Part 2 out of 6
such clothes as he requires, which is little enough. Buckskin is
everlasting wear, and he gets his worked up for him by the women of any
Indian tribe among whom he may be hunting. If he were one of these fort
Indians it would be only a question of money; but it would never do to
offer it to him. He does not forget that he is a chief, though he has
been away so many years from what there is left of his old tribe. If he
did it at all it would be for the sake of your uncle. I know they have
hunted together, and fought the Apaches together. I won't say but that
if we get at him the right way, and he don't happen to have no other
plans in his mind, that he might not be willing to start with you."
"I should be glad if he would, Jerry. I have been quite dreading to get
to Fort Bridger. I have had such a splendid time of it with you that I
should feel awfully lonely after you had gone on."
"Yes, I dare say you would feel lonesome. I should have felt lonesome
myself if I did not light upon some mate going the same way. We got on
very well together, Tom. When Pete Hoskings first put it to me whether I
would be willing to take you with me as far as this, I thought that
though I liked you well enough, it would not be in my way to be playing
a sort of schoolmaster business to a young tenderfoot; but I had got to
like the notion before we left Denver, and now it seems to me that we
have had a rare good time of it together."
"We have indeed, Jerry; at least I have had. Even if the Indian would
agree to take me I should miss you awfully."
Jerry made no reply, but sat smoking his pipe and looking into the fire.
As he was sometimes inclined to be taciturn, Tom made no attempt to
continue the conversation; and after moving out and shifting the
picket-pegs so as to give the horses a fresh range of grass to munch
during the night, he returned to the fire, wrapped himself in his
blankets and lay down, his "Good-night, Jerry," meeting with no
response, his companion being evidently absorbed in his own thoughts.
"You are not going on to-day, Jerry, are you?" Tom said, as he threw off
his blankets and sat up in the morning. The sun was not yet up, but
Jerry had already stirred up the embers, put some meat over them to
cook, and put the kettle among them.
"No, I shall stop here for a day or two, lad. I am in no special hurry,
and have no call to push on. I have not made up my mind about things
They had scarcely finished breakfast when Leaping Horse came down from
"Tom here has been asking me, chief, whether there was any chance of
getting you to guide him to his uncle. I said, of course, that I did not
know what your plans were; but that if you had nothing special before
you, possibly you might be willing to do so, as I know that you and
Straight Harry have done some tall hunting and fighting together."
The Indian's face was impassive.
"Can my young brother ride day after day and night after night, can he
go long without food and water, is he ready to run the risk of his scalp
being taken by the 'Rappahoes? Can he crawl and hide, can he leave his
horse and travel on foot, can he hear the war-cry of the red-skins
"I don't say that I can do all these things, chief," Tom said; "but I
can do my best. And, anyhow, I think I can promise that if we should be
attacked you shall see no signs of my being afraid, whatever I may feel.
I am only a boy yet, but I hope I am not a coward."
"You have come a long way across the sea to find my brother, Straight
Harry. You would not have come so far alone if your heart had been weak.
Leaping Horse is going back to join his white brother again, and will
take you to him."
Tom felt that any outburst of delight would be viewed with distaste by
this grave Indian, and he replied simply: "I thank you with all my
heart, chief, and I am sure that my uncle will be grateful to you."
The chief nodded his head gravely, and then, as if the matter were
settled and no more need be said about it, he turned to Jerry:
"Which way is my white friend going?"
"I'm dog-goned if I know. I had reckoned to go down past Utah, and to go
out prospecting among the hills, say a hundred miles farther west; then
while I journeyed along with Tom I got mixed in my mind. I should like
to have handed him over safe to Harry; but if Harry had gone down to the
Ute hills with an idea of trying a spot I have heard him speak of, where
he thought he had struck it rich, he might not have cared to have had me
come there, and so I concluded last night it was best the lad should
wait here till Harry got back. Now the thing is altered; they are just
hunting and prospecting, and might be glad to have me with them, and I
might as well be there as anywhere else; so as you are going back there,
I reckon I shall be one of the party."
"That will be capital, Jerry," Tom said. "With you as well as the chief
we shall be sure to get through; and it will be awfully jolly having you
"Don't you make any mistake," the miner said, "I should not be of much
more use in finding them than you would. I ain't been up among the
mountains all these years without learning something, but I ain't no
more than a child by the side of the chief. And don't you think this
affair is going to be a circus. I tell you it is going to be a hard job.
There ain't a dozen white men as have been over that country, and we
shall want to be pretty spry if we are to bring back our scalps. It is a
powerful rough country. There are peaks there, lots of them, ten
thousand feet high, and some of them two or three thousand above that.
There are rivers, torrents, and defiles. I don't say there will be much
chance of running short of food, if it wasn't that half the time one
will be afraid to fire for fear the 'tarnal Indians should hear us. We
ain't got above a month afore the first snows fall. Altogether it is a
risky business, look at it which way you will."
"Well, Jerry, if it is as bad as that, I don't think it will be right
for you and the chief to risk your lives merely that I should find my
uncle. If he is alive he is sure to come back here sooner or later; or
if he goes some other way back to Denver he will hear from Pete that I
am here, and will either write or come for me."
"It ain't entirely on your account, lad, as I am thinking of going; and
I am pretty sure the chief would tell you that it is the same with him.
You see, he tried to persuade your uncle to turn back. My opinion is,
that though he had to come here to keep the appointment, he had it in
his mind to go back again to join your uncle. Haven't I about struck
your thoughts, chief?"
The chief nodded. "My white brother Harry is in danger," he said.
"Leaping Horse had to leave him; but would have started back to-day to
take his place by his side. The Hunting Dog will go with him."
"I thought so, chief; I am dog-goned if I did not think so. It was
Hunting Dog you came back here to meet, I suppose."
"Hunting Dog is of my tribe," he said; "he is my sister's son. He came
across the plains to join me. He has hunted in his own country; this is
the first time he has come out to take his place as a man. Leaping Horse
will teach him to be a warrior."
"That is good; the more the better, so that there ain't too many. Well,
what is your advice, chief? Shall we take our pack pony with the
The chief shook his head decidedly. "Must travel quick and be able to
gallop fast. My white brothers must take nothing but what they can carry
"All right, chief; we will not overload ourselves. We will just take our
robes and blankets, our shooting-irons, some tea and sugar, and a few
pounds of flour. At what time shall we start?"
"In an hour we will ride out from the fort."
"We shall be ready. Ten minutes would fix us, except that I must go into
the fort and sell my critter and what flour and outfit we sha'n't want,
to a trader there.
"I ain't done badly by that deal," Jerry said when he returned. "I have
sold the pony for more than I gave for him; for the red-skins have been
keeping away from the fort of late, and the folks going by are always
wanting horses in place of those that have died on the way. The other
things all sold for a good bit more than we gave for them at Denver.
Carriage comes mighty high on these plains; besides, the trader took his
chances and reckoned them in."
"How do you mean, Jerry?"
"Waal, I told him we was going up to the Shoshone Sierra, and intended
to hunt about and to come back, maybe by the Yellowstone and then by the
Bear rivers, and that we would take the price of the goods out in trade
when we got back. That made it a sort of lottery for him, for if we
never came back at all he would never have to pay, so he could afford to
take his risks and offer me a good price. I reckon he thinks he has got
them at a gift. He has given two pieces of paper, one for you and one
for me, saying that he owes the two of us the money; so if I should go
under and you should get back, you will draw it all right."
They at once proceeded to pack their ponies. Divided between the
saddle-bags of the two animals were four pounds of tea, eight of sugar,
and thirty-six of flour. Each took a good store of ammunition, an extra
pair of breeches, a flannel shirt, and a pair of stockings. The rest of
their clothes had been packed, and taken up by Jerry to the traders to
lie there until their return.
"That is light enough for anything," Jerry said, when the things were
stowed into the saddle-bags. "Four-and-twenty pounds of grub and five
pounds of ammunition brings it up to nine-and-twenty pounds each, little
enough for a trip that may last three months for aught we know."
In addition to the ammunition in the saddle-bags, each carried a
powder-horn and a bag of bullets over his shoulder. The revolvers were
in their belts, and the rifles slung behind them. While Jerry was away
at the fort Tom had made and baked three loaves, which were cut up and
put in the holsters.
"Now we are ready, Tom; the Indians will be out in a minute or two. The
sun is just at its highest."
Two minutes later the chief and his companion rode out from the gate of
the fort. Jerry and Tom mounted their horses and cantered over to meet
them. As they came up, Tom looked with interest at the young Indian. He
judged him to be about nineteen, and he had a bright and intelligent
face. He was, like his uncle, attired in buckskin; but the shirt was
fringed and embroidered, as was the band that carried his powder-horn, a
gift, doubtless, from some Indian maiden at his departure from his
village. No greetings were exchanged; but the chief and Jerry rode at
once side by side towards the northeast, and Tom took his place by the
side of the young Indian.
"How are you?" he said, holding out his hand. The young Indian took it
and responded to the shake, but he shook his head.
"Ah, you don't speak English yet?" Hunting Dog again shook his head.
"That is a pity," Tom went on; "it would have been jolly if we could
have talked together."
The chief said something to Jerry, who turned around in his saddle. "His
uncle says he can talk some. He has taught him a little when he has paid
visits to the village, but he has had no practice in speaking it. He
will get on after a time."
All were well mounted, and they travelled fast. Just before sunset they
crossed the Green River at a ford used by the emigrants, and some fifty
miles northeast of Fort Bridger. They had seen a herd of deer by the
way, and the two Indians had dismounted and stalked them. The others
lost sight of them, but when two rifle-shots were heard Jerry said, "We
will take the horses along to them, you may be sure they have got meat;
the chief is a dead shot, and he says that his nephew has also gifts
that way." As they expected, they found the Indians standing beside two
dead deer. Hunting Dog laid open the stomachs with a slash of his knife,
and removed the entrails, then tying the hind legs together swung the
carcasses on to his horse behind the saddle, and the journey was at once
"You will make for Fremont's Buttes, I suppose, chief?" Jerry said, as
after riding up the river for three or four miles so as to be able to
obtain wood for their fire--as for a considerable distance on either
side of the emigrant trail not a shrub was to be seen--they dismounted,
turned the horses loose, lit a fire, and prepared a meal.
"Yes. We will go over the pass and camp at one of the little lakes at
the head of the north fork, thence we will ride across the plain and
ford Little Wind River, and then follow up the Sage Creek and make our
camp at night on Buffalo Lake. From there we must follow their trail."
"And where shall we have to begin to look out for the 'Rappahoes?"
"They may be over the next rise; no one can say. The 'Rappahoes are like
the dead leaves drifting before the wind. They come as far south as the
emigrant trail, and have attacked caravans many times. After to-night we
must look out for them always, and must put out our fires before dark."
Tom had noticed how carefully the young Indian had selected the wood for
the fire; searching carefully along by the edge of the river for
drift-wood, and rejecting all that contained any sap. He himself had
offered to cut down some wood with the axe he carried strapped to his
saddle, but Hunting Dog had shaken his head.
"No good, no good," he said. "Make heap smoke; smoke very bad."
Tom thought that the shrub he was about to cut would give out obnoxious
smoke that would perhaps flavour the meat hanging over it, but when the
Indian added, "Heap smoke, red-skins see a long way," he understood that
Hunting Dog had been so careful in choosing the wood in order to avoid
making any smoke whatever that might attract the attention of Indians at
a distance from them. It was his first lesson in the necessity for
caution; and as darkness set in he looked round several times, half
expecting to see some crouching red-skins. The careless demeanour of his
companions, however, reassured him, for he felt certain that if there
was any fear of a surprise, they would be watchful.
After supper the Indian talked over with Jerry the route they would most
probably have to pursue. The miner had never been in this part of the
country before; indeed, very few white men, with the exception of
trappers who had married Indian women and had been admitted into their
tribes, had ever penetrated into this, the wildest portion of the Rocky
Mountains. Vague rumours existed of the abundance of game there, and of
the existence of gold, but only one attempt had been made to prospect on
a large scale. This had taken place three years before, when a party of
twenty Californian miners penetrated into the mountains. None of them
returned, but reports brought down by Indians to the settlements were to
the effect that, while working a gold reef they had discovered, they
were attacked and killed to a man by a war party of Sioux.
"I was mighty nigh being one of that crowd," Jerry said when he told the
story to Tom, as they sat over the camp-fire that night. "I heard of
their start when I got back to Salt Lake City, after being away for some
time among the hills. I legged it arter them as fast as I could, but I
found when I got to the last settlement that they had gone on ten days
before, and as I did not know what line they had followed, and did not
care to cross the pass alone, I gave it up. Mighty lucky thing it was,
though I did not think so at the time."
"But why should my uncle's party have gone into such a dangerous country
when they knew that the natives were so hostile?"
"It is a mighty big place, it is pretty nigh as big as all the eastern
states chucked into one, and the red-skins are not thick. No one knows
how many there are, but it is agreed they are not a big tribe. Then it
ain't like the plains, where a party travelling can be seen by an Indian
scout miles and miles away. It is all broken ground, canons and valleys
and rocks. Then again, when we get on the other side of the Wind River
they tell me there are big forests. That is so, chief, isn't it?"
The chief nodded. "Heap forests," he said, "higher up rocks and bad
lands; all bad. In winter snow everywhere on hills. Red-skins not like
cold; too much cold, wigwam no good."
"That's it, you see, Tom. We are here a long way above the sea-level,
and so in the hills you soon get above the timber-line. It's barren land
there, just rock, without grass enough for horses, and in winter it is
so all-fired cold that the Indians can't live there in their wigwams. I
reckon their villages are down in the sheltered valleys, and if we don't
have the bad luck to run plump into one of these we may wander about a
mighty long time before we meet with a red-skin. That is what you mean,
isn't it, chief?"
Leaping Horse grunted an assent.
"What game is there in the country?"
"There are wapitis, which are big stag with thundering great horns, and
there are big-horns. Them are mountain sheep; they are mostly up above
the timber-line. Wapitis and big-horns are good for food, but their
skins ain't worth taking off. There is beaver, heaps of them; though I
reckon there ain't as many as there were by a long way, for since the
whites came out here and opened trade, and the red-skins found they
could get good prices for beaver, they have brought them down by
thousands every year. Still, there is no doubt there is plenty left, and
that trappers would do first-rate there if the red-skins were friendly.
In course, there is plenty of b'ars, but unless you happen to have a
thundering good chance it is just as well to leave the b'ars alone, for
what with the chances of getting badly mauled, and what with the weight
of the skin, it don't pay even when you come right side up out of a
"Are there any maps of the region?"
"None of any account. They are all just guess-work. You may take it that
this is just a heap of mountains chucked down anyhow. Such maps as there
are have been made from tales trappers who came in with pelts have told.
Well, firstly they only knew about just where the tribe they had joined
lived, and in the second place you may bet they warn't such fools as to
tell anything as would help other fellows to get there; so you may put
down that they told very little, and what they did tell was all lies.
Some day or other I suppose there will be an expedition fitted out to go
right through, and to punish these dog-goned red-skins and open the
country; but it will be a long time arter that afore it will be safe
travelling, for I reckon that soldiers might march and march for years
through them mountains without ever catching a sight of a red-skin if
they chose to keep out of their way. And now I reckon we had best get in
atween our blankets."
The two Indians had already lain down by the fire. Tom was some time
before he could get to sleep. The thought of the wild and unknown
country he was about to enter, with its great game, its hidden gold
treasures, its Indians and its dangers, so excited his imagination that,
tired as he was with the long ride, two or three hours passed before he
fell off to sleep. He was awoke by being shaken somewhat roughly by
"Why, you are sleeping as sound as a b'ar in a hollow tree," the miner
said. "You are generally pretty spry in the morning." A dip in the cold
water of the river awoke Tom thoroughly, and by the time he had rejoined
his comrades breakfast was ready. The ground rose rapidly as they rode
forward. They were now following an Indian trail, a slightly-marked path
made by the Indians as they travelled down with their ponies laden with
beaver skins, to exchange for ammunition, blankets, and tobacco at the
trading station. The country was barren in the extreme, being covered
only with patches of sage brush. As they proceeded it became more and
more hilly, and distant ridges and peaks could be seen as they crossed
over the crests.
"These are the bad lands, I suppose?"
"You bet they are, Tom, but nothing like as bad as you will see afore
you are done. Sage brush will grow pretty nigh everywhere, but there are
thousands of square miles of rock where even sage brush cannot live."
The hills presently became broken up into fantastic shapes, while
isolated rocks and pinnacles rose high above the general level.
"How curiously they are coloured," Tom remarked, "just regular bands of
white and red and green and orange; and you see the same markings on all
these crags, at the same level."
"Just so, Tom. We reckon that this country, and it is just the same down
south, was once level, and the rains and the rivers and torrents cut
their way through it and wore it down, and just these buttes and crags
and spires were left standing, as if to show what the nature of the
ground was everywhere. Though why the different kinds of rocks has such
different colours is more than I can tell. I went out once with an old
party as they called a scientific explorer. I have heard him say this
was all under water once, and sometimes one kind of stuff settled down
like mud to the bottom, sometimes another, though where all the water
came from is more nor I can tell. He said something about the ground
being raised afterwards, and I suppose the water run off then. I did not
pay much attention to his talk, for he was so choke-full of larning, and
had got such a lot of hard names on the tip of his tongue, that there
were no making head or tail of what he was saying."
Tom had learnt something of the elements of geology, and could form an
idea of the processes by which the strange country at which he was
looking had been formed.
"That's Fremont's Buttes," the Indian said presently, pointing to a
flat-topped hill that towered above the others ahead.
"Why, I thought you said it was a fifty-mile ride to-day, Jerry, and we
can't have gone more than half that."
"How far do you suppose that hill is off?"
"Three or four miles, I should think."
"It is over twenty, lad. Up here in the mountains the air is so clear
you can see things plain as you couldn't make out the outlines of down
"But it seems to me so close that I could make out people walking about
on the top," Tom said a little incredulously.
"I dare say, lad. But you will see when you have ridden another hour it
won't seem much closer than it does now."
Tom found out that the miner was not joking with him, as he at first had
thought was the case. Mile after mile was ridden, and the landmark
seemed little nearer than before. Presently Hunting Dog said something
to the chief, pointing away to the right. Leaping Horse at once reined
in, and motioned to his white companions to do the same.
"What is it, chief?" Jerry asked.
"Wapiti," he replied.
"That is good news," the miner said. "It will be lucky if we can lay in
a supply of deer flesh here. The less we shoot after we get through the
pass the better. Shall we go with you, chief?"
"My white brothers had better ride on slowly," Leaping Horse said.
"Might scare deer. No good lose time."
Tom felt rather disappointed, but as he went on slowly with Jerry, the
miner said: "You will have plenty of chances later on, lad, and there is
no time to lose in fooling about. The red-skins will do the business."
Looking back, Tom saw the two Indians gallop away till they neared the
crest of a low swell. Then they leapt from their horses, and stooping
low went forward. In a short time they lay prone on the ground, and
wriggled along until just on the crest.
"I reckon the stag is just over there somewhere," Jerry said. "The young
red-skin must have caught sight of an antler."
They stopped their ponies altogether now, and sat watching the Indians.
These were half a mile away, but every movement was as clearly visible
as if they were but a hundred yards distant. The chief raised himself on
his arms and then on to his knees. A moment later he lay down again, and
they then crawled along parallel with the crest for a couple of hundred
yards. Then they paused, and with their rifles advanced they crept
"Now they see them," Jerry exclaimed.
The Indians lay for half a minute motionless. Then two tiny puffs of
smoke darted out. The Indians rose to their feet and dashed forward as
the sound of their shots reached the ears of their companions.
"Come on," Jerry said, "you may be sure they have brought down one stag
anyhow. The herd could not have been far from that crest or the boy
would not have seen the antler over it, and the chief is not likely to
miss a wapiti at a hundred yards."
Looking back presently Tom saw that the Indian ponies had disappeared.
"Ay, Hunting Dog has come back for them. You may be sure they won't be
long before they are up with us again."
In a quarter of an hour the two Indians rode up, each having the
hind-quarters of a deer fastened across his horse behind the saddle,
while the tongues hung from the peaks.
"Kill them both at first shot, chief?" Jerry asked; "I did not hear
"Close by," the chief said; "no could miss."
"It seems a pity to lose such a quantity of meat," Tom remarked.
"The Indians seldom carry off more than the hindquarters of a deer,
never if they think there is a chance of getting more soon. There is a
lot more flesh on the hindquarters than there is on the rest of the
stag. But that they are wasteful, the red-skins are, can't be denied.
Even when they have got plenty of meat they will shoot a buffalo any day
just for the sake of his tongue."
It was still early in the afternoon when they passed under the shadow of
the buttes, and, two miles farther, came upon a small lake, the water
from which ran north. Here they unsaddled the horses and prepared to
There were no bushes that would serve their purpose near the lake; they
therefore formed their camp on the leeward side of a large boulder. The
greatest care was observed in gathering the fuel, and it burned with a
clear flame without giving out the slightest smoke.
"Dead wood dries like tinder in this here air," the miner said. "In
course, if there wur any red-skins within two or three miles on these
hills they would make out the camp, still that ain't likely; but any
loafing Indian who chanced to be hunting ten or even fifteen miles away
would see smoke if there was any, and when a red-skin sees smoke, if he
can't account for it, he is darned sartin to set about finding out who
The horses fared badly, for there was nothing for them to pick up save a
mouthful of stunted grass here and there.
"Plenty of grass to-morrow," the chief said in answer to a remark of Tom
as to the scantiness of their feed. "Grass down by Buffalo Lake good."
Early the next morning they mounted and rode down the hills into Big
Wind River valley. They did not go down to the river itself, but skirted
the foot of the hills until they reached Buffalo Lake.
"There," the chief said, pointing to a pile of ashes, "the fire of my
white brother." Alighting, he and Hunting Dog searched the ground
carefully round the fire. Presently the younger Indian lightly touched
the chief and pointed to the ground. They talked together, still
carefully examining the ground, and moved off in a straight line some
fifty yards. Then they returned.
"Indian here," Leaping Horse said, "one, two days ago. Found fire, went
off on trail of white men."
"That is bad news, chief."
"Heap bad," the Indian said gravely.
"Perhaps he won't follow far," Tom suggested.
The Indian made no answer. He evidently considered the remark to be
"You don't know much of Indian nature yet, Tom," the miner said. "When a
red-skin comes upon the trail of whites in what he considers his
country, he will follow them if it takes him weeks to do it, till he
finds out all about them, and if he passes near one of his own villages
he will tell the news, and a score of the varmint will take up the trail
with him. It's them ashes as has done it. If the chief here had stopped
with them till they started this would not have happened, for he would
have seen that they swept every sign of their fire into the lake. I
wonder they did not think of it themselves. It was a dog-goned foolish
trick to leave such a mark as this. I expect they will be more keerful
arterwards, but they reckoned that they had scarce got into the Indian
"Do you think it was yesterday the red-skin was here, or the day before,
"Leaping Horse can't say," the Indian replied. "Ground very hard, mark
very small. No rain, trail keep fresh a long time. Only find mark
twice." He led them to a spot where, on the light dust among the rocks,
was the slight impression of a footmark.
"That is the mark of a moccasin, sure enough," Jerry said; "but maybe
one of the whites, if not all of them, have put on moccasins for the
journey. They reckoned on climbing about some, and moccasins beat boots
anyhow for work among the hills."
"Red-skin foot," the Indian said quietly.
"Well, if you say it is, of course it is. I should know it myself if I
saw three or four of them in a line, but as there is only one mark it
"How would you know, Jerry?"
"A white man always turns out his toes, lad, an Indian walks
straight-footed. There are other differences that a red-skin would see
at once, but which are beyond me, for I have never done any tracking
The Indian without speaking led them to another point some twenty yards
away, and pointed to another impression. This was so slight that it was
with difficulty that Tom could make out the outline.
"Yes, that settles it," Jerry said. "You see, lad, when there was only
one mark I could not tell whether it was turned out or not, for that
would depend on the direction the man was walking in. This one is just
in a line with the other, and so the foot must have been set down
straight. Had it been turned out a bit, the line, carried straight
through the first footprint, would have gone five or six yards away to
It took Tom two or three minutes to reason this out to himself, but at
last he understood the drift of what his companion said. As the line
through one toe and heel passed along the centre of the other, the foot
must each time have been put down in a straight line, while if the
footprints had been made by a person who turned out his toes they would
never point straight towards those farther on.
"Well, what is your advice, chief?" Jerry asked.
"Must camp and eat," the Indian replied, "horses gone far enough. No
fear here, red-skin gone on trail."
"Do you think there have been more than one, chief?"
"Not know," Leaping Horse said; "find out by and by."
Tom now noticed that Hunting Dog had disappeared.
"Where shall we make the fire?"
The chief pointed to the ashes.
"That's it," Jerry said. "If any red-skin came along you see, Tom, there
would be nothing to tell them that more than one party had been here."
The chief this time undertook the collection of fuel himself, and a
bright fire was presently burning. Two hours later Hunting Dog came
back. He talked for some time earnestly with the chief, and taking out
two leaves from his wampum bag opened them and showed him two tiny heaps
of black dust. Jerry asked no questions until the conversation was done,
and then while Hunting Dog cut off a large chunk of deer's flesh, and
placing it in the hot ashes sat himself quietly down to wait until it
was cooked, he said:
"Well, chief, what is the news?"
"The Indian had a horse, Hunting Dog came upon the spot where he had
left it a hundred yards away. When he saw ashes, he came to look at
them. Afterwards he followed the trail quite plain on the soft ground at
head of lake. Over there," and he pointed to the foot of the hills,
"Indian stopped and fired twice."
"How on earth did he know that, chief?"
The chief pointed to the two leaves. The scout examined the powder.
"Wads," he said. "They are leather wads, Tom, shrivelled and burnt. What
did he fire at, chief?"
"Signal. Half a mile farther three other mounted redskins joined him.
They stopped and had heap talk. Then one rode away into hills, the
others went on at gallop on trail."
"That is all bad, chief. The fellow who went up the hills no doubt made
for a village?"
The chief nodded.
"The only comfort is that Harry has got a good start of them. It was a
week from the time you left them before we met you, that is three days
ago, so that if the red-skins took up the trail yesterday, Harry has ten
days' start of them."
Leaping Horse shook his head. "Long start if travel fast, little start
if travel slow."
"I see what you mean. If they pushed steadily on up the valley, they
have gone a good distance, but if they stopped to catch beaver or
prospect for gold they may not have got far away. Hadn't we better be
pushing on, chief?"
"No good, horses make three days' journey; rest well to-day, travel
right on to-morrow. If go farther to-night, little good to-morrow. Good
camp here, all rest."
"Well, no doubt you are right, chief, but it worries one to think that
while we are sitting here those 'tarnal red-skins may be attacking our
friends. My only hope is that Harry, who has done a lot of Indian
fighting, will hide his trail as much as possible as he goes on, and
that they will have a lot of trouble in finding it."
The chief nodded. "My white brother, Harry, knows Indian ways. He did
not think he had come to Indian country here or he would not have left
his ashes. But beyond this he will be sure to hide his trail, and the
'Rappahoes will have to follow slow."
"You think they are 'Rappahoes, chief?"
"Yes, this 'Rappahoe country. The Shoshones are further north, and are
friendly; the Bannacks and Nez Perces are in northwest, near Snake
River; and the Sioux more on the north and east, on other side of great
mountains. 'Rappahoes here."
"Waal," Jerry said wrathfully, "onless they catch Harry asleep, some of
the darned skunks will be rubbed out afore they get his scalp. It is a
good country for hiding trail. There are many streams coming down from
the hills into the Big Wind, and they can turn up or down any of them as
they please, and land on rocky ground too, so it would be no easy matter
to track them. By the lay of the country there does not seem much chance
of gold anywheres about here, and, as I reckon, they will be thinking
more of that than of beaver skins, so I think they would push straight
"Harry said he should get out of Big Wind River valley quick," Leaping
Horse said. "Too many Indians there. Get into mountains other side. Go
up Riviere de Noir, then over big mountains into Sierra Shoshone, and
then down Buffalo through Jackson's Hole, and then strike Snake River. I
told him heap bad Indians in Jackson's Hole, Bannacks, and Nez Perces.
He said not go down into valley, keep on foot-hills. I told him, too bad
journey, but he and other pale-faces thought could do it, and might find
much gold. No good Leaping Horse talk."
"This is a dog-goned bad business I have brought you into, Tom. I
reckoned we should not get out without troubles, but I did not
calkerlate on our getting into them so soon."
"You did not bring me here, Jerry, so you need not blame yourself for
that. It was I brought you into it, for you did not make up your mind to
come till I had settled to go with Leaping Horse."
"I reckon I should have come anyhow," Jerry grumbled. "Directly the
chief said where Harry and the others had gone my mind was set on
joining them. It was a new country, and there wur no saying what they
might strike, and though I ain't a regular Indian-fighter, leaving them
alone when they leave me alone, I can't say as I am averse to a
scrimmage with them if the odds are anyways equal."
"It is a wonderful country," Tom said, looking at the almost
perpendicular cliffs across the valley, with their regular coloured
markings, their deep fissures, crags, and pinnacles, "and worth coming a
long way to see."
"I don't say as it ain't curous, but I have seen the like down on the
Colorado, and I don't care if I never see no more of it if we carry our
scalps safe out of this. I don't say as I object to hills if they are
covered with forest, for there is safe to be plenty of game there, and
the wood comes in handy for timbering, but this kind of country that
looks as if some chaps with paint-pots had been making lines all over
it, ain't to my taste noway. Here, lad; I never travel without hooks and
lines; you can get a breakfast and dinner many a day when a gun would
bring down on you a score of red varmints. I expect you will find fish
in the lake. Many of these mountain lakes just swarm with them. You had
better look about and catch a few bugs, there ain't no better bait.
Those jumping bugs are as good as any," and he pointed to a grasshopper,
somewhat to Tom's relief, for the lad had just been wondering where he
should look for bugs, not having seen one since he landed in the States.
There were two lines and hooks in the miner's outfit, and Tom and
Hunting Dog, after catching some grasshoppers, went down to the lake,
while Jerry and the chief had a long and earnest conversation together.
The baited hooks were scarcely thrown into the water when they were
seized, and in a quarter of an hour ten fine lake trout were lying on
the bank. Tom was much delighted. He had fished from boats, but had
never met with much success, and his pleasure at landing five fish
averaging four or five pounds apiece was great. As it was evidently
useless to catch more, they wound up their lines, and Hunting Dog split
the fish open and laid them down on the rock, which was so hot that Tom
could scarce bear his hand on it.
Seeing the elder men engaged in talk Tom did not return to them, but
endeavoured to keep up a conversation with the young Indian, whom he
found to be willing enough to talk now they were alone, and who knew
much more English than he had given him credit for. As soon as the sun
set the fire was extinguished, and they lay down to sleep shortly
afterwards. An hour before daylight they were in the saddle. Hunting Dog
rode ahead on the line he had followed the day before. As soon as it
became light Tom kept his eyes fixed upon the ground, but it was only
now and then, when the Indian pointed to the print of a horse's hoof in
the sand between the rocks, that he could make them out. The two Indians
followed the track, however, without the slightest difficulty, the
horses going at a hand gallop.
"They don't look to me like horses' footprints," Tom said to Jerry when
they had passed a spot where the marks were unusually clear.
"I reckon you have never seen the track of an unshod horse before, Tom.
With a shod horse you see nothing but the mark of the shoe, here you get
the print of the whole hoof. Harry has been careful enough here, and has
taken the shoes off his ponies, for among all the marks, we have not
seen any made by a shod horse. The Indians never shoe theirs, and the
mark of an iron is enough to tell the first red-skin who passes that a
white man has gone along there. The chief and I took off the shoes of
the four horses yesterday afternoon when you were fishing. We put them
and the nails by to use when we get out of this dog-goned country."
After riding for two hours they came to the bank of a stream. The chief
held up his hand for them to stop, while he dismounted and examined the
foot-marks. Then he mounted again and rode across the stream, which was
some ten yards wide and from two to three feet deep. He went on a short
distance beyond it, leapt from his saddle, threw the reins on the
horse's neck, and returned to the bank on foot. He went a short distance
up the stream and then as much down, stooping low and examining every
inch of the ground. Then he stood up and told the others to cross.
[Illustration: "Leaping Horse Mounted, And Rode Across The Stream"]
"Leave your horses by mine," he said as they joined him. "Trail very
bad, all rock." He spoke to the young Indian, who, on dismounting, at
once went forward, quartering the ground like a spaniel in search of
game, while the chief as carefully searched along the bank.
"Best leave them to themselves, Tom; they know what they are doing."
"They are hunting for the trail, Jerry, I suppose?"
"Ay, lad. Harry struck on a good place when he crossed where he did, for
you see the rock here is as smooth as the top of a table, and the wind
has swept it as clean of dust as if it had been done by an eastern
woman's broom. If the horses had been shod there would have been
scratches on the rock that would have been enough for the dullest Indian
to follow, but an unshod horse leaves no mark on ground like this. I
expect the red-skins who followed them were just as much puzzled as the
chief is. There ain't no saying whether they crossed and went straight
on, or whether they never crossed at all or kept in the stream either up
It was half an hour before the two Indians had concluded their
examination of the ground.
"Well, chief, what do you make of it?" Jerry asked when they had spoken
a few words together.
"Hunting Dog has good eyes," the chief said. "The white men went
forward, the red men could not find the trail, and thought that they had
kept in the river, so they went up to search for them. Come, let us go
The miner and Tom mounted their horses, but the Indians led theirs
forward some three hundred yards. Then Hunting Dog pointed down, and the
chief stooped low and examined the spot.
"What is it, chief?" Jerry asked; and he and Tom both got off and knelt
down. They could see nothing whatever.
"That is it," Leaping Horse said, and pointed to a piece of rock
projecting half an inch above the flat.
"I am darned if I can see anything."
"There is a tiny hair there," Tom said, putting his face within a few
inches of the ground. "It might be a cat's hair; it is about the length,
but much thicker. It is brown."
"Good!" the chief said, putting his hand on Tom's shoulder. "Now let us
ride." He leapt into his saddle, the others following his example, and
they went on at the same pace as before.
"Well, chief," the miner said, "what does that hair tell you about it,
for I can't make neither head nor tail of it?"
"The white men killed a deer on their way up here, and they cut up the
hide and made shoes for horses, so that they should leave no tracks. One
of the horses trod on a little rock and a hair came out of the hide."
"That may be it, chief," the miner said, after thinking the matter over,
"though it ain't much of a thing to go by."
"Good enough," Leaping Horse said. "We know now the line they were
taking. When we get to soft ground see trail plainer."
"What will the others do when they cannot find the trail anywhere along
"Ride straight on," the chief said. "Search banks of next river, look at
mouths of valleys to make sure white men have not gone up there, meet
more of tribe, search everywhere closely, find trail at last."
"Well, that ought to give Harry a good start, anyhow."
"Not know how long gone on," the chief said gravely. "No rainfall. Six,
eight--perhaps only two days' start."
"But if they always hide their trail as well as they did here I don't
see how the Indians can find them at all--especially as they don't know
where they are making for, as we do."
"Find camp. Men on foot may hide traces, but with horses sure to find."
"That is so," Jerry agreed, shaking his head. "An Indian can see with
half an eye where the grass has been cropped or the leaves stripped off
the bushes. Yes, I am afraid that is so. There ain't no hiding a camp
from Indian eyes where horses have been about. It is sure to be near a
stream. Shall you look for them, chief?"
The Indian shook his head. "Lose time," he said. "We go straight to
Riviere de Noir."
"You don't think, then, they are likely to turn off before that?"
"Leaping Horse thinks not. They know Indian about here. Perhaps found
Indian trail near first camp. Know, anyhow, many Indians. Think push
"That is the likeliest. Anyhow, by keeping on we must get nearer to
them. The worst danger seems to me that we may overtake the red-skins
who are hunting them."
The chief nodded.
"It is an all-fired fix, Tom," Jerry went on. "If we go slow we may not
be in time to help Harry and the others to save their scalps; if we go
fast we may come on these 'tarnal red-skins, and have mighty hard work
in keeping our own ha'r on."
"I feel sure that the chief will find traces of them in time to prevent
our running into them, Jerry. Look how good their eyes are. Why, I might
have searched all my life without noticing a single hair on a rock."
After riding some fifteen miles beyond the stream, and crossing two
similar though smaller rivulets, the chief, after a few words with
Jerry, turned off to the left and followed the foot of the hills. At the
mouth of a narrow valley he stopped, examined the ground carefully, and
then led the way up it, carrying his rifle in readiness across the peak
of the saddle. The valley opened when they had passed its mouth, and a
thick grove of trees grew along the bottom. As soon as they were beneath
their shelter they dismounted.
The horses at once began to crop the grass. Hunting Dog went forward
through the trees, rifle in hand.
"Shall I take the bits out of the horses' mouths, Jerry?" Tom asked.
"Not till the young Indian returns. It is not likely there is a red-skin
village up there, for we should have seen a trail down below if there
had been. Still there may be a hut or two, and we can do nothing till he
It was half an hour before Hunting Dog came through the trees again. He
shook his head, and without a word loosened the girths of his horse and
took off the bridle.
"He has seen no signs of them, so we can light a fire and get something
to eat. I am beginning to feel I want something badly."
Thus reminded, Tom felt at once that he was desperately hungry. They had
before starting taken a few mouthfuls of meat that had been cooked the
day before and purposely left over, but it was now three o'clock in the
afternoon, and he felt ravenous. The Indians quickly collected dried
wood, and four of the fish were soon frizzling on hot ashes, while the
kettle, hung in the flame, was beginning to sing.
"We have done nigh forty miles, Tom, and the horses must have a couple
of hours' rest. We will push on as fast as we can before dark, and then
wait until the moon rises; it will be up by ten. This ain't a country to
ride over in the dark. We will hide up before morning, and not go on
again till next night. Of course we shall not go so fast as by day, but
we sha'n't have any risk of being ambushed. The chief reckons from what
he has heard that the Indian villages are thick along that part of the
valley, and that it will never do to travel by day."
"Then you have given up all hopes of finding Harry's tracks?"
"It would be just wasting our time to look for them. We will push on
sharp till we are sure we are ahead of them. We may light upon them by
chance, but there can be no searching for them with these red varmint
round us. It would be just chucking away our lives without a chance of
doing any good. I expect Harry and his party are travelling at night
too; but they won't travel as fast as we do, not by a sight. They have
got pack-ponies with them, and they are likely to lay off a day or two
if they come upon a good place for hiding."
They travelled but a few miles after their halt, for the Indians
declared they could make out smoke rising in two or three places ahead;
and although neither Jerry nor Tom could distinguish it, they knew that
the Indians' sight was much keener than their own in a matter of this
kind. They therefore halted again behind a mass of rocks that had fallen
down the mountain-side. Hunting Dog lay down among the highest of the
boulders to keep watch, and the horses were hobbled to prevent their
straying. The miner and the chief lit their pipes, and Tom lay down on
his back for a sleep. A short time before it became dusk the call of a
deer was heard.
"There are wapiti, chief. We can't take a shot at them; but it don't
matter, we have meat enough for a week."
The chief had already risen to his feet, rifle in hand.
"It is a signal from Hunting Dog," he said, "he has seen something in
the valley. My white brother had better get the horses together," and he
made his way up the rocks. In a minute or two he called out that the
horses might be left to feed, and presently came leisurely down to them.
"Seen Indians--ten 'Rappahoes."
"Which way were they going?"
"Riding from Big Wind River across valley. Been away hunting among hills
over there. Have got meat packed on horses, ride slow. Not have heard
about white men's trail. Going to village, where we saw smoke."
Tom was fast asleep when Jerry roused him, and told him that the moon
was rising, and that it was time to be off.
They started at a walk, the chief leading; Jerry followed him, while Tom
rode between him and Hunting Dog, who brought up the rear. Tom had been
warned that on no account was he to speak aloud. "If you have anything
you want to say, and feel that you must say it or bust," Jerry remarked,
"just come up alongside of me and whisper it. Keep your eyes open and
your rifle handy, we might come upon a party any minute. They might be
going back to their village after following Harry's trail as long as
they could track it, or it might be a messenger coming back to fetch up
food, or those fellows Hunting Dog made out going on to join those in
front. Anyhow we have got to travel as quiet as if there was ears all
As they passed the clumps of trees where the Indian villages stood they
could see the reflection of the fires on the foliage, and heard the
frequent barking of dogs and an occasional shout. A quarter of a mile
farther the chief halted and spoke to Hunting Dog, who at once
dismounted and glided away towards the village.
"Gone to see how many men there," the chief said in explanation to
Jerry. "Too much laugh, no good."
"He means the men must have gone off again, Tom. If there were men in
the camp the boys would not be making a noise."
They were but a few hundred yards from the trees, and in a very short
time the Indian returned.
"Men are gone," he said; "only squaws and boys there."
"How many lodges are there?" the chief asked. Hunting Dog held up both
hands with extended fingers, and then one finger only.
"Eleven of them," Jerry said. "I expect they are all small villages, and
they move their lodges across into the forests when winter comes on."
As soon as they had mounted, the chief put his horse into a canter, and
at this pace they went forward for some hours, breaking into a walk
occasionally for a few minutes.
"I thought you said we should not go beyond a walk to-night, Jerry," Tom
remarked on the first of these occasions.
"That is what we kinder agreed, lad; but you may be sure the chief has
some good reason for going on faster. I dunno what it is, and I ain't
going to ask. Red-skins hate being questioned. If he wants to tell us he
will tell us without being asked."
A faint light was stealing over the sky when the chief halted his horse
and sat listening. No sound, however, broke the stillness of the night.
"Did you think you heard anything, chief?"
"Leaping Horse heard nothing, but he stopped to listen. What does my
white brother think of the 'Rappahoes having gone on directly they
returned from the chase?"
"I thought that when they got the news that some white men had gone
through, they might have started to join those following up the trail.
Isn't that what you think, chief?"
"Only three white men, plenty Indians on trail; no hurry to follow;
might have had feast after hunt and gone on in morning."
"So they might. You think the whites have been tracked, and are to be
attacked this morning?"
"Perhaps attacked yesterday. Perhaps have got strong place, 'Rappahoes
want more help to take it. White rifle shoot straight, perhaps want more
men to starve them out."
They again went forward, at a gallop now. Jerry did not think much of
the chief's idea. It seemed to him natural that the Indians should want
to join in the hunt for scalps, and to get a share of the white men's
goods, though he admitted that it was strange they should have gone on
without taking a meal. Presently the chief reined in his horse again,
and sat with head bent forward. Tom heard an angry grunt from between
Hunting Dog's teeth. Listening intently also, he was conscious of a
faint, far-away sound.
"You hear?" the chief said to Jerry.
"I heard something; but it might be anything. A waterfall in the hills
miles away, that is what it sounds like."
"Guns," the chief said laconically.
"Do you think so?" Jerry said doubtfully. "There don't seem to me
anything of guns in it. It is just a sort of murmur that keeps on and
"It is the mountains speaking back again," the chief said, waving his
hand. "Hills everywhere. They say to each other, the red men who live in
our bosoms are attacking the pale-face strangers."
"What do you think, Hunting Dog?" Tom whispered to the Indian.
"Gun-shot," he replied, in a tone of absolute conviction.
"Waal, chief, I will not gainsay your opinion," Jerry said. "How far do
you think it is off?"
"The horses will take us there in two hours," the chief replied.
"Then we can put it at twenty miles at least. Let us be going; whatever
the sound is, we shall know more about it before we have gone much
"Not too fast," Leaping Horse said as the miner was urging his horse
forward. "Maybe have to fight, maybe have to run. No good tire horse too
It was more than an hour before Tom could hear any distinct change in
the character of the sound, but at last he was able to notice that,
though seemingly continuous, the sound really pulsated; sometimes it
almost died away, then suddenly swelled out again, and there were
several vibrations close together. Jerry, more accustomed to the sound
of firearms in the mountains, had before this come round to the chief's
"It is guns, sure enough, Tom; the chief has made no mistake about it.
Waal, there is one comfort, they ain't been surprised. They are making a
good fight of it, and we may be there in time to take a hand in the
"Shall we ride straight on and join them?"
"I reckon not, lad. We must wait until we see what sort of place Harry
is in, and how we can best help him, before we fix on any scheme."
The sound became louder and clearer. The echo was still continuous, but
the sound of the shots could be distinctly heard.
"It is over there, to the right," Jerry said. "They must have crossed
the Big Wind River."
"And gone up the De Noir valley," the chief said. "We ought to be close
to it now."
"Yes, I reckon it can't be far off, by what you told me about the
"Better cross Big Wind at once. They no see us now."
"I agree with you, chief; it would not do for them to get sight of us.
If they did our case would be worse than Harry's. I expect he has got
strongly posted, or he would have been wiped out long ago; that is what
would happen to us if they were to make us out and spy our numbers afore
we get to some place where we and Harry's outfit can help each other."
They rode rapidly down to the river. With the exception of a few yards
in the middle, where the horses had to swim, the depth was not great,
and they were soon on the other side. They rode to the foot of the
hills, and then kept along it. The sound of firing became louder and
louder, and Tom felt his heart beat quickly at the thought that he might
soon be engaged in a desperate fight with the Indians, and that with the
odds greatly against his party.
Presently the hills fell sharply away, and they were at the entrance of
the valley of the Riviere de Noir, which is the principal arm of the Big
Wind River at this point. The firing had very much died out during the
last few minutes, and only an occasional shot was heard.
"They have beat off the attack so far," Jerry said to him encouragingly.
"Now we have got to lie low a bit, while the chief sees how things
Leaping Horse dismounted at the mouth of a narrow canon running up into
the cliff beside them. A little stream trickled down its centre.
"Could not have been better," Jerry said. "Here is a place we four could
hold against a crowd of red-skins for hours. There is water anyway, and
where there is water there is mostly a little feed for horses. I will
take your horse, chief, and Tom will take Hunting Dog's, if so be you
mean him to go with you.
"Don't you worry yourself, lad," he went on, seeing how anxious Tom
looked, as they started with the horses up the canon. "If Harry and his
friends have beaten off the first attack, you may bet your boots they
are safe for some time. It is clear the red-skins have drawn off, and
are holding a pow-wow as to how they are to try next. They attacked, you
see, just as the day was breaking; that is their favourite hour, and I
reckon Harry must have been expecting them, and that he and his mates
The canon showed no sign of widening until they had proceeded a quarter
of a mile from the entrance, then it broadened suddenly for a distance
of a hundred yards.
"There has been a big slip here both sides," the miner said, looking
round. "It must have taken place a great many years ago, for the winter
floods have swept away all signs of it, and there are grass and trees on
the slopes. The horses can find enough to keep them alive here for a day
or two, and that is all we shall want, I hope."
"It would be a nasty place to get out of, Jerry, for the cliffs are
perpendicular from half-way up."
"It ain't likely as there is any place we could get out without
following it to the upper end, which may be some fifty miles away. I
don't know the country it runs through, but the red-skins are pretty
certain to know all about it. If they were to track us here they would
never try to fight their way in, but would just set a guard at the mouth
and at the upper end and starve us out. It is a good place to hide in,
but a dog-goned bad one to be caught in. However, I hope it ain't coming
to that. It is we who are going to attack them, and not them us, and
that makes all the difference. The red-skins can't have a notion that
there are any other white men in this neighbourhood, and when we open
fire on them it will raise such a scare for a bit that it will give us a
chance of joining the others if we choose. That of course must depend on
They walked back to the mouth of the canon, and had not to wait long for
the return of the Indians.
"Come," Leaping Horse said briefly, at once turning and going off at a
Jerry asked no questions, but with Tom followed close on the Indians'
heels. There were bushes growing among the fallen rocks and debris from
the face of the cliff, and they were, therefore, able to go forward as
quickly as they could leap from boulder to boulder, without fear of
being seen. A quarter of an hour's run, and the chief climbed up to a
ledge on the face of the cliff where a stratum harder than those above
it had resisted the effects of the weather and formed a shelf some
twelve feet wide. He went down on his hands and knees, and keeping close
to the wall crawled along to a spot where some stunted bushes had made
good their hold. The others followed him, and lying down behind the
bushes peered through them.
The valley was four or five hundred yards wide, and down its centre ran
the stream. Close to the water's edge rose abruptly a steep rock. It was
some fifty feet in height and but four or five yards across at the top.
On the north and west the rocks were too perpendicular to be climbed,
but the other sides had crumbled down, the stones being covered with
brushwood. From the point where they were looking they could see the six
horses lying among the bushes. They were evidently tightly roped, and
had probably been led up there when the attack began and thrown at the
highest point to which they could be taken, a spot being chosen where
the bushes concealed their exact position from those below. The rock was
about two hundred and fifty yards from the spot where the party was
lying, and their position was about level with its top. Some twenty
Indians were gathered a few hundred yards higher up the valley, and
about as many some distance down it.
"Why didn't the varmint take their places here?" Jerry whispered to the
"They came here. See," and he pointed to a patch of blood a few feet
beyond him. "Indian guns not shoot far," he said, "powder weak; white
man's rifles carry here, red-skin not able to shoot so far. When they
found that, went away again."
"What are they going to do now, do you think?"
"Soon attack again."
Half an hour passed, and then a loud yell gave the signal and the two
troops galloped towards the rock. They had evidently had experience of
the accuracy of the white men's fire; not an Indian showed himself, each
dropping over one side of his pony, with an arm resting in a rope round
the animals' necks and one leg thrown over the back. So they dashed
forward until close to the foot of the rocks. Another instant and they
would have thrown themselves from their horses and taken to the bushes,
but although hidden from the sight of the defenders of the position,
they were exposed to the full view of the party on the ledge, from whom
they were distant not more than two hundred yards. The chief fired
first, and almost together the other three rifles flashed out. Three of
the Indians fell from their horses, another almost slipped off, but with
an effort recovered his hold with his leg. A yell of astonishment and
fear broke from the Indians. As the two bands mingled together, some of
the riders were exposed to those on the top of the rock, and three shots
were fired. Two more of the 'Rappahoes fell, and the whole band in
obedience to a shout from one of their chiefs galloped at full speed
down the valley. The three men sprang to their feet, waving their hats,
while the party on the ledge also leapt up with a shout.
"It's you, chief, I see!" one of those on the rocks shouted. "I have
been hoping ever since morning to hear the crack of your rifle, and I
never heard a more welcome sound. We should have been rubbed out sure.
Who have you got with you?"
"It's Jerry Curtis, Harry. I come up along with Leaping Horse, though I
did not expect to find you in such a bad fix. This young Indian is
Hunting Dog, and this young chap next to me is your nephew, Tom Wade.
You did not expect to meet him like this, I reckon?"
While he had been speaking, all had reloaded their rifles.
"You had best go across and talk it over with Harry, chief, and consart
measures with him for getting out of this fix. Those red-skins have got
a bad scare, but you may bet they ain't gone far; and they have lost six
of their bucks now beside what the others shot before, and it ain't in
Indian natur for them to put up with such a loss as that." He had been
looking at the rock as he spoke, and turning round uttered an
exclamation of surprise, for the chief was no longer there. Looking down
they saw that he had managed to make his way down the face of the cliff,
and in another two minutes was ascending the rock. There he stood for
some time in earnest conversation with the whites, and then returned to
"Trouble over horses," he said.
"Ay, ay, I reckoned that was what you was talking over. There ain't no
going back for them now."
The chief shook his head. "'Rappahoes keep watch," he said, "cannot go
till night to fetch horses. All lie here to-day, go across to rock when
darkness comes, then white men go up valley till get to trees an hour's
march away; can see them from rock. Get in among trees and work up into
hills. Leaping Horse and Hunting Dog cross river, go down other side
past 'Rappahoes, then cross back and get into canon, drive horses up.
White men meet them up in mountains."
"That seems a good plan enough, chief. That is, if you can get out at
the other end of the canon."
"Canon little up high," the chief replied. "Find some place to climb."
"But they may find the horses to-day."
The Indian nodded. "May find, perhaps not."
"Why should we not go across to the rock at once, chief?"
"Indian count on fingers how many. They do not know we only four; much
troubled in their mind where men come from, who can be. Red-skins not
like white men. Have many fancies. Fire come out of bush where 'Rappahoe
had been killed; think that bad medicine, keep together and talk. Think
if men here, why not go across to rock."
"I should not be surprised if you are right, chief. They are more likely
to fancy we have come down from above than from below, for they must
have reckoned for sure there were no other white men in the Big Wind
valley, and our not showing ourselves will give them an all-fired
"What does the chief mean by bad medicine, Jerry?" Tom asked.
"A red-skin is full of all sorts of ideas. Anything he can't make head
nor tail of, is bad medicine; they think there is some magic in it, and
that old Nick has had his finger in the pie. When they get an idea like
that in their minds, even the bravest of them loses his pluck, and is
like a child who thinks he has seen a ghost. It is a mighty good notion
for us to lie low all day. The red-skins will reason it all out, and
will say, if these are white men who killed our brothers why the 'tarnal
don't they go and join the others, there ain't nothing to prevent them.
If they ain't white men, who are they? Maybe they can move without our
being able to see them and will shoot from some other place. No, I
reckon it is likely they will keep pretty close together and won't
venture to scatter to look for tracks, and in that case the chief's plan
will work out all right. In course, a good deal depends on their chief;
one of them is among those we shot, you can make out his feathers from
here. If he is the boss chief, it may be that they will give it up
altogether; the next chief will throw the blame on to him, and may like
enough persuade them to draw off altogether. If it ain't the boss chief,
then they are bound to try again. He would not like to take them back to
their villages with the news that a grist of them had been killed and
narry a scalp taken. I expect you will see this afternoon some of them
come down to palaver with Harry."
The morning passed quietly and not unpleasantly, for they were lying in
the shade, but before noon the sun had climbed up over the cliff behind
them and shone down with great force, and they had to lie with their
heads well under the bushes to screen them from its rays. Presently,
Leaping Horse said:
"Indian chief come, no lift heads."
All shifted their position so as to look down the valley. An Indian
chief, holding up his hands to show that he was unarmed, was advancing
on foot, accompanied by another Indian also without arms.
"There is Harry going down to meet them," Jerry said.
Tom looked eagerly at the figure that came down from the rock and
advanced to meet the Indians. It seemed strange to him that after having
come so far to join his uncle they should remain for hours in sight of
each other without meeting. It was too far to distinguish his features,
but he saw by the light walk and easy swing of the figure that his uncle
was a much more active man than he had expected to see. He had known
indeed that he was but forty years old, but he had somehow expected that
the life of hardship he had led would have aged him, and he was
surprised to see that his walk and figure were those of a young man.
"Is it not rather dangerous, his coming down alone to meet two of them?
They may have arms hidden."
"They have got arms, you maybe sure," Jerry replied. "They have knives
for certain, and most likely tomahawks, but I expect Harry has got his
six-shooter. But it don't matter whether he has or not, there are his
two mates up on that rock with their rifles, and we are across here. The
'Rappahoes would know well enough their lives wouldn't be worth a red
cent if they were to try any of their games. They don't mean business;
they will make out they have come to persuade Harry and his mates to
give up, which they know quite well they ain't fools enough to do. But
what is really in their minds is to try and find out who we are, and
where we have come from."
The conversation lasted a few minutes. Tom could see that questions were
being asked about the concealed party, for the chief pointed to the
ledge two or three times. When the talk was over the Indians went down
the valley again at a slow pace, never once looking back, and the
Englishman returned to the rocks.
"I don't suppose they have got much from Harry."
"I suppose uncle talks their language?"
"No, I don't reckon he knows the 'Rappahoe dialect. But the tribes on
the western side of the plains can mostly understand each other's talk;
and as I know he can get on well with the Utes, he is sure to be able to
understand the 'Rappahoes' talk."
"Leaping Horse will go along the ledge," the chief said a few minutes
later, after a short conversation with Hunting Dog. "The 'Rappahoes will
try to find out who are here; not like to attack the rock till find
The two Indians lay down flat on the ledge, and crawled along without
raising themselves in the slightest until they reached a point where the
cliffs projected somewhat. From here they could see down the valley, and
they lay immovable, with their rifles in front of them.
"They are not more than fifty yards or so from those bushes where we got
up on to the ledge. That is where the red-skins are likely to try
crawling up, for there they would be out of sight of the rock."
"Surely they would never venture to come along the ledge in daylight,
Jerry. They would have to pass along under the fire of uncle and his
mates, and would have our rifles to meet in front."
"No, it would only be one, or at most, two scouts. They would reckon
that from that point where the chief is lying they would get a view
right along the ledge to here, and be able to make out what we are. It
is the strangeness of the thing that has kept them quiet all these
hours, and I expect their chief will want to prove that there are only a
few of us, and that we are men for certain. I reckon they have sent off
to the villages already, and there will be more of the varmint here
to-night. The Indians are never fond of attacking in the dark; still, if
they were sure about us, they might try it. They would know they could
get up to the foot of that rock before being seen, and once among the
bushes they would reckon they could make easy work of it."
A quarter of an hour later there was the crack of a rifle, followed
instantly by an Indian yell.
"That is the chief's piece, Tom, and I reckon the lead has gone
The silence remained unbroken for the next two hours, and then Leaping
Horse crawled back as quietly as he had gone.
"What was it, chief?"
"It was a 'Rappahoe, who will scout no more," the chief said quietly.
"He came up the bushes, but before he could step on to the ledge Leaping
Horse fired, and he will take no tales back to his tribe."
"They won't try again, chief?"
Leaping Horse shook his head. "First take rock," he said, "then when
they have the scalps of the white men they will watch us here. Will know
we cannot stay here long without water."
"You are right there, chief, and no m'stake; my tongue is like a piece
of leather now, and as soon as it gets dark I shall make a bee-line down
to the river. I want to have a talk with Harry, but just at present I
want a drink a blamed sight worse. If I had thought we were going to be
stuck up here all day I would have brought my water-bottle with me."
The time passed very slowly, although the air became cooler as soon as
the sun had gone down behind the opposite range. As soon as the light
faded a little, the Indian crawled farther along the ledge, and returned
in a short time saying that he had found a spot where the whites could
descend. Two or three times Jerry urged that it was dark enough, before
the chief consented to move. At last, however, he stood up and gave the
cry of an owl, and they were in a minute or two joined by Hunting Dog,
who had until now remained at his post. The chief at once led the way
along the ledge until he reached the spot where the rock had crumbled
"We had better go down one at a time," Jerry said. "For if there was a
slip or a tumble it might let down a gun-hammer, and we want our lead
for the 'Rappahoes, and not for each other."
When it came to Tom's turn, he found it a very difficult place to get
down in the semi-darkness, and two or three times he almost lost his
footing. As soon as all were down they fell into Indian file, and
crossed the valley to the rock, the chief giving the hoot of an owl
twice as he approached it. Three men at once stepped out from the bushes
at its foot.
"I began to wonder when you were coming, and was just going to get the
ponies down before it was too dark to do it without running the risk of
breaking their legs. Well, I am right glad to see you, Jerry; and you
too, Tom, though it is too dark to see much of you. The chief has been
telling me how he brought you along. There is no time to talk now, but I
am right glad to see you, lad" and he shook Tom heartily by the hand.
"Now, mates, let us get the horses down."
"I must make tracks for the water first, Harry, the young un and I are
pretty near choking; and I expect the Indians are as bad, though it
ain't their natur to talk about it."
"Get down horses first," the chief said. "Too dark soon."
"Waal, I suppose five minutes won't make much difference," Jerry
grumbled, "so here goes."
"I have tied some hide over their hoofs," Harry said, "so as to make as
little noise as possible about it."
"Must make no noise," the chief said urgently. "Redskin scouts soon be
One by one the horses were brought down, Harry leading them, and the
others pushing aside the bushes as noiselessly as possible. Then their
loads were carried down and packed upon them.
"You get on my horse, Jerry," Harry Wade whispered, "I will walk with
Tom. I have had no time to say a word to him yet, or to ask about the
people at home. Where is the chief?"
Leaping Horse and his companion had stolen away as soon as the loads had
been adjusted. The others led the horses to the river, and allowed them
to drink, while Jerry and Tom lay down and took a long draught of the
water. The miners' bottles were filled, and they then started.
"It is lucky the river makes such a roar among these rocks here," Harry
said, "it will drown the sound of the horses' hoofs."
For half an hour they proceeded at a fast walk, then the skins were
taken off the horses' feet and they went on at a trot, the two Wades
taking hold of Jerry's stirrup-leathers and running alongside. In half
an hour they entered the belt of trees, and dismounting, at once began
to ascend the hill. They were some distance up when they heard a distant
"You may yell as much as you like," Jerry panted, "you won't catch us
now. They have been a mighty long time finding out we were gone."
"They could not make out about you," Harry said. "I could see by the
chief's manner, and the glances the Indian with him kept giving to the
place where you were lying, that they were puzzled and alarmed. They
offered if we would surrender that they would allow us to return down
the valley without hurt. I said, of course, that I preferred staying
where I was; we had come up the valley and intended going farther; we
didn't want to interfere with them, and if they had left us alone we
should have left them alone; and they had only themselves to thank for
the loss of some of their braves. 'We have,' I said, 'many friends, who
will protect us, and much harm will fall on the Indians who venture to
meddle with us.'
"'Are your friends white men?' the chief asked. 'Have they wings that
they have flown down here from the hills?'
"'They have come, that is enough,' I said. 'You see, when they were
wanted they were here, and if they are wanted again you will hear of
them, and your braves will die, and you will gain nothing. You had best
go back to your lodges and leave us to go away in peace. Whoever they
are, they can shoot, as you have found out to your cost. They have no
ill-will to the red-skins, providing the redskins let us alone. They
only fired four shots; if they had wished to, they could have killed
many more.' When the chief saw that he could get nothing further from me
he went away. As usual he spoke boastfully at last, and said that he had
offered peace to us, and if war came, it would be our faults. I laughed,
and said that we could take care of ourselves, and preferred doing so to
trusting ourselves in the hands of the 'Rappahoes, when we had made some
of their squaws widows."
"Would they have kept their word, uncle, do you think?" Tom asked.
"Not they. There are a few of the Indian tribes whose word can be taken,
but as a rule words mean nothing with them, and if we had put ourselves
in their power they would have tomahawked us instantly, or else taken us
down and tortured us at their villages, which would have been a deal
worse. I have no doubt they had a long talk after the chief returned to
them, and that it was some time after it became dark before they could
pluck up courage enough to climb the rock, though I expect they must
have got close to it very soon after we left. I reckon they have been
crawling up inch by inch. Of course, directly they got to where the
horses had been tied they knew we had gone, and I expect that yell was a
signal for a rush forward to the top. But we need not bother any more
about them. They may ride as far as the foot of the forest, but when
they find we have gained that safely they will give it up until morning;
they will know well enough it is no good starting to search the woods in
the dark. We may as well rest where we are until the moon is up, for we
make so much noise crashing through this undergrowth that they could
hear us down there."
"Now tell me, lad, about your mother and sisters, and how you came out
Tom told his uncle of his mother's death, and the reason why he had left
his sisters to come out to join him.
"It is a very bad business, lad, and I take a lot of blame to myself.
When I got your mother's letter, telling me of poor John's death, and
that she would not hear of your coming out, I said some very hard things
to myself. Here had I been knocking about for twenty years, and having
had a fair share of luck, and yet I could not put my hand on five
hundred dollars, and there was my brother's widow and children, and I,
their nearest relative, could not help them. It made me feel a pretty
mean man, I can tell you. Your mother did not say much about her
circumstances, but it did not need that. I knew that John had retired
from the navy with little besides his half-pay, and that her pension as
his widow must be a mighty slim one. Altogether I had a pretty bad time
of it. However, I took a tall oath that the next rich strike I made the
dollars should not be thrown away. I reckoned that you would be out
before long; for it was certain that if you were a lad of spirit you
would not be staying there doing nothing. Your mother said that the
girls all intended to take up teaching, and it was not likely that you
would let them work for the family while you were loafing about at home.
I know in my time it was hard enough to get anything to do there, and
young fellows who have come out here to ranche tell me that it is harder
than ever now. I thought you would fancy this life, and that in time you
would talk your mother over into letting you come."
"I should never have got her to agree to it, uncle. I wanted to go to
sea, but after father's death she would not hear of it. She said I was
her only boy and that she could not spare me, and I had to promise to
give up the thought. She was still more against your plan, but when I
wrote to you I thought that possibly in time she might agree to it. But
it was not long afterwards that her health began to fail, and I saw then
that I must give up all thought of leaving her, and must, when I left
school, take anything that offered; and it was only after her death that
I talked it over with the girls, and they agreed that to come here was
the best thing for me."
"And you left before my last letter arrived?"
"Yes; we had no letter after the one you wrote asking me to come out."
"No, I suppose you could not have had it. I wrote before I started out
three months ago from Salt Lake City. I had struck a ledge of pretty
good stuff, I and another. We sold out for a thousand dollars, and I
sent my share off to your mother, telling her that I had been having bad
luck since I got her letter, but that I hoped to do better in future,
and I thought, anyhow, I could promise to send her as much once a year,
and if I had a real stroke of luck she and her girls would have the
benefit of it."
"That was good of you, uncle."
"Not good at all," Harry Wade grumbled. "I have behaved like a fool all
along; it is true that when I did get letters from your father, which
was not very often, he always wrote cheerfully, and said very little
about how he was situated as to money. But I ought to have known--I did
know, if I thought of it--that with a wife and six children it must be
mighty hard to make ends meet on a lieutenant's half-pay, and there was
I, often throwing away twice as much as his year's pension on a week's
spree. When I heard he was gone you may pretty well guess how I felt.
However, lad, if things turn out well I will make it up as far as I can.
Now, let us join the others."
The others, however, were all sound asleep, having wrapped themselves in
their blankets, and lain down as soon as the halt was decided upon.
Jerry, having had no sleep the previous night, and but little for four
or five days, had not even thought of asking the others for food, which
they doubtless had on their saddles, although he had tasted nothing for
twenty-four hours. Tom, however, less accustomed to enforced fasts, felt
"We have had nothing to eat to-day, uncle, except a crust left over from
yesterday's baking, and I don't think I could get to sleep if I did not
"Bless me, I never thought of that, Tom. If I had I would have sent food
across by the chief this morning. There is no bread, but there is plenty
of cold meat. We cooked a lot yesterday evening, for we thought we might
not get a chance of cooking to-day."
"Then you knew, uncle, the Indians were near?" Tom went on, when he had
appeased his appetite and taken a drink of water, with a little whisky
in it from his uncle's flask.
"Ay, lad; we guessed somehow we had been followed all along. We had done
everything we could to throw them off the trail--travelling as much as
we could in the course of streams, muffling the feet of our ponies, and
picking out the hardest ground to travel on; but every morning before
daybreak one of us went up the hillside, and twice we made out mounted
Indians moving about down the valley. Yesterday morning ten of them came
galloping up within easy shot. I don't think they thought that we were
so near. They drew up their horses suddenly, had a talk, and then came
riding after us. It didn't need their yells to tell us what their
intention was. We knocked three of them out of their saddles, then threw
our horses down and lay behind them.
"They galloped round and round us shooting, but we picked two more off,
and then they rode away. We knew enough of them to be sure that they
were not going to give it up, but would follow us till joined by enough
of their tribe to attack us again. We made a long march, hoping to get
to the timber before they could come up, but just as the sun was setting
we saw them coming along, about fifteen of them; and we had just time to
get up to that rock. As they rode past we opened a smart fire and
dropped four of them; the others rode up the valley, so as to cut us off
from going farther. We filled our water-skins and got the horses
half-way up as you saw, and then lighted a fire and cooked. We kept
watch all night, two down below and one at the top; but everything was
quiet, and we guessed they were waiting for others to come up.
"About an hour before daylight we heard another gang arrive below us.
They halted there, and it was not long before they began crawling up
from above and below, and for a bit we shot pretty brisk. The odds were
too much against them, with us on the height, and they drew off. Then
for an hour they were pretty quiet while they were holding council,
except that we did some shooting with a party who had climbed up to that
ledge opposite; then we saw both bands mount, and reckoned they were
going to make a dash for us. We knew if they did it in earnest we must
go down, for once among the rocks and bushes there would be no keeping
them from mounting up. We made up our minds that the end was not far
off, though I fancy we should have accounted for a good many of them
before they rubbed us out. When your four rifles spoke from the ledge we
thought it was a party who had gone back there, for we felt sure that we
had driven them all away, but it wasn't more than a moment before we saw
it wasn't that. There was no mistaking the yell of astonishment from the
Indians, and as the horses swerved round we saw that three of them had
fallen. You may guess we didn't stop to argue who it was, but set to
work to do our share; but it seemed to us something like a miracle when
the red-skins rode off.
"We had been talking of Leaping Horse during the night, for he had
promised to come back to join us, and I knew him well enough to be able
to bet all creation that he would come. He had only left us to keep an
appointment with his nephew, who was to join him at Fort Bridger. If
there had only been two guns fired we should have put it down to him,
but being four I don't think either of us thought of him till he stood
up and shouted. Now, lad, you had better take a sleep. We shall be
moving on as soon as the moon is fairly up, and it won't be over that
hill behind us till two or three. I will watch till then, but I don't
think there is the least chance of their following us to-night; they
have been pretty roughly handled, and I don't think they will follow
until they have solved the mystery of that ledge. They searched it, no
doubt, as soon as they found the rock was empty, and at daybreak they
will set about tracing the trail up. That will be easy enough for them
when they have once got rid of the idea that there was something uncanny
about it, and then we shall have them on our heels again and on the
chief's too. The first thing for us to do will be to make along the hill
till we get to the edge of the canon, where Leaping Horse has gone for
your ponies, and to follow it to its upper end."
"I will watch, uncle, if you will wake me in an hour. I shall be all
right after a nap, but I can scarcely keep my eyes open now."
It seemed, however, to Tom that he had not been asleep five minutes when
his uncle shook him. The others were already on their feet. The moon was
shining down through the trees, and with cautious steps, and taking the
utmost trouble to avoid the branches, they started on their upward
climb. Not a word was spoken, for all knew how far sound travels on a
still night. There was, however, a slight breeze moving among the tree
tops when they started, and in an hour this had so far increased that
the boughs were swaying and the leaves rustling.
"I reckon there ain't no occasion to keep our mouths shut no longer,"
one of the men said. "Now that the trees are on the move they would not
hear us if they were only a hundred yards away."
All were glad when daylight began to appear, Tom because the climbing
would be much easier when the ground could be seen, the others because
they were all longing for a pipe, but had hitherto not dared to light
one, for the flash of a match could be seen far away. They had been
bearing steadily to the right as they mounted, and shortly after
daybreak they suddenly found themselves on the edge of a canon.
"Do you think this is the one, Jerry?" one of the men asked.
"That is more than I can tell, Ben. I did not see an opening in the
valley as we came up it, but we might very well have missed one in the
dark. I should think from the distance we have gone towards the right it
must be the one where we left our horses. Anyhow, whether it is or not,
we must follow it up to the top and wait there for a bit to see if the
"I reckon he will be there before us," Harry said; "that is if he got
round the red-skins all right and found the horses. There would be no
reason for him to wait, and I expect he would go straight on, and is
like enough to be waiting for us by this time."
The party pressed forward as rapidly as they could. The ground was rough
and at times very steep, and those on foot were able to keep up with the
horses without much difficulty.
"You think the Indians will follow, uncle?" Tom asked.
"They will follow, you may bet your boots, Tom; by this time they have
got to the bottom of the mystery. The first thing this morning some of
them will go up on to the ledge where you were, follow your tracks down
to the canon where you left the horses, and find that you came up the
valley and not down it. They will have made out that there were two
whites and two red-skins, and that the two red-skins have gone up the
canon with the horses. Directly the matter is all cleared up, they will
be hotter than ever for our scalps, for there is nothing a red-skin
hates worse than being fooled. Of course, they will know that it is a
good deal harder to wipe out seven men than three, and I don't think
they will attack us openly; they know well enough that in a fair fight
two red-skins, if not three, are likely to go down for each white they
rub out. But they will bide their time: red-skins are a wonderful hand
at that; time is nothing to them, and they would not mind hanging about
us for weeks and weeks if they can but get us at last. However, we will
talk it all over when the Indians join us. I don't think there is any
chance of fighting to-day, but whether we shall get out of these
mountains without having another scrimmage is doubtful."
Tom noticed that in his talk with him his uncle dropped most of the
western expressions which when speaking with the others he used as
freely as they did. He was now able to have a fair look at him, and
found that he agreed pretty closely with the ideas he had formed of him.
There was a strong likeness between him and his brother. They were about
the same height, but Harry was broader and more strongly built. His face
was deeply bronzed by long exposure to the wind and sun. He had a large
tawny beard, while Tom's father had been clean shaved. The sailor was
five years the senior, but the miner looked far younger than Tom could
ever remember his father looking, for the latter had never thoroughly
recovered his, health after having had a long bout of fever on the
Zanzibar station; and the long stride and free carriage of his uncle was
in striking contrast to the walk of his father. Both had keen gray eyes,
the same outline of face, the same pleasant smile.
"Now that I can see you fairly, Tom," the miner said, when they halted
once for the horses to come up to them, "I can make out that you are a
good deal like your father as I can first remember him."
"I was thinking you were very like him, uncle."
"We used to be alike in the old days, but I reckon the different lives
we led must have changed us both a great deal. He sent me once a
photograph four or five years ago, and at first I should not have known
it was he. I could see the likeness after a bit, but he was very much
changed. No doubt I have changed still more; all this hair on my face
makes a lot of difference. You see, it is a very long time since we met.
I was but twenty when I left England, and I had not seen him for two or
three years before that, for he was on the Mediterranean station at the
time. Well, here are the horses again, and as the ground looks flatter
ahead we shall have to push on to keep up with them." They were
presently altogether beyond the forest, and a broad plateau of bare rock
stretched away in front of them for miles.
"There they are," Jerry Curtis shouted. "I was beginning to feel scared
that the 'Rappahoes had got them."
It was a minute or two before Tom could make out the distant figures,
for his eyes were less accustomed to search for moving objects than were
those of his companions.
"They are riding fast," Harry Wade said. "I reckon they have made out
some Indians on their trail."
The little dark mass Tom had first seen soon resolved itself into two
horsemen and two riderless animals. They were still three or four miles
away, but in twenty minutes they reached the party advancing to meet
them. The whites waved their hats and gave them a cheer as they rode up.
"So you have managed to get through them all right, chief?"
"The 'Rappahoes are dogs. They are frightened at shadows; their eyes
were closed. Leaping Horse stood near their fires and saw them go
forward, and knew that his white brothers must have gained the forest
before the 'Rappahoes got to the rock. He found the horses safe, but the
canon was very dark and in some places very narrow, with many rocks in
the road, so that he had to stop till the moon was high. It was not
until morning came that he reached the head of the canon, an hour's ride
from here. Half an hour back Leaping Horse went to the edge and looked
down. There were ten 'Rappahoes riding fast up the trail. Has my brother
heard anything of the others?"
"Nothing whatever," Harry said. "I reckon they did not begin to move
until daylight, and as we went on when the moon rose they must be a good
two hours behind us. Which way do you think we had better go, chief?"
"Where does my brother wish to go?"
"It matters mighty little. I should say for a bit we had better travel
along this plateau, keeping about the same distance from the
timber-line. I don't think the 'Rappahoes will venture to attack us in
the open. If we keep on here we can cross the divide and get into the
Shoshones' country, and either go down the Buffalo and then up the Snake
and so work down south, or go east and strike some of the streams
running that way into the Big Horn."
The chief shook his head.
"Too far, too many bad Indians; will talk over fire tonight."
"That is it, chief. It is a matter that wants a good deal of talking
over. Anyhow, we had better be moving on at once."
Tom was glad to find himself in the saddle again, and the party rode on
at a steady pace for some hours, then they halted, lit a fire, and
cooked a meal. Tom noticed that the Indians no longer took pains to
gather dry sticks, but took the first that came to hand. He remarked
this to Jerry.
"They know it is no use trying to hide our trail here; the two bands of
Indians will follow, one up and one down, until they meet at the spot
where the chief joined us. From there they can track us easy enough.
Nothing would suit us better than for them to come up to us here, for we
should give them fits, sartin. This is a good place. This little stream
comes down from that snow peak you see over there, and we have got
everything we want, for this patch of bushes will keep us in firing for
a bit. You see, there are some more big hills in front of us, and we are
better here than we should be among them. I expect we shall camp here
for the night."
"Then you don't think the Indians will come up close?"
"Not they. They will send a spy or two to crawl up, you may be sure, but
they will know better than to come within reach of our rifles."
"I am mighty glad to have my teeth into some deer-flesh again," Ben
Gulston said. "We had two or three chances as we came along, but we dare
not fire, and we have just been living on bread and bacon. Where did you
kill these wapiti?"
"At our first halt, near Fremont's Pass. We got two."
"Well, you haven't eaten much, Jerry," Sam Hicks said. "I reckon four
men ought pretty well to have finished off two quarters by this time."
"I reckon we should have finished one of the bucks, Sam; but we caught a
grist of fish the same day, dried them in the sun, and I think we mostly
ate them. They would not keep as well as the flesh. That is as good as
the day we shot it, for up here in the dry air meat keeps a sight better
than down in the plains. Give me some more tea, Sam."
"What do you think, mates, of camping here?" Harry Wade said. "The chief
thinks we are better here than we should be if we moved on. He feels
certain the red-skins won't dare attack us."
There was a cordial agreement in favour of a halt, for after the work
they had gone through during the last week they were glad of a rest. No
one would have thought half an hour afterwards that the little party
engaged in washing their shirts at the stream or mending their clothes,
were in the heart of a country unknown to most of them, and menaced by a
savage foe. The horses cropped the scanty tufts of grass or munched the
young tops of the bushes, the rifles stood stacked by the fire, near
which the two Indians sat smoking and talking earnestly together,
Hunting Dog occasionally getting up and taking a long careful look over
the plain. As the men finished their various jobs they came back to the
"Now, chief," Harry said, "let us hear your ideas as to what we had best
do. We are all pretty old hands at mountaineering, but we reckon you
know a great deal more about it than we do. You don't like the plans I
"No can do it," the chief said positively. "In a moon the snow will
fall, and there will be no crossing mountains."
"That is true enough," Jerry said. "An old trapper who had lived among
the Shoshones told me that nine months in the year they were shut up in
the valleys by the snow on the passes."
"Then how can live?" the chief went on. "As long as we stay in this
country the 'Rappahoes will watch us. They will tell the Bannacks and
the Nez Perces, and they too would be on our trail. As long as we keep
together and watch they will not come, they fear the white man's rifle;
but we cannot live without hunting, and then they kill one, two, till
all killed. At night must always watch, at day cannot hunt. How we live?
What good to stay? If we stop all killed sure."
There was silence round the circle. Every one of them felt the truth of
the Indian's words, and yet they hated the thought of abandoning their
search for gold, or, failing that, of a return home with their horses
laden with beaver skins.
Harry was the first to speak. "I am afraid these varmint have interfered
with our plans, mates. If we had had the luck to drop into one of the
upper valleys without being noticed we could have hunted and trapped
there and looked for gold for months without much chance of being
discovered, but this has upset it all. I am afraid that what the chief
says is true. If we keep together we starve, if we break up and hunt we
shall be ambushed and killed. I hate giving up anything I have set my
mind on, but this time I don't see a way out of it. We ain't the first
party that has come up here and had to go back again with empty hands,
and we know what happened to that party of twenty old-time miners from
California two years ago, though none of them ever got back to tell the
tale. We knew when we started, it wur just a chance, and the cards have
gone against us."
"That is so," Ben agreed; "if it had turned out well we might have made
a good strike. It ain't turned out well, and as every day we stay here
there will be more of those varmint swarming round us, I say the sooner
we get out of this dog-goned country the better."
"You can count me in with you, Ben," Sam Hicks said. "We have gone in
for the game and we don't hold hands, and it ain't no use bluffing
against them red-skins. We sha'n't have lost much time arter all, and I
reckon we have all learned something. Some day when the railroad goes
right across, Uncle Sam will have to send a grist of troops to reckon up
with the red-skins in these hills, and arter that it may be a good
country for mining and trapping, but for the present we are a darned
sight more likely to lose our scalps than to get skins."