Part 5 out of 6
those first samples. I am ready to stay here through the summer, but I
vote we sew them up in deer-hide, and put two or three thicknesses of
skin on them so as to prevent accidents. Two of us had best go with them
to the fort and ask the Major to let us stow them away in his magazine,
then, if we have to bolt, we sha'n't be weighted down with them.
Besides, we might not have time for packing them on the horses, and
altogether it would be best to get them away at once, then come what
might we should have proofs of the value of the mine."
This proposal was cordially agreed to, and it was settled that on the
following morning Harry himself should, with Hunting Dog and two
pack-horses, start for the fort, following the same route they came,
while the rest should set to work to construct a cradle, and troughs for
leading the water to it.
AN INDIAN ATTACK
A couple of trees were felled in the middle of the clump in which they
were still encamped. They were first roughly squared and then sawn into
planks, the three men taking it by turns to use the saw. The question of
shifting the camp up to the spot where they intended to work was
discussed the night before Harry started, but it was agreed at last that
it would be better to remain where they were.
"If Utes come, sure to find traces," the chief said. "Many horses in
valley make tracks as plain as noonday. Gold valley bad place for
"That is so," Jerry agreed. "We should not have a show there. Even if we
made a log-house, and it would be a dog-goned trouble to carry up the
logs,--we might be shut up in it, and the red-skins would only have to
lie round and shoot us down if we came out. I reckon we had best stay
here after all, Harry. We could keep them outside the range of our
rifles anyhow by day."
"I don't see that that would be much good to us, Jerry; for if they came
by day they would not find us here. Still I don't know that it ain't
best for us to stay here; it would give us a lot of trouble to build a
place. I reckon two of us had better stay here all the day with the
horses. If the red-skins come, they can fire a couple of shots, and we
shall hear them up at the washing-place. The red-skins would be safe to
draw off for a bit to talk it over before they attacked, as they would
not know how many there were among the trees. That would give the rest
time to come down."
It took three days' hard work to saw the planks and make the cradle, and
troughs sufficiently long to lead the water down into it from the stream
higher up. These were roughly but strongly made, the joints being
smeared with clay to prevent the water from running through. A dam was
then made to keep back the water above the spot where they intended to
begin, which was about fifty yards below the quartz vein, and from this
dam the trough was taken along on strong trestles to the cradle.
The horses were brought into the camp at daybreak every morning and tied
up to the trees, and were let out again at nightfall. Tom remained in
camp, the chief being with him. The latter, however, was, during the
time Harry was away, twice absent for a day on hunting excursions lower
down the valley, which was there thickly wooded. The first time, he
returned with the hams and a considerable portion of the rest of the
flesh of a bear. The second time, he brought up the carcass of a deer.
"How far does the valley run?" Tom asked.
"Valley last ten miles. Sides get steep and high, then canon begin."
"That will run right down to the Colorado?"
The chief nodded. "Leaping Horse go no farther. Canon must go down to
"How far is it before the sides of the valley get too steep to climb?"
"Two miles from here. Men could climb another mile or two, horses not."
"Is there much game down there, chief?"
The Seneca nodded.
"That is a comfort, we sha'n't be likely to run out of fresh meat."
The chief was very careful in choosing the wood for the fire, so that in
the daytime no smoke should be seen rising from the trees. When the dead
wood in the clump of trees was exhausted he rode down the valley each
day, and returned in an hour with a large faggot fastened behind him on
the horse. He always started before daybreak, so as to reduce the risk
of being seen from the hills. On the sixth day the men began their work
at the gravel. The bottle of mercury was emptied into the cradle, the
bottom of which had been made with the greatest care, so as to prevent
any loss from leakage. Two of the men brought up the gravel in buckets
and pans, until the cradle was half full. Then water was let in, and the
third man rocked the machine and kept on removing the coarse stuff that
worked up to the top, while the others continued bringing up fresh
"Well, what luck?" Tom asked, when they returned in the evening.
"We have not cleaned up yet; we shall let it run for three or four days
before we do. We are only on the surface yet, and the stuff wouldn't pay
for the trouble of washing out."
On the eighth day after their departure Harry and Hunting Dog returned.
"Well, boys, it is all stowed away safely," he said. "I know the Major
well, and he let me have a big chest, which he locked up, after I had
put the bags in, and had it stowed away in the magazine; so there is no
fear of its being touched. Any signs of the red-skins?"
"Nary a sign. We have none of us been up the valley beyond this, so that
unless they come right down here, they would find no trail. The horses
are always driven down the valley at night."
"How is the work going on, Jerry?"
"We began washing two days ago; to-morrow night we shall clean up. We
all think it is going to turn out pretty good, for we have seen gold in
the sand several times as we have carried it up in the pails."
The next day Tom went up with the others, the Indians remaining in camp.
Two men now worked at the cradle, while the other three brought up the
sand and gravel. Towards evening they began the work of cleaning up. No
more stuff was brought up to the machine, but the water was still run
into it. As fast as the shaking brought the rough gravel to the top it
was removed, until only a foot of sand remained at the bottom. The water
was now stopped and the sand dug out, and carefully washed in the pans
by hand. At the bottom of each pan there remained after all the sand had
been removed a certain amount of gold-dust, the quantity increasing as
the bottom was approached. The last two panfuls contained a considerable
"It does not look much," Tom said when the whole was collected together.
"It is heavy stuff, lad," Harry replied. "What do you think there is,
Jerry? About twelve ounces, I should fancy."
"All that, Harry; nigher fourteen, I should think."
The pan was now put at the bottom of the cradle, a plug pulled out, and
the quicksilver run into it. A portion of this was poured on
wash-leather, the ends of which were held up by the men so as to form a
bag. Harry took the leather, and holding it over another pan twisted it
round and round. As the pressure on the quicksilver increased it ran
through the pores of the leather in tiny streams, until at last a lump
of pasty metal remained. This was squeezed again and again, until not a
single globule of quicksilver passed through the leather. The ball,
which was of the consistency of half-dried mortar was then taken out,
and the process repeated again and again until the whole of the
quicksilver had been passed through the leather. Six lumps of amalgam
about the size of small hens' eggs remained.
"Is that good, uncle?" Tom asked.
"Very fair, lad; wonderfully good indeed, considering we have not got
down far yet. I should say we shall get a pound and a half of gold out
"But how does the gold get into it, uncle?"
"There is what is called an affinity between quicksilver and gold. The
moment gold touches quicksilver it is absorbed by it, just as a drop of
water is taken up by a lump of salt. It thickens the quicksilver, and as
it is squeezed through the leather the quicksilver is as it were
strained out, and what remains behind becomes thicker and thicker,
until, as you see, it is almost solid. It is no good to use more
pressure, for if you do a certain amount of the gold would be squeezed
through the leather. You see, as the stuff in the cradle is shaken, the
gold being heavier than the sand finds its way down to the bottom, and
every particle that comes in contact with the quicksilver is swallowed
up by it."
"And how do you get the quicksilver out of those lumps?"
"We put them in one of those clay crucibles you saw, with a pinch of
borax, cover them up, and put them in a heap of glowing embers. That
evaporates the quicksilver, and leaves the gold behind in the shape of a
button." This was done that evening, and when the buttons were placed in
the scales they just turned the two-pound weight.
"Well, boys, that is good enough for anything," Harry said. "That, with
the dust, makes a pound a day, which is as good as the very best stuff
in the early days of California."
They worked steadily for the next seven weeks. Contrary to their
expectations the gravel was but little richer lower down than they had
found it at the end of the first wash-up, but continued about equally
good, and the result averaged about a pound weight of gold a day. This
was put into little bags of deer-skin, each containing five pounds'
weight, and these bags were distributed among the saddle-bags, so that
in case of sudden disturbance there would be no risk of their being left
behind. The Indians took it by turns to hunt; at other times they
remained on guard in camp, Tom only staying when one of them was away.
One day when the mining party stopped work, and sat down to eat some
bread and cold meat,--which they had from the first brought up, so as to
save them the loss of time entailed by going to the camp and back,--the
report of a gun came upon their ears. All started to their feet and
seized their rifles, and then stood listening intently. A minute later
two more shots were heard at close intervals.
"Red-skins for sure!" Jerry exclaimed. "I thought as how our luck were
too good to last." They started at a run down the little valley, and
only paused when they reached its mouth. Harry then advanced cautiously
until he could obtain a view of the main valley. He paused for a minute
and then rejoined his companions.
"There are fifty of them," he said, "if there is one. They are Utes in
their war-paint. They are a bit up the valley. I think if we make a rush
we can get to the trees before they can cut us off."
"We must try anyhow," Sam Hicks said, "else they will get the two
Indians and our horses and saddles and all. Just let us get breath for a
moment, and then we will start."
"Keep close together as you run," Harry said, "and then if they do come
up we can get back to back and make a fight of it." After a short pause
they started. They had not gone twenty yards when a loud yell proclaimed
that the Indians had seen them. They had, however, but three hundred
yards to run, while the Utes were double that distance from the clump.
When the miners were within fifty yards of the trees two rifle-shots
rang out, and two of the Utes, who were somewhat ahead of the rest; fell
from their horses, while the rest swerved off, seeing that there was no
hope of cutting the party off. A few more yards and the miners were
among the trees.
"So the Utes have found us out, chief," Harry said as he joined Leaping
Horse, who had just reloaded his ride.
"Must have tracked us. They are a war-party," the Seneca replied.
"Hunter must have found tracks and taken news back to the villages."
"Well, we have got to fight for it, that is clear enough," Harry said.
"Anyhow, now they see there are seven of us they are not likely to
attack until it gets dark, so we have time to think over what had best
be done. We had just begun our meal when we heard your shot, and the
best thing we can do is to have a good feed at once. We may be too busy
The chief said a word to the young Indian, and, leaving him on the
watch, accompanied the others to the fire. They had scarcely sat down
when Hunting Dog came up.
"More Utes," he said briefly, pointing across the valley.
They at once went to the outer line of trees. On the brow of the rise
opposite were a party of horsemen between twenty and thirty strong.
"That shows they have learnt all about our position," Harry said. "Those
fellows have been lying in wait somewhere over the hill to cut us off if
we took to our horses on seeing the main body. Let us have a look the
Crossing the clump of trees, they saw on the brow there another party of
"I reckon they must have crossed that valley we were working in just
after we got through," Jerry said. "It is mighty lucky they did not come
down on us while we were washing, for they could have wiped us all out
before we had time to get hold of our guns. Well, Harry, we are in a
pretty tight fix, with fifty of them up the valley and five-and-twenty
or so on each side of us. We shall have to be dog-goned smart if we are
to get out of this scrape."
"Hand me your rifle, Tom," his uncle said, "it carries farther than
mine, and I will give those fellows a hint that they had best move off a
Steadying his piece against a tree, he took a careful aim and fired. One
of the Indians swerved in his saddle, and then fell forward on the neck
of his horse, which turned and galloped off with the rest.
"Now we will have our meal and take council, chief," Harry said as he
turned away. "If we have got to fight there is no occasion to fight
The fire was made up; there was no need to be careful now. Strips of
deer's flesh were hung over it, and the meal was soon ready. But little
was said while it was being eaten, then they all lighted their pipes and
each put a pannikin of hot tea beside him.
"Now, chief," Harry said, "have you arrived at any way out of this? It
is worse than it was the last time we got caught in this valley."
The chief shook his head. "No good fight here," he said; "when night
come they creep up all round."
"Yes, I see that we have got to bolt, but the question is, how? If we
were to ride they would ride us down, that is certain. Jerry and Tom
might possibly get away, though that ain't likely. Their critters are
good, but nothing downright extraordinary, and the chances are that some
of the Utes have got faster horses than theirs. As for the rest of us,
they would have us before we had ridden an hour."
"That ain't to be thought of," Jerry said. "It seems to me our best
chance would be to leave the critters behind, and to crawl out the
moment it gets dark, and try and get beyond them."
"They will close in as soon as it gets dark, Jerry. They will know well
enough that that is the time we shall be moving. I reckon we should not
have a chance worth a cent of getting through. What do you say, chief?"
Leaping Horse nodded in assent.
"Well, then," Sam Hicks said, "I vote we mount our horses and go right
at them. I would rather do that and get rubbed out in a fair fight than
lie here until they crawl up and finish us."
No one answered, and for some minutes they smoked on without a word
being spoken, then Harry said:
"There is only one chance for us that I can see, and that is to mount
now and to ride right down the valley. The chief says that in some
places it is not more than fifty yards wide, with steep cliffs on each
side, and we could make a much better fight there, for they could only
attack us in front. There would be nothing for them then but to dismount
and close in upon us from tree to tree, and we could make a running
fight of it until we come to the mouth of the canon. There must be
places there, that we ought to be able to hold with our seven rifles
against the lot of them."
"Bully for you, Harry! I reckon that would give us a chance anyhow. That
is, if we ain't cut off before we get to the wood."
"Let us have a look round and see what they are doing," Harry said. "Ah!
here comes Hunting Dog. He will tell us all about it."
"Utes on hills all gone up and joined the others," the young Indian said
as he came up.
"It could not be better news!" Harry exclaimed. "I reckon they have
moved away to tempt us to make a start for the fort, for they know if we
go that way they will have us all, sure. They have not reckoned on our
riding down the valley, for they will be sure we must have found out
long ago that there ain't any way out of it. Well, we had best lose no
time. There is some meat ready, Hunting Dog, and you had best fill up
while we get ready for a start."
The blankets and buffalo rugs were wrapped up and strapped behind the
saddles, as soon as these were placed behind the horses. They had only a
small quantity of meat left, as the chief was going out hunting the next
morning, but they fastened this, and eighty pounds of flour that still
remained, on to one of the pack-horses. They filled their powder-horns
from the keg, and each put three or four dozen bullets into his
holsters, together with all the cartridges for their pistols; the rest
of the ammunition was packed on another horse. When all was completed
"We may get a couple of hundred yards more start before we are seen,"
Harry said. "Anyhow, we have got five hundred yards, and may reckon on
making the two miles to where the valley narrows before they catch us."
The instant, however, they emerged from the wood, two loud yells were
heard from Indians who had been left lying down on watch at the top of
the slopes on either side. Sam, who was the worst shot of the party, had
volunteered to lead the string of pack-horses, while Ben was ready to
urge them on behind.
"You may want to stop some of the leading varmint, and I should not be
much good at that game, so I will keep straight on without paying any
attention to them."
A loud answering yell rose from the Indians up the valley.
"We shall gain fifty yards or so before they are fairly in the saddle,"
Harry said as they went off at the top of their speed, the horses
seeming to know that the loud war-cry boded danger. They had gone half a
mile before they looked round. The Indians were riding in a confused
mass, and were some distance past the grove the miners had left, but
they still appeared as far behind as they had been when they started.
Another mile and the mass had broken up; the best-mounted Indians had
left the rest some distance behind, and considerably decreased the gap
between them and the fugitives. Another five minutes and the latter
reached the wood, that began just where the valley narrowed and the
cliffs rose almost perpendicularly on each side. As soon as they did so
they leapt from their horses, and each posting himself behind a tree
opened fire at their pursuers, the nearest of whom were but two hundred
yards away. Four fell to the first seven shots; the others turned and
galloped back to the main body, who halted at once.
"They won't try a charge," Harry said; "it isn't in Indian nature to
come across the open with the muzzles of seven rifles pointed at them.
They will palaver now; they know they have got us in a trap, and they
will wait till night. Now, chief, I reckon that you and I and Hunting
Dog had best stay here, so that if they try, as they are pretty sure to
do, to find out whether we are here still, we can give them a hint to
keep off. The other four had better ride straight down the canon, and go
on for a bit, to find out the best place for making a stand, and as soon
as it is dark we will go forward and join them. There will be no
occasion for us to hurry. I reckon the skunks will crawl up here soon
after it is dark; but they won't go much farther, for we might hide up
somewhere and they might miss us. In the morning they will come down on
foot, sheltering behind the trees as much as they can, till at last they
The chief nodded his approval of the plan, and Tom and the three miners
at once started, taking the pack-horses with them. On the way down they
came upon a bear. Ben was about to fire, but Jerry said: "Best leave him
alone, Ben; we are only three miles down, and these cliffs would echo
the sound and the red-skins would hear it and know that some of us had
gone down the valley, and might make a rush at once." In an hour and a
half they came down to a spot where the valley, after widening out a
good bit, suddenly terminated, and the stream entered a deep canon in
the face of the wall of rock that closed it in.
"I reckon all this part of the valley was a lake once," Jerry said.
"When it got pretty well full it began to run over where this canon is
and gradually cut its way out down to the Colorado. I wonder how far it
is to the river."
They had gone but a hundred yards down the canon when they came to a
place where a recent fall of rocks blocked it up. Through these the
stream, which was but a small one, made its way.
"There is a grist of water comes down here when the snow melts in the
spring," Ben remarked. "You can see that the rocks are worn fifty feet
up. Waal, I reckon this place is good enough for us, Jerry."
"I reckon so, too," the latter agreed. "It will be a job to get our
horses over; but we have got to do it anyhow, if we have to carry them."
The animals, however, managed to scramble up the rocks that filled the
canon to the height of some thirty feet. The distance between the rock
walls was not more than this in width.
"We could hold this place for a year," Ben said, "if they didn't take to
chucking rocks down from above."
"Yes, that is the only danger," Jerry agreed; "but the betting is they
could not get nigh enough to the edge to look down. Still, they might do
it if the ground is level above; anyhow, we should not show much at this
depth, for it is pretty dark down here, and the rocks must be seven or
eight hundred feet high."
It was, indeed, but a narrow strip of sky that they saw as they looked
up, and although still broad daylight in the valley they had left, it
was almost dark at the bottom of the deep gorge, and became pitch dark
as soon as the light above faded.
"The first job in the morning," Jerry said, "will be to explore this
place down below. I expect there are places where it widens out. If it
does, and there are trees and anything like grass, the horses can get a
bite of food; if not, they will mighty soon go under, that is if we
don't come upon any game, for if we don't we sha'n't be able to spare
"It is almost a pity we did not leave them in the valley to take their
chance," Tom said.
"Don't you make any mistake," Jerry said. "In the first place they may
come in useful to us yet, and even if we never get astride of them again
they may come in mighty handy for food. I don't say as we mayn't get a
bear if there are openings in the canon, or terraces where they can come
down, but if there ain't it is just horse-meat we have got to depend on.
Look here, boys, it is 'tarnal dark here; I can't see my own hand. I
vote we get a light. There is a lot of drift-wood jammed in among the
stones where we climbed up, that will do to start a fire, and I saw a
lot more just at the mouth of this gap. We know the red-skins ain't near
yet, so I vote we grope our way up and bring some down. It will be a
first-rate thing, too, to make a bit of fire half-way between here and
the mouth; that would put a stop to their crawling up, as they are like
enough to try to do, to make out whereabouts we are. Of course we shall
have to damp our own fire down if they come, else we should show up agin
the light if we went up on the rock."
The others agreed at once, for it was dull work sitting there in the
black darkness. All had matches, and a piece of dry fir was soon found.
This was lighted, and served as a torch with which to climb over the
rocks. Jammed in between these on the upper side was a large quantity of
drift-wood. This was pulled out, made into bundles, and carried over the
rock barrier, and a fire was soon blazing there. Then taking a brand and
two axes they went up to the mouth of the gorge, cut up the arms of some
trees that had been brought down by the last floods and left there as
the water sank. The greater part of these were taken down to their
camping-place; the rest, with plenty of small wood to light them, were
piled halfway between the barrier and the mouth of the canon, and were
soon blazing brightly.
They were returning to their camping-place, when Ben exclaimed that he
heard the sound of horses' hoofs. All stopped to listen.
"There are not more than three of them," Ben said, "and they are coming
along at a canter. I don't expect we shall hear anything of the
red-skins until tomorrow morning."
They heard the horses enter the canon, then Jerry shouted: "Are you all
"Yes; the red-skins were all quiet when we came away. Why, where are
you?" he shouted again when he came up to the fire.
"A hundred yards farther on I will show you a light."
Two or three blazing brands were brought up. Harry and the Indians had
dismounted at the first fire, and now led their horses up to the stone
"What on arth have you lit that other fire for, Jerry?" Harry asked as
he stopped at the foot of the barrier.
"Because we shall sleep a dog-goned sight better with it there. As like
as not they may send on two or three young warriors to scout. It is as
black as a wolf's mouth, and we might have sat listening all night, and
then should not have heard them. But with that fire there they dare not
come on, for they would know they could not pass it without getting a
bullet in them."
"Well, it is a very good idea, Jerry; I could not think what was up when
I got there and did not see anybody. I see you have another fire over
the other side. I could make it out clear enough as we came on."
"It will burn down a bit presently," Jerry said. "I should not try to
get those horses up here now, Harry. It was a bad place to come up in
daylight, and like enough they would break their legs if they tried it
now. They will do just as well there as they would on this side, and you
can get them over as soon as the day breaks."
"I would rather get them over, Jerry; but I see it is a pretty rough
Leaving the horses, Harry and the Indians climbed over the barrier, and
were soon seated with the others round their fire, over which the meat
was already frizzling.
"So the Indians kept quiet all the afternoon, Harry?"
"As quiet as is their nature. Two or three times some of them rode down,
and galloped backwards and forwards in front of us to make out if we
were there. Each time we let them fool about for a good long spell, and
then when they got a bit careless sent them a ball or two to let them
know we were still there. Hunting Dog went with the three horses half a
mile down the valley soon after you had gone, so that they might not
hear us ride off.
"As soon as it began to get dusk we started. We had to come pretty slow,
for it got so dark under the trees we could not make out the trunks, and
had to let the horses pick their own way. But we knew there was no
hurry, for they would not follow till morning, though of course their
scouts would creep up as soon as it was dark, and wouldn't be long
before they found out that we had left."
"I reckon they will all come and camp in the wood and wait for daylight
before they move, though I don't say two or three scouts may not crawl
down to try and find out where we are. They will move pretty slow, for
they will have to pick their way, and will know well enough that if a
twig cracks it will bring bullets among them. I reckon they won't get
here under four or five hours. It is sartin they won't try to pass that
fire above. As soon as they see us they will take word back to the
others, and we shall have the whole lot down here by morning."
"We shall have to get the horses over, the first thing. Two of us had
best go down, as soon as it is light enough to ride without risking our
necks, to see what the canon is like below."
"Yes, that is most important, Jerry; there may be some break where the
red-skins could get down, and so catch us between two fires."
"I don't care a red cent for the Utes," Jerry said. "We can lick them
out of their boots in this canon. What we have been thinking of, is
whether there is some place where the horses can get enough to keep them
alive while we are shut up here. If there is game, so much the better;
if there ain't, we have got to take to horseflesh."
"How long do you suppose that the Indians are likely to wait when they
find that they can't get at us?" Tom asked.
"There ain't no sort of saying," his uncle replied. "I reckon no one
ever found out yet how long a red-skin's patience will last. Time ain't
nothing to them. They will follow up this canon both sides till they are
sartin that there ain't no place where a man can climb up. If there
ain't, they will just squat in that valley. Like enough they will send
for their lodges and squaws and fix themselves there till winter comes,
and even then they might not go. They have got wood and water. Some of
them will hunt and bring in meat, which they will dry for the winter;
and they are just as likely to stay here as to go up to their villages."
A vigilant watch was kept up all night, two of them being always on
guard at the top of the barrier. As soon as morning broke, the three
horses were got over, and half an hour later Harry and Sam Hicks rode
off down the canon, while the others took their places on guard, keeping
themselves well behind the rocks, between which they looked out. They
had not long to wait, for an Indian was seen to dart rapidly across the
mouth of the canon. Two rifles cracked out, but the Indian's appearance
and disappearance was so sudden and quick that they had no reason to
believe that they had hit him.
"They will know now that we are here, and are pretty wide awake," Ben
said. "You may be sure that he caught sight of these rocks."
A minute or two later several rifles flashed from among the fallen
stones at the mouth of the gorge.
"Keep your eyes open," Jerry said, "and when you see the slightest
movement, fire. But don't do it unless you feel certain that you make
out a head or a limb. We've got to show the Utes that it is sartin death
to try and crawl up here."
Almost immediately afterwards a head appeared above the stones, the
chief's rifle cracked, and at the same instant the head disappeared.
"Do you think you got him, chief?"
"Think so, not sure. Leaping Horse does not often miss his mark at two
Almost directly afterwards Tom fired. An Indian sprang to his feet and
"What did you fire at, Tom?"
"I think it was his arm and shoulder," Tom replied. "I was not sure
about it, but I certainly saw something move."
"I fancy you must have hit him, or he would not have got up. Waal, now I
reckon we are going to have quiet for a bit. They must have had a good
look at the place while they were lying there, and must have seen that
it air too strong for them. I don't say they mayn't come on again
tonight--that they may do, but I think it air more likely they won't try
it. They would know that we should be on the watch, and with seven
rifles and Colts we should account for a grist of them afore they got
over. What do you say, chief?"
"Not come now," the Indian said positively. "Send men first along top
see if can get down. Not like come at night; the canons of the Colorado
very bad medicine, red-skins no like come into them. If no way where we
can get up, then Utes sit down to starve us."
"That will be a longish job, chief. A horse a week will keep us for
"If no food for horse, horse die one week."
"So they will, chief. We must wait till Harry comes back, then we shall
know what our chances are."
It was six hours before Harry and Sam returned. There was a shout of
satisfaction from the men when they saw that they had on their saddles
the hind-quarters of a bear.
"Waal, what is the news, Harry?"
"It ain't altogether good, Ben. It goes down like this for about twelve
miles, then it widens out sudden. It gets into a crumbly rock which has
got worn away, and there is a place maybe about fifty yards wide and
half a mile long, with sloping sides going up a long way, and then cliff
all round. The bottom is all stones; there are a few tufts of coarse
grass growing between them. On the slopes there are some bushes, and on
a ledge high up we made out a bear. We had two or three shots at him,
and at last brought him down. There may be more among the bushes; there
was plenty of cover for them."
"There was no place where there was a chance of getting up, Harry?"
"Nary a place. I don't say as there may not be, but we couldn't see
one." "But the bear must have got down."
"No. He would come down here in the dry season looking for water-holes,
and finding the place to his liking he must have concluded to settle
there. It is just the place a bear would choose, for he might reckon
pretty confident that there weren't no chance of his being disturbed.
Well, we went on beyond that, and two miles lower the canon opened
again, and five minutes took us down on to the bank of the Colorado.
There was no great room between the river and the cliff, but there were
some good-sized trees there, and plenty of bush growing up some
distance. We caught sight of another bear, but as we did not want him we
left him alone."
"Waal, let us have some b'ar-meat first of all," Jerry said. "We
finished our meat last night, and bread don't make much of a meal, I
reckon. Anyhow we can all do with another, and after we have done we
will have a talk. We know what to expect now, and can figure it up
better than we could before."
"Well, boys," Harry Wade began after they had smoked for some time in
silence, "we have got to look at this matter squarely. So far we have
got out of a mighty tight place better than we expected. Yesterday it
seemed to us that there weren't much chance of our carrying our hair
away, but now we are out of that scrape. But we are in another pretty
nigh as bad, though there ain't much chance of the red-skins getting at
"That air so, Harry. We are in a pretty tight hole, you bet. They ain't
likely to get our scalps for some time, but there ain't no denying that
our chance of carrying them off is dog-goned small."
"You bet there ain't, Jerry," Sam Hicks said. "Them pizon varmint will
camp outside here; for they know they have got us in a trap. They mayn't
attack us at present, but we have got to watch night and day. Any dark
night they may take it into their heads to come up, and there won't be
nothing to prevent them, for the rustling of the stream among the rocks
would cover any little noise they might make. The first we should know
of it would be the yell of the varmint at the foot of this barrier, and
afore we could get to the top the two on guard would be tomahawked, and
they would be down on us like a pack of wolves. I would a'most as soon
put down my rifle and walk straight out now and let them shoot me, if I
knew they would do it without any of their devilish tortures, as go on
night after night, expecting to be woke up with their war-yell in my
"Of course they will be always keeping a watch there at the mouth of the
canon,--a couple of boys are enough for that,--for they will know that
if we ride out on our horses we must go right up the valley, and it is a
nasty place to gallop through in the dark; besides, some of them will no
doubt be placed higher up to cut us off, and if we got through, which
ain't likely, they could ride us down in a few hours. If we crept out on
foot and got fairly among the trees we should be no better off, for they
would take up our trail in the morning and hunt us down. I tell you
fairly, boys, I don't see any way out of it. I reckon it will come to
our having to ride out together, and to wipe out as many of the Utes as
possible afore we go down. What do you say, chief?" "Leaping Horse
agrees with his white brother, Straight Harry, whose mind he knows."
"Waal, go on then, Harry," Sam said. "I thought that you had made an end
of it or I wouldn't have opened out. I don't see no way out of it at
present, but if you do I am ready to fall in with it whatever it is."
"I see but one way out of it, boys. It is a mighty risky thing, but it
can't be more risky than stopping here, and there is just a chance. I
spoke to the chief last night, and he owned that it didn't seem to him
there was a chance in that or any other way. However, he said that if I
went he would go with me. My proposal is this, that we take to the river
and try and get through the canons."
There was a deep silence among the men. The proposal took them by
surprise. No man had ever accomplished the journey. Though two parties
similarly attacked by Indians had attempted to raft down some of the
canons higher up; one party perished to a man, one survivor of the other
party escaped to tell the tale; but as to the canons below, through
which they would have to pass, no man had ever explored them. The
Indians regarded the river with deep awe, and believed the canons to be
peopled with demons. The enterprise was so stupendous and the dangers to
be met with so terrible, that ready as the western hunters were to
encounter dangers, no one had ever attempted to investigate the windings
and turnings of the river that for two thousand miles made its way
through terrific precipices, and ran its course some three thousand feet
below the surrounding country, until it emerged on to the plains of
"That was why I was so anxious to reach the river," Harry went on after
a pause. "I wanted to see whether there were some trees, by which we
could construct a raft, near its bank. Had there not been, I should have
proposed to follow it up or down, as far as we could make our way, in
hopes of lighting on some trees. However, as it is they are just handy
for us. I don't say as we shall get through, boys, but there is just a
chance of it. I don't see any other plan that would give us a show."
Jerry was the first to speak.
"Waal, Harry, you can count me in. One might as well be drowned in a
rapid or carried over a fall as killed, or, wuss, taken and tortured by
"That is so, Jerry," Sam Hicks agreed. While Ben said: "Waal, if we git
through it will be something to talk about all our lives. In course
there ain't no taking the horses?"
"That is out of the question, Ben. We shall not have much time to spare,
for the Utes may take it into their heads to attack us any night; and,
besides, we have no means of making a big raft. We might tie two or
three trunks together with the lariats and spike a few cross-pieces on
them, we might even make two such rafts; that is the outside. They will
carry us and our stores, but as for the horses, we must either leave
them down in the hollow for the Indians to find, or put a bullet through
their heads. I expect the latter will be the best thing for them, poor
"No want trees," the chief said. "Got horses' skins; make canoes."
"You are right, chief," Harry exclaimed; "I never thought of that. That
would be the very thing. Canoes will go down the rapids where the
strongest rafts would be dashed to pieces, and if we come to a bad fall
we can make a shift to carry them round."
The others were no less pleased with the suggestion, and the doubtful
expression of their faces as they assented to the scheme now changed to
one of hopefulness, and they discussed the plan eagerly. It was agreed
that not a moment should be lost in setting to work to carry it out, and
that they should forthwith retreat to the mouth of the lower canon; for
all entertained a secret misgiving that the Utes might make their attack
that night, and felt that if that attack were made in earnest it would
succeed. It was certain they would be able to find some point at which
the lower gorge could be held; and at any rate a day would be gained,
for at whatever hour of the night the Indians came up they would not
venture farther until daybreak, and there would probably be a long
palaver before they would enter the lower canon.
Tom had not spoken. He recognized the justice of Harry's reasoning, but
had difficulty in keeping his tears back at the thought of his horse
being killed. For well-nigh a year it had carried him well; he had
tended and cared for it; it would come to his call and rub its muzzle
against his cheek. He thought that had he been alone he would have
risked anything rather than part with it.
"Don't you like the plan, Tom?" Harry said to him, as, having packed and
saddled the horses, they rode together down the canon. "I don't suppose
the passage is so terrible after all."
"I am not thinking of the passage at all, uncle," Tom said almost
indignantly; "it will be a grand piece of adventure; but I don't like--I
hate--the thought of my horse being killed. It is like killing a dear
friend to save one's self."
"It is a wrench, lad," Harry said kindly; "I can quite understand your
feelings, and don't like the thought myself. But I see that it has got
to be done, and after all it will be better to kill the poor brutes than
to let them fall into the hands of the Indians, who don't know what
mercy to their beasts means, and will ride them till they drop dead
without the least compunction."
"I know it is better, uncle, ever so much better--but it is horrible all
the same. Anyhow, don't ask me to do it, for I could not."
"I will see to that, Tom. You shall be one of the guards of the canon.
You would not be of much use in making the canoes, and you won't have to
know anything about it till you go down and get on board."
Tom nodded his thanks; his heart was too full for him to speak, and he
felt that if he said a word he should break down altogether. They rode
rapidly along, passed through the little valley where the bear had been
killed, without stopping, and went down the lower canon, carefully
examining it to fix upon the most suitable point for defence. There had
been no recent fall, and though at some points great boulders lay
thickly, there was no one place that offered special facilities for
"Look here, boys," Harry said, reining up his horse at a point within
two hundred yards of the lower end, "we can't do better than fix
ourselves here. An hour's work will get up a wall that will puzzle the
red-skins to get over, and there is the advantage that a shot fired here
by the guard will bring our whole force up in a couple of minutes. I
vote we ride the horses down to the river and let them pick up what they
can, and then come back here and build the wall. It will be getting dark
in an hour's time, and we may as well finish that job at once. Ben and
Sam, you may as well pick out a couple of young fir-trees and bring
them down at once, then there will be no time lost. Five of us will be
enough for the wall. Keep your eyes open. Likely enough there is a bear
or two about, and it would be a great thing for us to lay in a stock of
meat before we start."
As soon as they issued from the gorge the horses were unsaddled and the
stores taken off the pack-animals. As they were doing this Harry said a
few words in a low tone to Sam. He then carefully examined the trees,
and picked out two young firs. Sam and Ben took their axes, and the
other five went up the gorge again, and were soon hard at work
collecting boulders and piling them in a wall.
"There is a gun, uncle," Tom exclaimed presently.
"Well, I hope they have got sight of a bear, we shall want a stock of
A dozen shots were fired, but Tom thought no more of it as he proceeded
with his work. The bottom of the canon was but fifteen feet wide, and by
the time it was dark they had a solid wall across it nearly six feet
high, with places for them to stand on to fire over.
"Now then, Tom, you may as well take post here at once. I will send Sam
or Ben up to watch with you. I don't think there is a shadow of chance
of their coming to-night, but there is never any answering for
red-skins. I would leave Hunting Dog with you, but we shall want him to
help make the framework for the canoes; the Indians are a deal handier
than we are in making lashings. I will send your supper up here, lad,
and your buffalo robes. Then you can take it by turns to watch and
sleep. I reckon we shall be at work all night; we have got to get the
job finished as quick as we can."
A quarter of an hour later Sam Hicks came up.
"Have you got the trees down, Sam?"
"Lor' bless you, it didn't take a minute to do that. We got them down
and split them up, then lit a fire and got the meat over it and the
kettle, and mixed the dough."
"Did you kill another bear? We heard you firing."
"No; the critter was too high up, and I ain't much good at shooting.
Perhaps they will get sight of him tomorrow, and Harry and the chief
will bring him down if he is within range of their shooting-irons. It is
'tarnal dark up here."
In twenty minutes two lights were seen approaching, and Harry and
Hunting Dog came up carrying pine-wood torches. Each had a great faggot
of wood fastened on his back, and Harry also carried the frying-pan, on
which were a pile of meat and two great hunks of bread, while Hunting
Dog brought two tin pannikins of hot tea.
"That will make it more cheerful for you," Harry said, as he unfastened
the rope that tied the faggot to his shoulders. "Now, Hunting Dog, get a
good fire as soon as you can, and then come down again to us."
The fire was soon blazing merrily, and Tom and Sam sat down to enjoy
"Don't you think one of us ought to keep watch, Sam?"
"Not a bit of it," Sam said. "The red-skins will never dare to enter
that canon until after dark, and if they started now and made their way
straight on, they would not be here for another three or four hours. I
would bet my boots they don't come at all tonight; even if they were not
scared at us, they would be scared at coming near the river in the dark.
No, we will just take our meal comfortable and smoke a pipe, and then I
will take first watch and you shall take a sleep. We ain't closed an eye
since the night before last."
Tom, indeed, was nearly asleep before he had finished his pipe, and felt
that he really must get a nap. So saying to Sam, "Be sure and wake me in
two hours," he rolled himself in his robe and instantly fell asleep.
It seemed to him that he had only just gone off when Sam roused him. He
leapt to his feet, however, rifle in hand. "Anything the matter, Sam?"
"Everything quiet," the miner replied.
"What did you wake me for then? I have not been asleep five minutes."
"According to my reckoning, mate, you have been asleep better'n five
hours. It was about half-past eight when you went off, and I reckon it
is two now, and will begin to get light in another hour. I would not
have waked you till daybreak, but I found myself dropping off."
"I am awfully sorry," Tom began.
"Don't you trouble, young un. By the time you have been as long in the
West as I have you won't think anything of two nights' watch. Now you
keep a sharp lookout. I don't think there is much chance of their
coming, but I don't want to be woke up with a red-skin coming right down
on the top of me."
"I see you have let the fire out, Sam," Tom said, with a little shiver.
"I put it out hours ago," Sam said, as he prepared to lie down. "It
would never have done to keep it all night, for a red-skin would see my
head over the top of the wall, while I should not get a sight of him
till he was within arm's-length."
Tom took up his post, and gazed earnestly into the darkness beyond the
wall. He felt that his sense of vision would be of no use whatever, and
therefore threw all his faculties into that of listening. Slight as was
the chance of the Indians coming, he yet felt somewhat nervous, and it
was a satisfaction to him to see beyond the mouth of the canon the glow
of the fire, by which, as he knew, the others were hard at work.
In an hour the morning began to break, and as soon as he could see well
up the canon he relighted the fire, jumping up to take a look over the
wall every minute or so. It was not long before he saw his uncle
approaching with a kettle.
"I saw your smoke, Tom, and guessed that you would be glad of a mug of
hot tea. You have seen no signs of Indians, I suppose?"
"We have heard nothing, uncle. As to seeing, up to half an hour ago
there was no possibility of making out anything. But I have not even
been listening; Sam went on guard directly we had finished supper, and I
asked him to call me in two hours, but he did not wake me until two
"He is a good fellow," Harry said. "Well, don't wake him now. I can't
leave you the kettle, for we have to keep boiling water going, but you
can put his tin into the ashes and warm it up when he wakes. Here are a
couple of pieces of bread."
"Why do you have to keep the kettle boiling, uncle?"
"To bend the wood with. The piece we are working on is kept damp with
boiling water. We hold it for a time over the fire, pouring a little
water on as fast as it evaporates; that softens the wood, and we can
bend it much more evenly than we could if we did it by force. Besides,
when it is fastened into its position it remains, when it is dry, in
that shape, and throws no strain on to anything."
"Are you getting on well?"
"Capitally. We should have done both the frames by now, but we were
obliged to make them very strong so as to resist the bumps they are sure
to get against rocks. When they are finished you might almost let them
drop off the top of a house, they will be so strong and elastic. If the
Indians will but give us time we shall make a first-rate job of them."
Three hours later Harry came up again with the kettle and some cooked
meat. Sam had just woke up, and was quite angry with Tom for not rousing
him before. "The others have been working all night," he said, "and here
have I been asleep for five hours; a nice sort of mate they will think
"Well, but you were watching five hours, Sam; and I would a deal rather
work all night than stand here for two hours in the dark, wondering all
the time whether the Indians are crawling up, and expecting at any
moment to hear a rush against the wall."
"I am going to take your place, Sam, when you have finished your
breakfast," Harry said, as he came up. "If the Utes found out last night
that we had gone, their scouts may be coming down before long. My rifle
shoots a bit straighter than yours does."
"It ain't the rifle, Harry," Sam said good-temperedly; "it is the eye
that is wrong, not the shooting-iron. I never had much practice with
these long guns, but when it comes to a six-shooter, I reckon I can do
my share as well as most. But they won't give me a chance with it."
"I hope they won't, Sam. I am sure they won't as long as there is light,
and I hope that before it gets dark they will conclude to leave us
A vigilant watch was kept now.
"I think I saw a head look out from that corner," Tom exclaimed
suddenly, two hours after Sam had left them.
"I am quite sure I did, Tom. We must wait until he shows himself a bit
more. I reckon it is a good three hundred yards off, and a man's head is
a precious small mark at that distance. Stand a bit higher and lay your
rifle on the wall. Don't fire if he only puts his head out. They know we
can shoot, so there is not any occasion to give them another lesson. I
don't hold to killing, unless you have got to do it. Let him have a good
look at us.
"When he goes back and tells the tribe that there is a three hundred
yards' straight passage without shelter, and a strong wall across the
end of it, and two white men with rifles ready to shoot, I reckon they
will know a good deal better than to try to come up it, as long as there
is light. Besides, they won't think there is any occasion to hurry, for
they won't count on our taking to the river, and will know that we shall
be keeping watch at night. So it may very well be that they will reckon
on wearing us out, and that we may not hear of them for a week. There is
the fellow's head again!"
The head remained visible round the corner of the rock for two or three
"He knows all about it now, Tom. You won't see any more of him to-day. I
will go down and lend them a hand below."
Tom asked no questions about the horses; he had thought of them a score
of times as he stood on guard, and the thought had occurred to him that
it was possible the shots he had heard while they were building the wall
on the previous afternoon, had been the death shots of the horses. It
did not occur to him when Sam was telling the story about the bear, that
this was a got-up tale, but when he came to think it over, he thought it
probable that it was so. Sam himself was not much of a shot, but Ben,
although inferior to Harry or either of the two Indians, shot as well as
Jerry, and would hardly have missed a bear three or four times running.
Each time the thought of the horses occurred to him he resolutely put it
aside, and concentrated his mind upon the probable perils of the passage
down the canons and the wonderful gorges they would traverse, and the
adventures and excitement they were sure to pass through. He thought how
fortunate it was they had taken the precaution of sending their
specimens of quartz back to the fort; for were they in the canoes, the
fruits of the journey would be irrevocably lost were these to upset; for
now the Indians had twice discovered the presence of whites in the
valley they would be sure to watch it closely, and it would not be
possible to go up to the mine again unless in strong force.
The day passed quietly. Harry brought up Tom's meals, and late in the
afternoon all hands came up, and the wall of stones was raised four
feet, making it almost impregnable against a sudden attack. The two
Indians took post there with Tom, and watched alternately all night. The
Utes, however, remained perfectly quiet. They probably felt sure that
the fugitives must sooner or later be forced to surrender, and were
disinclined to face the loss that must occur before so strong a
position, defended by seven men armed with rifles and revolvers, could
At three o'clock on the following afternoon Hunting Dog came up. "Tom go
down and get dinner," he said, "Hunting Dog will watch."
Tom took his rifle and started down the canon.
"Come on, lad," his uncle shouted. "We are pretty near ready for a
start, and have all had our dinner; so be quick about it. We want to get
well away from here before night."
Tom went to the fire and ate his meal. As he sat down he saw that the
stores, blankets, and robes had all been carried away. When he finished,
his uncle led him down to the river. Two canoes were floating in the
water, and the other men were standing beside them.
"There, Tom, what do you think of them?"
"They are splendid, uncle; it seems impossible that you can have built
them in two days."
"Five hands can do a lot of canoe-building in forty-eight hours' work,
The canoes were indeed models of strength if not of beauty. They were
each about twenty feet long and five feet wide. Two strong pieces of
pine two inches square ran along the top of each side, and one of the
same width but an inch deeper formed the keel. The ribs, an inch wide
and three-quarters of an inch thick, were placed at intervals of
eighteen inches apart. The canoes were almost flat-bottomed. The ribs
lay across the keel, which was cut away to allow them to lie flush in
it, a strong nail being driven in at the point of junction--these being
the only nails used in the boat's construction. The ribs ran straight
out to almost the full width of the canoe, and were then turned sharp
up, the ends being lashed with thongs of hide to the upper stringers.
Outside the ribs were lashed longitudinal wattles of tough wood about an
inch wide. They were placed an inch apart, extending over the bottom and
halfway up the side. Over all was stretched the skin, five horses' hides
having been used for each boat. They were very strongly sewed together
by a double row of thongs, the overlaps having, before being sewed, been
smeared with melted fat. Cross-pieces of wood at the top kept the upper
framework in its place. The hair of the skin was outward, the inner
glistened with the fat that had been rubbed into it.
"They are strong indeed," Tom said. "They ought to stand anything,
"Yes, I think they would stand a blow against any rock if it hadn't a
cutting edge. They would just bound off as a basket would. Of course
they are very heavy for canoes; but as they won't have to carry more
than the weight of four men each, they will draw little over a couple of
inches or so of water.
"That is why we made them so wide. We could not get strength without
weight; and as there is no saying what shallows there may be, and how
close in some places rocks may come up to the surface, we were obliged
to build them wide to get light draught. You see we have made ten
paddles, so as to have a spare one or two in case of breakage. We have
two spare hides, so that we shall have the means of repairing damages."
Tom said nothing about the horses. Manufactured into a boat, as the
skins were, there was not much to remind him of them; but he pressed his
uncle's hand and said, "Thank you very much, uncle; I don't mind so much
now, but I should not like to have seen them before."
"That is all right, Tom; it was a case of necessity. Sam and Ben shot
them directly we got here."
The stores were all laid by the boats, being divided between them so
that the cargoes were in all respects duplicates of each other. Before
Tom came down some had already been placed in each boat, with a blanket
thrown over them.
"You have got the gold, I suppose, uncle?"
"You may bet that we did not leave that behind. There is half in each
boat, and the bags are lashed to the timbers, so that if there is an
upset they cannot get lost."
"How are we going?"
"We have settled that you and I and the two Indians shall go together,
and the rest in the other boat. The Indians know nothing of canoeing,
and won't be of very much use. I know you were accustomed to boats, and
I did some rowing when I was a young man. I wish we had a couple of
Canadian Indians with us, or of half-breeds; they are up to this sort of
work, and with one in the stern of each canoe it would be a much less
risky business going down the rapids. However, no doubt we shall get
handy with the paddles before long."
When everything was ready Harry fired his rifle, and in a couple of
minutes Hunting Dog came running down. The others had already taken
their seats. He stepped into Harry's boat, and they at once pushed off.
The river was running smoothly here, and Harry said, "Directly we get
down a little way we will turn the boat's head up stream and practise
for a bit. It would never do to get down into rough water before we can
use the paddles fairly."
Tom sat in the bow of his boat, Hunting Dog was next to him, then came
the chief, and Harry sat in the stern. A paddle is a much easier
implement to manage for a beginner than is an oar, and it was not long
before they found that they could propel the boats at a fair rate. In a
short time they had passed the end of the shelf at the mouth of the
canon, and the cliffs on that side rose as abruptly as they did on the
other. The river was some eighty yards wide.
"We will turn here," Harry said, "and paddle up. We sha'n't do more than
keep abreast of these rocks now, for the stream runs fast though it is
They found, indeed, that they had to work hard to hold their position.
"Now, Tom," Harry sang out, "it is you and I do the steering, you know.
When you want the head to go to the right you must work your paddle out
from the boat, when you want to go to the left you must dip it in the
water rather farther out and draw it towards the boat. Of course when
you have got the paddle the other side you must do just the contrary.
You must sing out right or left according as you see rocks ahead, and I
shall steer with my paddle behind. I have a good deal more power over
the boat than you have, and you must depend upon me for the steering,
unless there is occasion for a smart swerve."
At first the two boats shot backwards and forwards across the stream in
a very erratic way, but after an hour's practice the steersmen found the
amount of force required. An hour later Harry thought that they were
competent to make a start, and turning they shot rapidly past the
cliffs. In a couple of miles there was a break in the rocks to the left.
"We will land there," Harry said. "There are trees near the water and
bushes farther up. We will make a camp there. There is no saying how far
we may have to go before we get another opportunity. We have done with
the Utes for good, and can get a sound night's sleep. If you, chief,
will start with Hunting Dog as soon as we land, we will get the things
ashore and light the fire. Maybe you will be able to get a bear for us."
They did not trouble to haul up the canoes, but fastened them by the
head-ropes, which were made from lariats, to trees on the shore.
Daylight was beginning to fade as they lighted the fire. No time was
lost before mixing the dough, and it was in readiness by the time that
there were sufficient glowing embers to stand the pot in. The kettle was
filled and hung on a tripod over the fire. In a short time the Indians
"No find bear," the chief said, "getting too dark to hunt. To-morrow
Harry got up and went to the boats, and returned directly with a joint
of meat. Tom looked up in surprise.
"It is not from yours, Tom," Jerry said as he saw him looking at it. "We
took the hind-quarters of the four pack-ponies, but left the others
alone. It was no use bringing more, for it would not keep."
"So it is horseflesh!" Tom rather shrank from the idea of eating it, and
nothing would have induced him to touch it had he thought that it came
from his own favourite. Some steaks were cut and placed in the
frying-pan, while strips were hung over the fire for those who preferred
the meat in that way. Tom felt strongly inclined to refuse altogether,
but when he saw that the others took their meat as a matter of course,
and proceeded to eat with a good appetite, he did not like to do so. He
hesitated, however, before tasting it; but Harry said with a laugh,
"Fire away, Tom. You can hardly tell it from beef, and they say that in
Paris lots of horseflesh is sold as beef."
Thus encouraged, Tom took a mouthful, and found it by no means bad, for
from their long stay in the valley the animals were all in excellent
condition, and he acknowledged to himself that he would not have known
the flesh from beef.
"I call it mighty good for a change." Terry said. "Out on the plains,
where one can get buffalo, one would not take horse for choice, but as
we have been eating deer and bear meat for about a year, horse-meat
ain't bad by no means. What! You won't take another bit, Tom?"
"Not to-night, Jerry; next time I shall be all right. But it is my first
trial, you know, and though I can't say it is not good, it gives me a
queer feeling, so I will stick to the bread."
"Well, boys," Harry said presently, "we have made a first-rate start,
and have got out of a big scrape, easier than I ever looked for. We
could not have got two better canoes for our work if we had had them
brought special from Canada, and it seems to me that they ought to go
down pretty near anywhere without much damage. We shall get real handy
with our paddles in two or three days, and I hope we sha'n't meet with
any big rapids until we have got into the way of managing them well."
"You bet, Harry, we have got out well," said Jerry. "I tell you it
looked downright ugly, and I wouldn't have given a continental for our
chances. As for the rapids, I guess we shall generally find rocks one
side or the other where we can make our way along, and we can let down
the canoes by the ropes. Anyhow, we need not get skeery over them. After
getting out of that valley with our hair on, the thought of them does
not trouble me a cent."
AFLOAT IN CANOES
The two Indians were off long before daylight, and just as the others
were having a wash at the edge of the river they heard the crack of a
rifle some distance up the cliff.
"Bear!" Jerry exclaimed; "and I reckon they have got it, else we should
have heard another shot directly afterwards. That will set us up in food
for some time. Get the fire made up, Tom, you won't have to eat horse
steak for breakfast unless you like."
The Indians returned half an hour later laden with as much bear-flesh as
they could carry.
"I vote we stop here for two days," Harry said. "We have got a lot of
meat now, but it won't keep for twenty-four hours in this heat, so I
vote we cut it up and dry it as the Indians do buffalo-meat; it will
keep any time. Besides, we deserve a couple of days' rest, and we can
practise paddling while the meat dries. We got on very well yesterday,
but I do want us to get quite at home in the boats before we get to a
The proposal was agreed to, and as soon as breakfast was over the whole
of the meat was cut up into thin slices and hung up on cords fastened
from tree to tree.
"It ought to take three days to do it properly, and four is better,"
Harry said. "Still, as we have cut it very thin, I should think two days
in this hot sun ought to be enough."
"Are there any fish in the river, uncle?"
"I have no doubt there are, Tom, grists of them, but we have got no
"Jerry has got some, he told me he never travelled without them, and we
caught a lot of fish with them up in the mountains just after we started
before. I don't know about line, but one might unravel one of the
"I think you might do better than that, Tom. The next small animal we
shoot we might make some lines from the gut. They needn't be above five
or six feet long. Beyond that we could cut a strip of thirty or forty
feet long from one of the hides. However, we can do nothing at present
in that way. Now let us get into the canoes and have a couple of hours'
paddling. After dinner we will have another good spell at the work."
By evening there was a marked improvement in the paddling over that of
the previous day, and after having had another day's practice all felt
confident that they should get on very well. By nightfall on the second
day, the meat was found to be thoroughly dried, and was taken down and
packed in bundles, and the next morning they started as soon as it was
light. It was agreed that the boats should follow each other at a
distance of a hundred yards, so that the leader could signal to the one
behind if serious difficulties were made out ahead, and so enable it to
row to the bank in time. Were both drawn together into the suck of a
dangerous rapid they might find themselves without either boats or
stores, whereas if only one of the boats was broken up, there would be
the other to fall back upon. Harry's boat was to take the lead on the
first day, and Tom, as he knelt in the bows, felt his heart beat with
excitement at the thought of the unknown that lay before them, and that
they were about to make their way down passes probably unpenetrated by
man. Passing between what had seemed to them the entrance to a narrow
canon, they were surprised to rind the river widen out. On their right a
great sweep of hills bent round like a vast amphitheatre, the
resemblance being heightened by the ledges running in regular lines
along it, the cliff being far from perpendicular.
"I should think one could climb up there," Tom said, half-turning round
to his uncle.
"It looks like it, Tom, but there is no saying; some of those steps may
be a good deal steeper than they look. However, I have no doubt one
could find places where it would be possible to climb if there were any
use in doing so, but as we should only find ourselves up on bad lands we
should gain nothing by it."
"I don't mean we should want to climb up now, uncle; but it seemed a
sort of satisfaction to know that there are places where one could climb
in case we got the boats smashed up."
"If we had to make our way up, lad, it would be much better to go by one
of the lateral canons like the one we came down by. I can see at least
half a dozen of them going up there. We should certainly find water, and
we might find game, but up on the plateau we should find neither one nor
On the left-hand bank of the river the cliffs fell still farther back in
wide terraces, that rose one behind the other up to a perpendicular
cliff half a mile back from the river. There was a shade of green here
and there, and the chief pointed far up the hill and exclaimed "Deer!"
"That is good," Harry said. "There are sure to be more of these places,
and I should think we are not likely to starve anyhow. We can't spare
time to stop now; we want to have a long day's paddle to see what it is
going to be like, and we have got meat enough for the present. If we
happen to see a deer within rifle-shot, so that we can get at him
without much loss of time, we will stop, for after all fresh meat is
better eating than dry."
"I should think it would be, uncle," Tom said. "From the look of the
stuff I should think it would be quite as tough as shoe leather and as
"It needs a set of sharp teeth, Tom, but if you are hard set I have no
doubt you will be able to get through it, and at any rate it constitutes
the chief food of the Indians between the Missouri and the Rockies."
For the next three hours they paddled along on the quiet surface of the
river. The other canoe had drawn up, since it was evident that here at
least there was no reason why they should keep apart.
"I didn't expect we should find it as quiet as this, Harry," Jerry
Curtis said. "It is a regular water-party, and I should not mind how
long I was at it if it were all like this."
"We shall have rough water enough presently, Jerry, and I expect we
shall look back on this as the pleasantest part of the trip. It seems to
me that the hills close in more towards the end of this sweep. It has
made a regular horseshoe."
"I reckon it depends upon the nature of the rock," Ben put in.
"That is it, you may be sure, Ben. Wherever it is soft rock, in time it
crumbles away like this; where it is hard the weather don't affect it
much, and we get straight cliffs. I expect it is there we shall find the
rapids worst. Well, we shall soon make a trial of them, I fancy. It
looks like a wall ahead, but the road must go through somewhere."
A quarter of an hour later Harry said: "You had better drop back now,
Jerry, there is the gap right ahead. If you see me hold up my paddle you
row ashore. When we come to a bad rapid we had better all get out, and
make our way down on the rocks as far as we can, to see what it is like.
It will never do to go at it blind. Of course we may find places where
the water comes to the wall faces on both sides, and then there is
nothing to do but to take our chance, but I don't propose to run any
risks that I can avoid."
There was a perceptible increase in the rate of the current as they
neared the gorge, and when they came within a short distance of it Harry
gave the signal to the boat behind, and both canoes made for the shore.
As they stepped out on to the rocks the chief pointed to a ledge far
above them. "There will be time for Hunting Dog to shoot a deer," he
said, "while we go down to see canon."
Tom in vain endeavoured to make out the object at which the Indian was
pointing. Hunting Dog had evidently noticed it before landing, and upon
Harry giving a nod of assent, started off with his rifle. The others
waited until Jerry and his companions joined them, and then started
along the rocks that had fallen at the foot of the cliffs. They were
soon able to obtain a far better view of the gorge than they had done
from the canoe. The river ran for a bit in a smooth glassy flood, but a
short distance down, it began to form into waves, and beyond that they
could see a mass of white foam and breakers. They made their way along
the rocks for nearly two miles. It seemed well-nigh impossible to Tom
that the boats could go down without being swamped, for the waves were
eight or ten feet high, with steep sides capped with white. At last the
gorge widened again, and although the cliff to the right rose
perpendicularly, on the other side it became less steep, and seemed
lower down to assume the same character as that above the gorge.
"It looks pretty bad," Harry said, speaking for almost the first time
since they had started, for the roar of the water against the rocks,
echoed and re-echoed by the cliffs, rendered conversation an
impossibility. "It looks bad, but as far as I can see there are no rocks
that come up near the surface, and the canoes ought to go through the
broken water safely enough."
"It is an all-fired nasty-looking place," Jerry said; "but I have heard
men who had been in the north talk about rapids they had gone through,
and from what they said about them they must have been worse than this.
We have got to keep as near the side as we can; the waves ain't as high
there as they are in the middle, and we have got to keep the boat's head
straight, and to paddle all we know. If we do that, I reckon the canoes
will go through."
They retraced their steps up the gorge. Hunting Dog was standing by the
boat with the dead deer at his feet. Jerry picked it up. "I had better
take this, I reckon, Harry. You have got one man more than we have;" and
he and his two companions went on to their boat.
"Now, what do you think, Tom?" his uncle said. "Can you trust your head
to keep cool? It will need a lot of nerve, I can tell you, and if her
head swerves in the slightest she will swing round, and over she will
go, and it would want some tall swimming to get out of that race. You
paddle as well as the chief,--better, I think,--but the chief's nerves
are like iron. He has not been practising steering as you have, but as
there seem to be no rocks about, that won't matter so much. I ought to
be able to keep her straight, if you three paddle hard. It may need a
turn of the paddle now and then in the bow, but that we can't tell. So
it shall be just as you like, lad. If you think your nerves can stand it
you take your usual place, but if you have doubts about it, it were best
to let the chief go there."
"I think I could stand it, uncle, for I have been out in wherries in
some precious rough seas at Spithead; but I think it would be best for
the chief to take my place this time, and then I shall see how I feel."
Harry said a few words to the chief in his own language, and Leaping
Horse without a word stepped into the bow, while Tom took the seat
"We sha'n't be long going down," Harry said, "I reckon the stream is
running ten miles an hour, and as we shall be paddling, it will take us
through in ten minutes. We had all better sit farther aft, so as to take
her bow right out of water. She will go through it ever so much easier
They shifted their seats until daylight could be seen under the keel a
foot from the bow.
"I think that is about the right trim," Harry said. "Now paddle all."
The boat shot off from the shore. A minute later it darted into the
gorge, the Indian setting a long sweeping stroke. There were two or
three long heaves, and then they dashed into the race. Tom held his
breath at the first wall of water, but, buoyant and lightly laden as the
canoe was, with fully a foot of free board, she rose like a feather over
it, and darted down into the hollow beyond. Tom kept his eyes fixed on
the back of the chief's head, clinched his teeth tightly, and paddled
away with all his strength. He felt that were he to look round he should
turn giddy at the turmoil of water. Once or twice he was vaguely
conscious of Harry's shouts, "Keep her head inshore!" or "A little
farther out!" but like a man rowing a race he heeded the words but
little. His faculties were concentrated on his work, but he could see a
slight swerve of the Indian's body when he was obeying an order.
He was not conscious of any change of motion, either in the boat or in
the water round, when Harry shouted, "Easy all!" and even then it was
the chief's ceasing to paddle rather than Harry's shout which caused him
to stop. Then he looked round and saw that the race was passed, and that
the canoe was floating in comparatively quiet water.
"She is a daisy!" Harry shouted; "we could not do better if we had been
all Canadian half-breeds, chief. Now, we had better set to and bale her
out as quickly as we can."
Tom now for the first time perceived that he was kneeling in water, and
that the boat was nearly half-full.
Their tea pannikins had been laid by their sides in readiness, and
Hunting Dog touched him and passed forward his tin and the chief's, both
of which had been swept aft. The Seneca at once began to throw out the
water, but Tom for a minute or two was unable to follow his example. He
felt as weak as a child. A nervous quivering ran through his body, and
his hand trembled so that he could not grasp the handle of the tin.
"Feel bad, Tom?" his uncle asked cheerily from behind. "Brace up, lad;
it was a pretty warm ten minutes, and I am not surprised you feel it.
Now it is over I am a little shaky myself."
"I shall be all right presently, uncle." A look at the chief's back did
more to steady Tom's nerves than his own efforts. While he himself was
panting heavily, and was bathed in perspiration, the chief's breath came
so quietly that he could scarce see his shoulders rise and fall, as he
baled out the water with perfect unconcern. With an effort the boy took
hold of his dipper, and by the time the boat was empty his nerves were
gaining their steadiness, though his breath still came quickly. As he
laid down his tin he looked round.
"Heap water," Hunting Dog said with a smile; "run like herd of buffalo."
The other boat lay twenty yards behind them, and was also engaged in
"All right now, Tom?"
"All right, uncle; but it is lucky you put the chief in the bows. I
should have made a mess of it; for from the time we got into the waves
it seemed nothing but confusion, and though I heard your voice I did not
seem to understand what you said."
"It was a trial to the nerves, Tom, but we shall all get accustomed to
it before we get through. Well, thank God, we have made our first run
safely. Now paddle on, we will stop at the first likely place and have a
A mile farther they saw a pile of drift-wood on the left bank, and Harry
at once headed the canoe to it, and drawing the boat carefully alongside
they got out. A minute later the other canoe joined them.
"Jee-hoshaphat, Harry!" Jerry exclaimed as he stepped out; "that was
worse nor a cyclone. I would rather sit on the back of the worst kind of
bucker than jump over those waves again. If we are going to have much of
this I should say let us find our way back and ask the Utes to finish us
"It was a rough bit, Jerry; but it might have been a deal worse if there
had been rocks in the stream. All we had to do was to keep her straight
"And a pretty big all, too," Jerry grumbled. "I felt skeered pretty nigh
out of my wits, and the other two allow they were just as bad. If it
hadn't been for your boat ahead I reckon we should never have gone
through it, but as long as you kept on straight, there didn't seem any
reason why we shouldn't. I tell you I feel so shaky that if there were a
grizzly twenty yards off I am blamed if I could keep the muzzle of my
rifle on it."
Tom had been feeling a good deal ashamed of his nervousness, and was
much relieved at hearing that these seasoned men had felt somewhat the
same as he had done.
"What do you say, boys," Harry asked when breakfast had been cooked and
eaten, "if we stop here for to-day? Likely enough we may get some game,
and if not it won't matter, for the deer will last us a couple of days."
"You bet," Ben Gulston said; "I think we have had enough of the water
for to-day. I don't feel quite sure now I ain't going round and round,
and I don't think any of us will feel right till we have had a night's
sleep. Besides, all the rugs and blankets are wet and want spreading out
in the sun for a bit, and the flour will want overhauling."
"That settles it, Ben; let us get all the outfit out of the boats at
After the things had been laid out to dry the two Indians went off in
search of game; but none of the others felt any inclination to move, and
they spent the rest of the day lying about smoking and dozing. The
Indians brought back a big-horn, and the next morning the canoes dropped
down the stream again. For some miles the river flowed quietly along a
wide valley. At the end of that time it made an abrupt turn and entered
the heart of the mountains. As before, Harry's canoe went in advance.
The canon was here a deep gloomy chasm, with almost perpendicular sides,
and for some distance the river ran swiftly and smoothly, then white
water was seen ahead, so the two boats rowed in to the rocks at the foot
of the precipice, and the occupants proceeded to explore the pass ahead.
It was of a different character to the last. Black rocks rose everywhere
above the surface, and among these the river flowed with extraordinary
force and rapidity, foaming and roaring.
All agreed that it was madness to think of descending here, and that a
portage was necessary. The contents of the boats were lifted out, and
then one of them was carried down over the rocks by the united strength
of the party. They had gone half a mile when they came to a spot where
they could go no farther, as the water rushed along against the rock
wall itself. Some fifty yards further down they could see that the ledge
"We must go and fetch the other boat," Harry shouted above the din of
the water, "and let them down one by one. There is no other way to do
The second boat was brought down, and another journey was made to bring
down the stores. The lariats were then tied together.
"Let us sit down and smoke a pipe before we do anything more," Jerry
said. "Three times up and down them rocks is worse nor thirty miles on a
All were glad to adopt this suggestion, and for half an hour they sat
watching the rushing waters. As they did so they discussed how they had
better divide their forces, and agreed that Harry's boat should, as
before, go down first. Three men would be required to let the boat down,
and it would need at least four to check the second boat when it came
abreast of them. Although all felt certain that a single line of the
plaited hide would be sufficient, they determined to use two lines to
ensure themselves against risk.
"I should let them run out fast at first, Jerry, only keeping enough
strain on them to keep her head well up stream. Begin to check her
gradually, and let her down only inch by inch. When you see we are close
to the rocks, hold her there while we get her alongside, and don't leave
go till we lift her from the water. Directly we are out, fasten the
ropes to the bow of your canoe, then launch her carefully; and whatever
you do, don't let go of the rope. Launch her stern first close to the
wall, then two get in and get well towards the stern, while the other
holds the rope until the last moment. Then those two in the boat must
begin to paddle as hard as they can, while the last man jumps in and
snatches up his paddle. Keep her head close to the wall, for if the
current catches it and takes her round she would capsize in a moment
against those rocks. Paddle all you know; we shall haul in the rope as
fast as you come down. When you come abreast two of us will check her,
and the others will be on the rocks to catch hold of her side as she
The first canoe was launched stern foremost, the four men took their
seats in her and began to paddle against, the stream with all their
strength, while Jerry and his companions let the lines run through their
fingers. The boat glanced along by the side of the wall. The men above
put on more and more strain, giving a turn of the ropes round a smooth
water-worn rock they had before picked out as suitable for the purpose.
The water surged against the bow of the canoe, lifting it higher and
higher as the full strain of the rope came upon it. The chief was
kneeling in the stern facing the rocks below, and as the canoe came
abreast of them he brought her in alongside. Harry held up his paddle,
the men above gave another turn of the ropes round the rock, and the
canoe remained stationary. Hunting Dog sprang out on to the rocks, and
taking hold of the blade of the chief's paddle, brought the canoe in so
close that the others were able to step ashore without difficulty. The
baggage was taken out, and the canoe lifted from the water, turned
upside down, and laid on the rocks.
Harry held up his hand to show that they were ready, having before he
did so chosen a stone round which to wind the lariats. The other boat
was then launched. Sam and Ben took their places astern and began to
paddle against the stream. As they were in the back-water below the
ledge of rock they were able to keep her stationary while Jerry took his
place and got out his paddle. When all were ready, they paddled her out
from the back-water. As soon as the current caught her she flew past the
cliff like an arrow, although the three men were now paddling at the top
of their speed. Harry and the chief pulled in the rope hand over hand,
while Hunting Dog and Tom went a short way down the rocks.
"Don't check her too suddenly, chief," Harry shouted. "Let the rope run
out easy at first and bring the strain on gradually."
"The ropes will hold," the chief said. "One stop buffalo in gallop, two
"Yes, but you would pull the head out of the canoe; chief, if you
stopped her too suddenly."
The chief nodded. He had not thought of that. In spite of the efforts of
the oarsmen the canoe's head was swerving across the stream just as she
came abreast of them. A moment later she felt the check of the rope.
"Easy, chief, easy!" Harry shouted, as the water shot up high over the
bow of the canoe. "Wait till she gets a bit lower or we shall capsize
The check of the bow had caused the stern to swerve out, and when they
again checked her she was several lengths below them with her head
inclined to shore. More and more strain was put on the ropes, until they
were as taut as iron bars. A moment later Tom and Hunting Dog seized two
paddles held out to them, and the boat came gently in alongside.
"Gosh!" Ben exclaimed, as he stepped ashore, "it has taken as much out
of me as working a windlass for a day. I am blamed if I did not think
the hull boat was coming to pieces. I thought it was all over with us
for sure, Harry; when she first felt the rope, the water came in right
over the side."
"It was touch and go, Ben; but there was a rock just outside you, and if
we had not checked her a bit her head would have gone across it, and if
it had, I would not have given a red cent for your lives."
All day they toiled on foot, and by nightfall had made but four miles.
Then they camped for the night among the rocks. The next four days were
passed in similar labour. Two or three times they had to cross the
torrent in order to get on to fallen rocks on the other side to that
which they were following. These passages demanded the greatest caution.
In each case there were rocks showing above water in the middle of the
channel. One of these was chosen as most suited to their purpose, and by
means of the ropes a canoe was sheered out to it. Its occupants then
took their places on the rock, and in turn dropped the other boat down
to the next suitable point, the process being repeated, step by step,
until the opposite bank was reached.
At the end of the fourth day the geological formation changed. The rock
was softer, and the stream had worn a more even path for itself, and
they decided to take to the boats again. There was no occasion for
paddling now, it was only when a swell on the surface marked some hidden
danger below that a stroke or two of the paddle was needed to sweep them
clear of it. For four hours they were carried along at the rate of fully
twelve miles an hour, and at the end of that time they shot out from
between the overhanging walls into a comparatively broad valley. With a
shout of delight they headed the boats for shore, and leapt out on to a
flat rock a few inches above the water.
"If we could go on at that pace right down we should not be long before
we were out of the mountains," Tom said.
"We could do with a bit slower, Tom; that is too fast to be pleasant.
Just about half that would do--six miles an hour. Twelve hours a day
would take us out of the canons in a fortnight or so. We might do that
safely, but we could not calculate on having such good luck as we have
had to-day, when going along at twelve miles an hour. The pace for the
last four days has been just as much too slow as this is too fast. Four
miles a day working from morning till night is heart-breaking. In spite
of our run to-day, we cannot have made much over a hundred miles since
we started. Well, there is one comfort, we are in no great hurry. We
have got just the boats for the work, and so far as we can see, we are
likely to find plenty of food. A job like this isn't to be reckoned
child's play. So far I consider we have had good luck; I shall be well
content if it averages as well all the way down. The fear is we may get
to falls where we can neither carry nor let the boats down. In that case
we should have to get out of the canon somewhere, pack as much flour as
we could carry, and make our way across country, though how far we might
have to travel there is no knowing. I hope it mayn't come to that; but
at any rate I would rather go through even worse places than that canon
above than have to quit the boats."
"Right you are, Harry," Jerry agreed. "I would rather tote the canoe on
my back all the way down to Mexico, than have to try and make my way
over the bad lands to the hills. Besides, when we get a bit farther we
shall be in the Navahoe country, and the Utes ain't a sarcumstance to
them. The Ute ain't much of a fighter anyway. He will kill white men he
finds up in his hills, 'cause he don't want white men there, but he has
to be five or six to one before he will attack him. The Navahoe kills
the white man 'cause he is a white man, and 'cause he likes killing. He
is a fighter, and don't you forget it. If it had been Navahoes instead
of Utes that had caught us up in the hills, you may bet your bottom
dollar our scalps would be drying in their lodges now."
"That is so, Jerry," Ben put in. "Besides, the Navahoes and the Apaches
have got no fear of white men. They have been raiding Mexico for
hundreds of years, and man to man they can whip Mexikins out of their
boots. I don't say as they haven't a considerable respect for western
hunters; they have had a good many lessons that these can out-shoot them
and out-fight them; still they ain't scared of them as plain Indians
are. They are a bad lot, look at them which way you will, and I don't
want to have to tramp across their country noways. It was pretty hard
work carrying that boat along them rocks, but I would rather have to do
so, right down to the plains, then get into a muss with the Navahoes."
"How far does the Navahoe country come this way?"
"There ain't no fence, Tom, I expect. They reckon as it's their country
just as far as they like to come. They don't come up as far north as
this, but where they ends and where the Utes begin no one knows but
themselves; and I reckon it shifts according as the Navahoes are busy
with the Mexicans in the south, or have got a quiet spell, and take it
into their heads to hunt this way."
For many days they continued their journey, sometimes floating quietly
along a comparatively wide valley, sometimes carrying their boats past
dangerous rapids, sometimes rushing along at great speed on the black,
deep water, occasionally meeting with falls where everything had to be
taken out of the canoes, and the boats themselves allowed to shoot over
the falls with long ropes attached, by which they were drawn to shore
lower down. It was seldom that they were without meat, as several
big-horns and two bears were shot by the Indians. They had no doubt that
they could have caught fish, but as a rule they were too tired when they
arrived at their halting-place to do more than cook and eat their
suppers before they lay down to rest.
"I reckon it won't be very long before we come upon a Mexican village,"
Harry said one day, after they had been six weeks on their downward
course. "I have heard there is one above the Grand Canon."
The scenery had varied greatly. In some of the valleys groves of trees
bordered the river; sometimes not even a tuft of grass was to be seen.
Occasionally the cliffs ran in an even line for many miles, showing that
the country beyond was a level plateau, at other times rugged peaks and
pinnacles resembling ruined castles, lighthouses, and churches could be
seen. Frequently the cliffs rose three or four thousand feet in an
almost unbroken line, but more often there were rounded terraces, where
it would have been easy to ascend to the upper level. Everywhere the
various strata were of different colours: soft grays and browns, orange,
vermilion, purple, green, and yellow. They soon learned that when they
passed through soft strata, the river ran quietly; where the rocks were
hard there were falls and rapids; where the strata lay horizontal the
stream ran smoothly, though often with great rapidity; where they dipped
up stream there were dangerous rapids and falls.
Since the start the river had been largely swollen by the junctions of
other streams, and was much wider and deeper than it had been where they
embarked; and even where the rapids were fiercest they generally found
comparatively quiet water close to the bank on one side or the other.
Twice they had had upsets, both the boats having been capsized by
striking upon rocks but an inch or two below the surface of the water.
Little harm was done, for the guns and all other valuable articles were
lashed to the sides of the boats, while strips of hide, zigzagged across
the ends of the canoes at short distances apart, prevented the blankets
and rugs and other bulky articles from dropping out when the boat
Since the river had become wider and the dangers less frequent, the
boats always kept near each other. Upsets were therefore only the
occasion for a hearty laugh; for it took but a few minutes to right the
canoe, bale it out, and proceed on their way. Occasionally they had
unpleasant visitors at their camp, and altogether they killed ten or
twelve rattle-snakes. In some of the valleys they found the remains of
the dwellings of a people far anterior to the present Indian races. Some
of these ruins appeared to have been communal houses. At other points
they saw cliff-dwellings in the face of the rock, with rough sculptures
and hieroglyphics. The canons varied in length from ten to a hundred and
fifty miles, the comparatively flat country between them varying equally
in point of appearance and in the nature of the rocks. As they got lower
they once or twice saw roughly-made rafts, composed of three or four
logs of wood, showing where Indians had crossed the river. The journey
so far had been much more pleasant than they had expected, for as the
river grew wider the dangers were fewer and farther apart, and more
easily avoided; and they looked forward to the descent of the Grand
Canon, from which they knew they could not be far distant, without much
fear that it would prove impracticable.
THE GRAND CANON
Passing from a short canon, the boats emerged into a valley with flat
shores for some distance from the river. On the right was a wide side
canon, which might afford a passage up into the hills. Half a mile lower
down there were trees and signs of cultivation; and a light smoke rose
among them. At this, the first sign of human life they had seen since
they took to the boats, all hands paddled rapidly. They were approaching
the shore, when Leaping Horse said to Harry: "No go close. Stop in river
and see, perhaps bad Indians. Leaping Horse not like smoke."
Harry called to the other canoe, and they bore out into the stream
again. The chief stood up in the boat, and after gazing at the shore
silently for a moment said:
"Village burnt. Burnt little time ago, post still burning." As he
resumed his seat Harry stood up in turn.
"That is so, chief. There have only been five or six huts; whether
Indian or white, one can't tell now."
Just at this moment an Indian appeared on the bank. As his eye fell on
the boats he started. A moment later he raised a war-yell.
"Navahoe," the chief said. "Navahoe war-party come down, kill people and
burn village. Must row hard."
The yell had been answered from the wood, and in two or three minutes as
many score of Indians appeared on the banks. They shouted to the boats
to come to shore, and as no attention was paid, some of them at once
opened fire. The river was about a quarter of a mile wide, and although
the shots splashed round them the boats were not long in reaching the
farther bank, but not unharmed, for Ben had dropped his paddle and
fallen back in the boat.
"Is he badly hurt?" Harry asked anxiously, as the canoes drew alongside
each other near the bank, and Sam turned round to look at his comrade.
"He has finished his journey," Sam said in a hoarse voice. "He has gone
down, and a better mate and a truer heart I never met. The ball has hit
him in the middle of the forehead. It were to be, I guess, for it could
only have been a chance shot at that distance."
Exclamations of sorrow and fury broke from the others, and for a few
minutes there was no thought of the Indians, whose bullets were still
falling in the water, for the most part short of the boats. A sharp tap
on the side of Harry's canoe, followed by a jet of water, roused them.
"We mustn't stop here," Harry said, as Hunting Dog plugged the hole with
a piece of dried meat, "or poor Ben won't be the only one."
"Let us have a shot first," Jerry said. "Young Tom, do you take a shot
with Plumb-centre. It is about four hundred and fifty yards as near as I
can reckon, and she will carry pretty true that distance."
"We will give them a shot all round," Harry said, as he took up his
Six shots were discharged almost at the same moment. One of the Indians
was seen to fall, the rest bounded away to a short distance from the
bank. Then Hunting Dog at a word from the chief stepped into the other
canoe. Keeping close under the bank they paddled down. The Indians had
ceased firing, and had disappeared at a run.
"What are they up to now, chief?"
"Going down to mouth of canon, river sure to be narrow; get there before
"Wait, Jerry," Harry shouted to the other boat, which was some twenty
yards ahead. "The chief thinks they have gone to cut us off at the head
of the canon, which is likely enough. I don't suppose it is fifty yards
wide there, and they will riddle us if we try to get through in
daylight. We had better stop and have a meal and talk it over."
The boats were rowed ashore, and the men landed and proceeded to light a
fire as unconcernedly as if no danger threatened them. Ben's death had
cast a heavy gloom over them, and but few words were spoken, until the
meal was cooked and eaten.
"It is a dog-goned bad business," Jerry said. "I don't say at night as
we mayn't get past them without being hit, but to go rushing into one of
those canons in the dark would be as bad as standing their fire, if not
wuss. The question is--could we leave the boats and strike across?"
"We could not strike across this side anyhow," Harry said. "There are no
settlements west of the Colorado. We know nothing of the country, and it
is a hundred to one we should all die of thirst even if we could carry
enough grub to last us. If we land at all it must be on the other side,
and then we could not reckon on striking a settlement short of two
hundred miles, and two hundred miles across a country like this would be
almost certain death."
"As the Navahoes must have ridden down, Harry, there must be water. I
reckon they came down that canon opposite."
"Navahoe on track in morning," the chief said quietly. "When they see we
not go down river look for boat, find where we land and take up trail.
Canon very plain road. Some go up there straight, take all our scalps."
No one spoke for a moment or two. What the Seneca said was so evident to
them that it was useless to argue. "Well, chief, what do you advise
yourself?" Harry asked at length.
"Not possible go on foot, Harry. Country all rocks and canons; cannot
get through, cannot get water. Trouble with Navahoes too. Only chance
get down in boat to-night. Keep close under this bank; perhaps Indians
not see us, night dark."
"Do you think they can cross over to this side?"
"Yes, got canoe. Two canoes in village, Leaping Horse saw them on bank.
When it gets dark, cross over."
"We will get a start of them," Harry said. "Directly it is dark we can
be off too. The shore is everywhere higher than our heads as we sit in
the canoes, and we can paddle in the shadow without being seen by them
on the other side, while they won't venture to cross till it is pitch
dark. As the stream runs something like three miles an hour, I reckon
that they are hardly likely to catch us. As for the rapids, they don't
often begin until you are some little distance in. At any rate we shall
not have to go far, for the red-skins will not dare to enter the canon,
so we can tie up till morning as soon as we are a short distance in. We
have got to run the gauntlet of their fire, but after all that is better
than taking our chances by leaving the boats. If we lie down when we get
near them they may not see us at all; but if they do, a very few strokes
will send us past them. At any rate there seems less risk in that plan
than in any other."
The others agreed.
"Now, boys, let us dig a grave," he went on, as soon as the point was
settled. "It is a sort of clay here and we can manage it, and it is not
likely we shall find any place, when we are once in the canon, where we
can do it." They had neither picks nor shovels with them, for their
mining tools had been left at the spot where they were at work, but with
their axes and knives they dug a shallow grave, laid Ben's body in it,
covered it up, and then rolled a number of boulders over it.
Ben's death affected Tom greatly. They had lived together and gone
through many perils and risks for nearly a year, and none had shown more
unflagging good-humour throughout than the man who had been killed. That
the boats might upset and all might perish together, was a thought that