormous whaleback above the sea of sage; a single
pine, like a scrap of a fin, upon its very spine.

“She’s independent, all right,” observed William New. “She stands
out alone. But I reckon she war named ’cause some o’ Ashley’s
beaver-hunters, who broke this trail, after the Injuns, ten or fifteen
year ago celebrated Fourth o’ July hyar, or Indypendence Day, as it air
called down east.”

Independence Rock was a huge bare weather-beaten, rounded mass of
gray granite, forty yards high and 650 yards long, rising right out
of the plain, on the north of the Sweetwater. As seemed to Oliver,
curiously examining the surface, about everybody who had passed had
carved or scratched his name or initials. Here were names of trappers,
traders and missionaries, already thickly placed as high as arm
could reach from horseback. To read the collection was a fascinating
pastime. Oliver found Kit Carson’s name, and Jim Bridger’s, and Jim
Beckwourth’s, and William New’s, and Ike’s, and Sol Silver’s, and
General Ashley the famous Missouri fur-trader’s; etc. And there were
many Indian signs; and there were names, freshly carved, of the
emigrants who had passed by only two or three weeks before. And a large
“_Independence_.”

This afternoon part of the company (whose names were already upon the
rock) went buffalo hunting; but Oliver and the others attacked the rock.

“Hooray!” cheered the red-headed Irishman Tom Tobin, appearing from the
other side of the rock, carrying a ladder made from cross-sticks tied
with hide thongs to a pair of lodge-poles.

“Sioux ladder,” pronounced Mariano the Mexican. “Bueno!”

Climbing by aid of this, they placed their names much higher than any
names yet.

Early the next day the second of the Sweetwater Trail wonders was
reached. This was Devil’s Gate, five miles above Independence Rock. It
was another canyon, but very narrow, about 300 yards long, and almost
150 deep; and through it, among boulders and jagged blocks, roared the
Sweetwater. The trail to the South Pass made a circuit back from this
Devil’s Gate, so as to dodge the rough ridge; but Lieutenant Frémont
and the scientific Mr. Preuss, and Oliver and many others who never
had seen into Devil’s Gate, or who wanted to see into it again, rode
over to the rim and peered down.

The trail was growing rougher. The Sweetwater rippled in and out of
little parks or pockets amidst the low hills of its valley; a mountain
range bordered the valley on either hand, and to the south the slopes
were ablaze with fires set by the Indians to drive the game (said
William New) back to the open country. The fire seemed to make rains
gather; and to-night’s camp was another wet, uncomfortable camp, but
nobody complained. However, the rain, sweeping down from the high
country, certainly was cold!

“See thar?” invited Trapper New, to Oliver, the next morning, pointing
ahead.

They were topping a little rise, still near the faithful guiding
Sweetwater; and far before, against the horizon, in a vista opened to
the march, a line of dark mountains.

“Those air the Wind River mountains, to north o’ the South Pass. Pass
cuts one end o’ them, I reckon. They’re heap medicine mountains; Injuns
say they’re ha’nted by evil spirits. The Crows won’t go in ’em.”

“How far?” asked Oliver, gazing hard.

“Seventy miles, ’bout.”

The Sweetwater was slowly dwindling, as they approached its sources.
They picked up an Indian horse whose hoofs were sore; and an Indian
dog, who was glad of the scraps that the men tossed to him. But he
wasn’t friendly, and Oliver named him “Wolf.”

Rain, and rain, and rain! That was now the weather program, every day;
and when, five days beyond Devil’s Gate, at last the morning broke
with sunshine, suddenly near at hand, right before, rose grandly with
complete robe of dazzling white the Wind River mountain-chain. So high
and aloof were they, that upon their flanks the rain had been snow.

And now the South Pass was near indeed, for the Sweetwater was dividing
into several streams, spreading like the veins of a leaf, to drain the
little side valleys.

“What do yore figgers say as to our height up?” queried Ike, carelessly,
of Mr. Preuss.

“I cannot tell you, yet, my friend,” responded Mr. Preuss, nervously.

“Wall,” remarked Ike, “I can tell you without figgers that we’re
climbing. Cactuses air going; moss air beginning; an’ that’s a sartin
sign, in the hills.”

Oliver kept his eyes sharp set for the celebrated pass. He had before
crossed the top of the Rocky Mountains; but here was a pass the most
famous of all――said to be the only single pass by which the traveller
changed at once from the east side to the west side of the mountains.
So he watched keenly.

The morning was rainy, again; Kit Carson and Lieutenant Frémont led
the march away from the wheel-marked road which had been followed
much of the time, and took a saddle and pack trail that swung out,
one side. They all rode along leisurely and without trouble, winding
about upon a series of billowy slopes, with the Wind River Mountains
gradually unfolding gap and crest, on the right. After a ride of five
or six miles Kit Carson and Lieutenant Frémont halted, and engaged in
a discussion, while now and then pointing and examining. The cavalcade
gradually gathered about them.

“I’ve been hyar, on an’ off, during a dozen years,” was saying Kit
Carson, mildly. “An’ I nor any other man can ever be exactly sure. But
’cording to my notion an’ my recollection, this ought to be it.”

“It seems so to me, too,” concurred the lieutenant.

“But where’s the pass?” queried Oliver, of William New.

Trapper New chuckled.

“Whar? Look under yore hoss, boy. You’re on it!”

“South Pass?” stammered Oliver, astounded.

“Right. Kit says the top――didn’t ye hear him? Behind air the United
States, before air Oregon. All that ’ere country, west to the mouth o’
the Columbia at the Pacific Ocean; that air Oregon. And wagh! what a
beaver country! Down below us, northwest, air the Valley o’ the Green
River, big trappers’ rendezvous place.”

This was the pass――the great South Pass? They had halted upon an open
swale between twain low rounded, smooth hills; behind them, the route
which they had traversed, stretched a billowy sandy slope which was the
ascent, but which Oliver had not recognized as such.

“About the grade of Capitol Hill, from the Avenue, at Washington,”
commented Lieutenant Frémont. “How is the other side――the same?”

“About the same,” nodded Kit.

“How runs the road to the Columbia――the remaining part of this Oregon
Trail?”

“At the foot of the pass thar’s the Little Sandy an’ the Big Sandy
Rivers, an’ all flat desert clear to the Crossing o’ the Green River.
Then it gets rougher from the Green west to the Bear an’ on northwest
up the Bear to the Sody Springs. Then it air on westward and northward
from the B’ar to Fort Hall at the Snake; west up along the Snake――or
what some call the Lewis Ford o’ the Columbia――a two weeks’ march
across the Plains o’ the Snake an’ a bad country beyond to Fort Boisé
toward the mouth o’ the Snake; then it’s across the Blue Mountains,
to the Columbia; an’ from thar it air ’bout two hundred miles to
Vancouver, they say. As for myself, I’ve never been much west, on that
trail, o’ Goose Creek between Hall and Boisé.”

Gazing into the west, where hazy lay Oregon, Frémont’s blue eyes
kindled and flashed.

“What a country!” he said. “And there waits the trail. It’s a hard
trail, Kit?”

“Right hard. These wagons ahead of us may get through to Fort Hall,
but beyond Hall it’s hoss, mule an’ moccasins, nigh a thousand miles.”

“It’s a trail I’d like to try,” mused Frémont. “And it’s a country
worth a bigger try. The United States has better claim to it than
England has. England has her hunters there――we’ll have our farmers
there; and the man who tills the soil is the man who wins the land. He
produces, and stays; the trapper only consumes, and moves on.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” responded Kit Carson, slowly. “We trappers open
the way――but that’s all. I’ve often thought that I’d go to farming, an’
I believe I will. Some o’ the mountain-men air at work already, in the
Columbia country.”

“Well,” quoth the lieutenant, “we’ll have to see more of that country;
this isn’t the end of the trail, yet, you know. But the South Pass is
about the limit of my orders. However――en avant! We can camp at the
west foot, on the Pacific side. I want to cross.”



VIII

PLANTING THE HIGHEST FLAG


It was the third day after the halt upon crossing of the South Pass;
now in camp by a lake at the head of the New Fork of the Green River,
northwest from the South Pass, the lieutenant had decided to climb the
Wind River mountain-chain, to the northeast, and measure the highest
peak.

Here in the grove of beech-trees amidst which the camp was located the
lieutenant fortified by raising a breastwork of logs; in charge of
this camp and corral he and Kit Carson left about half the company,
under Baptiste Bernier of the Frémont party; and with the other half,
provisioned by dried meat, maccaroni and coffee for two days, they set
out.

“Wall, boy,” said Kit, in telling off his own party, to the expectant
Oliver, “what do you think? Can you make a climb like that, into the
snow? You’ll freeze yore moccasins.”

The Carson tanned, sandy face was solemn, but the keen gray eyes were
twinkling; for he read Oliver through and through. He knew how hard
Oliver _wanted_.

“I think I could do it,” answered Oliver, hopefully. “I’m not afraid to
try.”

“Better come along then,” bade Kit; and proceeded with his duties.

Oliver went.

One snowy peak of the heavily-wooded, white-crested, sharp-toothed
ridge to the northward seemed to stand up above all others. This was
accepted by the camp below as being the highest peak of the Wind River
Mountains. Some of the men thought it to be one mile, some two miles,
some three miles high; and all declared it to be higher than the great
James’ or Pike’s Peak which was the landmark northwest of Bent’s Fort.

The South Pass had been crossed during August 8; now early in the
morning of August 12 the little party left Camp Bernier (as it was
christened, in honor of Baptiste its commander), and upon the best of
the hardy mules, with pack animal for the coffeepot and the meat kettle
and a few tin cups and the provisions, each member carrying at his
saddle a blanket for bedding, headed forth for the great feat.

The first day’s travel conducted amidst a richly verdured country
of trees and grass and flowers, secret valleys, rushing streams and
gem-like lakes――a constant surprise to Kit Carson and all, who never
had penetrated here before. In late afternoon were passed wonderful
lakes which poured one into another by cataracts; and through a silent
level forest, grassed like a city lawn, the explorers, riding on,
camped in a dark, rock-and-pine surrounded little gulch――“the heart,”
as William New expressed, “o’ nowhere.”

“Never white nor Injun war in this region before,” he asserted, with
wag of his shaggy head. “This chile ain’t afraid; but if these hyar
mountains air ha’nted an’ the spirits air up to trap, they got a chance
to get us, sure!”

However, Oliver saw Kit Carson wink at the lieutenant and Lucien
Maxwell, as the speech reached them, and it was evident that these
three leaders did not believe the Indian tales. Consequently he himself
decided that the reports of “evil spirits” awaiting were all bosh.

Kit Carson pointed through the little gulch.

“Thar’s our peak,” he said.

In the gulch defile dusk had gathered; but outside still lingered the
twilight, and beyond the end of the gulch lifted, massy in the near
distance, a snow summit.

There was space for only a few stars at a time to peer down into the
narrow gulch; but the camp fires lighted redly the jumbled rocks and
the crowded circle of pines like blanketed Indians of heroic size.
Guarded by fires, and stars, and courage, and by One who was nearer
than the fires, farther than the stars, and mightier than courage, here
through the chill black night of the deepest wilds safely slept the
camp.

In the morning start was made early. The ride onward, up a long valley
which flowed with springs and bloomed with many flowers, promised
success. And when they reached the head of the valley, they found
themselves at a fair little lake, set about with asters, in a green
lawn bordered by rocks and pines.

At the edge the park fell away into a wide cross-draw rippled by
ridges; and across it, apparently not more than a mile, rose again the
Wind River Range surmounted by the high peak.

The lieutenant and Kit Carson determined that now the mules and the
baggage might be left and that the draw should be crossed and the
climb beyond be made afoot. Accordingly, here in this beautiful little
basin was stationed a “mule camp”; here were left the provisions and
blankets and coats, with two or three men in charge. Afoot the others
pushed on, in their flannel shirt-sleeves――for so near seemed the snowy
range that they felt certain of climbing it and returning before dark!
Lieutenant Frémont carried tucked inside his shirt an American flag, of
special design showing amidst the stars an eagle clutching peace-pipe
and arrows. Such a token the Indians could understand. This flag the
lieutenant wished to plant on the loftiest spire of the West.

This proved a very deceptive valley. Those ridges which looked upon
from above had appeared to be ripples, when inspected from below were
gigantic breakers, 500 feet high, frequently separated by chasms.
Therefore the pace was up, and down, and back and around, and each task
achieved brought but another as hard or harder. Rocks fell, waters
seen and unseen roared, the difficulties increased, and almost might
the wayfarer believe, like Trapper William New, that the Wind River
Mountains were held under the rule of evil spirits.

By four o’clock the line of bristling snow-seamed crests looked as far
ahead as ever. Now torn and scarred and hungry and exhausted, the party
came together upon the sandy beach of another little lake, amidst the
innumerable ridges. Here upon a broad flat rock above the lake they
camped for the night.

Just beyond the lake and camp all trees ceased, and around about were
snow patches. The sun sank, behind the dark ridges; an icy breeze
sprang up, soughing through the few pines, mingling its song with the
weird chant of a waterfall emptying into the lake below.

The lieutenant was suddenly stricken with a violent attack of headache
and stomach-sickness. They decided that this was due to climbing up and
down among the rocks, and to the lack of food and warmth. The breeze
blew away the heat of the fires, the moon arose and seemed to make
things colder, the granite rock was hard and chill, they had nothing to
eat and no coverings; and altogether it was an uncomfortable camp.

Nobody complained, of course. They were men, and explorers. Kit Carson
said that he had been in worse places, and afterwards had been in
better places, and that he expected to be in better places again! This
was a cheering thought.

Oliver curled in the lee of a fire, so that a little of the heat might
blow across him, and occasionally he dozed. Whenever he awakened,
he saw the grim, whitish line of pinnacles, cold and still in the
moonlight, as if watching and waiting for their next efforts.

Early in the morning, “not being delayed by any breakfast,” as remarked
Lieutenant Frémont (who was better), they set out again.

Now the enchanter guarding the magic pinnacles doubled his spells
against them. Steeper were the ridges, sharper were the precipices,
more loudly roared the waters, ice and snow were strewn underfoot. Mr.
Preuss slipped and slid head over heels down an ice-field into the
bristling rocks at the bottom. But he was only bruised. Clément Lambert
and Joseph Descoteaux were taken ill and must lie down in their tracks.
Lieutenant Frémont also was taken ill, again, in head and stomach;
and halting sent his barometer on to Mr. Preuss the plucky German,
who was ahead. Mr. Preuss must proceed to the high peak and see what
the barometer said when there. But Mr. Preuss found himself cut off
from the peak by a precipice or canyon. Kit Carson, trying to reach
Mr. Preuss and help him, discovered a trail to the main divide, and
climbing a knob or butte saw the high peak, which they had been calling
the “Snow Peak,” still a thousand feet above him!

So back he came, and they all went into council. Lieutenant Frémont
seemed to be growing worse; Clément Lambert and Joseph Descoteaux were
very weak; but nobody was ready to quit. Instead, Basil Lajeunesse with
a party of four was despatched back to the Mule Camp, to bring up mules
and provisions and blankets. How the mules would get through none might
say; but they would, for mules always did. Wherever a man could go, a
mule could go.

“Hadn’t you better go along back, too, boy?” asked Kit Carson, of
Oliver; and Oliver shook his head.

“I’m all right; I’d rather stay,” he said, trying not to let his teeth
chatter.

With Lieutenant Frémont very ill and scarcely able to stagger, they
returned to the camp on the rock above the lake, and waited here.

Lieutenant Frémont, pale and giddy, lay with his arm over his eyes, to
shut out the light; the others sat about――Clément Lambert and Joseph
Descoteaux languid, their heads drooping. Silence reigned――and sharper
and colder stood forth the line of pinnacles, as more swiftly sank the
sun. Presently Lieutenant Frémont stirred, sat up, and spoke.

“I think that we’ve done about all that we can, in this direction,” he
said. “What do you think, Kit?”

“Wall,” drawled Kit Carson, quietly, “we can climb it if we keep trying
along enough. I’ve been in wuss places before.”

“The survey itself is finished――as much as the War Department would
require, and I doubt if this extra risk to all concerned in the party
is authorized,” continued Lieutenant Frémont. “I think that first thing
in the morning you’d better take the most of the men and go on down to
the Mule Camp; and after we make a few more observations the rest of
us will follow. Basil probably won’t bring up enough stuff to last the
whole party of us long.”

“Thar he comes,” announced William New.

Sure enough! The clatter and scraping of hoofs among rocks could be
heard, plainly, from below. And presently a small cavalcade struggling
over log and boulder appeared, rounding the end of the lake. A cheer
welled――“crack! crack!” rifle and pistol exchanged salutes――and soon
the rescue squad panted into the camp at the flat granite rock.

They were Basil and four new men in place of the four whom Basil had
worn out on the trip down; and their saddle animals and several led
mules, bearing blankets and provisions. Hurrah! Now with the hot coffee
and the dried meat served hot or cold it seemed that the fires, as if
fed also, burned brighter, that the rock was softer, that the breeze
was gentler, and that even the grim row of pinnacles, o’er-watching,
vented a smile or two. Rolled in the army blankets everybody slept.

For his part, so soundly slept Oliver that when he opened his eyes it
was to sunshine and breakfast preparations. Rather scandalized at his
laziness (which was not laziness at all) he struggled to throw off his
blanket and to sit up.

Mr. Preuss and Auguste Janisse (who was one of the Frémont Frenchmen)
were busy attending to fire and coffee; otherwise the camp seemed
deserted.

“Ah, good morning,” greeted Mr. Preuss, his tow hair upright as usual,
his German features red. “Du hast sehr wohl geschlept; what? Well, they
have gone and left you.”

“Who?” stammered Oliver, blinking about.

“Kit and your party; Maxwell and the others, too.”

“The lieutenant?”

“No. We stay.”

“Oui; we stay. Maybe we try again,” added Auguste.

At the moment Lieutenant Frémont strode around a rock; he and Basil
Lajeunesse and Joseph Descoteaux and Clément Lambert had been down to
look after the mules.

“Hello, my boy,” spoke the lieutenant, with cheery smile. “Kit and your
crowd have gone; they went at day-break, as arranged last night, for
the mule camp; but we thought we’d let you sleep.”

“Thank you, sir,” stammered Oliver, striving to collect his memories.
“I was to go, too. I didn’t mean to sleep over. Can’t I catch them?”

“You can stay with us, if you like. We’ll follow, during the day.”

At this moment Clément Lambert winked and nodded so hard at Oliver,
that Oliver decided promptly:

“I’ll stay, sir.”

For evidently something especial was brewing, besides coffee!

At breakfast the secret came out.

“We’ll make one more try, boys,” spoke Lieutenant Frémont. “The day’s
fine, we’re in good shape with food and a night’s rest, and Basil and
I’ve noted a narrow draw off the left that looks like a trail to the
top of the divide. We’ve got all day before us, and can take things
easy.”

“Good!” approved Mr. Preuss; and “Bien! Good!” echoed the others,
nodding.

“I didn’t expect to do this, when I let Kit and the rest go back,” said
the lieutenant. “But we ought not to miss this chance. The boy here
must represent the Taos crowd.”

And Oliver determined that he would if he could.

Enough food for one more meal was saved, and covered over with rocks
so that birds would not eat it. Then upon the mules they set forth,
to climb that highest peak. They felt fresh, the mules seemed to feel
fresh; and through the long narrow draw, almost a little canyon, they
made steady way. This was the defile which the lieutenant and Basil
Lajeunesse had discovered. Sure enough, it led up and out to the very
divide itself. And here they were, at last, mules and all!

The mountain chain now rose above them like a huge granite wall,
well-nigh perpendicular, and breaking, two or three thousand feet above
their heads, into a line of saw-tooth peaks. They were enabled to ride
along until under the Snow Peak itself; upon a grassy bench above a
trio of mystic green lakes, they turned loose the faithful mules, and
proceeded to climb afoot.

“Take it easy,” ordered the lieutenant, as they panted in the thin air.

Each picking what he considered the easiest trail, they gradually
strung out. The lieutenant had left his rifle down near the mules, and
wore his pistols; but some of the men had no pistols and some refused
to lay aside their rifles anyway, for it was against mountain-man rules
ever to move from camp without rifle in hand. Oliver carried his Kit
Carson rifle; and as he toiled to keep up with Basil and Mr. Preuss,
just in front of him, glancing aside he saw that the lieutenant, off by
himself, was halting, to change his thick moccasins for a pair of thin
ones. Then the lieutenant continued, lightly and rapidly, up a steep
bare stretch which he had found.

“En avant, mes braves,” he panted, cheerily――which was French for
“Forward, my brave fellows.”

He sprang ahead for another of the many irregular ridges or wrinkles;
what an energetic, tireless man he was, thought Oliver; he was almost
the equal of Kit Carson――and he was only an army officer and was not a
trapper. Up to the top of the next rock ridge scrambled the lieutenant;
and abruptly his voice sounded, thin but commanding:

“Look out! Wait where you are! I think this is it!”

He was bracing himself cautiously, as if balanced; and he peered
around, examining the horizon. More cautiously he stepped back, and
down a few paces.

“Now, one at a time,” he called. “No more. And be careful.”

Mr. Preuss climbed, stood, and in turn backed down; Basil Lajeunesse
did the same; and did the same all, Oliver last. Oliver found himself
upon a comb of gray granite, only about three feet wide, wind-swept
of snow, sloping keenly and breaking, in another step, to an icy
precipice――as the eaves of a house break beyond the gutter-pipes. Five
hundred feet below, like the roof of a porch, for instance, lay a great
snow-field, which sloped off to another precipice; and after this a
snow-field which might be called the ground below the porch-eaves
spread abroad to a ridge (which might be a buried fence) a mile away.

“Come down,” ordered the lieutenant of Oliver; and as cautiously as
anybody Oliver backed off.

The lieutenant mounted again, and the instruments were passed up to
him. He took observations; then tying his flag to a ramrod he planted
it in a crevice of the rock cap. Backing off, he drew his pistol.

“Ready!” he called; there was quick cocking of pistols and rifles;
“fire!”

“Crack-crack! Spat! Crack!” Flat were the reports, cut short without
echo; but the Stars and Stripes here unfurled had been saluted.

Lieutenant Frémont and Mr. Preuss were busily figuring out what the
barometer and the thermometer records would tell them.

“Thirteen thousand, five hundred and seventy feet,” announced
Lieutenant Frémont. “Probably the highest peak of the Rockies――and
certainly the highest flag in the world,” and he removed his hat.

They removed theirs, for a moment.

“Ma foi! And the highest bee in the world!” ejaculated Auguste Janisse,
pointing to his knee.

A bumble-bee had lighted upon it!

“I declare!” exclaimed the lieutenant. “Who’d think to find a bee up
here in the ice――more than two miles high! Well, my little chap, you
deserve to live if you can, but this is the best I can do for you,
in the way of flowers;” and gently plucking the numbed insect from
Auguste’s knee he laid him among the dried botanical specimens between
the leaves of a field book.



IX

THE VOYAGING OF THE PLATTE


Several days had gone by since, on this noon of August 15, in this
year 1842, the Frémont little squad, toiling where never before had
stepped human foot――foot of Indian nor foot of even hardy trapper――at
last stood upon what they believed to be the highest point of the
Rocky Mountains. To-day we know that Frémont Peak, at the western
border of Wyoming, is not the highest point of the Rocky Mountains;
it is outranked by many another peak; but mere figures cannot always
measure human endeavor, and in boldly assailing and overcoming this the
highest, most kingly peak within their knowledge, there to plant their
flag, Lieutenant John C. Frémont and companions show as fine quality of
spirit as though the crest had been a thousand feet further. They did
their best, to the limit of opportunity.

To-day is August 23. The great South Pass from which still onward
stretched into “Oregon” the wagon-wheel track of the first American
emigrants has been re-crossed; and again at Independence Rock, Frémont
has paused to inscribe amidst the thickly written names a large
cross――token of westward pressing Christianity and civilization. This
cross he filled with softened India-rubber, to preserve the trace. From
the Rock he continued east on down the Sweetwater to its mouth. Here at
its juncture with the Platte he is about to launch, on the morrow, his
rubber boat.

This boat (which smelled very disagreeable――“wuss’n the tar springs at
head o’ Yellowstone,” complained William New) was twenty feet long and
five feet wide, when unfolded, and had air-tight compartments to be
blown up or inflated so that it should not sink if capsized. It already
had capsized, once, on the Kansas River, at the start of the expedition
from Missouri.

Now the lieutenant was determined to canoe down the Platte, through the
canyons, to see what the river looked like where it was hidden from the
trail. Kit Carson shook his head over the plan.

“You’d better not,” he said. “It’s too dangerous. Thar air nothing but
red canyons, one after another, cl’ar till the Platte gets out the
mountains, at our fust camp above Laramie. Canyons air full o’ falls
an’ rapids, an’ some o’ those rocks sticking up will punch a hole in
that rubber contraption, sure. Fitzpatrick tried the trip, by boat,
once, an’ lost all his pelts an’ ’most lost his life.”

“Chut!” smiled the lieutenant. “My orders are to survey the Platte, and
that seems the only way to do it. With this boat and good men to handle
the paddle I’ll start at day-break and meet you at Goat Island for
breakfast!”

So was it arranged that the main portion of the company should cut
across by the land trail, as before taken, for Goat Island where they
had left the Platte for the Sweetwater on their way out; and that the
lieutenant and his crew should go on down by water.

The Taos party, including Kit Carson also, had been disappointed
over not climbing the peak, and Oliver had felt elated; but none,
not even Oliver, was disappointed over being omitted from the boat
crew. For his crew Lieutenant Frémont selected Mr. Preuss the German;
Clément Lambert, Basil Lajeunesse, Honoré Ayot, Leonard Benoit, Joseph
Descoteaux, who were accustomed to paddling.

Camp was broken at dawn. The rubber boat, stretched and inflated, had
been packed with ten or twelve days’ provisions, principally dried
meat, and with the precious scientific instruments, and with enough
bedding.

“Thar’s a thirty-foot fall down a ways! Hear her roaring?” shouted
Trapper New, as the boat-crew launched forth. “Watch out for her!”

The lieutenant nodded and gayly waved his hand. His men paddled hard,
the Platte was broad and smooth for several miles, and with its load
the rubber canoe glided rapidly down.

The land party watched for only a minute. They must cut across for Goat
Island, so as to meet the voyagers there, at breakfast――although the
lieutenant had said that if he reached it first he would leave a note
before passing on. However, he did not reach it first!

It was only about twelve miles across from the mouth of the Sweetwater
to the Platte at Goat Island. Here on Goat Island was found the horse
that had been left there to recover; she now was sleek and seemed
strong upon her feet, and very glad to see the other horses and the
mules.

By breakfast time the lieutenant had not appeared; nor did he and his
squad appear by ten o’clock. Higher climbed the sun, marching from east
to west through the great blue dome, and Kit Carson and all began to
grow uneasy. Close watch was kept of the river, for any tokens of a
wreck; but nothing unusual drifted down upon the swollen tide which ran
turgid with the rains and melted snows.

“Something’s gone wrong with that rubber contraption,” declared Kit. “I
knew it would. I told ’em so.” And he fidgeted here and there. “We’d
better ride up the river, as far as we can, on both sides, an’ find
’em.”

So while a portion of the party remained to guard the camp, the others
divided into two squads to scout either side of the Platte. Kit led
a little squad up on the right, Oliver was told off to ride with Ike
Chamberlain’s squad, on the left.

The country along the left side of the river waxed more and more
difficult, with occasional cross canyons and frequent ridges of red
and of white sand-stone interrupting. Some of these ridges and buttes
were fantastic, looking like castles and spires and lighthouses. Oliver
enjoyed the ride, but the obstructions only vexed Ike and the others.
At a point whence a good view was given up the river for a quarter of a
mile they dismounted, and seated themselves, and lighted their pipes.

“Hyar’s far enough,” declared Ike. “We can catch ’em if they come
floating past. They haven’t any business down in thar anyhow.”

Oliver lingered a minute; but this sitting here was rather stupid.

“I’m going on,” he announced.

“Wall,” grunted Ike. “Twon’t do you any good. Yonder’s the Fiery
Narrows. If they air wrecked in thar you can’t get at ’em, an’ if they
ain’t wrecked in thar they’ll come out.”

Oliver rode along. He wanted to see those Fiery Narrows for himself.

The broken country forced him out and back from the river; and when
he came in again he judged, from the roaring sound, that he must be
at the Fiery Narrows. The river here swirled wildly through between
reddish walls a hundred and more yards high. Slipping from the saddle
and cautiously approaching the best and firmest spot, holding his horse
by the lines Oliver craned his neck to peep in. The sight almost made
him dizzy. Glancing about from side to side he thought that he espied a
trail. Down he clambered, rifle in hand.

The depths of the Fiery Narrows were a terrifying place for a landsman.
The Platte, coffee-color and heavy with sediment, fairly boiled
through, without beginning and without end; its current dashed in foam
against up-sticking rocks, and spun from projecting shoulders; surely
no boat of any kind could live in such an angered turmoil!

Suddenly Oliver witnessed an astonishing spectacle. As his eyes shifted
from the opposite shore (which rose not so sheer, although still steep
and high) to scan up-stream, they encountered a dark object speeding
down upon the current. It was the Frémont boat――the rubber boat! And
hurrah――the crew were aboard; all were safe!

One man was kneeling in the bows, with paddle, to turn the boat
quickly; the others were ranged, paddles in hands, along the sides; now
and then they dug hard with their blades, to keep the craft bows on
with the current or to dodge a rock; but they came gallantly, and as
they came, they appeared to be singing. How fast they sped! Maybe they
would make it.

Lieutenant Frémont was plainly visible; so was Mr. Preuss. Basil
Lajeunesse was the one in the bows. He was wet; they all were wet, as
if they had capsized, already. Of course something had happened to
them, for they were late.

Then, in an instant, something did happen. Just ahead of the boat was
a little fall, where the current plunged over a ledge. It seemed to
Oliver that the boat could leap this; he wondered if the crew saw it,
before them; but he could do nothing, by voice or gesture, to warn
them. He held his breath, watching. Out into the fall sprang the boat;
but it did not clear――it toppled head-first, and spilling crew and
baggage right and left it reappeared bottom-up!

As it came whirling down, helpless and inert, heads broke up around it.
Lieutenant Frémont bobbed to the surface; he rose to his shoulders, as
he swam, battling the current and looking for his men. Twice he was
shunted from a sharp rock; and now he gave up and struck out lustily
for the shore. He landed, and landed below him Mr. Preuss.

[Illustration: AS THE BOAT CAME WHIRLING DOWN, HELPLESS AND INERT,
HEADS BROKE UP AROUND IT]

Now the boat had lodged against the Oliver side of the canyon, where
a rock shoulder out-jutted. Basil Lajeunesse had clambered upon the
upturned bottom, which looked like a huge turtle shell, and reaching he
grabbed somebody by the hair. It was Joseph Descoteaux. Oliver heard
what they said; they were only a few yards above him, and the words
drifted along the canyon wall. He had picked up a smattering of French
at Taos, where Kit Carson and others spoke it as well as Spanish.

“Lâche pas,” gasped Joseph; “lâche pas, cher frère!” (“Loose not, loose
not, dear brother!”)

“Crains pas,” panted Basil, sturdily. “Je m’en vais mourir avant que
de te lâcher!” (“Fear not. I’ll die before I’ll let you go!”)

That was a brave answer.

Basil hauled Joseph upon the boat-bottom. In one hand Joseph clutched a
double-barrel gun, which was Lieutenant Frémont’s. And now, dripping,
out upon a narrow strip of sand bordering the current, below, and where
Oliver stood, crawled Clément Lambert, Leonard Benoit and Honoré Ayot,
so that all the crew were accounted for.

However, there was no time for exchange of sympathy. Down with a rush
came the wreckage――blankets and boxes and record-books and pieces of
clothing, and even the iron instruments; for so heavy was the water and
so rapid was the current that the instruments had not yet sunk.

“Quick!” bade Clément. “Vite! Arrêtez-les!”

And he began to wade and grasp. From across the stream the lieutenant
and Mr. Preuss, encouraging by gestures, also were rescuing the
property. With a plunge Oliver seized a long black box which he knew
contained the telescope, but the current almost overthrew him, and it
whisked the box from his fingers.

Only a few of the things could be stopped; at last the lieutenant, with
a gesture in sign-language, said that he and Mr. Preuss would continue
on down-river along their edge, which was the left bank of the river,
and that the others should continue on down by their edge which was the
right bank. But Basil Lajeunesse, the boat having been turned over
again, boldly embarked, with a paddle, and took to the current.

“Hello,” remarked Joseph Descoteaux to Oliver, now that there was time
for greeting. “You saw us, n’est-ce-pas? Ma foi, but I was drowned if
Basil had not held tight.”

“That Basil, he is a water-rat; he is a beaver,” pronounced Honoré
Ayot. “We nearly were wrecked above, too, when the boat stuck fast and
the water flowed right over us. After that we would have driven the
boat by a rope paid out from on shore; but Basil was jerked in like a
fish, and all you could see was his head like head of swimming beaver,
as he was carried on down. Before he had caught up with the boat he had
swum a half a mile.”

“Yes, that is what he said when the lieutenant hauled him aboard.
‘Ugh!’ said Basil. ‘Je crois bien que j’ai nagé un demi mile――I verily
believe that I have swum a half a mile!’”

They all continued along the water’s edge, in the canyon; clambering
and wading and looking for articles from the wreck. A few record books
were picked out; that was about the extent of the salvage. Across, the
lieutenant and Mr. Preuss were likewise seeking.

“I’ll go back and climb out and make for camp, to tell ’em you’re
coming,” proposed Oliver.

So he did. He found in camp his own squad, and Kit Carson’s squad,
arrived ahead of him, they having seen nothing from the rim. Fires
were built up, and more meat was cut, in readiness. Late in the
afternoon Basil and Clément, Ayot and Descoteaux toiled in, afoot, over
the pudding-stone ridge and down to the island. They had abandoned the
boat at a narrow place where it would not pass through, and Benoit had
left to join the lieutenant.

At sunset the lieutenant and Mr. Preuss and Benoit appeared, descending
from the same ridge; they had waded the river to cut across some bends.
And right glad were all the voyagers to have the hot fires and the
roasting meat awaiting them.

“Told you you couldn’t get through with that thar boat,” reminded Kit
Carson, mildly, to the lieutenant.

“Well,” responded Lieutenant Frémont, “we were under instruction to
survey the Platte, and I felt that we should obey them to the fullest
scope. We did our best.”

The lieutenant had only one moccasin, and his feet were prickly with
cactus spines; but the next morning he seemed to be well recovered.
Basil was sent up to the foot of the Narrows, to bring down the few
other articles that had been rescued and left there. They did not
amount to much. All the instruments but the sextant were lost. However,
the saving of the record books was good fortune, and the instruments
had performed their principal work.

Now Fort Laramie was near. The next day Cache Camp was reached, and the
carts and other property which had been left there in hiding a month
almost to a day were found undisturbed. With mules hitched to the carts
again the expedition might victoriously trundle on for Fort Laramie.
The Black Hills loomed nearer, on either hand; and with the Stars and
Stripes in the advance the cavalcade on August 31 emerged from that
little defile which afforded the first, as it had afforded the last,
glimpse of the post.

From the parapet of the post burst a puff of white smoke; and
following, echoed a dull “Boom!” The post must have seen the flag.
“Boom! Boom!” saluted the single brass cannon, as on marched the
cavalcade; presently smaller puffs of smoke welled out, from beside
the post walls; that was rifles. Two figures came galloping. They were
Henry and Randolph.

“You said forty days――you said that you’d be back in forty days,” they
proclaimed. “This is the forty-second. We’ve been watching for two
days. The Indians have been watching, too, and the minute you left the
mouth of the valley they saw you and recognized the flag. Hear the
cannon?”

“Crack! Crack! Whang!” answered the expedition’s rifles, to the welcome
by the fort; and the garrison rushed out, with glad tongue and friendly
hand.



X

FRÉMONT CALLS AGAIN


Thus into that post of Fort Laramie which they outward-bound had left
on July 21, now on August 31 they inward-bound rode again, triumphant.
Nothing in particular had occurred here; ’twas they who brought the
main news――of a South Pass surveyed and a highest peak christened and a
Platte River boldly penetrated.

“And all we did was to wind an old chronometer!” complained Randolph,
disgustedly. “But I suppose we had to.”

The day after the arrival at the fort the Taos men, including Kit
Carson and Lucien Maxwell, started for home, southward; the Frémont
party were to continue on, eastward, down the Platte, by the Oregon
Trail, for Missouri; but at the parting it was understood that the next
spring, after the lieutenant had made his report to the government,
he was coming out with another expedition to explore along the Oregon
Trail west of the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River, and that he
would want Kit Carson again.

Down to old Taos rode the Carson trappers, home bent; and home they
were, ere the middle of September. Taos was glad to see them and to
hear their tales.

Sol Silver and his party were still out, of course, to remain until
the fall fur hunt. There was the fall fur hunt for all, and the fall
buffalo hunt to supply Bent’s Fort with winter meat. Then might the
Carson men settle to a winter at Taos.

It proved to be a cold and snowy winter; but right in the midst of it,
or about Christmas time, arrived excitement: three strangers, ragged
and frost-bitten and weary, reduced almost to eating their buckskin
clothing. A squad of Taos trappers brought them in from camp in the
mountains.

One of the visitors was a half-breed guide from the trading post of
Fort Uncompahgre, across near to the Grand River. Another was a tall,
lean, roughly bearded man, with hair peculiarly marked in white and
brown, deeply-set dark-blue eyes and large mouth. This was Dr. Marcus
Whitman. The third was also a bearded man, broad-shouldered, light-blue
eyed, with high forehead and calm mien. This was Mr. A. L. Lovejoy.

Dr. Whitman was a missionary doctor; he had been at the Green River
trapper rendezvous in 1835, on his way west; and in 1836 he had
led a party of missionaries including his bride and another woman
(first white women to cross the Rockies, they) from the Missouri to
the mission settlements of Oregon. Mr. Lovejoy had been among those
American colonists who last spring, under Sub-Indian Agent Dr. White,
had made the wagon-wheel tracks seen by the Frémont company, up the
Platte and the Sweetwater, over the South Pass, and on.

Now upon desperate mid-winter journey across continent from coast to
coast was hurrying Dr. Whitman, with his brave companions, to appeal
for more Americans in Oregon where the British also claimed the
country. The little party had cut south, from Fort Uintah of present
northeastern Utah, down through the mountains of present central
Colorado, aiming for Santa Fé and for Taos, to evade the plains Indians
and the deep snows. But the latter they had not evaded, and they
nearly had perished miserably. Once they had swum, horses and all, an
ice-encrusted river. And they had been obliged to kill their faithful
dog and eat him.

Dr. Whitman and Mr. Lovejoy had left the mission headquarters on the
Columbia October 3; now it was the middle of December; after a couple
of weeks’ stay at Taos, to gain strength, they pushed on, for Bent’s
Fort and the Santa Fé trail to Missouri.

The next event at Taos was the marriage of Kit Carson, on February of
this new year 1843, to the Señorita Josefa Jaramillo, only sixteen,
much younger than he. An exceedingly handsome girl was the Señorita
Josefa, with clear creamy skin and great black eyes and dazzling teeth.
The occasion was celebrated by a series of feasts and dances which
lasted through several days and nights. At the close everybody was
worn out, so popular were Kit and his girlish bride.

In March Sol Silver took a party of trappers upon the regulation beaver
hunt. The other Carson men remained in Taos, waiting.

“Wall, boy,” remarked Kit, to Oliver, when the members of the Silver
party were being told off, “which would you rather do――go up among the
Blackfeet, with Sol, or out among the Chinooks, with Frémont?”

“Frémont, and you,” promptly answered Oliver; and Kit Carson laughed.

“You’re liable to find it the hard trail o’ the two,” he commented,
dryly.

The spring waxed and waned, and came no word from Lieutenant Frémont,
save the word that his report had been made to Congress, had spoken
well of the Indian Country and of the trail through it, and that there
was much talk of a big emigration, over the trail, this year, for
Oregon.

Finally, about the middle of June, arrived a message from Kansas
Landing, on the Missouri frontier, that the second exploring expedition
of Lieutenant John Charles Frémont had started, and that the rendezvous
was to be Fort St. Vrain. “White Head,” or Thomas Fitzpatrick the
famous mountain-man, was the guide, and Lucien Maxwell was accompanying
as far as St. Vrain, on his way to Taos.

It did not take long for the Carson party to mount and ride for
Bent’s, thence to proceed on northward for St. Vrain, 200 miles. But
at Bent’s was it learned that Lucien Maxwell had hastened south, from
St. Vrain, to obtain mules in Taos, for the lieutenant; and that the
lieutenant and a party were following, along the foothills, to meet the
mules.

Now, at this time Texas was striving to be free from all claims of
Mexico, and armed Texans had been invading New Mexico and threatening
Santa Fé and Santa Fé caravans. This had caused the Mexican government
to forbid intercourse back and forth across the border between New
Mexico and foreigners; and the chance that Lieutenant Frémont might
secure mules from Taos was slim. At Bent’s Kit Carson himself turned
off, up the Arkansas, to meet the lieutenant and to warn him of
conditions.

He met him at the little settlement of the Pueblo, about seventy miles
from the post. The town is to-day Pueblo, Colorado. Lieutenant Frémont
immediately sent Kit back to Bent’s, with a request that the fort
supply some mules, if possible.

Meanwhile the Carson men, under Ike Chamberlain, rode on to St. Vrain.

Fort St. Vrain was situated opposite where the St. Vrain creek empties
into the South Platte River, not far from the present Colorado town of
Greeley. It was built of adobe clay bricks, and was commanded by Mr.
Marcelin St. Vrain, younger brother of the Ceran St. Vrain who formed
one in the partnership Bent, St. Vrain & Co., of the Santa Fé Trail.
A slim, boyish man was Marcelin St. Vrain, with black hair, black eyes
and black whiskers. His wife was a Sioux girl.

The fort was out on the plains, a short distance from the foothills.
Here awaiting the return of the lieutenant from his side trip up the
South Platte and down to the Arkansas was Thomas Fitzpatrick with a
detachment of twenty-five of the Frémont men.

A ruddy-faced, rather heavy-set man was Thomas Fitzpatrick, with thick
hair turned snow white and with his left hand crippled. A severe
adventure, in the summer of 1832, with Blackfeet Indians who had chased
him and forced him to hide in a cave for three days, had whitened his
hair; and the bursting of his rifle had crippled his hand. The Indians
called him not only “White Head” but also “Bad Hand” and “Broken Hand.”

He and Ike and the other Taos trappers greeted each other tumultuously,
for all knew and respected Thomas Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick had brought the wagons and the heavy baggage. He was
waiting and resting the animals. Lieutenant Frémont had taken one light
wagon, and a cannon――a brass twelve-pounder; for this second expedition
was armed with a field-piece, to be used if the Indians grew too bold.

About this cannon centred much of the post gossip. Some of the rumors
said that the cannon was to be used to conquer Oregon from the
British; some said that it was to be used to seize California from
the Mexicans; nobody knew exactly what the plans were, save that the
trail was to lead across the mountains, and west by the Snake to the
Columbia, surveying the overland route until it connected with the
survey north and south along the Pacific Coast in California and
Oregon, made by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the Navy in 1841.

To operate the cannon piece the lieutenant had engaged at St. Louis
a regular cannoneer, by name of Zindel――Louis Zindel, who had been a
non-commissioned officer of artillery in the Prussian army. Besides,
in the company was a young negro man, named Jacob Dodson, not a slave,
but free born, although in service to the family of Senator Benton,
the lieutenant’s father-in-law; two greenhorns, Mr. Theodore Talbot,
government draughtsman of Washington, and Mr. Frederick Dwight, of
Springfield, Massachusetts, who was making a tour to the Sandwich
Islands by way of Vancouver; Mr. William Gilpin, also for Vancouver;
and two Delaware Indians, old man and son. Then, here at St. Vrain,
in the Fitzpatrick company, were two comrades of the 1842 expedition:
Alexis Ayot and Baptiste Bernier, whom Oliver was glad to see. Five
other members of the first expedition――Mr. Preuss, the bristly-headed
German scientist, Basil Lajeunesse the fearless voyageur, Louis Ménard
(a cousin of Maxwell), François Badeau and Raphael Proue――were south
with the lieutenant.

Consequently, although Oliver felt somewhat disappointed that Henry
Brandt and Randolph Benton were not to be along, he foresaw, by the
preparations and by the make-up of the company, that it was going to be
a tremendous trip.

A few days later, in rode Kit Carson with ten fine mules from Bent’s
Fort; and on the morning of July 23 in rode the lieutenant and party,
including Jacob Dodson the negro youth, and Sergeant Zindel the
artillerist, and Mr. Preuss, and Basil Lajeunesse. Lucien Maxwell was
not with them. He had not come back from his trip after mules at Taos.

The lieutenant had left word at the Pueblo that he would wait at
St. Vrain until the morning of the twenty-sixth. The morning of the
twenty-sixth dawned, and no Maxwell had appeared. Evidently he was not
coming. So the lieutenant ordered “Catch up!” and the company bustled
for the start. At this moment arose a new complication. Lieutenant
Frémont had decided that he ought to find a short cut from St. Vrain’s
Fort across the mountains to strike the Oregon Trail somewhere near the
South Pass, instead of travelling up to Fort Laramie and then turning
west for the Pass. Nobody at St. Vrain’s could tell him of any trail
except a danger-trail used mainly by hostile Indians. Such a trail did
traverse northwest, to the Sweetwater; but it was being given over to
the Plains Indians when they raided the Utes and the Snakes, and to the
Crows when they raided the Plains Indians, and only recently several
trappers had been killed on it.

Thereupon, hearing the plans, the two Delawares announced that the
mountains looked cold to them, the trail was beset with their enemies,
they were far from their own people, and they were going home.

“Very well,” said Lieutenant Frémont. “Let them go. We want only men.
But we must find another hunter or two, to take their places.”

“Godey’ll sign up,” advised Fitzpatrick. “You get him and you’ll have
somebody almost as good as Kit.”

Alexander Godey was a young French trapper and trader at the post.
Everyone seemed to like him; and although he put considerable time upon
his long, wavy black hair, brushing it and dressing it with Indian
care, none ventured to twit him about it. He was not a man to be
twitted.

“How about him, Kit?” asked the lieutenant.

“A fine fellow,” assured Kit, generously. “I don’t know a better. Take
him.”

Whereupon Godey of the silky locks was engaged.

The Snake widow of a French trapper who had been shot in a Fourth of
July celebration at the fort asked the lieutenant if she might not
journey with the expedition as far as the Bear River, beyond the Green,
so that she could join her own people; and she was accepted, and given
a small tent.

The expedition made an imposing sight. The Frémont party numbered some
forty men, as against the twenty-five of the previous year. The Carson
party were fifteen. The Frémont men were armed with Hall flint-lock
breech-loading rifles, which had been adopted by the army and were
thought to be a fine gun; but the Carson men were better armed, with
percussion-cap rifles, and with Colt revolving pistols. Besides the
brass twelve-pounder, there was a baggage train of twelve two-wheeled
carts and a light spring-wagon for the instruments, and six pack-horses
loaded with the Snake squaw’s household goods.

This was altogether too large an outfit with which to thread the
danger-trail of the short-cut. Therefore Fitzpatrick the Bad Hand was
directed to take the baggage train and about twenty-five of the men,
and proceed by the customary trail from St. Vrain’s Fort up to Fort
Laramie; thence by the Oregon Trail west over the South Pass and on to
the British Hudson Bay Company post of Fort Hall. The lieutenant and
Kit Carson would take the rest of the company through by the short cut,
and meet him at Fort Hall.

For his party the lieutenant chose Kit, and Charles Preuss the
bristly-headed German, and Jacob Dodson the young colored man, and
Louis Zindel the Prussian artillerist, Basil Lajeunesse and his brother
François Lajeunesse, Baptiste Bernier, Louis Ménard, Raphael Proue,
Baptiste Derosier, François Badeau, Auguste Vasquez a Spanish Creole,
and Henry Lee. The Snake woman with her six packs (atop of one her two
black-eyed, pretty little children) accompanied; and there were the
Carson men.

The course from St. Vrain’s fort was northwesterly, across a rolling
country. On the third day William New announced, to Oliver his partner:

“Thar she air.”

“What?”

“The Cache-à-la-Poudre, or Hide-the-Powder Creek. We follow her up, I
reckon, into the mountains. Know why she has that name?”

“Trapper name,” hazarded Oliver.

“Right. Thar war some Frenchmen hyar’bouts on the creek, five or
ten year ago. Injuns got after ’em, an’ they cached their powder
under-ground, so’s to save it. Don’t know whether they ever found
it ag’in or not, but they always referred to the creek as their
‘Hide-the-Powder’ creek, an’ the name stuck.”

The cavalcade turned up the creek, in the rain, and entered among
rugged, lofty mountains, their wild ravines and steep slopes thickly
covered with brush and flowers. The Cache-à-la-Poudre was crooked,
and must be crossed and recrossed; the gun-carriage, overseen by
the anxious Sergeant Zindel, and the spring wagon with its precious
instruments, were hauled through each time.

Thus was traversed first by explorers and map-makers the Overland Stage
Route from Denver to Salt Lake.

From the head of the Cache-à-la-Poudre they all passed over a ridge to
the Laramie River side of the divide here; loomed high, bare and snowy
on the west, the mighty Medicine Bow Mountains, which they must go
around, and now they encountered a wide Indian trail and sign of Indian
travel upon it.



XI

IN HOSTILE TERRITORY


So far the only traces of travel preceding had been those of Indian
travel. This afternoon who should appear upon the trail but a large red
ox! Had he been an elephant he would have created no keener interest,
and both the Frémont party and the Carson party collected about him.

“Ma foi!” exclaimed François Badeau. “Mebbe we back in Missouri, hey?”

“That’s shuah a big fine ox,” commented Jacob Dodson. “Guess some o’
those emigrants we saw at Kansas Landing are ahead of us.”

“Not very close, Jacob,” answered the lieutenant. “The Oregon Trail is
a hundred and more miles north, yet.”

“Seems to me this ox must have cut loose from his party at the Green,
an’ he’s making a short cut back through the hills, for Missouri,”
decided Kit Carson.

With their red ox in charge the expedition proceeded. It seemed to
Oliver rather mean to turn the brave animal about and make him retrace
his trail; but in the morning he could not be found, and the lieutenant
ordered the men not to look for him.

“Fact is,” declared the lieutenant, to Kit, “I’m glad he got away. He’s
won his life, so far as we’re concerned. I’d rather starve a while than
kill the old fellow and eat him.”

“Wall,” drawled Kit, “we’ll see if we can’t do better than pore beef.”

Whereupon, as if in reward, that evening he brought into camp a buffalo
cow whose fat was two inches thick: the finest buffalo, asserted every
man, that he ever had tasted.

To date the march had been not hard, and not unpleasant. The
gun-carriage and the spring-wagon had come through without mishap.
However, this next evening occurred the first accident, when, the
company having crossed the North Platte River to the north of the
Bull Pen or New Park, they were caught by the gathering dusk in a
deep ravine, where grew sage six feet high. Both lamps of the spring
wagon were knocked off, a thermometer was broken, and finally, at ten
o’clock, camp was pitched in the dark. Supper was at midnight. Some of
the men, who were out hunting buffalo, did not get in at all.

When they did come, in the morning, they brought much meat, and the
lieutenant and Kit agreed that it would be wise to dry this meat, for a
store against future need. There would be few buffalo, on the Pacific
side of the Rockies.

Camp was moved down the ravine, to a cottonwood grove in a grassy
little bottom-land upon the bank of the Platte. In this open place
between the river and the bluffs, pole frame-works were erected, on
which to hang the strips of buffalo meat, above fires, to dry.

Louis Ménard was horse-guard. Fortunately, he had a quick eye, had
Louis――and on a sudden the busy camp, with all hands at work “making
meat,” was startled by his loud shout, the “Whang!” of his Hall’s
carbine, and the tumultuous thud of hoofs as he raced his herd for the
grove.

“Injuns! Des sauvages!” he yelled, pointing over his shoulder.

True enough. Down from the bluffs at the upper end of the bottom-land
were galloping a score of half-naked Indians, while into the sky-line
of the summit behind them were pouring many more.

“To the grove! To the grove!” cried French and Americans, Frémont and
Carson men.

“The cannon!” ordered Sergeant Zindel, gutturally. “Qvick! Dis vay!”

All raced, afoot, for the grove, where Louis was driving his herd.

“R-r-round mit id!” gasped Sergeant Zindel.

The majority of the voyageurs and trappers instantly ranged themselves
flat upon the ground, amidst the brush, or crouched behind trees,
carbines and rifles at a ready. But the sergeant, and Jacob Dodson the
colored man, and two others, remained out with the gun, before the
grove. They were the cannoneers. Lieutenant Frémont calmly walked
forth, and stood by.

On dashed the red warriors――their robes and feathers flying, war bonnet
and decorated braids streaming in the air. Brandishing bow and lance
and gun and shield, with shrill yelps they now were charging across the
level.

“Cheyenne an’ ’Rapahoe,” muttered William New. “Wagh! I wonder if they
know what they’re doing?”

Oliver anxiously watched the cannoneers. How rapidly they worked.
Sergeant Zindel evidently understood his business. With jerky stiffness
he bustled hither, thither――but already the piece had been swung about,
to open down the bottom-land, a load in red flannel bag had been rammed
home, and Jacob Dodson was thrusting after it a case of canister.

“R-r-ready!” ordered Sergeant Zindel, squinting along the breech, while
Jacob turned the elevating screw. He sprang up, blowing a match or
slow-fire fuse. “Back mit you! Back-vaaerts, all!” And Jacob and the
two other helpers recoiled, out of range of the imminent explosion.

“The blame fools!” muttered William New, at the Indians. “They’ll be
blown to smithereens. Wagh! they will! It’ll rain scalps.”

The racing reds now were scarce two hundred yards away, charging madly,
hammering their ponies’ flanks with moccasined heel, urging to top
speed.

“Feuer!” shouted stanch Sergeant Zindel, suddenly advancing his
slow-match to touch-hole――and Oliver’s eyes leaped to see the enemy
shrivel and scatter. But――――

“Wait!” commanded Lieutenant Frémont, springing to arrest the
sergeant’s hand. And――――

“Wait!” cried Kit Carson, running out, his hand high.

For just at the instant the Indians, as if they had noted whom they
were charging, in mid-pace had hauled their ponies short, and ploughing
up the sod had stopped in a jumbled mass of wildly tossing riders.

“Just in time, by thunder,” exclaimed William New. “Another minute, an’
thar’d ’a been more meat than buff’ler meat scattered about on this
hyar bottom. Wagh!”

A single rider had come forward from the serried front of mounted
warriors; Kit Carson strode right on, to meet him, and hold parley. The
whites in the grove might breathe easier.

“Tonnerre!” was reciting Louis Ménard. “As I sat my horse, out there,
I happened to glance at the bluff and saw an Injun stick his head up
over. That was the good fortune; n’est-ce-pas?”

The sergeant, and his cannoneers, and the lieutenant, remained in the
open beside the piece, awaiting the result of the parley. The sergeant
occasionally blew upon his slow-match; and once he and Jacob hitched
the gun around a few inches, for still better aim.

Presently Kit Carson turned back, and with him came two chiefs. The
other Indians followed, slowly, riding at ease; and many, dismounting
here and there, squatted or strolled about, gradually forming a
semi-circle of seated forms.

“It’s all right,” announced Ike Chamberlain, standing at ease. “Kit’s
made the peace sign. Wall, they jest saved their scalps, I can tell
’em.”

“We’d ’a bo’hd a thousand holes right through ’em; we shuahly would,”
declaimed Jacob Dodson.

“These air a war party o’ Cheyennes an’ ’Rapahoes,” explained Kit
Carson to the lieutenant. “They say they tuk us for Crow or Ute
enemies――but being as they’re on their way home after a licking up
north an’ consequently air feeling ugly, I reckon they tuk us for what
they could get; an’ that warn’t much.”

“It would have been more if they hadn’t stopped when they did,”
answered the lieutenant. “I suppose now they want presents. We’ll have
to give them a little. Can’t spare much――and they don’t deserve even
that.”

The chiefs grunted and shook hands with the lieutenant; they cast
curious glances at the brass cannon, and exchanged a guttural comment.

“They think that’s heap gun,” interpreted William New. “White man’s
medicine strong, they say.”

The uninvited guests, squatting in expectant half-circle, like hungry
but dignified mastiffs, willingly passed the pipe of peace around, and
as willingly accepted tobacco and scarlet cloth and knives.

“They’ve been up ag’in the Snakes, over on the Green River,” repeated
William New, to Oliver, after having chatted with one or two. “They
surprised a village near Jim Bridger’s fort, while most o’ the men
folks were off on an antelope surround, an’ carried away a few scalps
an’ a lot o’ hosses. Most the hosses belonged to the fort. Wagh! I bet
ye Bridger war mad! How-some-ever, ’fore this hyar war party got very
fur, with their plunder, the Snakes overtuk ’em, seized the hosses,
killed several warriors an’ wounded some more. These Injuns warn’t
feeling very happy, coming home licked, an’ they war on the ready for
revenge o’ any kind that happened. Red an’ white scalps air alike to
Injuns in that frame o’ mind; everybody’s an enemy. But look at that
’ere Snake woman. She’s b’iling under her blanket!”

Apart, secluded at the edge of the grove, with her blanket drawn
entirely over herself and two children, crouched the Snake widow,
motionless.

The band of Cheyennes and Arapahoes――two tribes who called one another
cousin――stayed here until sunset; then they rode away; and then the
Snake woman emerged from her blanket, and glaring after them shook her
fist, at these the enemies of her people.

That night double guards were placed; however, the camp slept
unmolested, here 200 miles from Fort St. Vrain.

The road this next day was very rough; and during the next day the
roughness increased, with dense sage, interminable, blocking the way.
To the north uplifted a divide forming the Sweetwater Valley of the
Oregon Trail. Therefore diverging from the west into the north, and
abandoning the unseen trail over which, in less than a score of years,
would hasten the stages from Denver to Salt Lake, the Frémont and
Carson men marched across Great Divide Basin of southern Wyoming for
the familiar country of the Sweetwater.

In a cold rain storm, the evening of August 9, they camped beside the
Sweetwater River, about twenty miles above the famous Devil’s Gate.
From St. Vrain’s Fort they had travelled 315 miles.



XII

THE EMIGRANT TRAIL


To be beside the friendly guiding Sweetwater was a great relief. Now
the South Pass was only eighty or ninety miles west, with a plain trail
connecting. But what a trail this had become, in a short year! So many
wagons had traversed it――the hoofs of the oxen and of the horses all
pointing west――that the tough sage-brush had been crushed flat in a
great, winding furrow forever leading onward. Strange was it to come
upon such a trail, in this wilderness of plain and butte more than a
thousand miles from the frontier.

This morning, when daylight revealed the sudden highway, exclamations
of astonishment ran through the camp and adown the column, as now the
march was made so much easier.

“Wagh! The Snake woman says it air the great medicine road o’ the
whites,” remarked William New.

“Looks to me as if all the folks in Missouri were moving out to
Oregon,” called back Ike.

“You would think so, if you had been with us at the start,” responded
Basil Lajeunesse, who was riding to chat with the Carson men. “Oregon
and California both. Name of a dog! Until the trail forked and we
turned off for St. Vrain the Laramie route was a string of beads, so
thick were wagons. That Doctor Whitman, he has stirred people up. One
thousand for Oregon――men and women and the children――were collected at
the Kansas, waiting for him.”

“These air fresh sign,” quoth Ike, with an eye upon the hoof marks and
wheel tracks, and the freshly plucked springs where women and children
must have wandered, picking nosegays.

“Lieutenant Frémont, he stirred people up, too,” continued Basil,
proudly. “It is ‘South Pass,’ ‘South Pass,’ everybody talk about ‘South
Pass,’ so easy to cross. And the Congress talk, too, all about Oregon,
and it say it will give to every American settler in Oregon six hundred
forty acres of land and for his child one hundred sixty acres. I should
like to go, myself, but I do not know as my family like to go.”

“Some’ll never get thar,” grunted William New. “Thar’s a grave,
already. Wonder the wolves or the Injuns haven’t dug it open yet. They
will.”

The South Pass was crossed. Still onward led the great trail.
Occasionally at camping-spot or elsewhere relics were to be noted. Once
Oliver found a ragged doll; and was seen again a hasty grave.

The Big Sandy creek, at the foot of the pass, where a year before
the camp had been made ere turning north to climb the Peak, was left
behind, and now ahead waited new country.

On August 15――

“Thar’s the Green,” announced Oliver’s faithful mentor, William New.
“We’re pretty high in Mexican territory, too. Some say it reaches up
this fur, west o’ the mountains, along the Rio Verde. Seedskeedee River
air what she’s called by the Crows――which means peerairie-hen river.”

The river was about 400 yards wide. The road forded it at a shallow
place, and turned down along it. The current flowed among wooded
islands.

That night, at camp, Lieutenant Frémont much discussed the river with
Kit Carson and Basil Lajeunesse and Mr. Preuss and others.

“This must be the same as the Buenaventura, or Good-Fortune River of
the early Spanish,” asserted the lieutenant. “That is, if it has a
branch emptying into the Pacific.”

“Never heard of any,” answered Kit Carson. “Did you, Basil?”

“Ma foi, not I,” declared Basil, promptly. “But I never have been
beyond, where lies the desert.”

“Wall, I have,” resumed Kit. “I’ve been west down the Mary’s River
to its end in the Sinks; and I’ve been on the lower end o’ this hyar
Green――or what mout be this hyar Green, whar it’s called the Colorado.”

“What’s below, Kit?” queried the lieutenant, quickly. “I hear strange
stories of fine valleys at the bottoms of canyons entered by a secret
trail, and of wonderful beaver grounds and ancient towns, shut in by
walls a mile high.”

“Wall,” drawled Kit, “when I went out to Californy in Twenty-nine, with
Captain Young, we struck the Colorado at a place whar the river’d sunk
down into a canyon full a mile deep an’ three mile acrost. We didn’t
get down into it, but I’m ready to believe that ’most anything could
be found at the bottom. They call it the Grand Canyon, now. Injuns say
thar’s a heap more o’ the same kind, up above, for three hundred mile.”

“But did you ever hear anything about the Buenaventura River, flowing
west instead of south, across the Great Basin and emptying into the
Pacific Ocean?”

“Heard about it, but never saw it,” stated Kit. “Never knew a trapper
who did see it. O’ course, Injuns give out all sort o’ tales, an’ you
can’t believe ’em.”

“The early Spanish claimed such a river, did they not――draining a
lake?” put in Mr. Preuss. “It is marked down on maps that I have seen.”

“Yes,” replied the lieutenant. “Now, if there is such a river, as the
Buenaventura, connecting this central Great Basin with the Pacific
Ocean of California, what a boon will it be! Boats could ascend the
Arkansas, or the Platte, or the Missouri River, be carried across the
mountains, and launching into the Buenaventura continue on to the
coast!”

“A water-way across the continent,” puffed Mr. Preuss. “That is good!”

“Bien, bien!” cried Basil.

From the Green the road crossed among hills, making westward for
the Bear. Soon the Snake woman, with her two children and her six
pack-horses, left to seek relatives at the trading post of old Jim
Bridger, only a few miles away. And the next day Kit Carson spurred
ahead, for Fort Hall, to engage provisions there, in case that the
Thomas Fitzpatrick party, which should be somewhere on the way from
Fort Laramie, might be running short or have met with misfortune.

However, that very evening provisions walked in of themselves――being a
cow and her calf. They must have escaped from some emigrant party; and
they were made more of even than had been the red ox――for the cow gave
milk in abundance. Here was luxury: milk for coffee. So they took the
mother and child along with them.

Early in the second morning thereafter the company entered the
beautiful valley of what Ike and William and all said was the Bear
River. Below but a short distance were the “Beer Springs” and the
“Steamboat Spring”; and further below was the Great Salty Lake.

That they would visit the springs was certain, because the trail led
past them; but whether they would visit the lake was not so certain,
although Basil, reporting to the Carson men, assured:

“We will. I think we will. I hear the lieutenant and Mr. Preuss talking
so. That is why we brought again the boat.”

“Boat!” snorted Ike. “Another o’ them rubber contraptions?”

“Bien encore,” confirmed Basil. “It is ready in the packs. Like the
other but not so big.”

“Humph!” grumbled William New. “Thought I smelt it!”

Oliver wished much to ask questions about the springs, but he knew
that if he waited he would find out everything, whereas if he asked he
would likely be filled with trapper yarns. Besides, it was the part of
a greenhorn to put many foolish questions. However, William New did
remark, as they rode along:

“That ’ere springs basin ahead’ll make you think you’re in the infernal
regions. Red rock an’ blue rock an’ green trees, an’ hot water an’
cold, an’ sulphur smells an’ noises. Wagh!”

Emigrants, making a large and happy encampment, were passed; and still
more, encamped or moving, their white-topped wagons showing finely.
The men were dressed in flannel or calico shirts, jeans and boots; the
women in calico; the children, chiefly barefoot, in material of various
makeshift kinds: and everybody was happy and hopeful and well, eager to
talk of “Oregon” or of “Californy.”

“How far to Oregon, strangers?” asked one of the men.

“You’re in it!” answered the lieutenant, laughing. “Anywhere above
forty-two degrees latitude, west of the South Pass, is Oregon!”

Some Snake Indians, riding the trail, met the company and told the
lieutenant that a large village of their fellows had just come in from
antelope hunting and berry gathering, and were camped near by. These
Snakes appeared to be open-hearted, friendly Indians. They shook hands
with Ike and the other trappers; and as Oliver well knew, Snakes and
trappers were good friends, always, united against the Blackfeet and
the Sioux. In fact, the Indians west of the South Pass were to be
counted upon as friendlies――except the Diggers.

“Watch out for the Diggers, or they’ll slip an arrow into ye, sure,”
had warned William New.

So, this being Snake country, the lieutenant rode aside to pay a visit
to the Snake village. But as they came in sight of it, a mile away in
a pretty little bottom-land beside a stream, out from the cluster of
skin lodges sped a horseman――and another, and another, and squad after
squad, charging into the open, before.

“Look out, boys!” rang the voice of Lieutenant Frémont, galloping down
the line. And――“Get that howitzer ready!” he ordered.

“Those Injuns ’most crazy, I think,” muttered Basil, aiding the
lieutenant.

“Wagh! Looks like we’ll be gone beaver, if we don’t watch out,” called
Ike. “What’s the matter with the fools, I wonder.”

The Snakes evidently were in battle array. They were fully armed, with
bows and lances and guns; many were almost wholly naked, save for the
great war bonnets which floated their red, yellow and white feathers
far behind the racing horses. In a solid, yelling mass they came on,
while in the village women and children scuttled into the brush.
Suddenly, ere a shot had been fired, the foremost of the Snakes raised
his hand; his warriors slackened, and he rode forward, to where the
white men were formed for peace or war.

The Snake chief explained that his people had seen the flag, and that
as their enemies the Sioux and the Blackfeet were accustomed to bear
a flag of some kind they had supposed that this was an attack. He was
glad that no shots had been fired, for the Snakes never had spilled the
blood of a white man.

This explanation was satisfactory, and escorted by a dense throng of
the Indians the Frémont and Carson men rode on to the Snake village.

The chief pointed out a spot, by the village, where the company should
camp; and then in a loud voice announced to the Indians that the white
chief wished to buy horses. Many speedily were driven up by their
owners, and for beads and tobacco and knives and red and blue cloth
eight were taken over.

The kettles were on the lodge fires, as always is the case in an Indian
camp. The atmosphere was filled with a peculiar odor. Ike and William
New and the other Carson trappers, and some of the Frémont men also,
sniffed as if pleased; and Oliver sniffed, but pretended not to be
curious. This odor was like to decayed apples――and evidently so thought
Mr. Preuss the bristly-headed, red-faced German, as he bustled about.

“What is that? Rotted apples!” he exclaimed, wrinkling his nose
disgustedly. “Where do you suppose these Snakes got apples. I declare!”

“That smell?” responded Ike. “That’s kooyah. That’s the finest grub
out: kooyah root. Hyar――try some.”

A squaw was bringing, evidently as a gift, a steaming platter of
yellowish substance that might have been mashed sweet-potatoes; she
presented it to Ike with a smile. Mr. Preuss took some upon the point
of his hunting-knife. He gingerly tasted it.

“Ugh!” he spat. “Tastes worse than it smells. What do you call it, you
say?”

“Kooyah root. But what’s the matter with yuh――wasting good food like
that. I tell ’ee, it air prime fodder; it air prime, baked or b’iled,
an’ with that in yore meat-bag you can travel fur.”

“The most horrid stuff I ever put in my mouth,” retorted Mr. Preuss, as
he left.

The Carson men afterwards learned that the chief sent to the Frémont
lodge, where Mr. Preuss also had quarters, a kettle of the kooyah
as a compliment, and that the German was driven by it into the open
air. During the march through the Snake country the camps made sport
for themselves by slyly sticking some of the kooyah messes under Mr.
Preuss’ nose; whereat he always fled.

However, all the others, even the lieutenant, liked the kooyah, which
was called in English “tobacco root,” and in scientific language,
according to the lieutenant and Mr. Preuss, “valerian.”

The Oregon emigrant trail led westward, down the Bear, between high
hills and through immense areas of blue flax now going to seed. Along
the trail were travelling, at irregular intervals, squads of emigrants,
with their wagons and cattle, either camping or on the move for the
day’s march. The main caravan was still some distance ahead, under
personal leadership of Dr. Whitman.

“Yonder, over that fust ridge,” directed William New, to Oliver, at
their next mess fire, “air the Beer Springs an’ the Steamboat Spring.
Wagh! That’ll surprise ye――an’ it’ll give that German something to
think of besides kooyah.”

“Do they taste?” queried Oliver.

“Taste, boy! Thar’s a heap o’ tastes! But that Beer Spring group air
fine. O’ course they air a drink that don’t hurt ye; but we trappers
claim they make you feel like dancing Injun, jest the same. I ’xpect
it air the gas, tickling yore insides. If all the drinks in the world
war no wuss’n these hyar Beer Springs, made by nature, the world’d be
better off. So don’t think, ’cause we old-timers named ’em in fun, that
thar’s anything wrong with ’em. Sody Springs they’re called, too.”

The springs were located in a basin enclosed by a semicircle of rugged
mountain-crests, on the one hand, and by the river on the other. First,
pieces of lava were to be noted, beside the trail; then came the
springs themselves――hundreds of them, bubbling and welling from the
green and red and white and yellow ground. Many of them had made little
cones, of bright colors; and even the current of the river boiled and
frothed with the gas.

Everybody quaffed deeply of the waters, which sparkled and bubbled,
clear and luke-warm, from the rocks and the tufts of grass.

“Hi yah! Hi yah!” capered William New, ridiculously. “Hyar’s doings!
This chile wants to dance. Hi yah!”

But he was only pretending, after the fashion of the place.

If anybody was not satisfied with a spring, all he had to do was to
walk a few steps, and dig with his heel or with a stick, and he would
open up a new spring――sometimes with a slightly different taste. Down
stream about half a mile was the most remarkable spring of all: the
Steamboat Spring. From a red crack in a rock right at the bank of the
river, and beside the trail, spurted a jet of steamy water, rising and
falling; a couple of yards from it, from a small round hole puffed jets
of steamy air; and water and air together made a noise like the sighing
“choo choo!” of a steamboat.



XIII

TO THE GREAT SALTY LAKE


“Now I wonder,” mused William New, “what that ’ere lieutenant’s
planning next. S’pose you jest take a little walk over to t’other camp
an’ see.”

“Why?” asked Oliver.

It was noon, and only a short distance from the camp at the Beer
Springs, on the day before, the expedition had again halted.

“’Cause this air the jumping-off place. If we follow the trail, we go
on northwest for Fort Hall, ’bout fifty miles down the Portneuf to
the Snake. If we follow the B’ar, we turn sharp south, for the lake,
which air more’n two hundred miles. An’ I ’xpect that’s what we do,” he
exclaimed. “Yon goes that fellow Lee, lickity. Bet you he’s an express
to Fort Hall, to tell Kit.”

A horseman had dashed away from the Frémont quarters, to disappear
down the trail. His own curiosity aroused, Oliver obediently strode
across to the Frémont camp. He met François Lajeunesse, who was visibly
excited.

“What’s up, François?”

“We go to the Great Salty Lake,” informed François, who was brother to
Basil. “The lieutenant, he would explore the Great Salty Lake――perhaps
sail on it. He has sent Henri Lee to tell Kit Carson to come back quick
from Fort Hall, with provisions.”

“Have you ever been there, François?”

“I? Never! Nor Basil, either. No, not anybody in the whole company. But
I have heard of it. It is true――a great salty lake, with not an outlet
and with fresh water flowing into it!”

Oliver hastened back to spread the news.

“Wagh!” murmured William New, satisfied. “That lake air thar, but
it’s pore beaver country, an’ I never cared to fool with it. It war
discovered in winter o’ Twenty-four an’ Five by old Jim Bridger, to
settle a dispute as to whar the B’ar emptied. Jim set out in a skin
canoe from trapper winter-camp in Cache Valley, below hyar, an’ he went
fur ’nough to see the lake an’ taste it too. He said it war part o’ the
Pacific Ocean; an’ trappers believed that till in spring o’ Twenty-six
four o’ Cap’n Bill Sublette’s men found it ag’in an’ paddled ’round its
edge looking for beaver streams. Didn’t discover any, an’ so the lake
warn’t any use. Don’t believe even Kit’s paid much attention to it.”

During the rest of this day, and through the evening, there was
constant talk of the Great Salty Lake. Everybody, French and American,
was highly interested in reaching it. Provisions were so low that
Henry Lee had been despatched to hasten Kit Carson from Fort Hall;
however, the little cow and her calf were still on hand, for emergency,
and this very day two more calves were picked up, where they had
strayed from some emigrant outfit.

The emigrant trail left the Bear, and continued on to the northwest;
but the Bear itself turned short, at right angle, and flowed for the
south. It was to be the guide to the Great Salty Lake, and the march of
the expedition turned with it.

Only some 200 miles before awaited the lake――a mysterious, desolate
place, according to reports; as large as a sea, connecting with the
ocean by means of a tremendous whirl-pool in its centre that sucked
all creatures down, and containing islands inhabited by giants with
enormous clubs. Indians said that such clubs had been found, on the
shore, after storms!

Cranes were seen flying, as if the lake might be close; but they
evidently were only seeking a slough which bordered the river a few
miles beyond. Here were quantities of geese and ducks, but very wild
and unaccommodating. The arrival of Kit Carson, with supplies, was
eagerly looked for.

The lieutenant and Basil Lajeunesse, exploring ahead, following an
Indian trail which turned west from the Bear came upon more Snake
Indians, who by sign talk said that this trail would lead to a fine
broad valley running north and south. As the route along the Bear was
hilly and swampy, the march was changed to this trail. It conducted
through a beautiful little pass, where between twain huge gates of
solid rock, amidst flowers and shrubs and many tender trees rippled
merrily a pure mountain stream――civilly leaving space for guests to
enter and depart.

The pass formed a little valley, long and narrow; adown it came riding
a gaily bedecked squaw, with half a dozen dogs; thrown into sudden
terror by the spectacle of this white man’s cavalcade she raced away as
fast as her horse could carry her. Because of a singular rock column,
planted almost in the centre of the little valley, the place was named
the Pass of the Standing Rock.

Beyond the Pass of the Standing Rock was encountered another village of
the Snakes. When the lieutenant wished to trade for roots, the Indians
opened their blankets and showed him how bony were their bodies.

“If we sell to you, we shall starve; see, how thin we are, already!”

So that night there was nothing left to do but to kill the faithful
little cow; and this was ordered.

The Shoshonies or Snakes of the village said that the great salty
water was only two sleeps south. The next day the march arrived at the
Roseaux or Reed River, which is separated from the Bear by a mountain
ridge; and down the Roseaux they turned. In the midst of the cold
rain, this night, entered their camp a cringing, starved dog with a
bullet-wound in his side. Oliver made much of him, and fed him some
scraps and let him sleep on the foot of the buffalo-robe.

The water of the River of Weeds, which is known also as the Malade,
or Sick River, tasted salty, as if in token that the lake was near.
Through a canyon in the divide the Bear River broke through into the
valley, and presently the two rivers joined, with the expedition caught
in the angle between them. The country was growing more and more
mysterious, with much reeds and cane growth and willow thickets, and
flight of water-fowl. In the distance ahead the valley opened wide;
above the level line of the swamps rose several hazy outcrops, like
enchanted islands floating upon the horizon. And islands they indeed
were: for the level line was the basin of the great lake.

Now the rubber boat was unpacked. It was not so ill-smelling as the
rubber boat of last summer, and was in the shape of a canoe about
eighteen feet long. The gunwales and the bows must be inflated, to
stiffen the boat. Although Ike and William New and other Carson men,
and some of the Frémont men also, viewed the craft askance, and poked
fun at it, right here it came in very handy, for by it was all the camp
baggage ferried across the mouth of the Roseaux; even the cannon was
thus carried. The men and the horses swam.

Taking the bold Basil Lajeunesse as companion, the lieutenant
re-embarked in the boat, for a voyage down the Bear. He thought it
possible that in this way he would reach the lake. His company were to
continue on, by land.

As the lieutenant and Basil, in the frail boat, disappeared around the
first bend of the reedy channel there was grave shaking of heads over
the venture.

“The seams are only pasted when they should have been sewed. It is a
weaker boat than that of last year.”

“Thar air critters in the swamps lower down that’ll swallow boat an’
all, ’cording to Injun say.”

“Sech doin’s don’t shine with this coon. He wishes he war back at old
Touse, he does.”

“Ma foi! Suppose they two come to the place where the river runs from
under them so that they sink in the mud! And then the people with web
feet like ducks will get them!”

The march proceeded, down along the course of the Bear. All day,
by horse and foot, tugging the spring-wagon and the gun-carriage,
they plodded. Gradually the country changed, becoming more and more
desolate and forbidding. In places the river seemed to be higher than
the surface upon either side: sluggishly rolling between banks like
welts it spread out into salt marshes harboring thousands of water
fowl――ducks, geese, cranes, herons, pelicans, gulls, curlew, plover.
Where the water had evaporated under the sun the bare soil gleamed
white, and was covered with small shells. Only a few twisted shrubs and
short blackened willows rose above the drear, dead expanse.

Late in the afternoon the camp was pitched among willow clumps. The
lieutenant and Basil had not appeared, and nothing had been seen of the
boat. Many were the dire predictions, and François, Basil’s brother,
was well-nigh frantic. Over the wide salt swamps the sun set strangely
yellow, his glow casting a ghastly light upon all objects. But a cheer
rang forth, for trudging along the river came the lieutenant and Basil.

They were wet and tired and hungry. The boat had moved slowly upon the
heavy current which swept along in a winding course of many curves
and doublings; so finally they had left the craft behind cached in
some willows, and clambering out upon the bank had trailed the company
afoot, for three hours.

At three o’clock in the morning Basil started back, with a small party,
all on horseback, to get the boat; they returned in the afternoon,
bringing not only the boat but some roots and bear-meat for which they
had traded with the Diggers.

“Shoshonies and Shoshokies――they air same Injuns made different by the
way they live,” declared William New to Oliver. “You see, when they air
rich an’ have hosses, like the Snakes, they call themselves Shoshonies;
an’ when they air pore an’ miser’ble an’ go afoot, they air called
Shoshokies. Out on the desert, west o’ hyar, these Root Diggers air so
pore they wear a rabbit-skin for winter blanket, an’ they eat beetles
an’ grass-hoppers an’ rats. Wagh! But they use p’isened arrows, an’
they’re wuss in a fight than bigger Injuns.”

As the march proceeded the water-fowl increased, until when disturbed
they arose with fast flutter of wings that boomed like thunder. Soon
the blind trail was cut by an impassible morass through which drained
the water of the river. Here camp must be made. They decided that this
was the mouth of the Bear, and that now the great lake began; but they
could not see over the willows and rushes, they could not advance, and
therefore they must turn back and seek better approach.

Ten days had passed since Henry Lee had left on the emigrant trail for
Fort Hall, to carry word to Kit Carson. Kit had not come, and some of
the men were beginning to grumble over the lack of provisions. To be
sure, for the last two or three days there had been plenty of ducks and
geese and plover; but the birds were wild and to hunt them down, in the
marshes, was hard work. Why didn’t Carson get in, with grub? Maybe he
wasn’t coming at all; maybe he was lost, or the Injuns had stampeded
him.

“You fellows don’t know Kit,” reproved Ike. “He’ll come, straight an’
quick, if he got the word.”

“With me, Carson and truth are the same thing,” asserted Lieutenant
Frémont. “I have found that you can depend on him absolutely.”

And hurrah! This very morning, as the camp was packing to turn back, in
rode Kit, with a pack-animal.

He had done the best that he could, but he had brought only a little
flour, and a moderate quantity of lesser provisions.

“Fitzpatrick hadn’t come in, yet,” announced Kit; “but the fort’s alive
with emigrants. They’ve all collected thar, holding a pow-wow, whether
to go on with their wagons an’ cattle, or with packs. Jest as I left,
that man Whitman arrived, from down the trail, an’ he war making a
speech, telling ’em he’d take ’em through, wagons an’ all, or bust.
Anyway, they’ve stripped the post o’ supplies.”

All were glad to see Kit again; and he was eager to see the lake. The
new trail wound along the bases of the range of hills on the east,
until it turned into a gorge or canyon from which issued a river――the
Weber River, with sparkling current flowing rapidly between high wooded
banks. The cavalcade left the trail, and followed the river, for the
mystic lake.

Camp must be made before the lake was sighted. The next morning the
march was resumed, this time straight for a shoulder or butte which
rose plain in view across the open, brushy flat. And on this morning
of September 6, 1843, climbing the butte the breathless company――Boy
Oliver no more excited than Lieutenant Frémont or Kit Carson
themselves――gazed out over the Great Salty Lake, at last.

Silent it lay, sluggishly heaving, its shores uninhabited and bare.
No city of Ogden anear floated upon the clear air the smoke plumes of
man’s supremacy; no Mormon plough had yet stirred the soil by the River
Jordan, nor had Mormon trowel laid a single brick of the capital of
the State of Utah. The lonely waves washed heavily the whitened lonely
beach; the wide lonely surface was broken by but two or three high
rocky islands, blue in distance. Beyond, at the far extremity of this
inland sea, lifted vague peaks; eyries from whose lofty crags as from a
watch-tower peered abroad the couchant genie of the place.

Kit Carson, his weather-beaten face sober, from the saddle scanned
intently. As he stood leaning upon his rifle, Lieutenant Frémont’s
bold blue eyes flashed with triumph, and his hawk-nose jutted the more
dominantly. Scarcely a word was spoken. All were too excited and too
absorbed to cheer.

Then, as they gazed, down from those eyries beyond swooped in guise
of big black clouds (as in the Arabian Nights) the guardians of this
secret spot. They poured from the distant mountain-tops across the
darkening water, and with furiously swirling draperies covered islands
and everything.

“Wagh!” muttered William New. “Better be getting out o’ hyar! Spirits
air angry.”

“We’ll make camp in that first grove, up the river,” said Lieutenant
Frémont. “And to-morrow we’ll put things in shape for a trip on the
lake. There’s a lot of work to be done, in the way of surveying it.”

Driven backward by the thunder-storm, they retired to a grove of great
poplars, about nine miles inland from the butte.



XIV

SAILING THE INLAND SEA


The night settled clear and calm, with scarce a breath of air to sough
through the pendent leaves of the stately poplars. But the moonlit
atmosphere was rife with strange sighings and moanings and whisperings,
as from the ghostly lake out of sight below the camp. These sounds may
have been water-fowl; William New and other trappers and voyageurs
in both parties said that they were “spirits” and “medicine”; Jacob
Dodson, the young colored man, said that they were “mighty like
ha’nts”; and the wounded dog, which now was recovering, whined and
shivered and snuggled closer upon Oliver’s buffalo robe.

In spite of the sounds real and imaginary the camp was safe and whole
at day-break. The lieutenant put everybody at work cutting timber
with which to make a horse-pen and a fort. In the midst of these
preparations Ike Chamberlain sought out Kit Carson, and addressed him
freely.

“Say, Kit, what’s the meaning o’ this hyar? Must be going to stay
awhile.”

“Going to stay till the lieutenant gets through, Ike.”

“Wall, he’s not our boss. We’re an independent consarn.”

“I reckon you are, Ike. So what’s the matter?”

“We’ve ’bout decided that staying hyar an’ living on roots an’ feathers
whilst a crazy man measures that thar lake doesn’t shine with us
fellows. Thar air no fur an’ no meat hyar, an’ snow air creeping down
the hills. We want to get out whilst we can.”

“I won’t stop you, Ike.”

“You come too.”

“Not an inch. I engaged to Lieutenant Frémont, an’ I’m going through.”

“On that ’ere lake, in that ’ere boat, Kit?”

“I shorely am, Ike, if the lieutenant asks me to.”

“Don’t you do it, Kit, don’t you do it,” implored Ike, much concerned.
“Thar’s a whirlpool that’ll swallow you, boat an’ all. If the lake
has nary river draining it off, how does it keep from overflowing,
with these rivers running in! Must drain by a whirlpool, which sucks
the water off fast as it comes in. Mebbe thar air cannibals on those
islands, to gobble ye soon as ye land. Besides, whar’s the grub for the
crowd? What you fetched down from Hall is ’bout gone already, an’ we’ll
soon be living wuss’n Root Diggers. When the snows fall lower we’ll
be shut in to starve. ’Tain’t a fit country for white man; ’tain’t,
Kit. We’re going to pull out, an’ you’d better come with us. If that
lieutenant wants to stay an’ make figgers, let him.”

“Go if you want to, Ike. I stay with Frémont,” answered Kit Carson,
evenly. “He expects me to, and I will. I can’t ask you Touse men to.
There won’t be much fun in it, for you, especially if we push on for
the coast by winter trail down the Snake.”

“What!” gasped Ike. “Jest to get figgers? No, siree. I reckon we’ll
pack back through the mountains, whar thar’s fur an’ meat, for Laramie,
Kit.”

“All right, Ike. When you get to Touse tell Josefa I’m well.” And Kit
turned away.

Oliver heard this conversation, and was aghast. Back to Taos? Never! He
hastened after Kit and appealed to him:

“Do I have to go, Kit?”

“Whar, boy?”

“Back, with Ike and the rest.”

“Reckon you’d better. Times air liable to be hard on the trail, an’
we’re bound through to Vancouver.”

“But I want to stay, Kit. I’ll feed myself――I’ll do my own foraging――I’d
just as soon eat roots, I like ’em. I want to stay, with you and
Lieutenant Frémont――and sail on the lake――and go to the coast. I’m not
afraid.”

“Not afraid to explore that ’ere lake in that rubber contraption, an’
get swallowed by a whirlpool, mebbe?”

“No,” declared Oliver, stanchly.

“Wall,” smiled Kit Carson, his clear gray-blue eyes twinkling, “if Ike
an’ the rest should happen to ride off an’ you shouldn’t be with ’em,
I s’pose we’d have to keep you, best we could. You’ve got yore dog, to
eat.”

To the wise a word is sufficient. Ike and William New and all the
Carson squad swiftly packed, to take the trail. The Frémont men cast
sidelong glance as they proceeded with their own duties, and some,
amidst the bantering, hinted that they would like to go, too. But they
were under orders: enlisted for this United States Army service. The
Taos men were free trappers, enlisted not at all.

“Ready, boy?” called William New, to Oliver.

“I want to wait and see the boat start,” answered Oliver. “Go on; I can
trail you.”

“You’d better do it in a hurry, then,” grumbled William New, as he
mounted. “We’re heading for beaver an’ buff’ler, an’ we travel fast.”

Without another word off they rode, two by two, at trapper rack or
single-foot; and following up the Weber Fork they disappeared among the
hills.

Oliver sauntered about, and at the first opportunity took a hand in
rolling logs.

“Aren’t you going, boy?” demanded Lieutenant Frémont, suddenly noting
him.

“No, sir.”

“Why not? Wouldn’t they take you?”

“Yes, sir; but I’d rather stay with you and Kit.”

“Oh, I see.” And the lieutenant, out of careworn bearded face, eyed him
calculatingly.

“I’d like to sail in the boat, on the lake, if there’s room,” ventured
Oliver. “I wouldn’t be afraid.”

“I don’t know about that,” said the lieutenant. “I don’t know but what
you’d better go on up to Fort Hall with François and party. I’m sending
them, in a minute or two, so as to cut down the drain on the supplies.”

“I’d――like――to――stay,” faltered Oliver. “Kit said I could eat my
dog――but maybe I won’t have to.”

“You’re liable to eat worse than dog, if you do stay,” warned the
lieutenant, with a sudden smile lighting his countenance. And he added:
“But stay you shall. You’re a brave lad, and I like courage.”

The horse corral and the little fort, both of cottonwood or poplar
trunks, were finished; and in the latter was mounted the battered
but faithful brass howitzer. Nobody might tell yet how many Indians,
perhaps Utes, perhaps Snakes, perhaps Root Diggers, perhaps strangers
more savage, might be spying and planning attack upon these few
invaders; so precautions were taken. This being done, François
Lajeunesse and some others were told off by the lieutenant, to go back
up the Bear and on to Fort Hall, there to wait.

After François and companions left, the Carson-Frémont camp on the
Weber River consisted of the lieutenant and Kit, Basil Lajeunesse,
Baptiste Bernier, Baptiste Derosier, François Badeau, Mr. Preuss, Jacob
Dodson the young colored man, and Oliver. Sergeant Zindel had started
with the François squad, but Jacob knew how to handle the gun.

The day was spent in patching and strengthening the rubber boat, in
making scientific observations, and in exploring the country near at
hand. The sunset was beautiful, orange and green, reflected in the
waters of the great lake――a sunset so peculiar that it might have been
enchantment by a wizard, testing his spells after the frowns of the
genie had failed. However, nobody was afraid of the wizard, and the
supper of yampa roots and a fat duck which Jacob had shot tasted good.
The spells by a stout heart are much stronger than any spells by any
wizard.

It was planned that the next day a voyage should be made to the nearest
of the islands. Neither Kit Carson nor Lieutenant Frémont put much
stock in tales of whirlpool and ravenous monsters and club-bearing
giants――although, of course, who could say! But they hoped to find upon
the islands flowers and fruits and crystal streams and much game, never
before witnessed by human being.

Jacob, and François Badeau and Baptiste Derosier had been named to
garrison the little fort. After an early breakfast the lieutenant and
Kit, Mr. Preuss and Basil and Baptiste Bernier busied themselves in
packing the boat, tied to the river-bank, with blankets and scientific
instruments and three rubber bags of water and a little food.

“Wall, boy,” remarked Kit Carson, with a twinkle, eyeing Oliver, who
lingered near, “looks as though you’d better stay ashore.”

“What’s that?” queried the lieutenant, overhearing. “Oh, I guess we can
make room. By all means. He climbed the highest peak, and I think he
ought to be one to explore the enchanted islands. Come along, lad. You
can pump the bellows and keep her blown up.”

And Oliver needed no second invitation.

The sun was just appearing over the mountain ranges in the east when,
on this the eighth of September, the rubber canoe left her moorings and
started down the river, for the lake. The men paddled; Oliver was set
at work pumping air into the inflated cylinders, along gunwales and
bows, for they leaked.

It was a delightful voyage. Frequently, at warning hiss from the
paddlers before, they all floated silently, in order to get a shot at a
duck or goose; to shoot it in the head, of course, if possible. These
pauses, and the halts to pick up the game, consumed time, so that when
the river channel opened out upon the lake-shore evening was near.

At the lake-shore the river made a kind of swamp, traversed in several
places by a shallow, slow current. The boat stuck in the mud, and its
crew must get out and shove her and haul her along, in mud to their
knees. Finally, at a little point of dry land, amidst willows and
reeds, where there was plenty of drift-wood, camp was made. The supper
menu was roasted ducks and plover and geese――and the breakfast menu
was the same.

All night the hoarse voices of wild-fowl, in marsh and upon lake, kept
the air vibrant with multitudinous sound. However, upon their low beds
of willow-branches and rushes the little camp by the unknown inland sea
slept safely, until, at the first touch of pink in the eastern sky,
the cheery tone of Lieutenant Frémont aroused with “Leve, leve!”――the
trappers’ signal to arise.

This was the day for the voyage upon the salty lake. Oliver felt a
strange wonderment and exhilaration: he felt like crying “Hooray!” The
lieutenant was all energy, and even Kit Carson was more talkative than
customary, while Mr. Preuss scarcely chewed his food before swallowing
it――so excited was he. But Basil and Baptiste were unusually quiet,
even to seeming downcast.

“What’s the matter with you two boys――you and Baptiste?” demanded the
lieutenant, of Basil. “Are you afraid, so soon?”

“No, monsieur lieutenant,” responded Basil. “Only, we have had a bad
dream, Baptiste and I. It means evil. Now, if we could but postpone the
voyage until to-morrow―――― To-day is unlucky.”

“Nonsense!” reproved the lieutenant. “Did you dream, Kit?”

“Oh,” said Kit, “sometimes I have bad dreams an’ sometimes I have good
dreams; an’ sometimes after the bad dreams I have the best luck, an’
sometimes after the good dreams I have the worst luck. So I’ve come
to depend more on what I do when I’m awake than on what I do when I’m
asleep.”

“Anybody can dream, but it takes a man to do,” spoke the German, Mr.
Preuss.

“Well, I sha’n’t govern our operations by dreams, or we’re liable not
to get anywhere,” avowed the lieutenant. “When we come back from the
islands we’ll laugh at Basil and Baptiste.”

“Oh, we go too,” said both. But they did not brighten up much.

Only a short distance beyond the place of the camp the river channels
were lost in a great mud-flat covered by an inch or so of water. Now
everybody stripped to the skin, to haul the boat to the lake, beyond.
At the sight of these strange white creatures the long-legged plover
with which the flat swarmed circled and screamed. The mud was about
the texture of paint, and when stirred up smelled disgustingly, as if
composed of decaying insects. Speedily the crew were smeared with the
black liquid to the thighs. Behind them they left a long, discolored,
greasy trail.

The unpleasant mud extended for a mile, when suddenly they came to
a little ridge, hard and distinct, rising underfoot. Here the mud
stopped; beyond the little ridge, which acted as a divide, was firm
sandy bottom, and very salt water――the bottom and the water of the
great lake.

Now with a cheer they hastily dressed, clambered aboard, and launched
forth――Oliver pumping with the bellows.

The nearest island seemed to be a low one, rising to a flat-top instead
of to a regular peak. For this was the boat directed.

The frail rubber boat rode easily the swells of the light-green, clear
water. The pasted seams held well; the inflated sides and ends lifted
her high. But in a short time she looked queer indeed, as if riding a
snow-storm; for when the swells broke against her they sprayed salt
which turned white in the drying air. It covered her and her crew, and
of Lieutenant Frémont, with his full beard, it made a hoary old man.

“There’s a current setting southward; see how the foam patches all
drift one way?” said Mr. Preuss.

“Ma foi! It is the whirlpool sucking at them!” muttered Baptiste,
tremulously.

“Paddle hard,” encouraged the lieutenant.

Kit had been peering keenly ahead, at the island. He spoke sharply.

“Captain (he called the lieutenant ‘captain,’ which was according to
trapper custom), what are those yonder? Just take a look with the
glass, won’t you?”

All gazed, half alarmed, while Lieutenant Frémont levelled his long
telescope. Between the boat and the island was a peculiar fringe of
changing white.

“Oh! Those are only waves, Kit,” announced the lieutenant. “They’re
breaking to white-caps. Must be a breeze coming. Beyond still, on the
shore of the island, is a row of pelicans, I think.”

The breeze soon struck the boat. Riding high, it made yet slower
headway, but it showed no symptoms of capsizing. A good little craft
she was.

“Pump, boy,” bade Kit. “Those thar tanks leak wuss’n ever.”

And Oliver plied the bellows.

The breeze, fierce and constant as if the wizard or the genie was
blowing with the breath to defeat the rash intruders, swept directly
from the island, until, shut off by the rocks, it apparently ceased,
and the water was smooth. The row of pelicans proved to be only rocks
whitened by salt.

Now in a few minutes the rubber canoe was gliding through transparent
shallows, and was about to land at the shelving, level shore.

“We’ll have to carry her up before she touches, boys,” spoke the
lieutenant, leaping overboard, to his waist. “These sharp rocks will
punch a hole in her.”

Overboard sprang all, and hustling the baggage ashore carried the
fragile craft after it.

No giants opposed their landing; no huge figures rushed from the high
sage, and flourished clubs, to clear the beach. The stretch of shore
exhibited no foot-print, of human, or inhuman, or even of beast. Save
the wash of the waves and the whisk of the wind not a sound arose. By
all evidence, the island was a desert island, uninhabited.

From its high point, where its rocks rose to about 800 feet, the party
surveyed its whole surface. Salt and a gigantic species of greasewood
(the only “giant” thing); another, whitish shrub, some prickly pear,
etc., were the only inhabitants of the island; salt was deposited in
every crevice and pool; two birds flew from the mainland, on brief
visit; that was all. And because of the disillusion where they had
hoped to find fruits and flowers and game and sparkling streams, they
christened the island Disappointment Island. Into a rock of the peak
the lieutenant chiselled with his knife a cross; and by the rock he
accidentally left the brass cap of his telescope.

That night each man (including Oliver) made himself a little
shelter-lodge out of the abundant drift-wood on the shore, and with
feet to the large fires lay down for slumber. There was no need of any
sentry, nor of hand upon gun. The island was perfectly safe. To be
enabled to sleep without a fear was novel experience, and was worth the
trip.

During the night the wind increased again; and once Lieutenant Frémont
said that the waves sounded like the surf of the ocean.

In the morning the waves were running high; the warders of the great
lonely lake had still not given up the fight. Now the wind was from
the opposite direction, or off shore, trying to keep the boat to the
island! So again must the crew paddle hard, while Oliver pumped with
the bellows; the lake was rougher than on the day before; the rubber
strained and the ribs creaked, and Basil and Baptiste croaked dire “I
told you so.” Nevertheless, at noon the shore was reached, before the
promontory butte, and with a glad shout of exultation and relief they
all leaped into the shallows, to carry baggage and craft high and dry.

But the efforts of the angered lake-guardians were not spent. While
harder blew the gale, it shifted, and presently it was rolling the lake
itself farther and farther upon the shore! The temporary camp had been
placed about a quarter of a mile from the edge; but across the mud flat
came creeping the water. When Mr. Preuss arrived with horses from the
main camp up the river there was just time to pack and mount and ride,
before the tide had covered the spot. When they looked back, the lake
was busy wiping out all traces of their intrusion upon its shores.
However, upon the island in its midst was the chiselled cross, and the
brass cap of the telescope. Another army man, Captain Howard Stansbury,
also of the Topographical Corps, in 1849 found the cross, but not the
brass cap; the Mormon settlers of the lake shore had called the island
Castle Island; he named it Frémont Island.

Across a low, sandy, salty plain the late crew of the rubber boat
rode for the log fort. The foiled wizard or genie who seemed to dwell
in those mountains across the water pursued them with a thunder-storm,
but they outstripped it, and welcomed gladly by the salute of Jacob’s
howitzer they entered the friendly grove.



XV

ON TO THE COLUMBIA


“You say that the emigrants were going on, wagons and all, Kit?”
queried the lieutenant.

“That war the plan. Whitman said he’d get ’em through, an’ they’d need
their goods an’ cattle at t’other end.”

The little company were on the back trail for Fort Hall. As Ike
Chamberlain had warned, already winter was creeping down the
mountain-sides, with his banners of white ever investing closer the
lowlands. Even while the explorers had been encamped near the lake, the
snows seemed to have increased upon the crests of the Wasatch Range,
overhead. It was a thousand long miles to the end of the trail at
Vancouver upon the lower Columbia; therefore Lieutenant Frémont and Kit
Carson agreed that to put in more time hereabouts was hazardous.

In the afternoon of the second day following the voyage to Disappointment
Island the march was begun, up the Bear and the River of Weeds, for Fort
Hall, six days’ travel with the baggage.

Once more the talk drifted to the amazing pilgrimage of Oregon
emigrants, and the great concourse of them at Fort Hall, before Kit had
left.

“The Hudson Bay people’s policy would be to discourage settlers,
anyway,” mused the lieutenant. “With settlers in there tilling the
ground and showing the Indians and the Canadians that farming paid
better than fur-hunting, the Company’s business would suffer.”

“Yes,” drawled Kit; “an’ this hyar emigration, if it goes through, will
put more Americans than thar air British in the Oregon country; an’ if
thar’s anything in settlement of a country it’ll mean a big help to the
United States.”

“It surely will,” affirmed the lieutenant. “Success in life and in
battle means getting there first, and sticking.”

The route to Fort Hall followed up the Roseaux or River of Weeds from
its juncture with the Bear to its sources. Here galloped into camp a
horseman from the north――Baptiste Tabeau, of the Thomas Fitzpatrick
party. Baptiste, shaking hands right and left, brought the news that
the White Head, with all well, was but a short distance across country,
encamped at Hall. Baptiste had been despatched southward, to meet the
lieutenant.

Excited by promise of flour and rice and dried meat and butter, the
Frémont camp slept little this night, and early in the morning, which
was September 16, started onward. In the afternoon of September 18,
emerging from the hills, with a cheer they greeted the sight of a
green valley set amidst a sombre sage plain, and beside the sparkling
Portneuf River which watered it, the white walls of a trading post.
This was the British Hudson Bay Company post of Fort Hall, on the
Portneuf, a mile above the Snake itself, in the Plains of the Snake.

Thomas Fitzpatrick, his boyish ruddy face glowing from its frame of
oddly white hair, came to meet them.

“How are supplies?” asked the lieutenant, at once.

“I’ve saved all I could. We’ve been on short rations. But the post is
’bout as poor as when Kit left it. Emigrants cleaned it out. Beef and
butter is what you’ll get; that’s all.”

“Where are the emigrants? Don’t see any.”

“Gone; wagons, cattle, women, children and all. Left a few steers and
oxen, in trade; but they took most of their stuff right along.”

“Do you think they can get through, with their wagons, Fitzpatrick?”
queried the lieutenant.

“If anybody but that missionary doctor was leading them, I would say
not,” replied the Broken Hand. “Why, even the Fort Hall people don’t
try to fetch in their goods on wheels; they canoe it from Vancouver,
for two hundred miles, then they use pack animals for the land trail,
up along the Snake to the post. I agree with Captain Grant that
no wagons can go over that pack trail. But as I understand, this
missionary doctor came riding in hot haste, from down the Snake, found
the emigrants discouraged by Grant and other post people, called
them together, made a speech, told ’em he’d been over the trail and
he _knew_ and that they were foolish to abandon their wagons and
implements and try to take their goods and families in by saddle, that
they’d need their States animals to plough with, and that he guarantee
to _get ’em through_!”

“Will he?”

“Well,” answered Thomas Fitzpatrick, slowly, rubbing his chin; “they
left, wagons and all, August thirtieth, and now it’s September
eighteenth and none of ’em has come back; and there aren’t any wagons
lying ’longside the trail, far as we’ve seen.”

Now the two parties united camped beside the walls of Fort Hall. Agent
Grant himself stepped out to give welcome and meet the lieutenant.

“You Americans are a wonderful people,” declared Agent Grant. “Why,
this emigration that just went through is four or five times as large
as that of last year, and it’s taking wagons in! Heavy farm wagons,
heaped with goods!”

“Will they succeed?”

“No, sir. I and every other man of experience know that the trail
is impossible for wagons. At least――――” and Agent Grant hesitated,
“impossible except perchance for this Doctor Whitman. I never heard
or talked with such an obstinate, determined man. He has a tremendous
responsibility on his hands, though. I’ll wager that before you get two
hundred miles from the post you’ll find the trail fairly littered with
cast-off wagons. But if not, lieutenant――if _not_, then it will be a
blow to British rule in Oregon. I have heard Dr. McLoughlin, our chief
agent, at Vancouver, say that Oregon is safe, because it never can be
reached by Yankee families except around Cape Horn; but what he’ll say
when he sees the Yankees coming down from the mountains, with wagons,
all the way from the States, I don’t know. And such a number! Last year
Dr. White took in a few, afoot or by saddle and pack――but this year,
eight hundred, with wagons――my stars! If they get through, then I shall
expect to hear of them continuing right on down to the ocean and under
it to Japan!”

The lieutenant laughed.

“You British in Oregon don’t know the American,” he said. “When the
Yankee once starts for a new country, nothing can stop him.”

“But some of them didn’t know they were in Oregon yet!” expostulated
Captain Grant. “They asked me: ‘Say, stranger, how far to Oregon?’”

“They asked us the same, back on the Bear.”

“And still they were pressing on!” gasped Captain Grant. “Well, well!”

“How are you fixed for supplies?”

“Cleaned out, lieutenant. But I have some Yankee oxen.”

“Good.”

Agent Grant was a kindly man, helping Americans and British alike.
The emigrants had been supplied by him with whatever he had that they
wished. The lieutenant was enabled to buy of him several horses, and
five fat oxen.

Now indeed winter set in with an all-day snow. Suddenly the country
looked bleak and drear. By travel up and down to the end of the trail
at Vancouver was some 900 miles. Lieutenant Frémont called his company
together and made a short address.

“I am under instructions to go on to Vancouver,” he said. “It is not
a pleasant nor an easy trail, at the best, and as winter is at hand
there are some of you whom I will discharge. It is impossible for me to
continue with so large a company, and several men are in no condition
to take the trip, anyway. Those whom I discharge I discharge with
honor; they will be entitled to transportation and to pay until they
reach the frontier again.”

So he named Charles DeForrest, Henry Lee, John Campbell, William
Creuss, Auguste Vasquez, Alexis Pera, Patrick White, Baptiste Tesson,
Michel Crelis, and François and Basil Lajeunesse. Everybody hated to
have Basil go, but his family needed him.

Mr. Preuss the German, and Sergeant Zindel the Prussian artillerist,
and Jacob the colored boy, and the gallant Alexander Godey of the
black silky locks, were retained; and of course Kit Carson and Thomas
Fitzpatrick the White Head; and, hurrah, Oliver!

In the midst of cold rain and gusty wind camp was broken, and the march
was resumed: that of the one party for the South Pass, 300 miles, and
Fort Laramie, and home; that of the other party for the Columbia
River, 600 miles, and Vancouver, and――who knew?

Therefore down along the great and desolate Snake River travelled the
party of Lieutenant Frémont. Ever the wagon-wheel tracks of the 800
emigrants led on, and on.

The Frémont company found the road growing rougher, with many steep
grades up which the men must boost the carts, one by one. Nevertheless,
the heavier emigrant wagons had passed; none had yet been abandoned.

Thomas Fitzpatrick the Bad Hand again was delegated to keep the rear,
and bring along the baggage-train; the lieutenant and his lighter
column pushed to the front.

After a week of travel Snake Indians, fishing for salmon, were passed.
Fat and ruddy-faced and jolly with the oily meat were these Snakes, and
to the company traded salmon fresh and dried. “Haggai, haggai (fish,
fish)!” cried the Indians, glad to see more white wayfarers; for to
the Indians the “Bostons,” as they called the American settlers, had
brought much prosperity in shape of old trousers and battered hats and
such gear, exchanged for fish.

At the first Ford of the Snake, where the Oregon Trail crossed from the
left or the south bank to the right or the north bank, the Frémont men
almost lost their howitzer and mules in the strong current. But the
emigrants, said the Indians, had chained their wagons in a solid line,
and had crossed, and had gone on. The distance from Fort Hall was 250
miles, and Agent Grant’s prediction of wreck and litter upon the trail
had not come true. The wheel marks continued.

At the end of the second week of travel the Frémont party reached Fort
Boisé, Hudson Bay Company trading post, companion to Fort Hall, now 350
miles eastward.

Agent Payette reported that sun-browned and gaunt and tattered, with
wagons creaking and cattle limping, the Yankee emigrants’ train had
passed through.

“An amazing sight,” affirmed Agent Payette. “Men, women and children,
in they poured and out they went, piloted by your Doctor Whitman. They
are eleven days ahead of you. They have come thus far――but worse awaits
them, when they leave the Snake and strike into the hills for the Blue
Mountains. That is a trail scarcely fit for pack-mules, so thick grows
the sage.”

At Boisé the road again crossed the Snake, from right to left bank,
and the faithful rubber boat came into good play. It, and a portion
of a bullock carcass, were left at the post for the use of the Thomas
Fitzpatrick party, toiling in second division.

On the third day out of Fort Boisé, sure enough the trail veered from
the rushing Snake, and inland pointing would cross the northeastern
corner of present Oregon State.

Rougher waxed the way. There were signs that the emigrants had been
in much trouble. At one place a wagon had been overturned twice, in a
short distance.

Straight down a steep rocky slant, as sharply pitched as a peaked roof,
had plunged the emigrants, their wagon wheels scoring deeply the scant
soil. And down by the same route went the Frémont party, holding hard
on the howitzer and the spring-carriage.

Agent Payette had told the lieutenant of an Indian trail out which
would prove better than that road which the emigrants probably would
take. Following this to the Blue Mountains, the Frémont party climbed
the heavily wooded divide, where logs must be chopped and trees must be
felled to clear a way for the howitzer and the carriage. At last, from
an open spot across the summit, westward could be descried the Walla
Walla River, tributary to the Columbia, and light green patches which
must be the settlements of American missions.

On the morning of October 24 these green patches were reached. They
were the missionary station of Doctor Whitman himself. Fields had been
cultivated to potatoes and corn; and here, at Waiilatpu, among the
Waiilatpu Indians of the Cayuse nation, on the Walla Walla River near
to present Walla Walla City in southeastern Washington State, was the
Doctor Whitman house, made with adobe clay bricks.

Oliver had looked forward to seeing again this plucky Doctor Whitman,
physician, missionary and Oregon enthusiast――that wayworn traveller
with the mixed white and brown hair, the large mouth and the deep-set
blue eyes, who had arrived, so nearly exhausted, in Taos last winter on
his long trip from coast to coast. Doctor Whitman was absent down the
river to bring back Mrs. Whitman. But here were many of the emigrants,
resting and staring and eating potatoes.

On the way from Waiilatpu down along the Walla Walla to the mouth at
the Columbia more emigrants were passed. They all were loud in their
praises of Doctor Whitman.

Near the mouth of the Walla Walla was Fort Walla Walla, a third of the
chain of Hudson Bay Company posts along the trail. A few hundred yards
below flowed past the lordly flood of the noble Columbia River.

The next supply station in prospect was The Dalles, 150 miles below,
where the Methodist missions had headquarters.

Indians, Cayuse and Nez Percé (Pierced Nose), were met; some of them
seemed almost civilized, in their white-man clothes, and could speak
a little English. This was the influence of the Protestant and Roman
Catholic missionaries. And again, some of the Indians met seemed not
civilized at all, being very dirty, and inclined to steal horses.
However, they were not now dealing with weary and ignorant emigrants;
they were dealing with mountain-men――with Kit Carson and Oliver,
Lieutenant Frémont and the German Preuss; so they reaped no horses.

The snowy dome of mighty Mt. Hood uplifted, a beacon before, marking
the high Cascade Range where winter was in full reign. The air, at
night, was cold, below freezing――but all were accustomed to this; and
worse was to come.

On November 4, forty-three days and 700 miles from Fort Hall, 102 days
and 1925 miles from Fort St. Vrain, into the mission settlement of The
Dalles of the Lower Columbia rode, with their best bearing and at their
best pace, the tanned, weather-stained, patched and gaunt but never
beaten Frémont and Carson men.



XVI

SOUTHWARD FOR THE UNKNOWN


The Reverend H. K. Perkins was missionary in charge of the station here
at The Dalles. He and Mrs. Perkins and all their household gave the
Frémont party a hearty American welcome. It seemed good to be among
wooden houses, and ploughed fields, and gardens; and the lieutenant and
the French said that it reminded them of Missouri.

Fort Vancouver was ninety miles on, down the Columbia and beyond the
Cascade Range. Lieutenant Frémont decided to leave the party and the
animals to rest at the mission, while he went ahead, by canoe, to
finish his survey by reporting at Vancouver. This would connect the
survey with the survey made along the coast by Lieutenant Wilkes; and
besides, at Fort Vancouver resided Dr. John McLoughlin, chief of the
Hudson Bay Company in Oregon. To call upon him was a necessary courtesy
from the American Government to the British Government. Furthermore, at
Vancouver probably could be purchased supplies of a kind that could not
be found at the missionary stations.

The fifth of November being Sunday, of course this was a day of rest
for everybody at The Dalles; but on Monday the Reverend Mr. Perkins
helped the lieutenant to hire a large canoe from the Indians here,
and three Indians, who owned it, were engaged as crew. With them,
and taking Mr. Preuss, Jacob Dodson the colored youth, and Baptiste
Bernier, the lieutenant launched off for Vancouver.

He appointed Kit Carson in charge of the camp, and up the back trail he
sent a note for Thomas Fitzpatrick, instructing him to drop the carts
at Dr. Whitman’s, and to come on to The Dalles with pack-saddles. Kit
Carson also was instructed to be making pack-saddles.

All this was very interesting.

“Do you think we’ll go back by the same trail we came out, Kit?”
queried Oliver.

“Wall, I dunno,” mused Kit Carson. “But I reckon not. That’s not
Frémont way. We found the trail out hyar already made, an’ nothing
left for us to do but to follow along an’ calkilate figgers. So the
government at Washington’ll know all about the Oregon Trail an’ about
the lake, too; an’ it won’t be like Frémont to take the back track. He
prefers the new to the old. Once or twice he’s spoken of going back by
the north, around the head o’ the Missouri, an’ down. But these hyar
pack-saddles mean a new trail somewheres.”

The Reverend Mr. Perkins had suggested to the lieutenant that he could
reach Washington quickest and easiest by chartering a small brig, which
was anchored in the river below Fort Vancouver, and sailing down the
coast to the Isthmus of Panama, there to cross and charter another
vessel for the United States. Consequently, with this in prospect, and
with the return by way of the sources of the Missouri in prospect, the
future looked bright. Besides――――

“Or else,” remarked Kit, “thar’s the southern trail, to find that
Buenaventura River emptying from the desert into the ocean, and
to strike the Spanish Trail for the mountains an’ the States. The
lieutenant has been mightily interested in the Buenaventura. He’s
talked considerable about it.”

Here was the third route.

The lieutenant returned on the afternoon of the eighteenth. At once
was it known that he had decided for the southern trail, into the
unexplored, where awaited the fabled Buenaventura.

According to the lieutenant, and to Kit Carson, and all, this was a
country well-nigh unexplored, this country south, lying between the
Wasatch Range of the Great Salty Lake on the east and the Sierra Nevada
Range bordering California on the west. All accounts agreed that it was
a great basin, of sandy, salty, sagy bare-rock desert broken by sudden
peaks and ridges. In it Lieutenant Frémont anticipated finding strange
peoples and wild valleys and curious waters.

First to be encountered, upon the march down from the Columbia of the
north, was a lake called Tlamath or Klamet or Klamath Lake, which in
the spring was a real lake, but which in the summer and the fall was
only a green meadow. This lake was at the head of the Rivière des
Chutes or Falls River, which from it flowed north for the Columbia.
From the neighborhood of the lake the Sacramento River of California
flowed south, and the Tlamath River flowed west to the ocean. Moreover,
the Tlamath Indians, living at the lake, were said to be treacherous
and hard fighting.

Next to be encountered, as the lieutenant hoped, was a flat desert lake
called Mary’s Lake, down in the Great Basin.

Next should come the fabled Buenaventura, or Good Fortune River,
flowing across from the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake clear to the
Pacific, and emptying into the Bay of San Francisco!

With the Buenaventura located, as a water-way from the Rocky Mountains
to the Pacific, then the Frémont party might head eastward more, for
the Rockies themselves, and the Arkansas River, and Bent’s Fort below.

Now everybody was enthusiastic. No one objected to starting out at
once, in the beginning of winter, after hard travel already of 2000
miles, for the unknown. The talk was of hidden lakes and rivers and
boiling springs, and of marvels of man, beast and plant such as the
Great Salty Lake had failed to produce.

“Hooray for the new country!” was the cry.

The lieutenant had brought back from Fort Vancouver provisions of
flour, dried peas and tallow, for three months. The tallow was to be
used in frying, etc. Enough horses had been engaged from the Indians
about the mission to recruit the number of animals, saddle and pack,
to 104. The Reverend Mr. Perkins prevailed upon two of his Indians to
be guides as far as the Tlamath Lake. One of these Indians had fought
the Tlamaths there, and had been wounded, so he was not likely to
forget the route. The pack-saddles were finished rapidly, and other
preparations responded, as fast, to the enthusiasm.

On the twenty-first Thomas Fitzpatrick and his party, including Mr.
Talbot the tenderfoot (soon to be a veteran), Alexander Godey of the
handsome hair, Sergeant Zindel the Prussian artillerist, arrived. When
they had heard, they also were eager for the trip. Mr. Gilpin must
proceed on, to Vancouver; Mr. Dwight already had gone.

Upon the twenty-fourth all arrangements were completed. At the last the
Reverend Mr. Perkins brought to the camp a Chinook Indian boy, aged
nineteen, who wished “to see the whites” and learn how the whites lived
in their homes of the east. He had been in the Perkins household and
could speak a little English. Him the lieutenant enrolled, promising to
return him to his relatives and friends, after the journey.

This night of November 24 the camp was so excited over the new trail
and the homeward way, that nobody slept well, and all rose before
daylight, to breakfast and pack by the cold star-shine.

Twenty-two or three whites there were――American, French, German,
Canadian――to take the trail for the Buenaventura: twenty-two or three
whites, Jacob the young negro, the Chinook stripling, 104 horses
and mules, a number of cattle, the howitzer, and Oliver’s dog from
the River of Weeds. The trusty spring wagon was left behind, as a
gift to the mission. Its glass lamps had been broken, and one of its
front panels had been kicked in by a horse; otherwise it was of good
condition. The mission was pleased to have it.

In a long line, about noon of this November 25 (Thanksgiving season!)
of 1843, amidst flurries of snow, the expedition set forth from the
Dalles of the Columbia. The Reverend Mr. Perkins rode out with them for
a few miles, to wish them God-speed. Finally he must stop.

“Good-by, good-by, and God bless you,” he said, beginning with the
lieutenant, and shaking hands all down the line. “Good-by and good
fortune.”

“Good-by,” they responded; and “Au revoir, monsieur.”

The course was south, up the long valley of the Rivière des Chutes,
with the white Cascade Mountains on the right, and many an icy stream
to ford.

At the headwaters of the River of the Falls a pine forest was entered,
December 8; a pine forest cloaking magnificently a yellowish-white soil
of pulverized pumice-stone whereon grew not a blade of grass. The
Indian guides pointed out, as great curiosities, pine cones a foot and
a half long.

Now the trail was good, the weather pleasant, if crisp, but the horses
and mules and cattle fared badly for lack of grass. Then, on December
10, from the pines the cavalcade emerged upon a wide green meadow――a
lake of grass; and――

“Tlamath Lake! Tlamath Lake! Lac du Tlamath!” welled the glad cheer.

This must be it. Thus the two Indian guides declared it, and by its
meadow character it answered to descriptions. The horses and mules and
cattle eyed wistfully the green expanse extending to their feet; and
they fell greedily to cropping.

Surrounded by timbered slopes was the lake-meadow. It looked peaceful.
But according to trapper theories, “Whar thar ain’t any Injuns to be
seen, then thar air the most of ’em!” and here in the Tlamath country
no chances should be taken needlessly. Moreover, out in the middle of
the lake-meadow smokes were rising, and beyond, along the shore, were
other smokes.

“Better speak to ’em with the big gun, to tell ’em who we air, hadn’t
we, captain?” suggested Kit Carson.

“That’s a good idea,” seconded Fitzpatrick the Bad Hand.

“Yes; throw a shell across the lake, sergeant; but don’t hurt
anybody,” said the lieutenant to Sergeant Zindel.

Nothing loath was Sergeant Zindel. He and his cannoneers sprang to
the brass howitzer, unlimbered it and swung it about, pointing it
diagonally over the lake-meadow. Under the short guttural orders of the
sergeant a charge was rammed home, and was followed by a shell. The
three Indians――the two guides and the young Chinook――gazed with much
wonderment, and even the Frémont men were expectant.

The cannoneers sprang aside; Sergeant Zindel applied the fuse to
the primed vent. The loud “Boom!” of the howitzer rolled to the
mountain-slopes around about, but before any echoes had answered, there
a quarter of a mile away, over the lake-meadow against the timber
back-ground burst with white explosion the shell!

“Bravo! Hooray!” cheered the company, now listening to the echoes.

“Wah! The gun that speaks twice!” murmured the three Indians, awed by
the shot.

“Those fellows know something’s happened, all right,” remarked Mr.
Talbot.

For instantly every smoke had been quenched, as the frightened Tlamaths
would conceal their villages and themselves from the astounding
“medicine people” who had appeared.

Camp was pitched upon a piny point, before which the animals could
graze under guard.

The Indian guides were of the opinion that the dreaded Tlamaths were
“very little” before the white men and the gun-that-speaks-twice.
Lieutenant Frémont determined to keep up the first impression made;
therefore, as this afternoon and the next morning no Tlamaths had come
near, he resolved to visit _them_. Arrayed for peace or war, out into
the lake-meadow boldly rode the company.

The smoke place was distant and obscure, until when within half a mile
of it a collection of low round huts could be distinguished, with
Indians perched atop, watching.

“These hyar guides want us to form line, trapper fashion, an’ ride down
in style,” explained Kit Carson.

To humor the guides, who were proud of their company, the Frémont men
ranged themselves in a long front, and proceeded at a pace, while the
guides galloped ahead to meet two Indians now approaching from the
village.

They were the village chief and his wife; and they had come out, on
behalf of their alarmed people, to live or die at the mercy of the
mysterious strangers.

The Tlamath chief, handsome of face and soft of voice, thankful that
his life was spared, conducted the powerful strangers to his village.
This was composed of a few large woven-grass huts, entered by doors in
the rounded tops. Grass were the huts; grass the shoes and the caps of
the inmates, and grass were the mats and baskets of the furnishings.
Fish was the food. Therefore well did the Klamath――whom Lieutenant
Frémont styles Tlamath――call themselves “People of the Lake,” for by
rushes and fish the lake supplied them with their necessities of life.

Sharp-nosed, prick-eared, woolly, wolfish dogs were sitting, with their
masters and mistresses, upon the roofs of the huts; and as companion to
Oliver’s dog the men purchased a puppy, whom they named “Tlamath.”

Now the two guides from the mission at the Dalles concluded that they
had come as far as was required of them; they would turn homeward.
Lieutenant Frémont asked the Tlamath chief for Tlamath guides onward;
but the handsome, soft-spoken Tlamath chief shook his head, and by
signs indicated that he had no horses, the snow on the mountains was
deep, and his family were sick. He could not go, and it seemed that he
had none of his young men to send, either.

Therefore, the next morning, the Frémont and Carson company started
out, to make their own trail. Snow was falling, the sky was dark, and
for a mile and a half they crossed the narrow end of the lake-meadow,
where amidst the frozen grass were ponds of ice upon which the pack
animals slipped and floundered.

The travel was east, pointed for another “large water” which the
Indians said would be found in that direction, after a few days’
journey. Thus, from the lake-meadow, which was not really Klamath Lake
of Southern Oregon, but was only Klamath Marsh, north of the lake
proper, the company again entered the great pine forest. Here some of
the trees were five and six feet through, at the base.

That night the thermometer dropped to zero. Among fallen timber and in
snow sometimes a foot deep the morning march was made, the overworked
mules tugging at the heavy howitzer. Then was heard the sound of
galloping hoofs, behind. Everybody turned, to welcome or to fight,
whichever might be demanded. It was the good-hearted Tlamath chief
and a few other men, coming on, along the trail, through the myriad
stately, snow-weighted pines, to guide the strangers.

Always amidst pines, and snow, over a broad mountain eastward led
the Indians, until on the next day they explained that the snow was
growing too deep for them, and the cold too severe, and that they must
turn back. Lieutenant Frémont gave them presents of scarlet cloth,
moccasins, etc.; and spreading the Flag before them he explained its
use.

“This is the symbol of the great nation to which we belong,” he said,
by signs. “Whenever it comes to you, you must treat it well, for it is
friendly to you. You and it are friends.”

Whereupon the Tlamaths nodded wisely. As if in remembrance, they ever
have been at peace with the white race; although their cousins, the
Modocs, badly treated by the white immigrants, finally fought a great
fight, among their lava beds, in 1873.

The Tlamaths, or Klamaths, left for their snug grass huts in the
lake-meadow. Travelling now by compass into the unknown, down from the
bleak mountain and across a level valley and up another bleak mountain,
eastward toiled the company. Ever the course lay through constant,
silent pines, where the snow sifted thickly, with no breeze bearing it,
or where, three feet deep and crusted, it cut the legs of the animals.

Thus, in long single file of men and of animals, exhausted and
apparently lost, the cattle laboring heavily, the Frémont expedition
to the Buenaventura traversed the gloomy stretch of high, unceasing,
snow-enshrouded but gloomy forest, where apparently man had never been
before. Suddenly the lieutenant, leading, spoke to Kit Carson, just
behind.

“Aren’t the trees thinning, in front, there, Kit?”

Hope was in his voice.

“Yes, sir. I believe they air, captain.”

“Come on, boys,” called the lieutenant, cheerily. “We’re getting out.”
And he spurred forward his horse. Spurred forward all.

Sure enough, ahead the atmosphere was distinctly lighter. The
lieutenant was first to reach the spot; he reined in his horse, Proveau
the buffalo-runner, and craned as if gazing down. He uttered a loud
shout, and waved his hat; shouted and waved Kit Carson, the next to
arrive. Mr. Preuss the German joined in the excitement; joined Godey
and Jacob and even the Chinook, and when it came Oliver’s turn he also
joined. For they all were ranged upon a rim of a great wall――a great
wall of sheer rock, piled with snow and bitten by icy wind, while
below, a thousand feet, was an enchanted summer-land!

Here was a lovely blue lake, in the midst of a lush green prairie
enveloped by warm sunshine; while up above, on the top of the
precipice, reigned snow and ice and stormy sky. Scarce could they
believe their eyes.

“Don’t see any trees, to speak of, down there,” mused Lieutenant
Frémont, as shivering they gazed, admiring the scene. “That looks to me
like the Great Basin, at last. We must be on the edge of it. It extends
on east to the Salt Lake.”

“Ain’t we gwine down to summah, lieutenant?” queried Jacob the colored
youth, anxiously, his teeth chattering. “I’se stone stiff.”

“So am I, Jacob,” answered the lieutenant, laughing. “Of course we’re
going down. Who’s for Summer Lake?”

“I’m for getting off this hyar Winter Ridge,” said Kit Carson.

“That’s it――Summer Lake and Winter Ridge!” cried the lieutenant. “Three
cheers, boys! Good-by to Winter Ridge, and on to Summer Lake!”

They cheered; and turning the poor horses and mules and cattle who had
dully been nosing the snow or pricking their ears at the glimpse of
green below, they sought for a trail down.



XVII

SCANT CHRISTMAS COMFORT


Not until after four or five miles of close search was any descent
at all discovered. Down they scrambled, amidst rock and snow; a pack
mule, slipping, rolled head over heels for 300 feet until stopped by
a ravine; the howitzer must be left midway of the steep trail, for
further effort; and night overtook them before they reached the bottom.

A real lake, with real grass, it was. By the lake were several dry
cedars, which fed fires to guide in the rearmost of the struggling
company. Finally all were safe, camp was pitched, supper was cooked,
the animals grazed contentedly. Above, were gloomy pines and snow and
chilling wind of winter; here below, were limpid water and tender grass
and mild breeze, if not of summer then at least of spring.

Travelling along the west shore of this Summer Lake in south central
Oregon (Klamath Marsh just to the west of it, and the ridge between),
the company rounded the southern end, and amidst much recent Indian
sign and a bleak country of marsh and sand and weeds and black volcanic
rock crossed eastward to another large lake. This is Lake Abert, named
by Lieutenant Frémont in honor of his colonel, J. J. Abert, Chief of
the Corps of Topographical Engineers, United States Army.

Dignified and worthy of the name appeared this lake, twenty miles in
length, and spread between black ridges; but as they drew near, a
shiver passed through the column, for the shores were drifted high.

“Look at the snow, captain!” cried Kit.

When they drew nearer still they found that they were barred from the
water itself by mud. A sickening odor filled the air, and the drifts of
snow turned out to be a disgusting, powdery white substance banked high
by evaporating water.

Thus deceptive proved this land into which they had been lured: a land
of fair lakes which changed to fetid pools; of streams which led on
until they ended only at the unwholesome lakes; of green grass sour and
salt-encrusted; and of bare black ridges which gave place only to more
bare and black ridges.

The Frémont and Carson company pushed on, the line straggling as the
weakening animals fell behind. Somewhere in this vicinity should be
Mary’s Lake; and beyond should be the Buenaventura, with rich grassy
bottom-lands and much fat game to cheer the heart of all.

Save for ducks, on the mud-engirded lakes, and rabbits in the
sage-brush, game here was none. Indian signs, as trails and as deserted
huts of brush, were many. The expedition must advance cautiously.

From Lake Abert they moved southward, past another lake from which they
were barred by mud, and Christmas Eve they camped at the south end of
yet another lake.

“’Tain’t much like Christmas Eve down in Washington or in old Missouri;
is it, Mistuh Frémont?” commented Jacob the colored youth.

“Oh, well, we’ll enjoy our Christmas all the more, next time, Jacob,”
answered the lieutenant.

“Water an’ grass air better than usual, anyhow,” vouchsafed Kit Carson.
“Might have a wuss camp.”

“’Xpect that’s our Christmas gift,” mused Jacob.

Around the camp fires they all proceeded to review the Christmas
celebrations such as they knew; and there was quite a variety: Kit and
Oliver could tell of the celebrations by the Mexicans in New Mexico,
the lieutenant and Jacob could tell of those in the South, Mr. Preuss
of those in Germany, the St. Louis French of those in St. Louis and
vicinity, the Canadian French of those in Canada, Thomas Fitzpatrick
recalled Christmas in trappers’ camp, Mr. Talbot that at his American
home, etc.

Oliver slept late, to be awakened by a great outburst of rifle and
carbine reports mingled with the “Bang!” of the howitzer. “Noël! Noël!”
cheered the French. “Merry Christmas!” joined in the lieutenant. All
wished each other the compliments of the season, and “Christmas Lake”
was the camp place called. An extra ration of sugar was doled out, as
Christmas feast. For this was Christmas Day, 1843, in the desert basin
of south central Oregon.

Southward led the trail, and still southward, for on the west the snowy
mountain range hedged close the course, and on the east the country was
ever desolate and repulsing. No Indians were seen until, December 28,
smokes were suddenly descried rising above the snowy sage-brush. On
at a gallop urged the party, and came so quickly to two huts, rudely
built, open at the top, that the sage fires were burning in them and
baskets and rabbit skins and grass were scattered about. Now several
almost naked Indians were visible, upon the near-by ridge, and others
were hastily climbing to them.

“Tabibo-bo! Tabibo-bo!” they shouted――or, in the Snake language:
“White! White!” And they tried to conceal themselves among the rocks.

For them galloped Kit Carson, fearless, holding up his hand as token of
parley. Just as fearless, Alexander Godey dashing out caught him, and
they continued together. They made a fine sight, these two gracefully
riding mountain-men――Godey with his floating locks as spectacular as
any Custer of the yellow locks, Kit Carson, not so handsome but more
steady, and both brave.

The Indian men ran as fleet as deer. Turning back, Kit Carson rode
right upon a woman, with two little children, hiding behind a sage
clump. She screamed shrilly with terror and shut tight her eyes. He
spoke to her in Snake tongue, and brought her to the lieutenant, at the
huts, where by presents and kind words she was calmed down.

The men would not come in, but from the women was it learned that they
were Shoshokies, or Poor-Snakes-Who-Walk: Root-Diggers of the Desert,
living upon roots and rabbits and dressing in scant rabbit-skins――a
wretched people, yet wishing to be let alone.

The first week of January, 1844, had been used entirely, and still
there were no signs of Mary’s Lake, nor of the Buenaventura River.
Since leaving the Dalles of the Columbia fifteen horses and mules had
fallen by the trail or had been stolen; the feet of the others were cut
and bruised; water and grass constantly disappointed; the trail was
blind; on the one hand were the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, on the
other hand was the interminable, desolate desert; pressing southward,
seeking the line of least resistance, marched the Frémont and Carson
men.

The company advanced cautiously, feeling a route. By fresh signs
Indians must be hovering about, watching, but none was seen. Then,
on the late afternoon of January tenth, the lieutenant and Kit came
hurrying into camp, with the news that they had been viewing a great
lake――a real deep-water lake, perhaps Mary’s Lake!

Like the waves of this reputed sparkling lake, swept through the camp
a wave of joy and of hope. The lake lay just beyond a little saddle
or pass which closed the end of the draw wherein had been pitched
the camp. The lieutenant and Kit had climbed a crest of the high
lake-shore, the better to survey; and there they had sat for some time,
feasting their eyes upon the dark-green water, white-capped and rolling.

“But Mary’s Lake is low and rushy, isn’t it?” queried Mr. Talbot. “At
least, so I understand, from conversation.”

“So I understand, too,” admitted the lieutenant.

“Wall,” drawled Kit; “we’ll see; but that big lake yonder doesn’t
look to me like the Mary’s is said to look. And when we come to the
Buenaventura we’ll know it by beaver cuttings in it. These basin
streams have no beaver, ’cept towards their heads in the mountains. But
the Pacific slope air full o’ beaver.”

“That’s right,” affirmed Thomas Fitzpatrick. “When we strike a stream
over here with beaver sign in it, it connects with the sea.”

In the morning the company moved forward at best pace――which was
delayed by the hobbling pack animals and the one ox who remained. Now
somebody――it was Baptiste Tabeau――struck up a paddle song; and Godey
and the lieutenant and Kit and Fitzpatrick and all joined in:

    “Gai, gai, avançons nous!”

they sang.

    “Gay, gay, advance we gay!”

And Oliver’s dog and Tlamath, the other Indian dog, barked wolfishly.

Up the slope of the pass they strove. On the top the snow was a foot
deep, but below, 2000 feet, filling a wide space between grim snowy
peaks lay indeed the lake――a mighty mass of dark-green, tossing and
tumbling. And one after another, as they saw, they cheered.

Camp was made at the foot of the pass, beside a little stream; as soon
as duties were performed, everybody hastened for the lake. Its shore
was rocky, cliff-skirted, mountain-guarded; and its strips of beach
were cut short by towering walls. The water was slightly tinged with
salt; and some of the granite boulders of the shore were coated with a
limy substance.

Indians had camped here before the white explorers; and following an
Indian trail, the next morning the company moved on, to the lake.
A furious snow-squall hid the waters, and drove the surf four and
five feet high upon the beaches. The trail, leading between surf and
rock-walls, in places was so narrow that the howitzer barely could pass.

Pyramid Lake did Lieutenant Frémont name this great water, because of
a curious rock, sharp-tipped, broad-based, like a pyramid, rising five
or six hundred feet, out in the midst of the water. And Pyramid Lake is
the place, to-day, on the western border of the State of Nevada. The
christening occurred January 14, 1844; and upon the rock-bound shore
was sacrificed the last of the cattle, driven clear from the mission
station at the Dalles of the Columbia.

Pyramid Lake certainly did not resemble any description of any Mary’s
Lake. An Indian clad in hare-skins as in a cloak was persuaded to
the camp; three or four more Indians were met on the trail along the
lake shore; and a chief invited the white men to his village, in a
cottonwood grove at the mouth of a river emptying into the lake. As the
company approached the village, the chief called in a loud voice, and
many Indians, with bows and arrows, appeared from hiding in the brush.

Here, at last, was a camp of plenty, for after the Frémont and Carson
company had taken a strong position in a grassy bottom of a bend of the
river, Alexander Godey uttered a loud shout, and pointed. An Indian was
coming, bearing a fish! And what a fish――pink, and broad, and more than
three feet long!

Eagerly the white men (and Jacob) gathered around the Indian. He had no
difficulty in trading his fish for a strip of scarlet cloth, and away
he trotted to bring another. Other Indians came hurrying, with fish to
trade; so that speedily the business was brisk. Never were fish taken
to a better market.

Mr. Preuss and the lieutenant pronounced them a salmon trout, probably
of flesh very savory and wholesome. Soon every man (not omitting
Oliver) had his fish, and was cooking it. Some tried roasting, some
broiling, some frying; the air was full of the rich fumes. Having
exhausted their supply, the Indians were running to the river, to spear
more.

Several of the Indians wore ornaments of brass buttons, as if from
the whites. However, as the village spoke a dialect of the Snake
tongue hard to understand, although Kit Carson and Godey and Thomas
Fitzpatrick did their best with the sign language, little information
was extracted. The next morning the march was resumed, up this Salmon
Trout River.



XVIII

FORCING THE SNOWY SIERRAS


No beaver cuttings were found upon any of the streams. High and
cold on the right continued the long tier of the Sierra Nevada
mountains――sometimes white and shining, sometimes dimmed by fresh
storm; blotched by snow, welted with bare ridges, brushy and bleak on
the left stretched for leagues unknown the desert of the Great Basin:
pent betwixt the two, southward through the mid-winter pushed the
wearied Frémont and Carson men. Around about, on every hand, welled
into the frosty air the signal smokes of unseen peoples.

Now on the third day, which was January 18, after leaving Pyramid Lake,
the lieutenant called a council, of Kit Carson, and Fitzpatrick the Bad
Hand, and the German Preuss, and Mr. Talbot the Washington young man,
Alexander Godey, Baptiste Bernier, and one or two others.

“I teenk,” said Baptiste Tabeau, “Meester the Lieutenant, he would try
to cross the mountains to other side, where all is warm. Kit Carson
say it very warm, with much grass an’ horse an’ deer over that side.
Ma foi――――” and Baptiste, who always was one of the jolliest of the
company, shrugged his shoulders, shiveringly. “I hope we go.”

“That snow look mighty deep, on those big mountains,” uttered Jacob
the colored youth. “But I guess we gwine to freeze to deff as easy as
we gwine to starve to deff. Marse Lieutenant an’ Mistuh Kit’ll get us
through, though.”

The council broke up; Thomas Fitzpatrick, hastening to look after the
animals, which were in his charge, made the announcement.

“We cross to the Valley of the Sacramento, boys,” he informed, passing
through.

At the news a cheer rang out. Kit Carson added to the enthusiasm, that
night, around the camp fires of cottonwood and sage.

“I war in the Valley o’ the Sacramento, summer o’ Twenty-nine, with
Ewing Young,” he related. “We’d crossed the desert from Touse. That war
my fust trapping trip, an’ it war fifteen year an’ more ago; since then
I’ve travelled pretty much over all the West, hunting the beaver, but
I tell you, boys, that thar country o’ the Californy coast beats all.
We entered from the south, an’ followed down the San Joachin, to the
Sacramento, an’ trapped that a ways; an’ the beaver an’ the otter an’
the wild hosses an’ the elk an’ the deer an’ the trees an’ the forage
war something wonderful. It snows on the mountains, we heard tell, but
down in the valleys it air green an’ spring-like all winter; a fat
country. Thar’s whar we’re heading, to-morrow.”

“Hooray!” they cheered, again. “No more bad water and salt grass and
starvation trail for us. Hooray!”

So the expedition turned west, for the towering white peaks not far.

While they were seeking for a pass (their eyes still eager to mark the
least trace of the Buenaventura), a strange figure came running down a
draw. While his legs worked steadily, he held up an arm as signal. He
was an old Indian, partially naked. He did not slacken until, out of
breath, he had seized with one hand the first hand that he could reach,
while with the other he extended a little skin bag, as an offering.

When he was done panting, and had been assured that he would not be
killed, he accepted presents for the bag of pine seeds; and after a
talk in sign language he was hired by scarlet cloth and beads and brass
to act as guide for two days. He stated that he knew of a good pass,
westward.

The pass was not a pass over the range; it was only a pass over the
first foot-hills. More Indians were induced by friendly signals to come
close. They immediately held out their little skin sacks of pine seeds.

In council with them the lieutenant asked for guides, again, over the
mountains to the country of the whites. But the Indians, squatting like
rabbits and murmuring together, refused. Their spokesman, standing,
pointed to the snow, and raised his palm to his chin, and then raised
it above his head, to show how deep was the snow. He signed that the
company should travel southward more, where there was another pass over
a lower range; and here, in one day’s journey, lived a people who would
guide through the pass of the great mountains themselves.

For bright cloth and goods the Indians agreed to supply a guide as far
as the people of the first pass. Supplied with pine seeds oily and
well-flavored and as large as small nuts, the company pressed southward
once more, among the snowy foot-hills of the eastern base of the giant
Sierras.

Mr. Preuss and party came toiling up the trail, from a secondary camp
where they had remained in charge of the baggage, and reported that
the howitzer was stuck fast. Even Samuel Neal, the blacksmith of the
expedition, admitted that the battered cannon was beyond rescue. Many
times had he repaired its carriage, during the months; it had been his
pet; but now he could do nothing for it. Sergeant Zindel concurred.

“Ach, a goot gun,” he grunted. “I would not leave it in battle; but
such snow and hills――――!”

Therefore, after its 3000 miles of service, from St. Louis of the State
of Missouri to the Salt Lake, and to the Columbia, and down into the
desert, here upon the upper West Walker River of the Nevada-California
border was left the brass howitzer.

Snow fell heavily, the cold increased; and all the shivering Indians,
except the young man guide, dropped away, to return to their village.
Frowning indeed appeared the stormy mountains, where awaited the first
pass, and the guide himself seemed ready to desert.

“Kit, you and Godey put him between you,” directed the lieutenant.
“Show him your rifles, so he’ll understand.”

And trudging afoot, like the majority of the company, to save the
horses, Kit Carson and Alexander Godey took each a side of the nervous
Indian and patted their rifle-stocks significantly. He rolled his
eyes in mute despair. The snowflakes had coated his dark skin, for he
sillily carried his blue and red cloth tightly rolled, in a wad, rather
than don it and perhaps soil it. Presently the lieutenant called:

“All right, Kit. Let him go. The trail looks plain.”

“Wall,” answered Kit; “mout as well. He says thar’s a hut near whar
he’ll stay till after the storm.” And with a single motion of his arm
he bade the guide be free――whereupon away scudded the glad youth, as
hard as he could run, for shelter.

As had been promised by the Indians behind, into the camp here at the
inner foot of the pass came other Indians. They thronged, mysteriously
as wild animals, to the fires; they were without fear, and were very
inquisitive. The lieutenant held again a council, to ask for a guide.

Kit Carson made the sign-talk for the company; for the Indians an old
man responded. The fires blazed brightly, illuminating the snow, and
the trees, and the Indians, squatting in a row upon logs or ground, and
the company lying about, rifles handy. It was a wild scene.

“Tell them,” instructed the lieutenant, to Kit, “that we have come from
very far, almost a twelve-months’ journey to the east, and that we wish
only to get across these mountains, into the country there of the other
whites.”

Thus Kit did. The old man answered more rapidly even than speech――for a
gesture conveyed a whole sentence.

“He says,” translated Kit, “that we can’t get over, now. Before snow
fell it war six sleeps across to t’other side, whar whites live; now
the snow air over our heads. He says we must follow this hyar river
down, an’ whar it empties into a lake thar air fish, an’ people, an’ no
snow, an’ we can stay thar till spring. Reckon he means that same lake
we war at――Pyramid Lake.”

“Tell him that we are strong and our horses are strong, and that we
will break a way through the snow. Tell him that we will give all this
cloth and those beads and other valuables, for a guide on across the
mountains to the country of the white people there.”

Kit did, evidently; gesturing as rapidly as had the Indian himself,
and pointing to the scarlet and blue cloth, and the beads, temptingly
outspread.

“Tah-ve! Tah-ve!” chorused all the Indians, shaking their heads. “Snow!
Snow!”

The old man plucked from the ground a bunch of dried grass; he
gesticulated, and grunted, and shut his eyes; and suddenly he left the
circle, in a great hurry.

“He says,” translated Kit, “that if we can break the snow, in three
days we’ll come to whar thar’s grass about six inches high. He’s been
that fur hunting elk; but beyond that his eyes air shut――he’s seen
nothing. Now he’s gone to get somebody who’s been further.”

Almost immediately the old man returned with a young man, and posting
him in the circle made a talk about him. Kit translated.

“Hyar’s a young man who’s been an’ seen the whites. The old man sw’ars
by the sky, an’ by the ground, that it air the truth. Mebbe we can get
this buck to be guide. I’ll try.”

“Melo, melo,” insisted the old man.

“Melo, melo,” nodded the young man.

And――――

“Melo, melo,” grunted all the squatting semi-circle.

“That must mean ‘friend,’” mused the lieutenant. “‘Melo’ for friend;
‘tah-ve’ for snow; we know two words, anyway.”

“Yes, he says he’ll go, if we give him enough,” announced Kit, after a
talk with the young man.

“Tell him we’ll give him blankets and scarlet cloth and beads and
moccasins and leggins, and more. He’ll be rich,” quoth the lieutenant.

The young man seemed satisfied; but to make certain of him the
lieutenant kept him and two others in the headquarters lodge, that
night――with Kit lying just within, across the doorway. And before they
all went to sleep, Kit and the lieutenant showed the three, by signs,
how from the rifles and carbines could speed a bullet and bore them
through and through.

[Illustration: KIT AND THE LIEUTENANT SHOWED THE THREE, BY SIGNS, HOW
FROM THE RIFLES AND CARBINES COULD SPEED A BULLET AND BORE THEM THROUGH
AND THROUGH]

All the night raged a snow-storm. In the morning the prospect was not
very inviting, but Lieutenant Frémont made a short address. Lean and
bronzed, hair and beard untrimmed, buckskin suit stained and patched,
he stood slender, erect, undaunted, his voice sounding with clear
emphasis.

“To-day, my men, we rest and make ready,” he said. “To-morrow we cross.
We might as well do it now, as at any time. It is our best chance.
To go back to the lake, among savages of whom we know naught, would
be folly; to go on southward, seeking some better passage, would be
folly. Here we are; there are the mountains; just on the other side is
the Valley of the Sacramento. It can’t be more than a hundred miles.
We’ve all heard Kit tell of the beautiful Valley of the Sacramento,
with its rich pastures and its fat game, where there is no winter.
Only that hundred miles away is summer, men. Think of it! Who would
stay here, on this side, in winter! My instruments tell me (and you
know they do not lie) that directly west from us, and less than one
hundred miles――in fact, about seventy――is the settlement of Captain
Sutter: that Swiss-American who went down into California from Oregon
in Thirty-nine, and has founded a post and a farm in the Valley of the
Sacramento. He’s a Missourian, too, and he’ll be glad to see us. Why,
I’ll wager that from the top of the divide, yonder, we can see into the
very valley. One strong effort, lads――one more strong effort, and we’ll
be in the midst of plenty. Will you follow the guide?”

“Hooray!” they cheered. “Hooray for the Sacramento and summer doings!”

“How about it, boy?” asked Kit, pausing as he passed Oliver. “Do you
wish you’d gone back to Touse with Ike?”

“No,” asserted Oliver, stoutly, as with stiffened fingers he stitched
at his ragged moccasin, to repair it.

“Thar’s the lieutenant. I reckon he wants you a minute,” continued Kit,
rubbing his chin thoughtfully as he surveyed Oliver.

Lieutenant Frémont beckoned. Oliver went over to him.

“Boy, we’re about out of meat, except for the animals which we need to
break the trail, and for a couple of rabbits; and we ought to be strong
to make a good start, in the morning. The men of your mess ask if they
may kill your dog, so that we can eat. He’s grown fat, I notice, while
the rest of us have been growing thin. What do you say?”

Oliver’s heart swelled into his throat, choking him.

“If――if you think best, sir,” he stammered. “But there’s that other
dog. Mine――mine sleeps with me. He’s――a――good――dog; an awful good dog.”

“I know it, Oliver,” replied Lieutenant Frémont. “I know just how you
feel. But he may be the means of saving our lives; he couldn’t die in
better cause, could he? That Tlamath dog is only a pup; we must save
him, to grow. Probably we’ll have to eat him later. But now――――” and
hesitating, the lieutenant with his piercing blue eyes examined Oliver
anxiously. “We wouldn’t ask it if it wasn’t necessary. It will be a
little sacrifice, on your part, for the general good.”

“Well――――” faltered Oliver, his voice so weak that he was ashamed of
it. “I remember――you and Kit told me I might have to eat dog; but I
won’t eat _him_. I won’t! The rest can.” And quickly turning away, for
fear that he was going to cry, he stumbled off among the trees.

Soon he heard a shot. That was it. Now his dog never again would nose
his hand, or chase rabbits, or snuggle upon his feet, at night.

When Oliver sidled back to camp, trying to appear unconcerned, as
befitted a mountain-man, suspicious pieces of fat meat already were
laid out upon the snow in anticipation of the pot.



XIX

AT THE LAST GASP


Now was it the dawn of a sharp, clear winter morning, February 2, 1844,
in the Frémont and Carson rude camp of one skin lodge and several
tents, on the upper water of the Carson River, at the Nevada-California
line. Oliver awakened early, under his buffalo-robe brought from Taos:
awakened to the crackle of camp fire, the stir of stiff figures,
and the sight of Jacob the colored youth hurrying with a tin cup of
steaming coffee for the lieutenant in the skin lodge. Jacob always
tried to do this――to get the coffee there before the lieutenant his
master was dressed. He explained that such was the custom in the south:
the members of the family had coffee served to them before they were up.

Oliver awakened to another knowledge. This was the day when the main
range of the Sierras was to be assaulted. Everywhere the fresh snow lay
deep and trackless; the eastern sky was pink, and about the white peaks
of the Sierras, high and close in the west, the clouds were breaking
into filaments.

Oliver tumbled out of his coverings. At a little distance the
half-frozen horses and mules stood hunched, tails to the breeze, or
were pawing for herbage. Kit Carson was up, Thomas Fitzpatrick was up,
the Indian guide was up. He had not escaped. A glorious figure he made,
as equipped with new moccasins and leggins, with trousers and a shirt,
with blue and scarlet cloth and a large green blanket over all, he
stood by a fire.

Lieutenant Frémont emerged in haste from the lodge, and nodded to the
Indian――whereupon the Indian pointed to the vasty white pinnacles of
the mountains, and with a grunt shook his head. The lieutenant paid no
attention to such weak spirit. His voice vivified the camp, and all was
hustle.

“Now for summer doings, boys,” encouraged Kit Carson, as after
breakfast, with packs in place and every man resolved, the procession
wended forth through the snow.

“Now for the Californy Valley an’ summer doings!” they answered.

The snow had drifted and speedily grew deeper; so that ten men, on
the strongest horses, were put in the van to break a trail. Thus work
began early. As oft as the horse of the leader was exhausted, his rider
turned out, for the rear, and the next rider took his place.

Huts entirely covered by snow, where Indians lived like field mice,
were passed: the only sign of inhabitant was the single trail from the
hole of a door to the foot of a pine tree, and back.

“Guide says the deepest snow air jest beginning,” on the third day
announced Kit, with the advance, to the lieutenant.

“There’s no use trying to bring the animals on here, to-night,”
declared the lieutenant, snow-covered and panting. Snow-covered and
panting were all. “Oliver, ride down and tell Fitzpatrick to camp at
those springs where we were last night; it’s more sheltered. We’ll camp
where we are.”

“Yes, sir,” answered Oliver.

He met Thomas Fitzpatrick, red-faced, snowy, working like a Trojan
to keep the horses and mules moving, and delivered the message. He
did not stay, for the camp by the springs in the sheltered basin. He
turned about; maybe the lieutenant and Kit and Mr. Preuss and Godey and
Bernier would need him.

The camp of the advance squad had been made, without tents, in a group
of huge pines. Against the base of one of the pines a generous fire was
blazing; and when Oliver arrived, tired and cold and glad of the fire,
another old Indian visitor was delivering an oration.

He spoke loudly, in a sing-song manner; and he spoke long.

“He says,” announced Kit, “that we an’ our critters can’t go further,
this way. We’ll perish, sure. We must turn back, an’ he’ll show us a
better way. Rock upon rock――rock upon rock; snow upon snow――snow upon
snow: that’s ahead of us. If we get over, we can’t get down on t’other
side; thar air precipices whar our hosses’ll slip, an’ off we’ll go.”

“Yes; I understood his signs, and most of his words,” remarked the
lieutenant, quietly. “But we’re white men. We’re not afraid.”

The Chinook lad from the mission, who had kept close by the lieutenant,
had understood the signs and words even better than had Kit Carson; and
now he began to wail aloud.

“I wanted to see the whites,” he lamented, brokenly. “I came away
from my own people to see the whites. I would not mind dying among
the whites, but to die here――ow-ow-ow-ow,” and shuddering he drew his
blanket over his head. From underneath it his wail resumed, muffled and
weird.

“You ought to have stayed down below, in the Fitz camp,” reminded Kit,
of Oliver. “It’ll be a cold night, hyar, I tell you.”

And it was. The lieutenant said that the thermometer was ten above; but
a wind set in, sifting through the tree trunks, blowing aside the heat,
and penetrating blankets and buckskins. The trees creaked and sighed;
the Chinook wailed; more biting waxed the air; and nobody slept much.

When Oliver turned out early, to do his share in looking after the
shrunken horses and mules, the Indian guide was pressing to the fire,
to be warmer; under all his unaccustomed clothing of shirt and trousers
and red and blue cloth and green blanket he was shivering violently.
Chancing to glance back, Oliver saw Lieutenant Frémont throw his own
army blanket over the Indian’s shoulders already once blanketed;
and when Oliver returned, within fifteen or twenty minutes, from
the horses, he found the camp much indignant. The Indian guide had
disappeared, blankets and all!

The day was spent in bringing up the animals, and in making snow-shoes
and sledges. The next morning the lieutenant, with Thomas Fitzpatrick
and Kit and others, snow-shoed ahead, to reconnoitre along the pass
which the guide had pointed out before he had deserted. They came back,
in the darkness, scarcely able to drag their feet, but they brought
good news. They had looked over into a large valley, distant but
snowless. Kit had recognized the valley as the Valley of the Sacramento.

“I know it!” he declaimed, still much delighted. “I know it by a little
round mountain. Fifteen years ago I marked that little mountain, when
I war in the valley; an’ I remember it jest as plain as if it war only
yesterday.”

“How far? How far?” demanded all, eagerly.

“Thirty miles, isn’t it, Kit?” answered the lieutenant.

“I should say that――an’ more,” mused Kit, thoughtfully.

“So should I,” agreed Fitzpatrick. “We aren’t there, yet, boys; over
the ridge and down means some long marches, through the snow. The
snow’s likely to be heavier, on the west side. But now we know where
we’re travelling.”

“From the ridge we could make out, through the glass, prairies and the
line of a river bordered with timber,” explained the lieutenant. “But
as Fitz says, there are some hard marches ahead.”

So there were. By sledges and snow-shoes the trail was resumed, every
heart aglow with pictures of the Valley of the Sacramento; but on the
level the snow was five feet deep, and in drifts was twenty feet deep.
The animals failed, and must be left at each pasture, while with wooden
mauls and shovels the men flattened a road, and with pine boughs paved
it.

The puppy Tlamath must be added to the larder, so that for the advance
there was a strange dinner, one night, of dog (cooked by Alexander
Godey Indian-fashion, in pieces hide on), mule, and dried-pea soup!

Now was it the close of two weeks since from the preparatory camp had
the start been made. The crest of the pass had just been reached, for
on February 16, returning from a scout ahead, the lieutenant and Jacob
reported that they had come upon a creek flowing west, toward the
Pacific!

As they descended, seeking to travel while yet the night’s crust was
unmelted, more plentiful waxed the snow, more difficult the trail,
intersected by drifts and ridges. However, the lieutenant was convinced
that the little stream discovered by himself and Jacob was the river
upon which, lower, would be found the ranch of Captain Sutter the
Swiss-American settler. The welcome sound of a thunder-storm in the
valley, distant, drifted up to the company’s rejoicing ears; and when
the storm had cleared, the sunset revealed a shining spot, as if
denoting a bay, and a shining line, as if of a river, connecting with
it.

The Valley of the Sacramento, and the Bay of San Francisco!

That night, to the yearning, keen-eyed wanderers so high above this
spring-land, appeared in the valley numerous fires, as if in answer to
the fires of the camp. Thereafter, by day and by night these fires were
visible; but the Frémont and Carson men learned, later, that they were
simply the fires of Indians in the swamps of the bay shore.

Ice and snow continued. Moccasin soles froze with slush, they would not
cling to the snow or the smooth rocks, and their wearers must crawl.
Once the lieutenant, reconnoitring with Kit, slipped into the stream,
now almost a river, and without hesitating an instant Kit plunged into
the icy water after him. The lieutenant thought that he had lost his
gun, in the fall; but it was found, after they had made a fire, under
the bank.

Nevertheless, the trail was perceptibly lower. The stream had swelled
to a torrent; the ground was soft; green grass, birds, and oaks
appeared, and a mild breeze swirled the dry oak leaves covering the
ground. This was glorious; but the worn-out animals were being killed,
for food.

Lieutenant Frémont announced that they had descended from an elevation
of 9338 feet to one of 3864 feet. He said that in the morning he and a
squad would push on, by forced marches, for the ranch of Captain Sutter
which could not be very far; and that, having obtained provisions, they
would hasten back to meet the main party.

“Preuss, Talbot, Jacob, Kit, Derosier, Townes, Proue,” named the
lieutenant, calling off the detail; and Oliver settled down,
disappointed, for he had hoped to go.

He made no remark, and tried to appear unconcerned; but the lieutenant
must have read his thoughts.

“Is the boy strong enough? We should take only the strongest men and
the best of the horses,” spoke the officer, aside, to Kit.

“Wall,” drawled Kit, reflectively, eyeing Oliver, “you know it’s pretty
hard to tucker out a boy. He’ll stand more’n a man.”

“And Oliver,” detailed the lieutenant, as if concluding his list.

Oliver grinned, with cracked lips but glad heart.

The morning was that of February 25. The first ride was one of twelve
miles, down the river valley to some old Indian huts. Here, by a field
of juicy grass, camp was located; the animals were turned out, and from
that moment until daybreak they never ceased their steady grazing.
Throughout the afternoon and the night could be heard the constant
champing of their jaws. The lieutenant seemed to take much pleasure in
sitting, as long as daylight lasted, and watching them eat.

The next camp was different. Rain forced the march from the river trail
to the higher ground, until nightfall; and then camp was made without
good grass――which, combined with the rain, appeared to plunge the poor
animals into the depths of gloom.

“This won’t do,” declared Kit. “This won’t do, captain. These critters
air jest on the narrow edge ’twixt life an’ death, an’ they’ve got to
have forage an’ rest every night, to carry ’em through the next day.
It’s dangerous, missing grass.”

That was true. Now Proveau the buffalo-runner could not keep up, and
dropped behind. Jacob was left by the lieutenant to bring him along
slowly, while the squad went on, seeking a camping place. Lunch was a
boiled mule-head. It furnished a soup.

Jacob arrived without Proveau; but he brought Charles Townes, who worn
down by the long privations was becoming crazed. Just at nightfall,
when all were well-nigh despairing for the lives of the few horses and
mules remaining, the inspiring call of Kit Carson, on before, in the
dark ravine, echoed back.

“This way!” he cried. And as they drove the staggering animals for him:
“Life yet! Life yet, boys! Here’s a hill-side sprinkled with grass
enough for the night!”

Hurrah for Kit――tireless, hard-working, never-say-die Kit!

Proveau the buffalo-runner, Charles Townes’ fine young horse from the
Columbia River supply, and another Indian horse packed with the cooking
utensils failed to join the herd; so that the next day some of the men
were sent back after them or any others that had strayed. Baptiste
Derosier appointed himself to bring in Proveau.

Oliver remained at camp, in the gorge, to guard the herd. The
lieutenant and Kit Carson climbed as high as they could, for a view;
and reported that beyond the timber the valley seemed to be as far as
ever!

Baptiste and Proveau did not get in, that night; and Baptiste did not
overtake the march, the day following. It was feared that he had become
lost. Charles Townes was still crazy, and insisted upon swimming in the
icy river; he imagined that this was summer-time. At evening Baptiste
trudged weakly in. He sat down by the camp fire and began to tell of
several days’ wanderings――as if he had been gone a long while.

The country was improving, with much grass, and flowers and butterflies,
and acorns to eat; and Mr. Preuss walked on ahead of the squad, to
sketch the route. That night he did not return to camp. The next day
they found his trail, and they shouted and fired guns; but the only
response they received was from an Indian, who in the mutual
astonishment ran away.

The march must be continued; but although search right and left and on
the back trail was made for Mr. Preuss, no sign of him was discovered.
The lieutenant and Kit grew worried; Mr. Preuss had been unarmed, and
no one could tell what the Indians might have done to him.

Not until the evening of the third day did Mr. Preuss turn up. While
in a beautiful camp among live-oaks of the river valley they all heard
a faint shout from the hills behind――and Kit, sharp-eyed, cried,
instantly:

“There he is! I see him!”

It was Mr. Preuss, with wavering strides descending for the camp.
They had little to offer him, except some roasted acorns bought from
Indians. He, on his part, had a story to tell. He had eaten roots, and
ants, and raw little frogs, and had tried to smoke live-oak leaves; and
one night, in the timber, he had sought out two wolves, thinking that
they were Indian dogs. At last he had met several Indians, who seemed
afraid of him but had given him roasted acorns. Soon after, he had
struck the trail of the squad, and now here he was.

All this time the march of the squad had been following down the
course of the south or main fork of the American River of Northern
California, as it rushes from the high western slope of the Sierras
for the Sacramento. Almost at the spot where Mr. Preuss rejoined his
anxious comrades was discovered, in scant four years, or on January 24,
1848, the placer gold of California, and quickly as spread the tidings
down poured, from the Sierras, by the Frémont and Carson trail, the
eager Forty-niners.

Mr. Preuss had rejoined the squad on March 5. Only about half the
necessary saddle animals were left, but these were strong enough, now,
to carry riders; and four and five at a time the squad rode, each
division for an hour. Deer were seen, near at hand; the order was, not
to pause for them, or for anything, but to press on, press on, for
Sutter’s ranch, and rescue.

Gold was plentiful, but it was the gold of the California poppy
covering the sward. The land was gay with flowers, and dignified with
stately oaks. Tracks of horses and cattle were followed, to an Indian
village, some of whose inmates wore cloth shirts; yet no information
was gained. Next, was expectantly visited an adobe house with glass
windows. Only Indians, apparently ignorant, inhabited it. Next, in a
broad and grassy valley through which swept gently the noble river, was
entered a larger Indian village. Its people were clean and wore cotton
shirts and other factory clothing. One of the villagers spoke a little
poor Spanish; but he said that there were no whites in that country.

“What!” exclaimed the lieutenant, while the hearts of the squad sank.

At this moment came riding another Indian, wearing a broad-brimmed,
peaked straw hat; a ragged blanket through a slit in which his head
had been thrust; light-blue cotton trousers; and upon his bare heels
tremendous, jingling spurs. He sat in a cumbersome, high-pommelled,
high-cantled saddle, with huge block stirrups hollowed out of solid
wood. Upon his arm dangled a rawhide riata, or lasso.

“A su disposición, señors,” he greeted, in common Spanish. “At your
service, gentlemen.”

“Is this the Sacramento River?” asked Lieutenant Frémont, in the
Spanish.

“No, señor. It is the Rio de los Americanos――the River of the
Americans. It joins the Sacramento about ten miles below.”

“River of the Americans”! That sounded good; for to American travellers
in foreign land the word “American” is sweet.

“Where, then, is the ranch of Captain Sutter?”

“Yonder, señor. I am a vaquero (cowboy) in the employ of Captain
Sutter. The people of this village work for him. His house is just
over the hill. If you will wait but a moment, señors, I myself will
guide you thither. He is a very rich man, and he is always glad to see
Americans.”



XX

DOWN THROUGH CALIFORNIA


The vaquero, or cowboy, had spoken truly. Beyond the hill was disclosed
to view a large trading post――larger than either Bent’s Fort or Fort
Laramie; built of adobe, like them, and like them fashioned with
blockhouse corners, it had location more attractive, for it stood
amidst wheat-fields and natural verdure, beside the sparkling American
River.

“El Capitan Sutter comes, señors,” announced the vaquero, pointing.

A man had galloped from the post and its fringe of out-buildings, and
was rapidly approaching the squad. A short, stout, German-featured
man he was, when he arrived: with rosy complexion, blue eyes, crisp
moustache, high forehead, bald pate, and a soldiery way about him.

“Welcome, gentlemen,” he said, saluting. “Welcome to New Helvetia. I am
Captain Sutter.”

“I am Lieutenant John C. Frémont, of the United States Army, on a
government survey of Oregon and the Great Basin,” explained the
lieutenant, shaking hands. “We’ve been forced across the mountains.
I’ve left most of the company behind, while with a squad I rode in
advance, for supplies. Can we get them?”

“Most assuredly. All you want,” answered Captain Sutter, promptly.
“Come with me.”

It was late to start back, to-day, with rescue for the Fitzpatrick
party; but much refreshed by the abundant food and the night’s lodging
at the hospitable post of New Helvetia they took the back trail, early
in the morning, with horses and provisions. On the second day out, just
before reaching the Forks of the American, they sighted the Fitzpatrick
party straggling along――and a sorry party that was. All the men were
afoot, tottering as they led tottering horse or mule. Oliver thought
that he never had seen such skeletons living; and then it occurred to
him that no doubt his own party were just about as bad, and that he was
accustomed to them.

The Fitzpatrick party were too weak to cheer; they almost were too weak
to eat; but the gaunt wan faces essayed a smile, and one or two hands
were languidly waved. Camp was at once made, and the good rich beef and
bread and salmon from Sutter’s Fort were distributed――cautiously, that
the greedy Fitzpatrick men should not over-eat.

Thomas Fitzpatrick, his ruddy face drawn and gray with exhaustion, his
white hair ragged, related that because of the melting snows and the
rains a number of the pack animals had fallen from slippery precipices
and had been killed, their packs lost. All told, out of the 104
horses and mules with which the expedition had left the Dalles of the
Columbia only thirty-three arrived in the Valley of the Sacramento;
thus reckoned up Lieutenant Frémont, when, on the next day, camp of
the whole company was established where the American emptied into the
Sacramento, two miles below New Helvetia.

This New Switzerland, or New Helvetia, as Captain Sutter had named
his settlement, and which was known also as Sutter’s Fort, was a most
interesting place. The post walls were eighteen feet high, enclosing
a rectangle 150 by 500 feet; they mounted twelve cannon and were
garrisoned by forty Indians whom Captain Sutter (who had been a soldier
in France) had uniformed and drilled. Lieutenant Frémont did not think
much of the condition of the cannon, nor very highly of the smartness
of the Indian soldiery; but all in all, the fort was rather imposing,
here in the depth of California.

The jovial captain lived like a Highland chief. Kit Carson called him
a king. Nobody interfered with him; he had been pronounced a Mexican
citizen, by the governor of Alta California――but, anyway, citizen or
not, he was too strong to be driven out. Besides the forty California
Indians he employed thirty white men――mechanics, trappers, farmers,
etc.; and all the American trappers and settlers in this part of
California were free to make his settlement headquarters. His land
extended over thirty-three square miles; it was being grazed and
farmed; he possessed 4200 cattle, 2000 horses, 1900 sheep, and sent
out many beaver-skins and much wheat. His house, inside the fort, was
furnished with regular chairs and beds and tables, of heavy, clumsy
manufacture, having been hand-made, from laurel, at the former Russian
trading post of Ross, on the sea-shore westward. He sent vessels down
the Sacramento and up to Vancouver. He operated a flour-mill and was
teaching the Indians to weave hats and blankets and to farm. Yes,
powerful and rich and independent was Captain Johann Augustus Sutter,
of New Helvetia, above the mouth of the Rio de los Americanos, Upper
California. ’Twas at his saw-mill, fifty miles above his fort, that
was discovered, in the winter of 1848–49, gold; and speedily his New
Helvetia became Sacramento City.

The two weeks’ camp of the Frémont and Carson company, at the mouth of
the American, was by no means an idle camp, devoted to sight-seeing
or sitting in the Captain Sutter laurel chairs. Horses and mules
and cattle were to be inspected and bought; new pack-saddles to be
put together; bridles repaired, saddles repaired, ropes repaired or
purchased, clothing repaired or purchased; Samuel Neal the blacksmith
worked constantly at the post forge, shaping horse-shoes, bridle-bits,
nails, etc.; and the Sutter flour-mill, grinding by horse-power, was in
motion night and day producing flour.

A short council at which Captain Sutter was present determined upon the
route home.

“It would be folly to recross the Sierras, here,” stated the lieutenant.
“I suppose the snow lies on them away into the summer.”

“Yes, sir,” assured the captain.

“I was thinking, then,” continued the lieutenant, “of travelling south,
down the Valley of the Sacramento and up the Valley of the San Joachin,
that Kit has talked so much about, for the Joe Walker Pass at the lower
end of the ranges. And then to strike the Spanish Trail that runs from
the Pueblo of Los Angeles to Santa Fé.”

“Very good,” approved the captain. “It’s a fine, well-watered country,
with plenty of game, all the way to the southern passes.”

“We’re not liable to be interfered with, by the authorities, are we?”
queried the lieutenant. “This is Mexican territory, and we came in
without leave.”

“Not so far back from the coast,” answered Captain Sutter. “But you’ll
have to watch sharp, or the Indians, particularly the mansitos, or
tamed Indians, as we call the Indians educated by the missions, who
have returned to wild life, will steal your animals. They are very bold
and clever. They even come down and try to steal our horses at New
Helvetia.”

“We’ll watch,” promised the lieutenant.

“No white settlements, captain?” asked Kit.

“None inland, any more than when you travelled through fifteen years
ago, sir,” said Captain Sutter. “The whole country back from the line
of missions, and the few settlements, along the coast, is a paradise
unused except as the haunt of the Indians. It is a fair land going to
waste. Some Anglo-Saxon race should have it, and cultivate it. That
race will be either England or America; mark my words.”

“Let us hope, America,” responded the lieutenant.

So fair was this sunny California that Samuel Neal the blacksmith and
four others in the company asked to be discharged, that they might
remain. The lieutenant let them go; and Samuel entered the employ of
the post, at two dollars and a half a day, with promise of advance.

“Anybody seen Derosier?” demanded Mr. Preuss, through the camp, on the
day before departure. Already had the camp been moved, in preliminary
start, up stream a short distance, to the ranch of Mr. Sinclair, former
mountain-man, now a farmer.

Nobody had.

“He’s been gone for three days. Does anybody _know_ anything about him?”

Nobody did.

And Baptiste Derosier, who had been acting oddly ever since that day,
back on the trail, when he had been lost, never was seen again, nor
even heard of. It was thought that he must have been drowned, or else
had been waylaid by Indians, among the hills. All the company were
sorry, for Baptiste was a willing worker and a “bon camarade.”

“Leve! Leve!” at dawn of March 24 resounded through the camp the
regulation trapper call to arise. To-day was the start to be made in
earnest.

With more horses and mules than ever, to the number of 130; with
twenty-five beef cattle and five milk cows; with plenty of flour and
coffee and sugar; well-stocked the expedition might proceed upon their
way. With them went an Indian boy, assigned by Captain Sutter to be
herder of the cavvy, for the horses and cattle were almost as wild as
buffalo. It would take an experienced Californian to drive them.

Captain Sutter himself, and several other whites from the fort escorted
the company a few miles, to say good-by and “good luck.”

Eleven hundred and forty-two miles from the Dalles of the Columbia or
3000 miles from Fort St. Vrain had stretched the Frémont and Carson
trail to New Helvetia. Now from New Helvetia to Bent’s Fort would be
3000 miles more. However, nobody shrank from the trail as planned. All
were strong again in body as they had been strong in heart, and their
ample pack-train gave them comfort. Nevertheless, for the first 2500
miles of their journey they could expect to find no settlement of any
kind save Indian village.

The lieutenant rode a splendid iron-gray Californian horse, named
Sacramento, a gift from Captain Sutter. The march was down the east
side of the Valley of the Sacramento, back somewhat from the river;
thence on into the Valley of the San Joachin, which was companion
valley reaching up from the south, to meet the Valley of the Sacramento
extending down from the north. The country was all that it had been
pictured by Kit Carson, and promised by the lieutenant: a country of
brilliant flowers, blue and yellow and white and purple, in great
masses; of abundant verdure and water; of great herds of elk, deer,
wild horses and cattle. And as Captain Sutter had declared, it was a
country unused.

As they rode, the lieutenant and Kit waxed more and more enthusiastic,
and Oliver heard them say that here was where they hoped some day to
live.

Mindful of the cautions as to the horse-stealing Indians, the march was
made strictly military. Scouts were placed ahead, and on the flanks,
to beat the brush; rifle-men formed van, and rear, and between van and
rear were the cavvy, pack-animals and cattle. However, no Indians were
sighted until, on April 8, 280 miles from New Helvetia, at the banks of
the Tulare River natives appeared.

As soon as these ascertained that the Frémont and Carson men were
not California soldiery, they gathered in friendly fashion, and
brought otter-skins, and fish, and bread and acorn-flour. They were
dark-skinned, handsome Indians. Several spoke Spanish, learned at the
missions. They were well-mannered――but the lieutenant and Kit thought
best, on the whole, to corral the animals, at night.

It was time that the pass should be near, on the left; the pass through
the mountain range, to the desert. A fine broad trail pointed off to
the southeast; and upon being questioned as to a pass in that direction
one of the Indians nodded, with a smile showing white teeth, and with a
“Si, señor; buen camino (Yes, sir; good road).” Following this trail,
on for the desert rode the Frémont and Carson company.

The landscape was growing sandy and more bare. Diverging to the left,
to ascend along a creek, the company entered, not Walker Pass, but that
Tehachepi Pass through which to-day penetrates from desert California
into valley California the Santa Fé Railroad, overland line.

While encamped at the western side of the Tehachepi Pass the camp
received another visitor. Down the pleasantly wooded slope he
came riding, with many a jingle and much graceful sway of body――a
combination of knight-errant and cowboy; and a romantic sight he made.
He wore a large, peaked hat; short braided jacket reaching scarcely
to his waist; black velvet trousers tight at the hips, flaring at the
bottoms, and slashed along the seams with white; a sash of crimson;
yellow goat-skin boots armed with the huge Spanish spurs. Bridle and
saddle were lavishly decorated; chains dangled from the one, brass
tacks glistened in the other. But he was no Spaniard or Mexican; he
was an Indian.

“Buenas noches, señors,” he greeted, cordially, in excellent Spanish.
“Good evening. I saw you enter the pass, and I have come down to bid
you have no fear.”

“To whom do we speak?” asked the lieutenant.

“To a Christian Indian, señor. I am from the mission San Fernando,
near to the Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles (the Town
of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels),” he explained. “I have been, by
permission of the fathers, to visit my relatives in the Sierras, beyond
here. Looking back, I saw you.”

“We are much obliged, señor,” answered the lieutenant, gravely. “Alight
and sit. You are acquainted with the country?”

“Perfectly.”

“We are on our way east, to the American States. What lies across this
range?”

“An arid, burning desert, señor; impossible for man or beast.”

“I remember it,” quoth Kit Carson, nodding. “I war across it with Ewing
Young.”

“Lower down, señor,” corrected the Indian, politely. “By the Spanish
Trail.”

“That war ’fore the Spanish Trail had been broken through; but it mout
have been lower down, o’ course.”

“Then we cannot cross directly eastward?” queried the lieutenant.

“No, señor. Even the Indians cannot. It is the Mohave Desert. But if
you desire to travel east, after crossing this pass you should follow
south along the foot of the mountains, where is water and grass, to the
Spanish Trail to Santa Fé. By this route have just returned six Indians
of a great river of the desert, who have been here trading with my
people. For two days on my way to San Fernando I am travelling the same
road, myself, and I will gladly be your guide.”

They thanked him, and accepted his offer.



XXI

THE VENGEANCE OF KIT CARSON


The Christian Indian of the San Fernando mission rejoined the march,
the next morning; amidst gooseberries, humming-birds, and yellow
flowers, looked down upon by snow-caps, the pass was threaded; and
a very different crossing of the Sierra Range was this, from that
experienced but a few weeks back!

Unexpectedly to all the company, as the trail wound down among the
foot-hills on the eastern side of the range the desert unfolded to
view. There it lay, waiting, like a flat, prone dragon. There it lay,
as the guide had asserted: arid, burning, white-hot, with occasional
blackish ridges breaking its surface like scales, and with its fevered
breath, like a mist, quivering above.

“The great llanos――plains,” announced the guide, dramatically waving
his hand. “They have no water, they have no grass; every animal that
goes upon them dies.”

“The Mohave Desert, I reckon it air,” said Kit Carson, meditatively
surveying. “I crossed it twice, on that Californy trip, but the trail
we made war lower down.”

“By the Mohave River, señor, perhaps,” suggested the guide.

“Guess so.”

“That is lower to the south. The Spanish Trail which your company will
take follows along it.”

On April 17, three weeks from New Helvetia, among the ridges by which
the mountains tapered to the desert was encountered a little trail
cutting east and west across the southward march. Scarcely could it
be traced, so faint and rarely trodden was it; but the guide at once
turned east, upon it.

“It is the trail between the Spanish Trail, east, and the mission San
Buenaventura, next to Santa Barbara, on the coast,” he said.

He rode a few miles, and halted.

“Adios,” he spoke. And indicating the thread-like trail: “This is the
road. It does not lose itself; it continues on. Follow it, and you will
reach the Spanish Trail ahead of the great spring caravan out of the
Pueblo de los Angeles for Santa Fé of New Mexico; so you will find the
grass uneaten. By that black hill yonder is water. Now I must turn off
for San Fernando.”

The lieutenant and Kit and Mr. Preuss and Mr. Talbot and others in
the van shook hands with him, thanking him again; and the lieutenant
further rewarded him with presents of knives and bright cloth. Amidst
mutual “Adios (a Dios――God with you),” he left, galloping away for the
mission San Fernando Rey de España (Saint Ferdinand King of Spain),
north of the Pueblo de los Angeles which is to-day the City Los Angeles.

Through draws blazing with flowers purple, lemon and orange, and richly
perfumed, the Frémont and Carson company followed the little trail
eastward until at the dark ridge out upon a sandy plain they camped
with water but no grass.

For two days and a half the little trail led eastward. Then, on the
afternoon of the third day, April 20, the advance scouts shouted and
waved and waited. When Oliver, with the van, arrived at the spot, he
also joined in the shout, although not wholly knowing why――save that
here the little trail united with a broad, well-defined trail, north
and south.

“The Spanish Trail from Californy to Santy Fee, captain,” announced Kit
Carson.

“It must be,” agreed the lieutenant. “And it takes us north, boys! Now
we can cross the mountains by way of the Great Salt Lake and the Utah
Lake, to strike the head of the Arkansas. We’re not to be cheated out
of the fine country.”

“Hooray!” they cheered.

“It’s good-by to Californy,” remarked Kit, to the lieutenant, as now
the cavalcade turned into this broad trail.

“We’ll come again, Kit,” asserted Lieutenant Frémont.

And they did; to win the fair land for the United States, and the
lieutenant to make here his home, as he had hoped.

So this was the famous Old Spanish Trail, was it; this bare road of
rocky sand scarred by many hoofs, stretching on indefinitely athwart
the rolling, sparsely verdured plains?

“You might think it’s called the Spanish Trail ’cause the names on it
air all Spanish,” narrated Kit Carson, as with Oliver he ambled in the
dust. “But like as not it’s called so ’cause the old Spanish Fathers
started it, at t’other end, in their missionary trips out o’ Santy Fee.
They never cut it through, though. An American did that. I knew his
family in Missouri. He war a trader, ’twixt Missouri an’ New Mexico.
His name war William Wolfskill; an’ in fall o’ Eighteen-thirty he tuk
a trading caravan out o’ Santy Fee for Los Angeles, an’ he made this
trail to try north o’ the Heely (Gila) River trail. He thought he’d
find better grass. It’s regular caravan trail, for hosses an’ mules to
Santy Fee, an’ calico an’ blankets an’ stuff back ag’in.”

“Seems to me that some of these tracks in the trail are fresh,”
commented the lieutenant, riding up.

“So I war thinking,” replied Kit. “Fresh hoof-tracks, an’ some fresh
Injun tracks. Thar must be a caravan party on ahead o’ the main travel;
an’ those Injun tracks likely air the six fellows spoken of by that
mansito. But in sech a wind, blowing the sand, sign air hard to read.”

An unpleasant gale was raging――a furious, constant blast as the cooler
air of the mountains on the west rushed down to fill the vacuum caused
by the rising hot air of the desert on the east. The Spanish Trail
continued, well marked, but with its sharp rocks speedily setting the
animals to limping. It was a trail rougher than any part of the Oregon
Trail. Oliver heard the lieutenant regretting that the cavvy had not
been shod.

The trail had been skirting a river, curious but refreshing as it
flowed briskly and sparkling between low banks of the whitish sand.
A few cottonwoods and willows grew along it. Oliver observed that
although they were descending it, it was getting smaller instead of
larger――an odd circumstance.

“It’s the Mohave, I reckon,” stated Kit. “At least, when I came out
with Ewing Young we followed up a river ’bout like this, hyar, on our
way from the Colorado to the Californy missions. You watch it, an’
you’ll see something.”

The next morning the lieutenant, during the ride, spoke suddenly:

“There goes our river!”

All near him looked. Kit Carson chuckled quietly.

“Yes; it’s flopped for a spell. Now it’ll flow bottom-side-up till it’s
ready to turn over ag’in: the bed’s on top an’ the water’s under. It’s
the Mohave, sure――tho’ I’ve seen other rivers like it.”

“Remarkable!” ejaculated Mr. Preuss, much interested. “It burrows like
a gopher of the plains.”

“Brave stream! I teenk she gets weak by the sun an’ goes under to get
strong, encore,” proffered Alexander Godey, gayly.

“What it does is to follow the bed-rock,” explained the lieutenant.
“The water sinks to the rock. Where the rock stratum lies deep, the
water disappears in the sand; where the rock stratum approaches the
surface, the water is brought above the sand again.”

For about sixteen miles the course of the stream was dust-dry; then,
suddenly, out had popped the water, in a series of welcome pools.
By the tokens of bones and rags this evidently was a customary
camping-ground, between marches. When Oliver, who had been busy helping
herd the cavvy, returned to the fires, he beheld there six strange
Indians――the six who had been spoken of by the mansito guide, and who
had been in advance of the company.

Five were Mohaves, and one was a California Indian who lived with them.
All were naked; the Mohaves, of coppery bronze skin, straight legs,
tall erect stature, were the handsomest Indians whom Oliver ever had
seen. The party were equipped with unusually long bows, and each man
carried a gourd, slung in a cord mesh, for water. The Californian spoke
some Spanish, learned at the missions. He said that they came from a
large village of the Mohaves at the crossing of the River Colorado,
below the large canyons, in the desert three days’ travel eastward.

“I remember the village,” confirmed Kit. “Captain Young crossed thar,
when we came out in Twenty-nine. Injuns war peaceable: we bought a fat
mare to eat, an’ some squash, for we war nigh starved. But same Injuns
had attacked another party, at the crossing, year before, so we war
watching sharp.”

From the camp where the Indians joined, the Frémont and Carson company
followed a little further down the erratic Mohave River, eastward,
although the main trail veered more northward, for the ridges. The six
Indians were afoot. They claimed that when they brought back horses the
northern desert Indians stole them. They also claimed to be poor and
hungry; and when, upon the next day’s march, three cattle, miserably
worn, must be killed, after the camp had satisfied itself the six fell
to until they had left only the bones.

The Indians’ banquet began in the afternoon and continued all the
night. While Oliver and Jacob the colored youth (to whom the Mohaves
were as interesting as he was curious to them) were watching them as by
daylight they hacked and tore at the carcasses, from the camp welled a
significant murmur.

“Somebody coming――riding from the no’th,” announced Jacob. “Looks laike
they’re in a monstrous hurry. What foh, I wonder. Huh! Two men.”

“Man and boy; Mexicans,” proclaimed Oliver, keener of sight.

Yes, by token of their serapes, or blanket-scarfs enveloping their
shoulders, and their bell-brimmed, high conical hats, Mexicans they
were; and man and boy they were; riding desperately, upon foaming,
sweating horses, across the trackless sand and rocks, for the camp. As
soon as they arrived they were surrounded by an excited audience, and
reeling in their saddles were telling their story. The man, with many
rapid gestures, and staccato exclamations from the boy as well as from
himself, was the chief speaker.

“We are Mexicans, señors,” he panted. “Two out of a party of six in
advance of the main caravan from the Pueblo de los Angeles for Santa
Fé. Thirty horses we had, and we thought by setting out ahead we should
get the better grass. Ay de mi! And what happened! The other four
were my dear wife, the mother and father of this boy, and a friend
Santiago Giacome, who was our guide. We found good grass, and at the
camping-place of the Archilette, about eighty miles beyond here, on
the main trail, señors, we at last made halt to wait for the caravan
to overtake us. We had gone into the desert far enough, being few in
numbers. But after we had been at the Archilette, unmolested, for more
than a day, señors, several Indians ventured to visit us, from where
they had been watching us. They left us, with good words, but in a
few days afterward came back with an immense crowd, an army of them,
señors; and before we could prepare defence they charged, shooting and
yelling. We were only six, and two of us women, with thirty horses.
Pablo (and he indicated the boy) and I were on horse-guard; part of
the barbarians surrounded the herd, but Giacome shouted to us to take
it and flee――we must save the horses while he and this boy’s father
fought to protect the women. So we did, the boy and I: we drove the
animals right through the savages, and at full speed, with halts only
to change saddles from one mount to another, we traversed back down
the trail, until this morning we reached the camping spot of Agua de
Tomaso, about twenty miles from here. Now having left the herd there,
lest the savages should overtake us as well as it, we were hastening on
to meet the caravan and inform it, when we sighted your camp, señors.
Ay de mi! Alas and alas! Our four companions, two of them women, are
murdered――and by this time the horses also are gone!”

“Ay de mi! Mi madre y mi padre!” wailed the boy. “Alas! My mother and
my father!”

During the recital the company had listened intensely; and now at
the close there was a sudden outburst of ejaculations. Some of the
men――Baptiste Tabeau, Alexander Godey, Jacob, Sergeant Zindel, and
others――were determined to start at once, to the scene of the attack.
The lieutenant restrained them.

“Wait,” he cautioned. “I cannot divide the force, boys. We have the
camp to look after, to-night. The savages may be coming down the trail.
To-morrow we will know better what to do.”

“It’d be dark ’fore we got to the place whar the hosses war left,”
reminded Kit, agreeing with the lieutenant. “Injuns’ll travel fast, for
a ways, after they take the herd, till they think they airn’t being
pursued; then they’ll stop for a feast. We’ll catch ’em jest as soon if
we start to-morrow, when they’ve slackened up.”

Thomas Fitzpatrick concurred.

The Mexican man’s name was Andrés Fuentes; the boy’s name was Pablo
Hernandez. He was about eleven years old, and with his large black
eyes, white teeth, smooth brown skin and regular oval features was a
handsome little fellow. The twain were told to dismount, and stay. The
lieutenant took them into his own mess, and promised them that on the
morrow he would do what he could to avenge their wrongs.

Early in the morning the camp was moving, setting course north to enter
the main trail, only a few miles distant. Here were many blackish,
rocky, bare ridges, with gullies of gravel and sand between. The
gullies formed in the spring the beds of streams; and in places wolves
had been smart enough to dig little wells, until two feet down they
reached the water which they had smelled!

After twenty miles, Andrés Fuentes pointed ahead.

“The Agua de Tomaso――the Thomas Spring, señors. But I see no horses.”

Pablo began to cry, as his memories revived.

The advance scouts, whom Andrés and Pablo were guiding, spread and rode
more cautiously, reconnoitring; but the Spring of Thomas was deserted;
neither horse-herd nor Indians were there.

The signs were easy to read: the Indians had come in, afoot, from
several directions, and had gone out driving the herd.

“I think we’d better follow those rascals, lieutenant, an’ teach ’em a
lesson, or the trail won’t be safe for travel, all the year,” said Kit
Carson. “If the Injuns get away unpunished, with these hyar hosses,
they’ll take more. They’ll consider they’re boss.”

“Well,” answered the lieutenant, “go ahead, Kit. How many men do you
want?”

“Godey an’ I’ll do. This Mexican’ll come, too, if we’ll lend him a
fresh hoss.”

“Three of you, to tackle fifty?” queried the lieutenant. “Isn’t that a
pretty big job?”

“Wall, I reckon we’re enough to stampede the animals, an’ raise a
little ha’r if necessary,” asserted Kit, quietly. “Godey’s wuth a dozen
ordinary men; an’ the Mexican’s wife air captured, you remember.”

“All right, Kit,” responded the lieutenant. “But we’re not asking
you, or anybody, to go. That’s a risky proposition, pursuing Indians
into the desert, and fighting somebody else’s battle. These are
Mexicans――and their own caravan will be along, soon.”

“Mexicans or not, they’re human beings, lieutenant,” declared Kit,
refilling his powder-flask. “Pore critters! Think o’ having yore own
wife out thar, at the mercy o’ the savages. An’ thar’ll be other
parties travelling the trail, with women an’ property. No, sir; those
Injuns ought to be taught a lesson.”

Well mounted and armed, rode away Kit and Godey and Fuentes the
Mexican. Now was it mid-afternoon; the company remained in camp at the
Agua de Tomaso, to await their return.

There was little talk save upon the one topic: the venture of the two
knights errant and their eager companion.

In the dusk of evening a single figure was seen, returning from the
direction wherein three had ridden. He came on slowly. The camp was
alarmed. It was Fuentes, who explained that his horse had failed, but
that Kit Carson and Godey were sticking to the trail.

The night passed; the morning passed, and the sun crossed the zenith to
afternoon. The lieutenant fidgeted, ill at ease, for Kit and Godey did
not reappear.

“They’ll come, captain, but they’ll find those Injuns first,” assured
Thomas Fitzpatrick. “I know Kit and I know Godey. They’ll run that
trail to the end. Kit never quits when once he has started.”

Scarcely had he spoken, when shrill and clear pierced the hot air a
faint, distant halloo――a long, high, quavering whoop, drifting in from
the black ridge to the north.

“A scalp halloo, or I’m an Injun myself!” exclaimed Fitzpatrick.
“There’s Kit and Godey, with good news, I’ll wager.”

Again rose the scalp halloo. All eyes were fastened upon the ridge
which closed the vista in that direction. Presently out from around a
shoulder concealing a little pass emerged a jostling bunch of horses;
two riders were driving; at rapid trot and lope they crossed the little
strip of plain, for the camp.

“Kit and Godey! I told you!” cried Thomas Fitzpatrick. “Look at the
hosses?”

“The very horses! Those are they――I recognize them; don’t you, Pablo?”
claimed Fuentes, jubilantly; and he added, now mournful: “But I see
only the two persons――the same who went. Ay de mi!”

“Ay de mi! Mi madre y mi padre!” wailed Pablo.

“Godey――he has scalps! See, on his gun!” directed Baptiste Tabeau,
capering. “Yes! Two! Tied to the end of his gun!”

“They overtook the Indians as well as the horses,” remarked the
lieutenant.

With whoop from Kit Carson and wide smile from Godey, triumphant
the twain rode in. As said by Baptiste, from the end of Godey’s
long-barrelled rifle dangled two fresh scalps, of black, Indian hair.

How the camp cheered. As soon as the horses had been thrown in with
herd, around Kit and Godey gathered the camp, breathless to hear the
story.

“Oh, Godey can tell it,” responded to the inquiries Kit. “Thar’s
nothing to tell, anyhow. We followed the trail an’ found the Injuns an’
took the hosses an’ a couple o’ scalps, an’ hyar we air.”

“And my people, señor――my wife, and the mother and father of Pablo, and
Santiago? Nothing of them?”

“Nothing of them, amigo,” said Kit Carson, gently; and turned away.

Godey, by no means loath, was recounting, in his dramatic French
fashion, while to his words his auditors, particularly the other
French, wagged their heads.

“At night we entered the mountains, but as you know there is a moon
enough, and we followed the trail clear till midnight. We rode hard,
my friends, for we are two mountain-men, and not afraid of these dogs
of Pah-Utes, who eat horses and lizards. Then in a black gulch we
must stop. Here the moon, being low, did not shine, and the trail was
faint among the rocks. We must dismount, and upon hands and knees feel
for it. By the sign we knew that the savages were only a few hours in
advance of us. They had not eaten, and soon they would wish to taste
horse. That is the use to which these desert Indians put the horse and
the mule: they eat him, they do not ride him. So lest we lose the trail
altogether we tied our horses, and without fire, that we should not be
spied upon, in our saddle-blankets we slept upon the cold rocks until
daylight. Now might we make a very small fire, of the dried sage, which
gave off no smoke, by which we warmed our hands and cooked breakfast.
Through the gulch we rode, and after about two miles we sighted the
rascally savages. There were four lodges of them, down in a bottom
between bare hills. They thought that no one had pursued them, and
that they were secure; for their horses were grazing without guard,
and they themselves, about thirty in number, were feasting on horse,
boiled and roasted. We could see the kettles and the steaks. Ma foi,
my friends, but they were making very merry. Kit and I, we tied our
horses below a ridge, and crept down for the horse-herd. By throwing
stones and twigs at them we would edge them away, slowly, until we
might stampede them. We were doing well, when, name of a dog! A fool
of a young horse saw us on all fours, and up went his heels and how he
snorted! That was enough. The Indians sprang to their arms. ‘Come!’
said Kit. ‘At them before they have any time!’ So down we charged, we
two, yelling, and as bold as if we were two hundred. ‘Crack!’ spoke our
rifles; but hein――one Indian fell; only one. ‘Scalp for me!’ I claimed.
‘I count coup on that fellow,’ claimed Kit. Pshaw! We had both shot
at the same! No matter. I reloaded first, and at the crack I wiped
out another. By this time arrows were whizzing around us, from those
long, stout bows; one passed through my shirt-collar. Here――see? But
the savages had enough; away they scampered, climbing the hills, and
hiding in the rocks. They left a boy, and the two dead men. These two
we scalped――when, horrible, the one who was shot twice, through and
through, jumped up, howling. Wagh! I hope never to see another such a
sight! When he howled, and before we could do what we must do, an old
squaw, climbing the hill, stopped and looked back and shook her fist
at us and cursed us. Maybe she was the dead man’s mother; who knows?
Now we were in possession of the camp, which was cleverly hidden in a
little bottom or draw, with a good spring. Four or five of the horses
had been killed, for a big feast; they were cut up, all ready to fill
the pots again. Many more Indians were expected; the pots, and baskets
of fifty or sixty moccasins showed this. As for the boy, when he found
that he was not to die immediately at our hands, he sat down and gnawed
at a horse-head. Ma foi! What lack of feeling! Well, my friends, we
destroyed the camp, and left there the boy, eating his horse-head, and
collecting the horses we took the back trail.”

“Bravo! Good!” congratulated the company.

“You saw nothing of the Mexican prisoners?” queried the lieutenant.

Godey shook his head.

“No, captain. There was no sign. We think that they must be with
the other party of the savages or else――――” and Godey shrugged his
shoulders, significantly.

The lieutenant spoke to Fuentes, informing him. And Fuentes, and Pablo
the lad, having shaken the hands of Kit and of Godey, thanking them
for the scout, enveloped themselves in their serapes, apart. Sorrow
sat heavy upon them. What were the horses, as compared with wife, and
father and mother, and friend?

Oliver overheard the lieutenant talking with Theodore Talbot, the
Washington tenderfoot who had won veteran’s service-stripes.

“There you see an example of mountain-man work, Talbot,” was saying
the lieutenant. “That’s the spirit beyond the western frontier. Here
we have two men trailing Indians――a wily foe――fifty miles through an
unknown country; attacking their camp, which showed four lodges, each
lodge presumed to mean five to eight or more persons; driving the
Indians out, and returning, with the horses, fifty miles again; all
in thirty hours. And why? Not only for general good, but to avenge
the wrongs suffered by Mexicans who also were strangers. I tell you,
Talbot, you’ll never meet with a bolder, finer deed of arms. And who
performed it? Kit Carson, of Kentucky parentage and Missouri breeding,
and Alexander Godey, St. Louis Frenchman: Americans, both.”



XXII

POOR TABEAU PAYS THE PRICE


Scalp Camp was christened this camp, of April 25 and 26, at the Agua
de Tomaso or Thomas Spring, latitude 35° 13′ 08″, longitude 116°
23′ 28″, on the Old Spanish Trail in the northern part of the San
Bernardino Desert, southeastern California. Ahead upon the trail was
the camping-spot of the Archilette, where had been made the attack upon
the caravan camp. Thither by forced march proceeded the company.

The Mexican Fuentes informed that the first stretch awaiting was a dry
journey of forty or fifty miles. To avoid the heat of day the company
pushed on at once, as the sun was setting. While northeastwardly they
travelled, by the warm moonlight were revealed to them many white
skeletons of horses and mules, strewn along the way; and this was the
sign of a dry jornada. Forty-three miles were put behind ere halt was
made, before dawn, at a salty, swampy place, illy fitted to refresh.
The moon had sunk; but here also the light of dawn disclosed skeletons
of animals which had perished from weakness.

On the morning of April 29 they were traversing a singularly silent,
blasted country of blackish ridges and twisted, squat, repulsive cactus.

“The Archilette is just beyond, señor capitan,” directed Fuentes.

With eyes and ears alert the advance quickened their pace. From a low
ridge of bare rocks Fuentes pointed to a spot of brush and greenness in
a sandy basin before.

“That is it,” he said.

“Come, boys!” urged the lieutenant. “Charge it.” And down at a gallop,
rifles and carbines ready, they galloped――the lieutenant on his gray
Sacramento keeping the front, Kit racing him hard, Godey and Tabeau and
Talbot and Jacob, eager Oliver and anxious Fuentes and little Pablo,
and all, thudding to overtake.

But the spring of the Archilette lay unresponsive, seemingly without
life. Only, before a willow lean-to which had been a shelter was the
mutilated body of Pablo’s father, the Hernandez, with both legs and one
arm missing. He had stood stanch in defence of his wife. Near by, in
another willow lean-to, was the body of Santiago Giacome, a powerful
frame, also pierced with arrows. The savages long had departed, and
they must have borne with them the mother of Pablo and the wife of
Fuentes.

While the party were sorrowfully regarding, out from the bushes crept a
small Mexican lap-dog――suddenly, with glad yelps to leap upon Pablo’s
legs and lick his hand. The Hernandez dog he was; and not having been
noted by the Indians he had remained in lonely vigil here, at this
dreadful place, watching and waiting. How glad he was to see Pablo
his young master! Pablo picked him up, and carrying him walked along
wailing, distracted:

“Mi padre! Mi madre! Ay, mi padre y mi madre! (My father! My mother!
Oh, my father and my mother!)”

Fuentes wrapped his head in his serape, thus to mourn.

None in the company wished to stay here, but there was no other
camping-spot, and the animals must have water. The lieutenant wrote
upon a piece of paper a brief story of the tragedy, and by a cleft
stick planted it so that the approaching caravan might know what
had befallen their comrades. The Archilette was renamed Hernandez
Spring――Agua de Hernandez. It is in extreme Southwestern Nevada.

The march was waxing cruelly severe upon the animals. By water
and grass were they grudgingly nourished, but by the rocks of the
innumerable ridges were their hoofs cut to the quick. Mule and horse
dropped daily. When they died by pain and exhaustion, or must be shot,
Fuentes the Mexican quickly cut off mane and tail for hair bridles,
saddle-girths, etc.

Amidst increasing hills, abloom with cacti and acacia, and over a low
snowy mountain into another skeleton-strewn dry jornada, of almost
sixty miles, rode the Frémont and Carson men. By chewing the acid sour
dock, and by sucking at the pulpy bisnaga cactus known to Fuentes the
Mexican, they moistened their thirst; until at midnight the California
mules, breaking into a run, gave warning of water scented more than a
mile before. This was the Rio de los Angeles, or River of the Angels,
tributary to the Virgin River which itself flows south into the
canyoned Colorado.

Upon the bluffy bank of the Rio de los Angeles, to-day styled only the
Muddy River, must camp be pitched. At daybreak Indians swarmed down.
With the first sight of them, frightened Pablo and his little dog ran
to hide in a tent and Fuentes the man exclaimed, in furious Spanish:

“There they are! The murderers! The same people who killed at the
Archilette! Curses on them!”

A bare-footed, bare-skinned, under-sized tribe they were, ill-looking,
their hair tied in a knot atop their sharp, restless-eyed faces. Many
of them carried hooked sticks, with which they hauled out lizards and
other vermin from holes, to cook them and eat them. All the men bore
the long, stout desert bow, and wore a quiver bristling with thirty or
forty arrows fitted to points of volcanic glass, or obsidian.

Every Indian who would enter the lines of the camp was told to leave
his bow and arrows outside; but defying the orders an old chief and
several companions forced their way in, bow in one hand, two or three
arrows ready in the other, and quiver at back.

“Vamose! Puk-a-chee! Get out! Outside!” were volleyed at him the cries;
and he impudently put his fingers in his ears, as sign that he could
not hear.

Gazing about the camp, he counted on his fingers the inmates――including
a mule that was being shod! He counted twenty-two.

“Why, there are none of you,” he jeered. “But of us――――” and he pointed
to the hills and mountains, “there are many, many.” He pointed to the
rifles, of which he appeared to think little. “You have those.” He
twanged his bow. “We have these!”

Up sprang Kit Carson, who had been sitting near. His tanned face was
white-hot, his grayish eyes flamed bright blue. The filthy Indian’s
contemptuous, ignorant words had stung him to the quick. He was the Kit
Carson of the Kiowa fight, at the wagon-train corral on the Santa Fé
Trail. Not since then had Oliver witnessed him so angry.

He had cocked his rifle; with one hand he clenched it, and the other
hand he shook under the Indian’s nose.

“Don’t say that, old man!” he bade, in short, stern tone. “Don’t say
that, unless you want to die.”

He spoke in English; and the old chief recoiled, his eyes darting the
venom of a snake’s, as if he understood.

Oliver stepped forward, ready to help the man he loved. Through the
camp sped the click of gun-locks.

“Steady, Kit,” now warned the lieutenant, alarmed. “We’re avoiding
trouble, remember. He’s only an ignorant Digger.”

“No Injun, Digger or not, can come into camp whar I am an’ talk that
way. We’re boss in this camp; it’s our camp,” declaimed Kit, still
angry. “They can insult us from outside, ’cause that air Injun way;
but if we once get to letting ’em in, with arms, they’ll massacree us,
sure. This ought to be stopped right at the start, captain.” And again
he applied himself to the hateful old chief. “Get out! Go!” Pointing,
with stamp of foot, while he relaxed not his glare, Kit Carson at that
moment looked to Oliver as fancy once had painted him――eight feet tall
and four broad.

Slightly wilting, but defiant, the old chief and his squad reluctantly
slunk away.

“Well,” commented the lieutenant, when all breathed easier, “that old
fellow was nearer his end than he ever will be again until he meets it.”

Several horses and mules had been left behind, on the trail, to be
brought along, later, after they had rested. Thomas Fitzpatrick, who
had gone back after them, now reported that they had been killed by
the Indians, cut up, and the fragments spread upon the brush, to cure.
This evening the lieutenant turned over to some of the Indians another
horse, for a feast; but instead of pleasing the tribe it only made
those Indians who got none the more insulting.

It was the late afternoon of May 9, and the company had travelled
twenty-eight miles up the Virgin River from the point where, twenty
miles across from the Muddy, they had struck it. Now they were encamped
in the northwestern corner of Arizona, at the foot of the Beaver Dam
Mountains, and about opposite the stream which here comes into the
Virgin. The camp was drowsy, after long and ceaseless vigils. A high
wind had died away to merely a faint breeze which scarcely disturbed
the summer temperature. Over the mountain ranges to the north rested
masses of white cloud, which the sun, about to set, was tinging pink.
A strong horse-guard was out with the animals, in charge of Baptiste
Tabeau. Two sentries watched the camp, from either end. Most of the
members off duty were dozing; but the hour was at hand when the mess
fires must be built up. The lieutenant had been asleep, in his lodge,
for three hours. The outlines of him could be seen, through the open
flaps, and under the raised edges.

As Oliver, who was sitting cleaning his rifle, glanced at him again,
the lieutenant stirred, as if awake; at that moment Kit Carson,
buckskin-clad, wiry little man, came striding quick, rifle, as
customary, in hollow of left arm.

“You awake, captain?”

“Yes. What is it?”

“Haven’t seen Tabeau, have you?”

“Baptiste?” The lieutenant sat up. “No. He’s on horse-guard, isn’t he?”

“Wall, he rode down the trail, after his lame mule we left at t’other
camp a mile below.”

“Hasn’t he come back?”

“Haven’t seen him.”

“How long ago?”

“This morning.”

“What!” The lieutenant hastily stood. “Who gave him permission?”

“Don’t know. He tuk it, I reckon. Knew we needed the mule.”

“I’ve been asleep for some time. He may have come into camp.” The
lieutenant spied Oliver. “Have you seen Tabeau, boy?”

“No, sir.”

The lieutenant joined Kit, outside the lodge.

“This must be looked into. He ought not to have done it――he ought to
have notified us and have taken a squad.”

“It war only a mile, he said; so I hear,” observed Kit.

“A mile is a long way, in Injun country, Kit. Hello! What’s that?” and
the lieutenant pointed.

The eyes of all persons thus notified leaped to the spot. About a mile
below, or down the river, had up-welled into the calm evening air a
column of thick white smoke.

“Tabeau’s gone,” exclaimed Kit, instantly. “That’s a coup smoke, to
tell a scalp’s been taken an’ everybody should look out!”

“You think it means Tabeau, then?”

“Sartin. That’s whar he started for――that cottonwood grove whar the
camp war. The smoke’s at the very place.”

“Take whatever you can get the quickest and go down there at once,”
ordered the lieutenant. “If you ride hard you may not be too late.”

“We’ll ride hard, but we’ll be too late, captain,” answered Kit,
already striding away.

As he passed, he responded to Oliver’s appealing gaze.

“That rifle ready?” He must have noticed the cleaning operation.

“Yes, sir.”

“Get yore hoss an’ come along. See that you don’t lack powder, lead or
caps.” And not having paused, Kit Carson continued upon his own way.

Quickly spread the word, that Baptiste Tabeau had been “wiped out.”
Many more volunteers offered themselves to Kit than he could use.
Everybody liked Tabeau; everybody wished to succor him, or to avenge
him. However, Kit deemed that a small party, if well-armed, would be
enough; so he chose Oliver, and Baptiste Bernier, Charles Townes,
Godey, and Thomas Fitzpatrick――mountain-men all.

Scarcely a word was spoken, as they galloped forth. The errand was one
of sorrow and grim determination.

The mile was covered, and the last night’s camping place lay right
ahead. Now the high, gloomy ridges bordering the Virgin were closing
down, and the camping place appeared sombre. Extending their front the
posse rode right in――eye and ear and finger ready; but it was as silent
and deserted as had been the Hernandez Spring at the Archilette. Of
Baptiste and his horse, and of the lame mule which he had quested, not
a trace could be found.

“Better ride on down,” suggested Charles Townes.

“Ought to search those cottonwoods, across,” said Kit.

“That’s a risky business, in the dark, when Injuns are better than
white men,” remarked Thomas Fitzpatrick, nevertheless urging his horse
into the water. Oliver promptly did the same.

“I know it, Tom,” answered Kit. “But we’ll have to take the risk.”

Alexander Godey interrupted. He had been examining for sign, on down
the trail.

“Here,” he called. “I find it! The lame mule, an’ the savages beside
him. En avant, camarades! The savages would drive off the mule, an’
Baptiste, he follows.”

Godey had read truly. Where he awaited, in the dusk could be descried,
imprinted upon the sandy dust, hoof-marks of a hobbling mule, pointing
back down the trail, with the bare soles of Indians on either side of
them. Moreover, the hoof-marks of a horse, probably Tabeau’s horse,
also were to be descried, pointing in the same direction, but printed
_upon_ the others――therefore later.

So they followed the trail. After about an hour of steady, silent
riding, a rustle in some bushes was heard.

“S-st!” warned Kit.

They halted, short, and peered, and listened, holding breath. Kit
and Godey slipped from their horses, to steal forward, noiseless as
shadows. Presently they returned, as silently.

“It’s the mule,” reported Kit. “It’s the lame mule, with an arrow in
her side, standing thar, to die. They shot her an’ left her till they’d
come back.”

“Anything of Baptiste?” demanded Fitzpatrick.

“We found a wet place――wet an’ sticky――in the brush. Too dark to say
jest what it air,” stated Kit, succinctly. “But it, an’ the smoke,
taken together, strike me as bad. Don’t believe we can do more till
daylight. We mout as well go back to camp.”

That was agreed; and sorrowfully again they rode up the trail, soon to
be guided by the glow of the camp fires.

Little doubt could there be as to Baptiste Tabeau’s fate, but of
course his disappearance must be probed to a certainty. At day-break
the lieutenant himself, with Thomas Fitzpatrick and Kit and Godey and
several others (Oliver being assigned to guard duties), departed for
the wounded-mule brush, in search of further sign.

When they returned, about noon, they brought only the news which had
been feared. Daylight had shown the worst: crimson stains and crushed
bushes where Baptiste must have been pierced with an arrow; a crimson
path for twenty paces, where he had desperately struggled along; a
spot where he had fallen; and then the trace where he had been dragged
to the river and thrown in. A shred of leather, from his saddle, was
found; but all else――horse, gun, clothing――had vanished completely. The
Diggers had taken them. Even the wounded mule was gone.

Thus, May 9, 1844, perished wilderness-breaker Baptiste Tabeau, Frémont
man from St. Louis. The place of his death is on the left bank of the
Virgin River in northwestern Arizona. So, in many a lonely spot, sleep
the brave; their monument their deeds achieved for others.



XXIII

THE HOME STRETCH


Fain would the Frémont and Carson men have taken the war trail and
have avenged the murder of their comrade; but their horses and mules
were crippled, the country was vast and strange, they must push onward
to safety. So they headed, as before, into the northward. Amidst the
general mutterings of anger and bated revenge Kit Carson it was who
remarked, quietly:

“Wall, the Good Book says something about reaping whar we have sowed.
White men did the fust killing, when the Joe Walker party shot down
these hyar same Diggers, on the march across from the Salt Lake in
Thirty-three. Now thar’s war, an’ thar ever will be, an’ the white man
air to blame, but the Injun’ll suffer most.”

The country grew better, in appearance; cedars and pines flourished
upon the hills, birds were present, and before uplifted snowy mountains
of a loftier range. At the Vegas de Santa Clara, or the Meadows of
Santa Clara, near to the Virgin River, the company were in southwestern
Utah.

The Frémont and Carson company could delay only a day at the pleasant
Meadows. Soon after leaving the camping place they noted a moving cloud
of dust on the trail behind; out of the dust cloud evolved hurrying
figures――a little squad of horsemen.

“Whites!” pronounced Kit, at once. “Americans, too――an’ ride like
trappers.” And――“If that airn’t old Joe Walker, leading ’em, I’ll eat
him,” he added.

The pursuing squad, nine riders, and several pack-animals, drew on at
fast trot. The foremost was a horseman splendidly large of stature,
with plentiful gray whiskers covering cheeks and chin. He threw up his
hand in salute; Kit and the lieutenant answered in kind.

“Hello, Kit,” he called.

“Hello, Joe. Whar you bound?”

He had arrived, and pulled short.

“Jest looking for company. Saw your sign down the trail, an’ started on
to overtake ye.”

“Wall, you’ve done it,” commented Kit, coolly. Whereupon he introduced
to one another the lieutenant and Captain Joe Walker, mountain-man,
trapper, trader, guide.

The captain had started from Los Angeles with the annual main caravan
for Santa Fé. Seeing the trail of the Frémont and Carson company, with
eight men, Americans all, he boldly had set out, across the desert, to
catch the expedition. That was just like old Joe Walker, Kit Carson
afterwards declared. They had fought with the Diggers, killing two and
in turn receiving wounds among the horses; and here they were.

For such a fighter and adventurer Captain Joe Walker bore a singularly
mild, although determined visage, from which clear blue eyes peered
out, above the whiskers. Oliver was attracted by him at once, and was
glad when he heard him agree to guide the company across the mountains,
ahead. He had made a specialty of the Great Basin and the approaches
to it, and had traded much among the Utes, whose country bordered it
on the east of the Salt Lake. Therefore the region now toward the
northeast was familiar to him.

In central Utah the Old Spanish Trail turned short, and east and
southeast ran down for Santa Fé. This would be the direct route for
Taos and even for Bent’s Fort; but the lieutenant wished to visit
a lake called Utah Lake, near to the Salt Lake; thence cross the
mountains back of the Salt Lake and working over to the head of the
Arkansas River, follow it down to Bent’s Fort. The Californians Andrés
Fuentes and Pablo the boy decided to stay with the company, instead of
going direct to Santa Fé.

So from the turn of the Old Spanish Trail the course was still
northward, with the Wasatch Mountains (the same which skirted on the
east the Great Salt Lake) snowy at the right. They were greeted as
friends; good they looked to Kit Carson and the other mountain-men.

The Sevier River barred the way. In California a river, barring, had
been crossed by means of hides removed from freshly slaughtered cattle
and stretched upon sticks. The Frémont and Carson company now had no
cattle left; but undefeated, out of bundles of bulrushes they fashioned
sharp-pointed rafts.

At this crossing, of the Sevier River, central Utah, May 23, 1844,
was killed by accident François Badeau, who shot himself through the
head in drawing toward him his gun, muzzle first. He was buried upon
the bank of the stream, and there are his bones, to-day. He, too, had
paid the adventurer’s price, as well as, in his case, the price of
foolishness. The muzzle of a gun always is dangerous.

Lovely Utah Lake unfolded to the view. It was the property of the Ute
or Utah Indians, who made of it their fishing preserve.

Only some thirty miles to the north, and connected by a river was
the Great Salt Lake where in the previous September the company had
encamped. Therefore had they almost completed an immense circle of 3300
miles, and after nearly nine months they were within thirty miles of
the starting point.

Nevertheless, they had not crossed the Great Basin; they had only
skirted it, seeking an entrance. However, even the veteran Joe Walker
could give little definite information upon that unknown interior.

“No, sir; I never have been into the desert, west o’ here,” he
declared, to the lieutenant. “I’ve been in by north, along the Mary’s
River, an’ I’ve been in by south, along the Spanish Trail; but not by
the middle. The Diggers can tell little. But I’m pretty sure o’ one
thing: there are no rivers flowing out, to any sea. The desert has its
own system o’ lakes an’ rivers. It’s evaporation that drains the basin,
an’ not outflowing. There’s no Buenaventura, sir.”

“I believe so, myself,” agreed the lieutenant. “I’ve prepared what
I shall report; namely: ‘The Great Basin: four hundred miles long,
five hundred miles wide, surrounded by lofty mountains; contents
almost unknown, but believed to be rivers and lakes which have no
communication with the sea, deserts and oases which have never been
explored, and animals and savage tribes which no traveller has seen.’
Next time I hope to go into it, and fathom some of its mysteries. We
shall be better prepared. A good place to strike next time is right
through this gap of thirty miles; say by way of the south end of the
Salt Lake.”

“When do you calculate to make the trip?” queried Captain Walker.

“Next spring and summer. Kit has promised to come. Do you think you
will be free, captain? We’ll need a good guide for the desert; I’d like
to engage you.”

“I’ll do it,” said the captain.

Entrancing to-day is this Utah Lake, of fresh water lying blue between
the snowy Wasatch and the hazy Oquirrh or Squirrel Ranges, with the
Great Salt Lake showing silver sheen amidst the lowlands to the west
of north. When on May 25 the Frémont and Carson company arrived, two
villages of Utes were encamped by the lake, waiting for the fish to
ascend into the rivers. These fish were salmon-trout, but not so large
and so tasty as the salmon-trout of the Pyramid Lake, far across the
desert.

Attractive though the spot was, the Frémont and Carson company must not
linger; the Utes were greedy and troublesome, the trail yet was long,
for more than a year the lieutenant had been cut off from news of home,
well-nigh for a year Kit had not heard from his bride.

Under guidance of Captain Walker, up the Spanish Fork River which
from eastward enters the Utah Lake they journeyed, and from the head
of the Spanish Fork River north into the Uintah country of present
northeastern Utah. Here, latitude 40° 27′ 45″, longitude 109° 56′ 42″,
at the first forks of the Uintah River, above where it empties into the
mighty Green, was the fur-trading post of Fort Uintah, whose owner,
lean, swarthy Antoine Roubideau, or Robidoux, was a Taos man.

At Fort Uintah was enrolled by the lieutenant Auguste Archambeau, a
Canadian Frenchman, who wished to go on to Missouri, and who enlisted
as a hunter. Auguste speedily made himself a favorite, for he was well
built, cheerful, and a mountain-man equal to Alexander Godey.

On through rich mountain country, along the borderline of northwestern
Colorado and southwestern Wyoming, rode the company; as they went,
feasting upon buffalo, for the hunters’ rifles were ever busy. In the
morning of June 13 the Continental Divide of the Rockies was topped,
and with a cheer all hailed a little stream trickling for the east.
This was the Atlantic Slope of the continent; it was the United States.

Flowers bloomed, aspens quivered, grass and bush spread fresh and
green, clear and cold ran the streams, and on every side grazed
buffalo, elk, and antelope. South through the North Park of Colorado
turned the march, and down into Middle Park, where rise the waters of
the Grand River flowing west to join with the Green.

But although glorious appeared the landscape, and “fat” it was with
game, Utes, Arapahoe and Sioux made of it a battle-ground; therefore
the march must be cautious. Each night the camp was fortified; by day
scouts were thrown out, ahead, from high places to examine the country.

The road was one made by buffalo, but it also was one used by the
Indians; and according to the moccasins found upon it, and the traces
of lodge-poles, an Arapahoe village must be travelling, before. The
lieutenant and Kit and all hoped that a meeting might be avoided; but
on the morning of June 18 Archambeau and Godey, among the scouts ahead,
from a butte shook a blanket, as signal of Indians in sight!

“Close up, close up!” warned the lieutenant and Joe Walker; and in
response to the word transmitted adown the line Thomas Fitzpatrick
hastened his pack-train. The flankers drew in a little; and at faster
pace proceeded the company, as a hollow square, animals in centre.

“Thar they come,” announced Kit. “’Rapahoes, too. Humph! Treat ’em as
well as we can an’ get rid of ’em quick as we can. They’ll be spoiling
for a fight.”

Along the valley were trudging and riding about thirty Indians, both
women and men. They boldly met the company, and demanded presents. They
claimed that they were going into the hills after roots and game; but
instead, as the cavalcade resumed the march, the bucks wheeled around
and galloped back in the direction where they said they had left their
village.

“We’d better be forting,” counselled Joe Walker. “Did you know any of
’em, Kit?”

“Never saw one of ’em at Bent’s, as I remember,” confessed Kit.

Down to the Grand River hurried the company, and to some willows
between the channel and an overflowed meadow. They had no time to
fort further, even by piling up their packs, when on came again the
Arapahoes, fully 200, painted and flourishing weapons and apparently
eager for a fight.

“Set that flag out, in front, somebody who talks Arapahoe, and tell
them if they pass it, we fire,” ordered the lieutenant.

Alexander Godey grabbed it; but Kit Carson rode out with him. They
planted the staff in the moist ground, and standing by the Stars and
Stripes signed to the Indians to halt. Kit shouted the instructions.
Two of the Indians rode forward, in token of parley.

“One o’ them’s a Sioux,” asserted Thomas Fitzpatrick. “Isn’t that so,
Auguste?”

“I think it is,” affirmed Archambeau. “Sioux an’ ’Rapahoe together mek
it bad; eh?”

The conference soon dissolved, and with one of the Indians Kit loped
back to the willows; Godey remained, amicably squatting and talking
with the other.

“They’re ’Rapahoes, an’ some Sioux,” explained Kit. “This hyar’s an old
Sioux chief, who wants to meet our head chief.”

The old Sioux――a grizzled, stout, but fine-looking veteran, wearing a
necklace of grizzly-bear claws――shook hands warmly with the lieutenant,
and delivered a harangue. Kit translated.

“He says he’s always been friendly to the whites. ’Fore that gang
started from the village they held a council, an’ most of ’em voted to
attack us, ’cause we’d been with the Utes, an’ like as not had sold ’em
guns an’ ammunition. But the Sioux, an’ a few ’Rapahoes who’d seen us
last year on the plains, an’ knew about us, voted ag’in it. He says the
Sioux air pore, an’ ought to be given a lot o’ valuable presents for
the way they voted. I expect the ’Rapahoes’ll want as much.”

“I suppose so,” groaned the lieutenant. “No matter how they voted,
they’ll want the presents.”

Therefore presents were liberally distributed, under the folds of the
Flag, gently waving, perhaps for the first time, here beside the Grand
River in north central Colorado.

Through Middle Park the trail continued, and so did the evidences of
the Arapahoes. At the south end of the park six beaver trappers were
met. They informed the lieutenant that two of their party already had
been killed by the Arapahoes, and that if he would wait they would like
to pack up and get out. He sent Kit and Archambeau and Godey with them,
to help.

When the squad again joined the command, they brought alarming news.
Near the trapper camp they had suddenly been stayed by a band of
Arapahoes, much excited. The Arapahoes said that their people were
about to make a great attack upon the Utes, in the Bayou Salade (which
as South Park lies adjacent to Middle Park, on the south), and that
they had been sent to guide the white men back that they might help the
Arapahoes kill the Utahs! Kit had answered that the white men were far
ahead, and would join them in the Bayou Salade. Whereupon the Arapahoe
scouts rode off to their people. Kit chuckled.

“We’ll have to take care an’ not meet ’em. They’ve got us in a tight
corner. Back yonder on the river we swore we war the ’Rapahoe’s friend,
an’ had nothing to do with the Ute nation. Now if we won’t help our
friends fight, what air we? An’ if we do help ’em fight, whar’ll we be,
with the Utes.”

“Well, it isn’t our quarrel, that’s sure,” declared the lieutenant.
“The Indians can fight their own fights, and we’ll mind our own
business. The Arapahoes would like nothing better than to array the
Utes against us.”

Southward still, over the dividing range into the South Park they
hastened; and at the western verge sounded the warning, again:

“Injuns! Injuns!”

A mounted party of dusky, long-haired figures were descending from
a ridge which intersected the valley, before. If these were pesky
Arapahoes, once more, perhaps seeking the white men to escort them to
the battle, then the company must watch out.

“Make for those islands, boys,” ordered the lieutenant; and into the
shallow river, to a willow patch, plashed the Frémont and Carson men.

“Those are squaws,” cried Captain Walker.

Ute squaws they proved to be. They eagerly hastened to the company,
and with gestures and loud exclamations and weeping told their story.
Beyond the ridge was their village; early that morning the Arapahoes
had charged it, killed four men including the head chief, and driven
off many horses to a forted hollow a mile below. But the brave Ute
warriors, 300, had rallied and pursued them; and now a great fight
was in progress. If the white men would help the Utes their friends
kill those dogs of Arapahoes, they should have the best horses at the
village to carry them into the battle.

“Let’s get out o’ hyar. Have to get out o’ hyar. More trouble,”
announced Kit, shaking his head at the clamor of the Ute women.

Speedily the cavalcade was put in motion, to abandon the dangerous
neighborhood. Vainly the Ute women followed, urging, wailing, and
plucking at the clothing of the white men, to bid them join in the
fight. Turning off at the ridge, and keeping it between them and the
village, with a line of scouts riding the summit to watch the other
side, the company left the valley as rapidly as possible. Soon the
women must cease their urging, and gallop back to their village. The
spiteful cracks of rifles, and the whoops of the red warriors, now were
plainly heard; gazing down from a break in the ridge Oliver and all
could see the Ute village, in disorder, with dead and wounded being
hurriedly brought in. However, according to the Ute women, their braves
were having the best of the fight. It was the opinion of Kit and other
mountain-men, also, that warrior for warrior, the Utes could whip the
Arapahoes.

With course southeast, the company crossed from the South Park to the
tributaries of the Upper Arkansas; and penetrating through the rugged
country lying between Cripple Creek and Cañon City, Colorado, on June
28 arrived at the Arkansas River itself. Old friend was the Arkansas,
for now below, on it, waited Bent’s Fort, at the crossroads of the long
trail.

At sunset of June 29 the settlement of the Pueblo was reached. Here the
six trappers stopped, and here Kit received word that all was well at
Taos. Now Bent’s Fort was but seventy-five miles. The trail along the
Arkansas was broad and well beaten; the animals appeared to know that
something especial was just before, and they travelled briskly.

Ere mid-morning of the second day, July 1, from the advance Oliver,
greeting many a familiar object, spied it, ahead――that one object for
which in particular had he been peering: the plains citadel of Bent’s
Fort. Amidst the fringe of cottonwoods its massy dun clay walls were
limned against the flowering herbage and the sage.

“Hooray! Hooray!” Hats flew into the air, and the reports of the
carbines and rifles were answered by cannon.

The flag of the ramparts was streaming to welcome the flag of the
cavalcade; and as the cavalcade drew nearer, several horsemen clashed
from the gate-way, to give personal greeting.

“Thar’s George Bent. Reckon William air away,” commented Kit.

George Bent it was, younger brother of William, but a partner in the
Bent, St. Vrain & Co. firm. He was much at Taos.

“Hello, George.”

“How are you, Kit? Hello, Joe! Where’d you hail from? Come right along
into the post, gentlemen. Glad to see you back. How far have you been?”

“’Bout six thousand miles,” answered Kit. “How’s my wife, George?”

“Very well indeed, Kit. Nothing has changed since you left, I believe.
Let’s see――just about a year, isn’t it? We’ve all been looking for you.
They’d almost given you up for lost, in the States, lieutenant.”

Thus speaking, George Bent conducted the company to the post.

This was to Kit a second home: but he was anxious to turn south for his
first home――old Taos, where bided Josefa, his young wife. Oliver was as
ready, for at Taos was Ike, maybe, or Sol, or William New, to whom to
tell tales of the trail that they had missed.

However, at the post a “big” Fourth of July had been planned. The
lieutenant had decided to stay for a banquet, and Kit and Oliver must
stay. So they did. After the feast Lieutenant Frémont himself asserted
that not even in Washington or St. Louis had he ever sat down to
a finer menu than this, served in honor of the Fourth and of the
expedition, at Bent’s Fort in the Indian country, 500 miles from the
frontier.

On the fifth the lieutenant was to continue on for Washington. Fuentes
and Pablo, the two California Mexicans; the Chinook youth from the
Dalles of the Columbia; and Sacramento the iron-gray horse from
Sutter’s Fort, remained with him in his train. Captain Joe Walker
wished to stay at the post for a time. Alexander Godey was to seek
St. Vrain’s, his former station. Kit and Oliver were for Taos. The
lieutenant, last of all, shook hands with them.

“You’ll not forget next year, Kit?” he reminded. “We’re to try that
desert again, you know――and work north from Sutter’s to Vancouver. The
Sacramento Valley calls.”

“I’ll not forget,” promised Kit. “I’ll be ready.”

“And you, my lad――you’ve had enough of the explorer’s trail, I fancy,”
addressed the lieutenant, to Oliver.

“No, sir,” said Oliver, “I haven’t.”

“Bravo!” laughed Lieutenant Frémont. His fine blue eyes flashed.
“You’ll do. You’re one of my company. You’ve got the heart of a man,
and it takes a man to follow Kit and me.”


END.



_THE TRAIL BLAZERS SERIES_


With Carson and Frémont

By EDWIN L. SABIN

The daily life of these men who worked together to break the hostile
spirit of the Western wilderness was one filled with adventure and
danger, and this chronicle, written for boys, is almost a first-hand
story of the West in the early days. Mr. Sabin holds closely to
facts, and while writing an entertaining story has still presented an
inspiring episode in American history.

_Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25 net. Postpaid, $1.37._


David Crocket: Scout

By CHARLES FLETCHER ALLEN

This volume sets forth all Davy’s versatility and recounts his many
exploits in the East and in the new Southwest. It tells of him as
Indian fighter, bear hunter, statesman and defender of the Alamo. Davy
had a keen sense of humor and a lovable nature, which at once endear
him to the reader.

_Colored frontispiece and three illustrations in black and white by
Frank McKernan. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50._


Daniel Boone: Backwoodsman

By C. H. FORBES-LINDSAY

“Historical fact is made the basis of convincing fiction, and a better
book of its kind could not be placed in the hands of any American
boy. Boone stands out as a splendid figure of pioneer manhood,
who performed a work of incalculable importance in the settlement
of Kentucky by white men. True narrative impulse enters into the
story.”――_Philadelphia Press._

_Frontispiece in color and three illustrations. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50._


Captain John Smith

By C. H. FORBES-LINDSAY

“It’s as exciting as if it were a tale of sword-and-mantle fiction by
a writer of the Stanley Weyman school. There’s fighting galore on its
pages; wild adventurings; ups and downs; and all shot through with an
unconquerable spirit. All of it is true and is stirring. It’s good
history, good biography and mighty good reading.”――_Cleveland Leader._

_Four illustrations in color. 12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50._


  J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS      PHILADELPHIA



Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――Printer’s, punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently
   corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 ――Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "With Carson and Frémont - Being the Adventures, in the Years 1842-'43-'44, on Trail - Over Mountains and Through Deserts From the East of the - Rockies to the West of the Sierras, of Scout Christopher - Carson and Lieutenant John Charles Frémont, Leading Their - Brave Company Including the Boy Oliver" ***

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