Part 2 out of 5
"capital for supper."
"Ah! dat chien is superb! goot dog. Come here, I vill clap you."
But Crusoe refused to be caressed. Meanwhile, Joe and Dick formed a
sort of beehive-looking hut by bending down the stems of a tall bush
and thrusting their points into the ground. Over this they threw the
largest buffalo robe, and placed another on the ground below it, on
which they laid their packs of goods. These they further secured
against wet by placing several robes over them and a skin of
parchment. Then they sat down on this pile to rest, and consider what
should be done next.
"'Tis a bad look-out," said Joe, shaking his head.
"I fear it is," replied Dick in a melancholy tone.
Henri said nothing, but he sighed deeply on looking up at the sky,
which was now of a uniform watery gray, while black clouds drove
athwart it. The rain was pouring in torrents, and the wind began to
sweep it in broad sheets over the plains, and under their slight
covering, so that in a short time they were wet to the skin. The
horses stood meekly beside them, with their tails and heads equally
pendulous; and Crusoe sat before his master, looking at him with an
expression that seemed to say, "Couldn't you put a stop to this if you
were to try?"
"This'll never do. I'll try to git up a fire," said Dick, jumping up
"Ye may save yerself the trouble," remarked Joe dryly--at least as
dryly as was possible in the circumstances.
However, Dick did try, but he failed signally. Everything was soaked
and saturated. There were no large trees; most of the bushes were
green, and the dead ones were soaked. The coverings were slobbery, the
skins they sat on were slobbery, the earth itself was slobbery; so
Dick threw his blanket (which was also slobbery) round his shoulders,
and sat down beside his companions to grin and bear it. As for Joe and
Henri, they were old hands and accustomed to such circumstances. From
the first they had resigned themselves to their fate, and wrapping
their wet blankets round them sat down, side by side, wisely to endure
the evils that they could not cure.
There is an old rhyme, by whom composed we know not, and it matters
little, which runs thus,--
"For every evil under the sun
There is a remedy--or there's none.
If there is--try and find it;
If there isn't--never mind it!"
There is deep wisdom here in small compass. The principle involved
deserves to be heartily recommended. Dick never heard of the lines,
but he knew the principle well, so he began to "never mind it" by
sitting down beside his companions and whistling vociferously. As the
wind rendered this a difficult feat, he took to singing instead. After
that he said, "Let's eat a bite, Joe, and then go to bed."
"Be all means," said Joe, who produced a mass of dried deer's meat
from a wallet.
"It's cold grub," said Dick, "and tough."
But the hunters' teeth were sharp and strong, so they ate a hearty
supper and washed it down with a drink of rain water collected from a
pool on the top of their hut. They now tried to sleep, for the night
was advancing, and it was so dark that they could scarce see their
hands when held up before their faces. They sat back to back, and
thus, in the form of a tripod, began to snooze. Joe's and Henri's
seasoned frames would have remained stiff as posts till morning; but
Dick's body was young and pliant, so he hadn't been asleep a few
seconds when he fell forward into the mud and effectually awakened the
others. Joe gave a grunt, and Henri exclaimed, "Hah!" but Dick was too
sleepy and miserable to say anything. Crusoe, however, rose up to show
his sympathy, and laid his wet head on his master's knee as he resumed
his place. This catastrophe happened three times in the space of an
hour, and by the third time they were all awakened up so thoroughly
that they gave up the attempt to sleep, and amused each other by
recounting their hunting experiences and telling stories. So engrossed
did they become that day broke sooner than they had expected, and just
in proportion as the gray light of dawn rose higher into the eastern
sky did the spirits of these weary men rise within their soaking
_The "wallering" peculiarities of buffalo bulls--The first buffalo
hunt and its consequences--Crusoe comes to the rescue--Pawnees
discovered--A monster buffalo hunt--Joe acts the part of ambassador_.
Fortunately the day that succeeded the dreary night described in the
last chapter was warm and magnificent. The sun rose in a blaze of
splendour, and filled the atmosphere with steam from the moist earth.
The unfortunates in the wet camp were not slow to avail themselves of
his cheering rays. They hung up everything on the bushes to dry, and
by dint of extreme patience and cutting out the comparatively dry
hearts of several pieces of wood, they lighted a fire and boiled some
rain-water, which was soon converted into soup. This, and the exercise
necessary for the performance of these several duties, warmed and
partially dried them; so that when they once more mounted their steeds
and rode away, they were in a state of comparative comfort and in
excellent spirits. The only annoyance was the clouds of mosquitoes and
large flies that assailed men and horses whenever they checked their
"I tell ye wot it is," said Joe Blunt, one fine morning about a week
after they had begun to cross the prairie, "it's my 'pinion that we'll
come on buffaloes soon. Them tracks are fresh, an' yonder's one o'
their wallers that's bin used not long agone."
"I'll go have a look at it," cried Dick, trotting away as he spoke.
Everything in these vast prairies was new to Dick Varley, and he was
kept in a constant state of excitement during the first week or two
of his journey. It is true he was quite familiar with the names and
habits of all the animals that dwelt there; for many a time and oft
had he listened to the "yarns" of the hunters and trappers of the
Mustang Valley, when they returned laden with rich furs from their
periodical hunting expeditions. But this knowledge of his only served
to whet his curiosity and his desire to _see_ the denizens of the
prairies with his own eyes; and now that his wish was accomplished, it
greatly increased the pleasures of his journey.
Dick had just reached the "wallow" referred to by Joe Blunt, and had
reined up his steed to observe it leisurely, when a faint hissing
sound reached his ear. Looking quickly back, he observed his two
companions crouching on the necks of their horses, and slowly
descending into a hollow of the prairie in front of them, as if they
wished to bring the rising ground between them and some object in
advance. Dick instantly followed their example, and was soon at their
"Ye needn't look at the waller," whispered Joe, "for a' tother side o'
the ridge there's a bull _wallerin_'."
"Ye don't mean it!" exclaimed Dick, as they all dismounted and
picketed their horses to the plain. "Oui," said Henri, tumbling off
his horse, while a broad grin overspread his good-natured countenance,
"it is one fact! One buffalo bull be wollerin' like a enormerous hog.
Also, dere be t'ousands o' buffaloes farder on."
"Can ye trust yer dog keepin' back?" inquired Joe, with a dubious
glance at Crusoe.
"Trust him! Ay, I wish I was as sure o' myself."
"Look to yer primin', then, an' we'll have tongues and marrow bones
for supper to-night, I'se warrant. Hist! down on yer knees and go
softly. We might ha' run them down on horseback, but it's bad to wind
yer beasts on a trip like this, if ye can help it; an' it's about as
easy to stalk them. Leastways, we'll try. Lift yer head slowly, Dick,
an' don't show more nor the half o't above the ridge."
Dick elevated his head as directed, and the scene that met his view
was indeed well calculated to send an electric shock to the heart of
an ardent sportsman. The vast plain beyond was absolutely blackened
with countless herds of buffaloes, which were browsing on the rich
grass. They were still so far distant that their bellowing, and the
trampling of their myriad hoofs, only reached the hunters like a faint
murmur on the breeze. In the immediate foreground, however, there was
a group of about half-a-dozen buffalo cows feeding quietly, and in the
midst of them an enormous old bull was enjoying himself in his wallow.
The animals, towards which our hunters now crept with murderous
intent, are the fiercest and the most ponderous of the ruminating
inhabitants of the western wilderness. The name of _buffalo_, however,
is not correct. The animal is the _bison_, and bears no resemblance
whatever to the buffalo proper; but as the hunters of the far west,
and, indeed, travellers generally, have adopted the misnomer, we bow
to the authority of custom and adopt it too.
Buffaloes roam in countless thousands all over the North American
prairies, from the Hudson Bay Territories, north of Canada, to the
shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
The advance of white men to the west has driven them to the prairies
between the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, and has somewhat
diminished their numbers; but even thus diminished, they are still
innumerable in the more distant plains. Their colour is dark brown,
but it varies a good deal with the seasons. The hair or fur, from its
great length in winter and spring and exposure to the weather, turns
quite light; but when the winter coat is shed off, the new growth is
a beautiful dark brown, almost approaching to jet-black. In form the
buffalo somewhat resembles the ox, but its head and shoulders are much
larger, and are covered with a profusion of long shaggy hair which
adds greatly to the fierce aspect of the animal. It has a large hump
on the shoulder, and its fore-quarters are much larger, in proportion,
than the hind-quarters. The horns are short and thick, the hoofs are
cloven, and the tail is short, with a tuft of hair at the extremity.
It is scarcely possible to conceive a wilder or more ferocious and
terrible monster than a buffalo bull. He often grows to the enormous
weight of two thousand pounds. His lion-like mane falls in shaggy
confusion quite over his head and shoulders, down to the ground. When
he is wounded he becomes imbued with the spirit of a tiger: he stamps,
bellows, roars, and foams forth his rage with glaring eyes and
steaming nostrils, and charges furiously at man and horse with utter
recklessness. Fortunately, however, he is not naturally pugnacious,
and can be easily thrown into a sudden panic. Moreover, the peculiar
position of his eye renders this creature not so terrible as he would
otherwise be to the hunter. Owing to the stiff structure of the neck,
and the sunken, downward-looking eyeball, the buffalo cannot, without
an effort, see beyond the direct line of vision presented to the
habitual carriage of his head. When, therefore, he is wounded, and
charges, he does so in a straight line, so that his pursuer can
leap easily out of his way. The pace of the buffalo is clumsy, and
_apparently_ slow, yet, when chased, he dashes away over the plains in
blind blundering terror, at a rate that leaves all but good horses
far behind. He cannot keep the pace up, however, and is usually soon
overtaken. Were the buffalo capable of the same alert and agile
motions of head and eye peculiar to the deer or wild horse, in
addition to his "bovine rage," he would be the most formidable brute
on earth. There is no object, perhaps, so terrible as the headlong
advance of a herd of these animals when thoroughly aroused by terror.
They care not for their necks. All danger in front is forgotten, or
not seen, in the terror of that from which they fly. No thundering
cataract is more tremendously irresistible than the black bellowing
torrent which sometimes pours through the narrow defiles of the Rocky
Mountains, or sweeps like a roaring flood over the trembling plains.
The wallowing, to which we have referred, is a luxury usually indulged
in during the hot months of summer, when the buffaloes are tormented
by flies, and heat, and drought. At this season they seek the low
grounds in the prairies where there is a little stagnant water lying
amongst the grass, and the ground underneath, being saturated, is
soft. The leader of the herd, a shaggy old bull, usually takes upon
himself to prepare the wallow.
It was a rugged monster of the largest size that did so on the present
occasion, to the intense delight of Dick Varley, who begged Joe to
lie still and watch the operation before trying to shoot one of the
buffalo cows. Joe consented with a nod, and the four spectators--for
Crusoe was as much taken up with the proceedings as any of
them--crouched in the grass, and looked on.
Coming up to the swampy spot, the old bull gave a grunt of
satisfaction, and going down on one knee, plunged his short thick
horns into the mud, tore it up, and cast it aside. Having repeated
this several times, he plunged his head in, and brought it forth
saturated with dirty water and bedaubed with lumps of mud, through
which his fierce eyes gazed, with a ludicrous expression of
astonishment, straight in the direction of the hunters, as if he meant
to say, "I've done it that time, and no mistake!" The other buffaloes
seemed to think so too, for they came up and looked on with an
expression that seemed to say, "Well done, old fellow; try that
The old fellow did try it again, and again, and again, plunging, and
ramming, and tearing up the earth, until he formed an excavation
large enough to contain his huge body. In this bath he laid himself
comfortably down, and began to roll and wallow about until he mixed up
a trough full of thin soft mud, which completely covered him. When he
came out of the hole there was scarcely an atom of his former self
The coat of mud thus put on by bulls is usually permitted by them to
dry, and is not finally got rid of until long after, when oft-repeated
rollings on the grass and washings by rain at length clear it away.
When the old bull vacated this delectable bath, another bull, scarcely
if at all less ferocious-looking, stepped forward to take his turn;
but he was interrupted by a volley from the hunters, which scattered
the animals right and left, and sent the mighty herds in the distance
flying over the prairie in wild terror. The very turmoil of their own
mad flight added to their panic, and the continuous thunder of their
hoofs was heard until the last of them disappeared on the horizon. The
family party which had been fired at, however, did not escape so well,
Joe's rifle wounded a fat young cow, and Dick Varley brought it down.
Henri had done his best, but as the animals were too far distant for
his limited vision, he missed the cow he fired at, and hit the young
bull whose bath had been interrupted. The others scattered and fled.
"Well done, Dick," exclaimed Joe Blunt, as they all ran up to the cow
that had fallen. "Your first shot at the buffalo was a good un. Come,
now, an' I'll show ye how to cut it up an' carry off the tit-bits."
"Ah, mon dear ole bull!" exclaimed Henri, gazing after the animal
which he had wounded, and which was now limping slowly away. "You is
not worth goin' after. Farewell--adieu."
"He'll be tough enough, I warrant," said Joe; "an' we've more meat
here nor we can lift."
"But wouldn't it be as well to put the poor brute out o' pain?"
"Oh, he'll die soon enough," replied Joe, tucking up his sleeves and
drawing his long hunting-knife.
Dick, however, was not satisfied with this way of looking at it.
Saying that he would be back in a few minutes, he reloaded his rifle,
and calling Crusoe to his side, walked quickly after the wounded bull,
which was now hid from view in a hollow of the plain.
In a few minutes he came in sight of it, and ran forward with his
rifle in readiness.
"Down, Crusoe," he whispered; "wait for me here."
Crusoe crouched in the grass instantly, and Dick advanced. As he came
on, the bull observed him, and turned round bellowing with rage and
pain to receive him. The aspect of the brute on a near view was so
terrible that Dick involuntarily stopped too, and gazed with a mingled
feeling of wonder and awe, while it bristled with passion, and
blood-streaked foam dropped from its open jaws, and its eyes glared
furiously. Seeing that Dick did not advance, the bull charged him with
a terrific roar; but the youth had firm nerves, and although the rush
of such a savage creature at full speed was calculated to try the
courage of any man, especially one who had never seen a buffalo bull
before, Dick did not lose presence of mind. He remembered the many
stories he had listened to of this very thing that was now happening;
so, crushing down his excitement as well as he could, he cocked his
rifle and awaited the charge. He knew that it was of no use to fire at
the head of the advancing foe, as the thickness of the skull, together
with the matted hair on the forehead, rendered it impervious to a
When the bull was within a yard of him he leaped lightly to one side
and it passed. Just as it did so, Dick aimed at its heart and fired,
but his knowledge of the creature's anatomy was not yet correct. The
ball entered the shoulder too high, and the bull, checking himself as
well as he could in his headlong rush, turned round and made at Dick
The failure, coupled with the excitement, proved too much for Dick; he
could not resist discharging his second barrel at the brute's head as
it came on. He might as well have fired at a brick wall. It shook its
shaggy front, and with a hideous bellow thundered forward. Again Dick
sprang to one side, but in doing so a tuft of grass or a stone caught
his foot, and he fell heavily to the ground.
Up to this point Crusoe's admirable training had nailed him to the
spot where he had been left, although the twitching of every fibre in
his body and a low continuous whine showed how gladly he would have
hailed permission to join in the combat; but the instant he saw his
master down, and the buffalo turning to charge again, he sprang
forward with a roar that would have done credit to his bovine enemy,
and seized him by the nose. So vigorous was the rush that he well-nigh
pulled the bull down on its side. One toss of its head, however, sent
Crusoe high into the air; but it accomplished this feat at the expense
of its nose, which was torn and lacerated by the dog's teeth.
Scarcely had Crusoe touched the ground, which he did with a sounding
thump, than he sprang up and flew at his adversary again. This time,
however, he adopted the plan of barking furiously and biting by rapid
yet terrible snaps as he found opportunity, thus keeping the bull
entirely engrossed, and affording Dick an opportunity of reloading his
rifle, which he was not slow to do. Dick then stepped close up, and
while the two combatants were roaring in each other's faces, he shot
the buffalo through the heart. It fell to the earth with a deep groan.
Crusoe's rage instantly vanished on beholding this, and he seemed to
be filled with tumultuous joy at his master's escape, for he gambolled
round him, and whined and fawned upon him in a manner that could not
"Good dog; thank'ee, my pup," said Dick, patting Crusoe's head as he
stooped to brush the dust from his leggings. "I don't know what would
ha' become o' me but for your help, Crusoe."
Crusoe turned his head a little to one side, wagged his tail, and
looked at Dick with an expression that said quite plainly, "I'd die
for you, I would--not once, or twice, but ten times, fifty times if
need be--and that not merely to save your life, but even to please
There is no doubt whatever that Crusoe felt something of this sort.
The love of a Newfoundland dog to its master is beyond calculation or
expression. He who once gains such love carries the dog's life in his
hand. But let him who reads note well, and remember that there is only
one coin that can purchase such love, and that is _kindness_. The
coin, too, must be genuine. Kindness merely _expressed_ will not do,
it must be _felt_.
"Hallo, boy, ye've bin i' the wars!" exclaimed Joe, raising himself
from his task as Dick and Crusoe returned.
"You look more like it than I do," retorted Dick, laughing.
This was true, for cutting up a buffalo carcass with no other
instrument than a large knife is no easy matter. Yet western hunters
and Indians can do it without cleaver or saw, in a way that would
surprise a civilized butcher not a little. Joe was covered with blood
up to the elbows. His hair, happening to have a knack of getting into
his eyes, had been so often brushed off with bloody hands, that his
whole visage was speckled with gore, and his dress was by no means
While Dick related his adventure, or _mis_-adventure, with the bull,
Joe and Henri completed the cutting out of the most delicate portions
of the buffalo--namely, the hump on its shoulder--which is a choice
piece, much finer than the best beef--and the tongue, and a few other
parts. The tongues of buffaloes are superior to those of domestic
cattle. When all was ready the meat was slung across the back of the
pack-horse; and the party, remounting their horses, continued their
journey, having first cleansed themselves as well as they could in the
rather dirty waters of an old wallow.
"See," said Henri, turning to Dick and pointing to a circular spot of
green as they rode along, "that is one old _dry_ waller."
"Ay," remarked Joe; "after the waller dries, it becomes a ring o'
greener grass than the rest o' the plain, as ye see. Tis said the
first hunters used to wonder greatly at these myster'ous circles, and
they invented all sorts o' stories to account for 'em. Some said they
wos fairy-rings, but at last they comed to know they wos nothin' more
nor less than places where buffaloes wos used to waller in. It's often
seemed to me that if we knowed the _raisons_ o' things, we wouldn't be
so much puzzled wi' them as we are."
The truth of this last remark was so self-evident and incontrovertible
that it elicited no reply, and the three friends rode on for a
considerable time in silence.
It was now past noon, and they were thinking of calling a halt for a
short rest to the horses and a pipe to themselves, when Joe was heard
to give vent to one of those peculiar hisses that always accompanied
either a surprise or a caution. In the present case it indicated both.
"What now, Joe?"
"Injuns!" ejaculated Joe.
"Eh! fat you say? Ou is dey?"
Crusoe at this moment uttered a low growl. Ever since the day he
had been partially roasted he had maintained a rooted antipathy to
Red-men. Joe immediately dismounted, and placing his ear to the ground
listened intently. It is a curious fact that by placing the ear close
to the ground sounds can be heard distinctly which could not be heard
at all if the listener were to maintain an erect position.
"They're arter the buffalo," said Joe, rising, "an' I think it's
likely they're a band o' Pawnees. Listen an' ye'll hear their shouts
Dick and Henri immediately lay down and placed their ears to the
"Now, me hear noting," said Henri, jumping up, "but me ear is like me
"I do hear something," said Dick as he got up, "but the beating o' my
own heart makes row enough to spoil my hearin'."
Joe Blunt smiled. "Ah! lad, ye're young, an' yer blood's too hot yet;
but bide a bit--you'll cool down soon. I wos like you once. Now, lads,
what think ye we should do?"
"You know best, Joe."
"Then wot I advise is that we gallop to the broken sand hillocks ye
see yonder, get behind them, an' take a peep at the Redskins. If they
are Pawnees, we'll go up to them at once; if not, we'll hold a council
o' war on the spot."
Having arranged this, they mounted and hastened towards the hillocks
in question, which they reached after ten minutes' gallop at full
stretch. The sandy mounds afforded them concealment, and enabled them
to watch the proceedings of the savages in the plain below. The scene
was the most curious and exciting that can be conceived. The centre of
the plain before them was crowded with hundreds of buffaloes, which
were dashing about in the most frantic state of alarm. To whatever
point they galloped they were met by yelling savages on horseback, who
could not have been fewer in numbers than a thousand, all being armed
with lance, bow, and quiver, and mounted on active little horses. The
Indians had completely surrounded the herd of buffaloes, and were now
advancing steadily towards them, gradually narrowing the circle, and
whenever the terrified animals endeavoured to break through the line,
they rushed to that particular spot in a body, and scared them back
again into the centre.
Thus they advanced until they closed in on their prey and formed an
unbroken circle round them, whilst the poor brutes kept eddying and
surging to and fro in a confused mass, hooking and climbing upon each
other, and bellowing furiously. Suddenly the horsemen made a rush, and
the work of destruction began. The tremendous turmoil raised a cloud
of dust that obscured the field in some places, and hid it from our
hunters' view. Some of the Indians galloped round and round the
circle, sending their arrows whizzing up to the feathers in the sides
of the fattest cows. Others dashed fearlessly into the midst of the
black heaving mass, and, with their long lances, pierced dozens of
them to the heart. In many instances the buffaloes, infuriated by
wounds, turned fiercely on their assailants and gored the horses to
death, in which cases the men had to trust to their nimble legs for
safety. Sometimes a horse got jammed in the centre of the swaying
mass, and could neither advance nor retreat. Then the savage rider
leaped upon the buffaloes' backs, and springing from one to another,
like an acrobat, gained the outer edge of the circle; not failing,
however, in his strange flight, to pierce with his lance several of
the fattest of his stepping-stones as he sped along.
A few of the herd succeeded in escaping from the blood and dust of
this desperate battle, and made off over the plains; but they were
quickly overtaken, and the lance or the arrow brought them down on the
green turf. Many of the dismounted riders were chased by bulls; but
they stepped lightly to one side, and, as the animals passed, drove
their arrows deep into their sides. Thus the tumultuous war went on,
amid thundering tread, and yell, and bellow, till the green plain was
transformed into a sea of blood and mire, and every buffalo of the
herd was laid low.
It is not to be supposed that such reckless warfare is invariably
waged without damage to the savages. Many were the wounds and bruises
received that day, and not a few bones were broken, but happily no
lives were lost.
"Now, lads, now's our time. A bold and fearless look's the best at all
times. Don't look as if ye doubted their friendship; and mind, wotever
ye do, don't use yer arms. Follow me."
Saying this, Joe Blunt leaped on his horse, and, bounding over the
ridge at full speed, galloped headlong across the plain.
The savages observed the strangers instantly, and a loud yell
announced the fact as they assembled from all parts of the field
brandishing their bows and spears. Joe's quick eye soon distinguished
their chief, towards whom he galloped, still at full speed, till
within a yard or two of his horse's head; then he reined up suddenly.
So rapidly did Joe and his comrades approach, and so instantaneously
did they pull up, that their steeds were thrown almost on their
The Indian chief did not move a muscle. He was a tall, powerful
savage, almost naked, and mounted on a coal-black charger, which he
sat with the ease of a man accustomed to ride from infancy. He was,
indeed, a splendid-looking savage, but his face wore a dark frown,
for, although he and his band had visited the settlements and
trafficked with the fur-traders on the Missouri, he did not love the
"Pale-faces," whom he regarded as intruders on the hunting-grounds of
his fathers, and the peace that existed between them at that time was
of a very fragile character. Indeed, it was deemed by the traders
impossible to travel through the Indian country at that period except
in strong force, and it was the very boldness of the present attempt
that secured to our hunters anything like a civil reception.
Joe, who could speak the Pawnee tongue fluently, began by explaining
the object of his visit, and spoke of the presents which he had
brought for the great chief; but it was evident that his words made
little impression. As he discoursed to them the savages crowded round
the little party, and began to handle and examine their dresses
and weapons with a degree of rudeness that caused Joe considerable
"Mahtawa believes that the heart of the Pale-face is true," said the
savage, when Joe paused, "but he does not choose to make peace. The
Pale-faces are grasping. They never rest. They turn their eyes to the
great mountains and say, 'There we will stop.' But even there they
will not stop. They are never satisfied; Mahtawa knows them well."
This speech sank like a death-knell into the hearts of the hunters,
for they knew that if the savages refused to make peace, they would
scalp them all and appropriate their goods. To make things worse, a
dark-visaged Indian suddenly caught hold of Henri's rifle, and, ere
he was aware, had plucked it from his hand. The blood rushed to the
gigantic hunter's forehead, and he was on the point of springing at
the man, when Joe said in a deep quiet voice,--
"Be still, Henri. You will but hasten death."
At this moment there was a movement in the outskirts of the circle
of horsemen, and another chief rode into the midst of them. He was
evidently higher in rank than Mahtawa, for he spoke authoritatively to
the crowd, and stepped in before him. The hunters drew little comfort
from the appearance of his face, however, for it scowled upon them.
He was not so powerful a man as Mahtawa, but he was more gracefully
formed, and had a more noble and commanding countenance.
"Have the Pale-faces no wigwams on the great river that they should
come to spy out the lands of the Pawnee?" he demanded.
"We have not come to spy your country," answered Joe, raising himself
proudly as he spoke, and taking off his cap. "We have come with a
message from the great chief of the Pale-faces, who lives in the
village far beyond the great river where the sun rises. He says, Why
should the Pale-face and the Red-man fight? They are brothers. The
same Manitou[*] watches over both. The Pale-faces have more beads, and
guns, and blankets, and knives, and vermilion than they require; they
wish to give some of these things for the skins and furs which
the Red-man does not know what to do with. The great chief of the
Pale-faces has sent me to say, Why should we fight? let us smoke the
pipe of peace."
[Footnote *: The Indian name for God.]
At the mention of beads and blankets the face of the wily chief
brightened for a moment. Then he said sternly,--
"The heart of the Pale-face is not true. He has come here to trade for
himself. San-it-sa-rish has eyes that can see; they are not shut.
Are not these your goods?" The chief pointed to the pack-horse as he
"Trappers do not take their goods into the heart of an enemy's camp,"
returned Joe. "San-it-sa-rish is wise, and will understand this. These
are gifts to the chief of the Pawnees. There are more awaiting him
when the pipe of peace is smoked. I have said. What message shall we
take back to the great chief of the Pale-faces?"
San-it-sa-rish was evidently mollified.
"The hunting-field is not the council tent," he said. "The Pale-faces
will go with us to our village."
Of course Joe was too glad to agree to this proposal, but he now
deemed it politic to display a little firmness.
"We cannot go till our rifle is restored. It will not do to go back
and tell the great chief of the Pale-faces that the Pawnees are
The chief frowned angrily.
"The Pawnees are true; they are not thieves. They choose to _look_ at
the rifle of the Pale-face. It shall be returned."
The rifle was instantly restored, and then our hunters rode off with
the Indians towards their camp. On the way they met hundreds of women
and children going to the scene of the great hunt, for it was their
special duty to cut up the meat and carry it into camp. The men,
considering that they had done quite enough in killing it, returned to
smoke and eat away the fatigues of the chase.
As they rode along, Dick Varley observed that some of the "braves," as
Indian warriors are styled, were eating pieces of the bloody livers
of the buffaloes in a raw state, at which he expressed not a little
"Ah, boy! you're green yet," remarked Joe Blunt in an undertone.
"Mayhap ye'll be thankful to do that same yerself some day."
"Well, I'll not refuse to try when it is needful," said Dick with a
laugh; "meanwhile I'm content to see the Redskins do it, Joe Blunt."
_Dick and his friends visit the Indians and see many wonders--Crusoe,
too, experiences a few surprises, and teaches Indian dogs a lesson--An
Indian dandy--A foot-race._
The Pawnee village, at which they soon arrived, was situated in the
midst of a most interesting and picturesque scene.
It occupied an extensive plain which sloped gently down to a creek[*],
whose winding course was marked by a broken line of wood, here and
there interspersed with a fine clump of trees, between the trunks of
which the blue waters of a lake sparkled in the distance. Hundreds of
tents or "lodges" of buffalo-skins covered the ground, and thousands
of Indians--men, women, and children--moved about the busy scene. Some
were sitting in their lodges, lazily smoking their pipes. But these
were chiefly old and infirm veterans, for all the young men had gone
to the hunt which we have just described. The women were stooping over
their fires, busily preparing maize and meat for their husbands and
brothers; while myriads of little brown and naked children romped
about everywhere, filling the air with their yells and screams, which
were only equalled, if not surpassed, by the yelping dogs that seemed
[Footnote *: In America small rivers or rivulets are termed "creeks."]
Far as the eye could reach were seen scattered herds of horses. These
were tended by little boys who were totally destitute of clothing,
and who seemed to enjoy with infinite zest the pastime of
shooting-practice with little bows and arrows. No wonder that these
Indians become expert bowmen. There were urchins there, scarce two
feet high, with round bullets of bodies and short spindle-shanks, who
could knock blackbirds off the trees at every shot, and cut the heads
off the taller flowers with perfect certainty! There was much need,
too, for the utmost proficiency they could attain, for the very
existence of the Indian tribes of the prairies depends on their
success in hunting the buffalo.
There are hundreds and thousands of North American savages who would
undoubtedly perish, and their tribes become extinct, if the buffaloes
were to leave the prairies or die out. Yet, although animals are
absolutely essential to their existence, they pursue and slay them
with improvident recklessness, sometimes killing hundreds of them
merely for the sake of the sport, the tongues, and the marrow bones.
In the bloody hunt described in the last chapter, however, the
slaughter of so many was not wanton, because the village that had to
be supplied with food was large, and, just previous to the hunt, they
had been living on somewhat reduced allowance. Even the blackbirds
shot by the brown-bodied urchins before mentioned had been thankfully
put into the pot. Thus precarious is the supply of food among the
Red-men, who on one day are starving, and the next are revelling in
But to return to our story. At one end of this village the creek
sprang over a ledge of rock in a low cascade and opened out into a
beautiful lake, the bosom of which was studded with small islands.
Here were thousands of those smaller species of wild water-fowl which
were either too brave or too foolish to be scared away by the noise
of the camp. And here, too, dozens of children were sporting on the
beach, or paddling about in their light bark canoes.
"Isn't it strange," remarked Dick to Henri, as they passed among the
tents towards the centre of the village--"isn't it strange that them
Injuns should be so fond o' fightin', when they've got all they can
want--a fine country, lots o' buffalo, an', as far as I can see, happy
"Oui, it is remarkaibel, vraiment. Bot dey do more love war to peace.
Dey loves to be excit-ed, I s'pose."
"Humph! One would think the hunt we seed a little agone would be
excitement enough. But, I say, that must he the chiefs tent, by the
Dick was right. The horsemen pulled up and dismounted opposite the
principal chief's tent, which was a larger and more elegant structure
than the others. Meanwhile an immense concourse of women, children,
and dogs gathered round the strangers, and while the latter yelped
their dislike to white men, the former chattered continuously, as they
discussed the appearance of the strangers and their errand, which
latter soon became known. An end was put to this by San-it-sa-rish
desiring the hunters to enter the tent, and spreading a buffalo robe
for them to sit on. Two braves carried in their packs, and then led
away their horses.
All this time Crusoe had kept as close as possible to his master's
side, feeling extremely uncomfortable in the midst of such a strange
crowd, the more especially that the ill-looking Indian curs gave him
expressive looks of hatred, and exhibited some desire to rush upon him
in a body, so that he had to keep a sharp look-out all round him. When
therefore Dick entered the tent, Crusoe endeavoured to do so along
with him; but he was met by a blow on the nose from an old squaw, who
scolded him in a shrill voice and bade him begone.
Either our hero's knowledge of the Indian language was insufficient to
enable him to understand the order, or he had resolved not to obey it,
for instead of retreating, he drew a deep gurgling breath, curled his
nose, and displayed a row of teeth that caused the old woman to draw
back in alarm. Crusoe's was a forgiving spirit. The instant that
opposition ceased he forgot the injury, and was meekly advancing, when
Dick held up his finger.
"Go outside, pup, and wait."
Crusoe's tail drooped; with a deep sigh he turned and left the tent.
He took up a position near the entrance, however, and sat down
resignedly. So meek, indeed, did the poor dog look that six
mangy-looking curs felt their dastardly hearts emboldened to make a
rush at him with boisterous yells.
Crusoe did not rise. He did not even condescend to turn his head
toward them; but he looked at them out of the corner of his dark eye,
wrinkled--very slightly--the skin of his nose, exhibited two beautiful
fangs, and gave utterance to a soft remark, that might be described
as quiet, deep-toned gurgling. It wasn't much, but it was more than
enough for the valiant six, who paused and snarled violently.
It was a peculiar trait of Crusoe's gentle nature that, the moment any
danger ceased, he resumed his expression of nonchalant gravity. The
expression on this occasion was misunderstood, however; and as about
two dozen additional yelping dogs had joined the ranks of the enemy,
they advanced in close order to the attack.
Crusoe still sat quiet, and kept his head high; but he _looked_ at
them again, and exhibited four fangs for their inspection. Among the
pack there was one Indian dog of large size--almost as large as Crusoe
himself--which kept well in the rear, and apparently urged the lesser
dogs on. The little dogs didn't object, for little dogs are generally
the most pugnacious. At this big dog Crusoe directed a pointed glance,
but said nothing. Meanwhile a particularly small and vicious cur, with
a mere rag of a tail, crept round by the back of the tent, and coming
upon Crusoe in rear, snapped at his tail sharply, and then fled
shrieking with terror and surprise, no doubt, at its own temerity.
Crusoe did not bark; he seldom barked; he usually either said nothing,
or gave utterance to a prolonged roar of indignation of the most
terrible character, with barks, as it were, mingled through it. It
somewhat resembled that peculiar and well-known species of thunder,
the prolonged roll of which is marked at short intervals in its
course by cannon-like cracks. It was a continuous, but, so to speak,
On receiving the snap, Crusoe gave forth _the_ roar with a majesty and
power that scattered the pugnacious front rank of the enemy to the
winds. Those that still remained, half stupified, he leaped over with
a huge bound, and alighted, fangs first, on the back of the big
dog. There was one hideous yell, a muffled scramble of an instant's
duration, and the big dog lay dead upon the plain!
It was an awful thing to do, but Crusoe evidently felt that the
peculiar circumstances of the case required that an example should be
made; and to say truth, all things considered, we cannot blame him.
The news must have been carried at once through the canine portion of
the camp, for Crusoe was never interfered with again after that.
Dick witnessed this little incident; but he observed that the Indian
chief cared not a straw about it, and as his dog returned quietly
and sat down in its old place he took no notice of it either, but
continued to listen to the explanations which Joe gave to the chief,
of the desire of the Pale-faces to be friends with the Red-men.
Joe's eloquence would have done little for him on this occasion had
his hands been empty, but he followed it up by opening one of his
packs and displaying the glittering contents before the equally
glittering eyes of the chief and his squaws.
"These," said Joe, "are the gifts that the great chief of the
Pale-faces sends to the great chief of the Pawnees. And he bids me say
that there are many more things in his stores which will be traded for
skins with the Red-men, when they visit him; and he also says that if
the Pawnees will not steal horses any more from the Pale-faces, they
shall receive gifts of knives, and guns, and powder, and blankets
"Wah!" grunted the chief; "it is good. The great chief is wise. We
will smoke the pipe of peace."
The things that afforded so much satisfaction to San-it-sa-rish were
the veriest trifles. Penny looking-glasses in yellow gilt tin frames,
beads of various colours, needles, cheap scissors and knives,
vermilion paint, and coarse scarlet cloth, etc. They were of priceless
value, however, in the estimation of the savages, who delighted to
adorn themselves with leggings made from the cloth, beautifully worked
with beads by their own ingenious women. They were thankful, too, for
knives even of the commonest description, having none but bone ones of
their own; and they gloried in daubing their faces with intermingled
streaks of charcoal and vermilion. To gaze at their visages, when
thus treated, in the little penny looking-glasses is their summit of
Joe presented the chief with a portion of these coveted goods, and
tied up the remainder. We may remark here that the only thing which
prevented the savages from taking possession of the whole at once,
without asking permission, was the promise of the annual gifts,
which they knew would not be forthcoming were any evil to befall
the deputies of the Pale-faces. Nevertheless, it cost them a severe
struggle to restrain their hands on this occasion, and Joe and his
companions felt that they would have to play their part well in order
to fulfil their mission with safety and credit.
"The Pale-faces may go now and talk with the braves," said
San-it-sa-rish, after carefully examining everything that was given
to him; "a council will be called soon, and we will smoke the pipe of
Accepting this permission to retire, the hunters immediately left the
tent; and being now at liberty to do what they pleased, they amused
themselves by wandering about the village.
"He's a cute chap that," remarked Joe, with a sarcastic smile; "I
don't feel quite easy about gettin' away. He'll bother the life out o'
us to get all the goods we've got, and, ye see, as we've other tribes
to visit, we must give away as little as we can here."
"Ha! you is right," said Henri; "dat fellow's eyes twinkle at de
knives and tings like two stars."
"Fire-flies, ye should say. Stars are too soft an' beautiful to
compare to the eyes o' yon savage," said Dick, laughing. "I wish we
were well away from them. That rascal Mahtawa is an ugly customer."
"True, lad," returned Joe; "had _he_ bin the great chief our scalps
had bin dryin' in the smoke o' a Pawnee wigwam afore now. What now,
Joe's question was put in consequence of a gleeful smile that
overspread the countenance of Dick Varley, who replied by pointing to
a wigwam towards which they were approaching.
"Oh! that's only a dandy," exclaimed Joe. "There's lots o' them in
every Injun camp. They're fit for nothin' but dress, poor contemptible
Joe accompanied his remark with a sneer, for of all pitiable objects
he regarded an unmanly man as the most despicable. He consented,
however, to sit down on a grassy bank and watch the proceedings of
this Indian dandy, who had just seated himself in front of his wigwam
for the purpose of making his toilet.
He began it by greasing his whole person carefully and smoothly over
with buffalo fat, until he shone like a patent leather boot; then he
rubbed himself almost dry, leaving the skin sleek and glossy. Having
proceeded thus far, he took up a small mirror, a few inches in
diameter, which he or some other member of the tribe must have
procured during one of their few excursions to the trading-forts of
the Pale-faces, and examined himself, as well as he could, in so
limited a space. Next, he took a little vermilion from a small parcel
and rubbed it over his face until it presented the somewhat demoniac
appearance of a fiery red. He also drew a broad red score along the
crown of his head, which was closely shaved, with the exception of the
usual tuft or scalplock on the top. This scalplock stood bristling
straight up a few inches, and then curved over and hung down his back
about two feet. Immense care and attention was bestowed on this lock.
He smoothed it, greased it, and plaited it into the form of a pigtail.
Another application was here made to the glass, and the result was
evidently satisfactory, to judge from the beaming smile that played on
his features. But, not content with the general effect, he tried the
effect of expression--frowned portentously, scowled savagely, gaped
hideously, and grinned horribly a ghastly smile.
Then our dandy fitted into his ears, which were bored in several
places, sundry ornaments, such as rings, wampum, etc., and hung
several strings of beads round his neck. Besides these he affixed one
or two ornaments to his arms, wrists, and ankles, and touched in a few
effects with vermilion on the shoulders and breast. After this, and
a few more glances at the glass, he put on a pair of beautiful
moccasins, which, besides being richly wrought with beads, were soft
as chamois leather and fitted his feet like gloves. A pair of leggings
of scarlet cloth were drawn on, attached to a waist-belt, and bound
below the knee with broad garters of variegated bead-work.
It was some time before this Adonis was quite satisfied with himself.
He retouched the paint on his shoulders several times, and modified
the glare of that on his wide-mouthed, high-cheek-boned visage, before
he could tear himself away; but at last he did so, and throwing
a large piece of scarlet cloth over his shoulders, he thrust his
looking-glass under his belt, and proceeded to mount his palfrey,
which was held in readiness near to the tent door by one of his wives.
The horse was really a fine animal, and seemed worthy of a more
warlike master. His shoulders, too, were striped with red paint, and
feathers were intertwined with his mane and tail, while the bridle was
decorated with various jingling ornaments.
Vaulting upon his steed, with a large fan of wild goose and turkey
feathers in one hand, and a whip dangling at the wrist of the other,
this incomparable dandy sallied forth for a promenade--that being his
chief delight when there was no buffalo hunting to be done. Other men
who were not dandies sharpened their knives, smoked, feasted, and
mended their spears and arrows at such seasons of leisure, or played
at athletic games. "Let's follow my buck," said Joe Blunt.
"Oui. Come 'long," replied Henri, striding after the rider at a pace
that almost compelled his comrades to run.
"Hold on!" cried Dick, laughing; "we don't want to keep him company. A
distant view is quite enough o' sich a chap as that."
"Mais you forgit I cannot see far."
"So much the better," remarked Joe; "it's my opinion we've seen enough
o' him. Ah! he's goin' to look on at the games. Them's worth lookin'
The games to which Joe referred were taking place on a green level
plain close to the creek, and a little above the waterfall before
referred to. Some of the Indians were horse-racing, some jumping,
and others wrestling; but the game which proved most attractive was
throwing the javelin, in which several of the young braves were
This game is played by two competitors, each armed with a dart, in an
arena about fifty yards long. One of the players has a hoop of six
inches in diameter. At a signal they start off on foot at full speed,
and on reaching the middle of the arena the Indian with the hoop rolls
it along before them, and each does his best to send a javelin through
the hoop before the other. He who succeeds counts so many points; if
both miss, the nearest to the hoop is allowed to count, but not so
much as if he had "ringed" it. The Indians are very fond of this game,
and will play at it under a broiling sun for hours together. But a
good deal of the interest attaching to it is owing to the fact that
they make it a means of gambling. Indians are inveterate gamblers, and
will sometimes go on until they lose horses, bows, blankets, robes,
and, in short, their whole personal property. The consequences are, as
might be expected, that fierce and bloody quarrels sometimes arise in
which life is often lost.
"Try your hand at that," said Henri to Dick.
"By all means," cried Dick, handing his rifle to his friend, and
springing into the ring enthusiastically.
A general shout of applause greeted the Pale-face, who threw off' his
coat and tightened his belt, while, a young Indian presented him with
"Now, see that ye do us credit, lad," said Joe.
"I'll try," answered Dick.
In a moment they were off. The young Indian rolled away the hoop,
and Dick threw his dart with such vigour that it went deep into the
ground, but missed the hoop by a foot at least. The young Indian's
first dart went through the centre.
"Ha!" exclaimed Joe Blunt to the Indians near him, "the lad's not used
to that game; try him at a race. Bring out your best brave--he whose
bound is like the hunted deer."
We need scarcely remind the reader that Joe spoke in the Indian
language, and that the above is a correct rendering of the sense of
what he said.
The name of Tarwicadia, or the little chief, immediately passed from
lip to lip, and in a few minutes an Indian, a little below the medium
size, bounded into the arena with an indiarubber-like elasticity that
caused a shade of anxiety to pass over Joe's face.
"Ah, boy!" he whispered, "I'm afeard you'll find him a tough
"That's just what I want," replied Dick. "He's supple enough, but he
wants muscle in the thigh. We'll make it a long heat."
"Right, lad, ye're right."
Joe now proceeded to arrange the conditions of the race with the
chiefs around him. It was fixed that the distance to be run should
be a mile, so that the race would be one of two miles, out and back.
Moreover, the competitors were to run without any clothes, except a
belt and a small piece of cloth round the loins. This to the Indians
was nothing, for they seldom wore more in warm weather; but Dick would
have preferred to keep on part of his dress. The laws of the course,
however, would not permit of this, so he stripped and stood forth, the
_beau-ideal_ of a well-formed, agile man. He was greatly superior in
size to his antagonist, and more muscular, the savage being slender
and extremely lithe and springy.
"Ha! I will run too," shouted Henri, bouncing forward with clumsy
energy, and throwing off his coat just as they were going to start.
The savages smiled at this unexpected burst, and made no objection,
considering the thing in the light of a joke.
The signal was given, and away they went. Oh! it would have done you
good to have seen the way in which Henri manoeuvred his limbs on this
celebrated occasion! He went over the ground with huge elephantine
bounds, runs, and jumps. He could not have been said to have one style
of running; he had a dozen styles, all of which came into play in the
course of half as many minutes. The other two ran like the wind; yet
although Henri _appeared_ to be going heavily over the ground, he kept
up with them to the turning-point. As for Dick, it became evident in
the first few minutes that he could outstrip his antagonist with ease,
and was hanging back a little all the time. He shot ahead like an
arrow when they came about half-way back, and it was clear that the
real interest of the race was to lie in the competition between Henri
Before they were two-thirds of the way back, Dick walked in to the
winning-point, and turned to watch the others. Henri's wind was about
gone, for he exerted himself with such violence that he wasted half
his strength. The Indian, on the contrary, was comparatively fresh,
but he was not so fleet as his antagonist, whose tremendous strides
carried him over the ground at an incredible pace. On they came neck
and neck, till close on the score that marked the winning-point. Here
the value of enthusiasm came out strongly in the case of Henri. He
_felt_ that he could not gain an inch on Tarwicadia to save his life,
but just as he came up he observed the anxious faces of his comrades
and the half-sneering countenances of the savages. His heart thumped
against his ribs, every muscle thrilled with a gush of conflicting
feelings, and he _hurled_ himself over the score like a cannon shot,
full six inches ahead of the little chief!
But the thing did not by any means end here. Tarwicadia pulled up the
instant he had passed. Not so our Canadian. Such a clumsy and colossal
frame was not to be checked in a moment. The crowd of Indians opened
up to let him pass, but unfortunately a small tent that stood in the
way was not so obliging. Into it he went, head foremost, like a shell,
carried away the corner post with his shoulder, and brought the whole
affair down about his own ears and those of its inmates, among whom
were several children and two or three dogs. It required some time to
extricate them all from the ruins, but when this was effected it was
found that no serious damage had been done to life or limb.
_Crusoe acts a conspicuous and humane part_--_A friend gained_--_A
When the foot-race was concluded the three hunters hung about looking
on at the various games for some time, and then strolled towards the
"Ye may be thankful yer neck's whole," said Joe, grinning, as Henri
rubbed his shoulder with a rueful look. "An' we'll have to send that
Injun and his family a knife and some beads to make up for the fright
"Ha! an' fat is to be give to me for my broke shoulder?"
"Credit, man, credit," said Dick Varley, laughing.
"Credit! fat is dat?"
"Honour and glory, lad, and the praises of them savages."
"Ha! de praise? more probeebale de ill-vill of de rascale. I seed dem
scowl at me not ver' pritty."
"That's true, Henri; but sich as it is it's all ye'll git."
"I vish," remarked Henri after a pause--"I vish I could git de vampum
belt de leetle chief had on. It vas superb. Fat place do vampums come
"Oui," interrupted Henri; "I know _fat_ dey is. Dey is shells, and de
Injuns tink dem goot monish, mais I ask you _fat place_ de come from."
"They are thought to be gathered on the shores o' the Pacific," said
Joe. "The Injuns on the west o' the Rocky Mountains picks them up and
exchanges them wi' the fellows hereaway for horses and skins--so I'm
At this moment there was a wild cry of terror heard a short distance
ahead of them. Rushing forward they observed an Indian woman flying
frantically down the river's bank towards the waterfall, a hundred
yards above which an object was seen struggling in the water.
"'Tis her child," cried Joe, as the mother's frantic cry reached his
ear. "It'll be over the fall in a minute! Run, Dick, you're quickest."
They had all started forward at speed, but Dick and Crusoe were far
ahead, and abreast of the spot in a few seconds.
"Save it, pup," cried Dick, pointing to the child, which had been
caught in an eddy, and was for a few moments hovering on the edge of
the stream that rushed impetuously towards the fall.
The noble Newfoundland did not require to be told what to do. It seems
a natural instinct in this sagacious species of dog to save man or
beast that chances to be struggling in the water, and many are the
authentic stories related of Newfoundland dogs saving life in cases
of shipwreck. Indeed, they are regularly trained to the work in some
countries; and nobly, fearlessly, disinterestedly do they discharge
their trust, often in the midst of appalling dangers. Crusoe sprang
from the bank with such impetus that his broad chest ploughed up
the water like the bow of a boat, and the energetic workings of his
muscles were indicated by the force of each successive propulsion as
he shot ahead.
In a few seconds he reached the child and caught it by the hair. Then
he turned to swim back, but the stream had got hold of him. Bravely he
struggled, and lifted the child breast-high out of the water in his
powerful efforts to stem the current. In vain. Each moment he was
carried inch by inch down until he was on the brink of the fall,
which, though not high, was a large body of water and fell with a
heavy roar. He raised himself high out of the stream with the vigour
of his last struggle, and then fell back into the abyss.
By this time the poor mother was in a canoe as close to the fall as
she could with safety approach, and the little bark danced like a
cockle-shell on the turmoil of waters as she stood with uplifted
paddle and staring eyeballs awaiting the rising of the child.
Crusoe came up almost instantly, but _alone_, for the dash over the
fall had wrenched the child from his teeth. He raised himself high up,
and looked anxiously round for a moment. Then he caught sight of a
little hand raised above the boiling flood. In one moment he had the
child again by the hair, and just as the prow of the Indian woman's
canoe touched the shore he brought the child to land.
Springing towards him, the mother snatched her child from the flood,
and gazed at its death-like face with eyeballs starting from their
sockets. Then she laid her cheek on its cold breast, and stood like a
statue of despair. There was one slight pulsation of the heart and
a gentle motion of the hand! The child still lived. Opening up her
blanket she laid her little one against her naked, warm bosom, drew
the covering close around it, and sitting down on the bank wept aloud
"Come--come 'way quick," cried Henri, hurrying off to hide the emotion
which he could not crush down.
"Ay, she don't need our help now," said Joe, following his comrade.
As for Crusoe, he walked along by his master's side with his usual
quiet, serene look of good-will towards all mankind. Doubtless a
feeling of gladness at having saved a human life filled his shaggy
breast, for he wagged his tail gently after each shake of his dripping
sides; but his meek eyes were downcast, save when raised to receive
the welcome and unusually fervent caress. Crusoe did not know that
those three men loved him as though he had been a brother.
On their way back to the village the hunters were met by a little boy,
who said that a council was to be held immediately, and their presence
The council was held in the tent of the principal chief, towards which
all the other chiefs and many of the noted braves hurried. Like all
Indian councils, it was preceded by smoking the "medicine pipe,"
and was followed by speeches from several of the best orators. The
substance of the discourse differed little from what has been already
related in reference to the treaty between the Pale-faces, and upon
the whole it was satisfactory. But Joe Blunt could not fail to notice
that Mahtawa maintained sullen silence during the whole course of the
He observed also that there was a considerable change in the tone
of the meeting when he informed them that he was bound on a similar
errand of peace to several of the other tribes, especially to one or
two tribes which were the Pawnees' bitter enemies at that time. These
grasping savages having quite made up their minds that they were
to obtain the entire contents of the two bales of goods, were much
mortified on hearing that part was to go to other Indian tribes. Some
of them even hinted that this would not be allowed, and Joe feared at
one time that things were going to take an unfavourable turn. The hair
of his scalp, as he afterwards said, "began to lift a little and feel
oneasy." But San-it-sa-rish stood honestly to his word, said that it
would be well that the Pale-faces and the Pawnees should be brothers,
and hoped that they would not forget the promise of annual presents
from the hand of the great chief who lived in the big village near the
Having settled this matter amicably, Joe distributed among the Indians
the proportion of his goods designed for them; and then they all
adjourned to another tent, where a great feast was prepared for them.
"Are ye hungry?" inquired Joe of Dick as they walked along.
"Ay, that am I. I feel as if I could eat a buffalo alive. Why, it's my
'pinion we've tasted nothin' since daybreak-this mornin'."
"Well, I've often told ye that them Redskins think it a disgrace to
give in eatin' till all that's set before them at a feast is bolted.
We'll ha' to stretch oursel's, we will."
"I'se got a plenty room," remarked Henri.
"Ye have, but ye'll wish ye had more in a little."
"Bien, I not care!"
In quarter of an hour all the guests invited to this great "medicine
feast" were assembled. No women were admitted. They never are at
We may remark in passing that the word "medicine," as used among the
North American Indians, has a very much wider signification than it
has with us. It is an almost inexplicable word. When asked, they
cannot give a full or satisfactory explanation of it themselves. In
the general, we may say that whatever is mysterious is "medicine."
Jugglery and conjuring, of a noisy, mysterious, and, we must add,
rather silly nature, is "medicine," and the juggler is a "medicine
man." These medicine men undertake cures; but they are regular
charlatans, and know nothing whatever of the diseases they pretend
to cure or their remedies. They carry bags containing sundry relics;
these are "medicine bags." Every brave has his own private medicine
bag. Everything that is incomprehensible, or supposed to be
supernatural, religious, or medical, is "medicine." This feast, being
an unusual one, in honour of strangers, and in connection with a
peculiar and unexpected event, was "medicine." Even Crusoe, since his
gallant conduct in saving the Indian child, was "medicine;" and Dick
Varley's double-barrelled rifle, which had been an object of wonder
ever since his arrival at the village, was tremendous "medicine!"
Of course the Indians were arrayed in their best. Several wore
necklaces of the claws of the grizzly bear, of which they are
extremely proud; and a gaudily picturesque group they were. The chief,
however, had undergone a transformation that well-nigh upset the
gravity of our hunters, and rendered Dick's efforts to look solemn
quite abortive. San-it-sa-rish had once been to the trading-forts of
the Pale-faces, and while there had received the customary gift of
a blue surtout with brass buttons, and an ordinary hat, such as
gentlemen wear at home. As the coat was a good deal too small for him,
a terrible length of dark, bony wrist appeared below the cuffs. The
waist was too high, and it was with great difficulty that he managed
to button the garment across his broad chest. Being ignorant of the
nature of a hat, the worthy savage had allowed the paper and string
with which it had been originally covered to remain on, supposing them
to be part and parcel of the hat; and this, together with the high
collar of the coat, which gave him a crushed-up appearance, the
long black naked legs, and the painted visage, gave to him a _tout
ensemble_ which we can compare to nothing, as there was nothing in
nature comparable to it.
Those guests who assembled first passed their time in smoking the
medicine pipe until the others should arrive, for so long as a single
invited guest is absent the feast cannot begin. Dignified silence was
maintained while the pipe thus circulated from hand to hand. When the
last guest arrived they began.
The men were seated in two rows, face to face. Feasts of this kind
usually consist of but one species of food, and on the present
occasion it was an enormous caldron full of maize which had to be
devoured. About fifty sat down to eat a quantity of what may be termed
thick porridge that would have been ample allowance for a hundred
ordinary men. Before commencing, San-it-sa-rish desired an aged
medicine man to make an oration, which he did fluently and poetically.
Its subject was the praise of the giver of the feast. At the end of
each period there was a general "hou! hou!" of assent--equivalent to
the "hear! hear!" of civilized men.
Other orators then followed, all of whom spoke with great ease and
fluency, and some in the most impassioned strains, working themselves
and their audience up to the highest pitch of excitement, now shouting
with frenzied violence till their eyes glared from their sockets and
the veins of their foreheads swelled almost to bursting as they spoke
of war and chase, anon breaking into soft modulated and pleasing tones
while they dilated upon the pleasures of peace and hospitality.
After these had finished, a number of wooden bowls full of maize
porridge were put down between the guests--one bowl to each couple
facing each other. But before commencing a portion was laid aside and
dedicated to their gods, with various mysterious ceremonies; for here,
as in other places where the gospel is not known, the poor savages
fancied that they could propitiate God with sacrifices. They had never
heard of the "sacrifice of a broken spirit and a contrite heart." This
offering being made, the feast began in earnest. Not only was it a
rule in this feast that every mouthful should be swallowed by each
guest, however unwilling and unable he should be to do so, but he
who could dispose of it with greatest speed was deemed the greatest
man--at least on that occasion--while the last to conclude his supper
was looked upon with some degree of contempt!
It seems strange that such a custom should ever have arisen, and one
is not a little puzzled in endeavouring to guess at the origin of it.
There is one fact that occurs to us as the probable cause. The Indian
is, as we have before hinted, frequently reduced to a state
bordering on starvation, and in a day after he may be burdened with
superabundance of food. He oftentimes therefore eats as much as he can
stuff into his body when he is blessed with plenty, so as to be the
better able to withstand the attacks of hunger that may possibly be
in store for him. The amount that an Indian will thus eat at a single
meal is incredible. He seems to have the power of distending himself
for the reception of a quantity that would kill a civilized man.
Children in particular become like tightly inflated little balloons
after a feast, and as they wear no clothing, the extraordinary
rotundity is very obvious, not to say ridiculous. We conclude
therefore that unusual powers of gormandizing, being useful, come at
last to be cultivated as praiseworthy.
By good fortune Dick and Joe Blunt happened to have such enormous
gluttons as _vis-a-vis_ that the portions of their respective bowls
which they could not devour were gobbled up for them. By good capacity
and digestion, with no small amount of effort, Henri managed to
dispose of his own share; but he was last of being done, and fell in
the savages' esteem greatly. The way in which that sticky compost of
boiled maize went down was absolutely amazing. The man opposite Dick,
in particular, was a human boa-constrictor. He well-nigh suffocated
Dick with suppressed laughter. He was a great raw-boned savage, with a
throat of indiarubber, and went quickly and quietly on swallowing mass
after mass with the solemn gravity of an owl. It mattered not a straw
to him that Dick took comparatively small mouthfuls, and nearly choked
on them too for want of liquid to wash them down. Had Dick eaten none
at all he would have uncomplainingly disposed of the whole. Jack the
Giant-Killer's feats were nothing to his; and when at last the bowl
was empty, he stopped short like a machine from which the steam had
been suddenly cut off, and laid down his buffalo horn-spoon _without_
Dick sighed, though with relief and gratitude, when his bowl was
"I hope I may never have to do it again," said Joe that night as they
wended their way back to the chief's tent after supper. "I wouldn't be
fit for anything for a week arter it."
Dick could only laugh, for any allusion to the feast instantly brought
back that owl-like gourmand to whom he was so deeply indebted.
Henri groaned. "Oh! mes boy, I am speechless! I am ready for bust!
Oui--hah! I veesh it vas to-morrow."
Many a time that night did Henri "veesh it vas to-morrow," as he lay
helpless on his back, looking up through the roof of the chief's tent
at the stars, and listening enviously to the plethoric snoring of Joe
He was entertained, however, during those waking hours with a serenade
such as few civilized ears ever listen to. This was nothing else than
a vocal concert performed by all the dogs of the village, and as they
amounted to nearly two thousand the orchestra was a pretty full one.
These wretches howled as if they had all gone mad. Yet there was
"method in their madness;" for they congregated in a crowd before
beginning, and sat down on their haunches. Then one, which seemed to
be the conductor, raised his snout to the sky and uttered a long, low,
melancholy wail. The others took it up by twos and threes, until the
whole pack had their noses pointing to the stars and their throats
distended to the uttermost, while a prolonged yell filled the air.
Then it sank gradually, one or two (bad performers probably) making
a yelping attempt to get it up again at the wrong time. Again the
conductor raised his nose, and out it came--full swing. There was no
vociferous barking. It was simple wolfish howling increased in fervour
to an electric yell, with slight barks running continuously through it
like an obbligato accompaniment.
When Crusoe first heard the unwonted sound he sprang to his feet,
bristled up like a hyena, showed all his teeth, and bounded out of the
tent blazing with indignation and astonishment. When he found out what
it was he returned quite sleek, and with a look of profound contempt
on his countenance as he resumed his place by his master's side and
went to sleep.
_Perplexities_--_Our hunters plan their escape_--_Unexpected
interruption_--_The tables turned_--_Crusoe mounts guard_--_The
Dick Varley sat before the fire ruminating. We do not mean to assert
that Dick had been previously eating grass. By no means. For several
days past he had been mentally subsisting on the remarkable things
that he heard and saw in the Pawnee village, and wondering how he was
to get away without being scalped. He was now chewing the cud of this
intellectual fare. We therefore repeat emphatically--in case any
reader should have presumed to contradict us--that Dick Varley sat
before the fire _ruminating_!
Joe Blunt likewise sat by the fire along with him, ruminating too, and
smoking besides. Henri also sat there smoking, and looking a little
the worse of his late supper.
"I don't like the look o' things," said Joe, blowing a whiff of smoke
slowly from his lips, and watching it as it ascended into the still
air. "That blackguard Mahtawa is determined not to let us off till
he gits all our goods; an' if he gits them, he may as well take our
scalps too, for we would come poor speed in the prairies without guns,
horses, or goods."
Dick looked at his friend with an expression of concern. "What's to be
done?" said he.
"Ve must escape," answered Henri; but his tone was not a hopeful one,
for he knew the danger of their position better than Dick.
"Ay, we must escape--at least we must try," said Joe. "But I'll make
one more effort to smooth over San-it-sa-rish, an' git him to snub
that villain Mahtawa."
Just as he spoke the villain in question entered the tent with a bold,
haughty air, and sat down before the fire in sullen silence. For
some minutes no one spoke, and Henri, who happened at the time to be
examining the locks of Dick's rifle, continued to inspect them with an
appearance of careless indifference that he was far from feeling.
Now, this rifle of Dick's had become a source of unceasing wonder to
the Indians--wonder which was greatly increased by the fact that no
one could discharge it but himself. Dick had, during his short stay at
the Pawnee village, amused himself and the savages by exhibiting his
marvellous powers with the "silver rifle." Since it had been won by
him at the memorable match in the Mustang Valley, it had scarce ever
been out of his hand, so that he had become decidedly the best shot in
the settlement, could "bark" squirrels (that is, hit the bark of the
branch on which a squirrel happened to be standing, and so kill it
by the concussion alone), and could "drive the nail" every shot. The
silver rifle, as we have said, became "great medicine" to the Red-men
when they saw it kill at a distance which the few wretched guns they
had obtained from the fur-traders could not even send a spent ball to.
The double shot, too, filled them with wonder and admiration; but that
which they regarded with an almost supernatural feeling of curiosity
was the percussion cap, which, in Dick's hands, always exploded, but
in theirs was utterly useless!
This result was simply owing to the fact that Dick, after firing,
handed the rifle to the Indians without renewing the cap; so that when
they loaded and attempted to fire, of course it merely snapped. When
he wished again to fire, he adroitly exchanged the old cap for a new
one. He was immensely tickled by the solemn looks of the Indians at
this most incomprehensible of all "medicines," and kept them for some
days in ignorance of the true cause, intending to reveal it before he
left. But circumstances now arose which banished all trifling thoughts
from his mind.
Mahtawa raised his head suddenly, and said, pointing to the silver
rifle, "Mahtawa wishes to have the two-shotted medicine gun. He will
give his best horse in exchange."
"Mahtawa is liberal," answered Joe; "but the pale-faced youth cannot
part with it. He has far to travel, and must shoot buffaloes by the
"The pale-faced youth shall have a bow and arrows to shoot the
buffalo," rejoined the Indian.
"He cannot use the bow and arrow," answered Joe. "He has not been
trained like the Red-man."
Mahtawa was silent for a few seconds, and his dark brows frowned more
heavily than ever over his eyes.
"The Pale-faces are too bold," he exclaimed, working himself into a
passion. "They are in the power of Mahtawa. If they will not give the
gun he will take it."
He sprang suddenly to his feet as he spoke, and snatched the rifle
from Henri's hand.
Henri being ignorant of the language had not been able to understand
the foregoing conversation, although he saw well enough that it was
not an agreeable one; but no sooner did he find himself thus rudely
and unexpectedly deprived of the rifle than he jumped up, wrenched it
in a twinkling from the Indian's grasp, and hurled him violently out
of the tent.
In a moment Mahtawa drew his knife, uttered a savage yell, and sprang
on the reckless hunter, who, however, caught his wrist, and held it as
if in a vice. The yell brought a dozen warriors instantly to the spot,
and before Dick had time to recover from his astonishment, Henri was
surrounded and pinioned despite his herculean struggles.
Before Dick could move, Joe Blunt grasped his arm, and whispered
quickly, "Don't rise. You can't help him. They daren't kill him till
Though much surprised, Dick obeyed, but it required all his efforts,
both of voice and hand, to control Crusoe, whose mind was much too
honest and straightforward to understand such subtle pieces of
diplomacy, and who strove to rush to the rescue of his ill-used
When the tumult had partly subsided, Joe Blunt rose and said,--"Have
the Pawnee braves turned traitors that they draw the knife against
those who have smoked with them the pipe of peace and eaten their
maize? The Pale-faces are three; the Pawnees are thousands. If evil
has been done, let it be laid before the chief. Mahtawa wishes to have
the medicine gun. Although we said, No, we could not part with it, he
tried to take it by force. Are we to go back to the great chief of the
Pale-faces and say that the Pawnees are thieves? Are the Pale-faces
henceforth to tell their children when they steal, 'That is bad;
that is like the Pawnee?' No; this must not be. The rifle shall be
restored, and we will forget this disagreement. Is it not so?"
There was an evident disposition on the part of many of the Indians,
with whom Mahtawa was no favourite, to applaud this speech; but the
wily chief sprang forward, and, with flashing eyes, sought to turn the
"The Pale-face speaks with soft words, but his heart is false. Is he
not going to make peace with the enemies of the Pawnee? Is he not
going to take goods to them, and make them gifts and promises? The
Pale-faces are spies. They come to see the weakness of the Pawnee
camp; but they have found that it is strong. Shall we suffer the false
hearts to escape? Shall they live? No; we will hang their scalps in
our wigwams, for they have _struck a chief_, and we will keep all
their goods for our squaws--wah!"
This allusion to keeping all the goods had more effect on the minds of
the vacillating savages than the chief's eloquence. But a new turn
was given to their thoughts by Joe Blunt remarking in a quiet, almost
"Mahtawa is not the _great_ chief."
"True, true," they cried, and immediately hurried to the tent of
Once again this chief stood between the hunters and the savages, who
wanted but a signal to fall on them. There was a long palaver, which
ended in Henri being set at liberty and the rifle being restored.
That evening, as the three friends sat beside their fire eating their
supper of boiled maize and buffalo meat, they laughed and talked as
carelessly as ever; but the gaiety was assumed, for they were at the
time planning their escape from a tribe which, they foresaw, would
not long refrain from carrying out their wishes, and robbing, perhaps
"Ye see," said Joe with a perplexed air, while he drew a piece of live
charcoal from the fire with his fingers and lighted his pipe--"ye see,
there's more difficulties in the way o' gettin' off than ye think--"
"Oh, nivare mind de difficulties," interrupted Henri, whose wrath at
the treatment he had received had not yet cooled down. "Ve must jump
on de best horses ve can git hold, shake our fists at de red reptiles,
and go away fast as ve can. De best hoss _must_ vin de race."
Joe shook his head. "A hundred arrows would be in our backs before we
got twenty yards from the camp. Besides, we can't tell which are the
best horses. Our own are the best in my 'pinion, but how are we to
"I know who has charge o' them," said Dick. "I saw them grazing near
the tent o' that poor squaw whose baby was saved by Crusoe. Either her
husband looks after them or some neighbours."
"That's well," said Joe. "That's one o' my difficulties gone."
"What are the others?"
"Well, d'ye see, they're troublesome. We can't git the horses out o'
camp without bein' seen, for the red rascals would see what we were at
in a jiffy. Then, if we do git 'em out, we can't go off without our
bales, an' we needn't think to take 'em from under the nose o' the
chief and his squaws without bein' axed questions. To go off without
them would niver do at all."
"Joe," said Dick earnestly, "I've hit on a plan."
"Have ye, Dick--what is't?"
"Come and I'll let ye see," answered Dick, rising hastily and quitting
the tent, followed by his comrades and his faithful dog.
It may be as well to remark here, that no restraint whatever had yet
been put on the movements of our hunters as long as they kept to their
legs, for it was well known that any attempt by men on foot to escape
from mounted Indians on the plains would be hopeless. Moreover, the
savages thought that as long as there was a prospect of their being
allowed to depart peaceably with their goods, they would not be so
mad as to fly from the camp, and, by so doing, risk their lives and
declare war with their entertainers. They had therefore been permitted
to wander unchecked, as yet, far beyond the outskirts of the camp, and
amuse themselves in paddling about the lake in the small Indian canoes
and shooting wild-fowl.
Dick now led the way through the labyrinths of tents in the direction
of the lake, and they talked and laughed loudly, and whistled
to Crusoe as they went, in order to prevent their purpose being
suspected. For the purpose of further disarming suspicion, they went
without their rifles. Dick explained his plan by the way, and it was
at once warmly approved of by his comrades.
On reaching the lake they launched a small canoe, into which Crusoe
was ordered to jump; then, embarking, they paddled swiftly to the
opposite shore, singing a canoe song as they dipped their paddles in
the moonlit waters of the lake. Arrived at the other side, they hauled
the canoe up and hurried through the thin belt of wood and willows
that intervened between the lake and the prairie. Here they paused.
"Is that the bluff, Joe?"
"No, Dick; that's too near. T'other one'll be best--far away to the
right. It's a little one, and there's others near it. The sharp eyes
o' the Redskins won't be so likely to be prowlin' there."
"Come on, then; but we'll have to take down by the lake first."
In a few minutes the hunters were threading their way through the
outskirts of the wood at a rapid trot, in the opposite direction from
the bluff, or wooded knoll, which they wished to reach. This they did
lest prying eyes should have followed them. In quarter of an hour they
turned at right angles to their track, and struck straight out into
the prairie, and after a long run they edged round and came in upon
the bluff from behind.
It was merely a collection of stunted but thick-growing willows.
Forcing their way into the centre of this they began to examine it.
"It'll do," said Joe.
"De very ting," remarked Henri.
"Come here, Crusoe."
Crusoe bounded to his master's side, and looked up in his face.
"Look at this place, pup; smell it well."
Crusoe instantly set off all round among the willows, in and out,
snuffing everywhere, and whining with excitement.
"Come here, good pup; that will do. Now, lads, we'll go back." So
saying, Dick and his friends left the bluff, and retraced their steps
to the camp. Before they had gone far, however, Joe halted, and
"D'ye know, Dick, I doubt if the pup's so cliver as ye think. What if
he don't quite onderstand ye?"
Dick replied by taking off his cap and throwing it down, at the same
time exclaiming, "Take it yonder, pup," and pointing with his hand
towards the bluff. The dog seized the cap, and went off with it at
full speed towards the willows, where it left it, and came galloping
back for the expected reward--not now, as in days of old, a bit of
meat, but a gentle stroke of its head and a hearty clap on its shaggy
"Good pup! go now an' fetch it."
Away he went with a bound, and in a few seconds came back and
deposited the cap at his master's feet.
"Will that do?" asked Dick, triumphantly.
"Ay, lad, it will. The pup's worth its weight in goold."
"Oui, I have said, and I say it agen, de dog is _human_, so him is. If
not, fat am he?"
Without pausing to reply to this perplexing question, Dick stepped
forward again, and in half-an-hour or so they were back in the camp.
"Now for _your_ part of the work, Joe. Yonder's the squaw that owns
the half-drowned baby. Everything depends on her."
Dick pointed to the Indian woman as he spoke. She was sitting beside
her tent, and playing at her knee was the identical youngster who had
been saved by Crusoe.
"I'll manage it," said Joe, and walked towards her, while Dick and
Henri returned to the chief's tent.
"Does the Pawnee woman thank the Great Spirit that her child is
saved?" began Joe as he came up.
"She does," answered the woman, looking up at the hunter. "And her
heart is warm to the Pale-faces."
After a short silence Joe continued,--
"The Pawnee chiefs do not love the Pale-faces. Some of them hate
"The Dark Flower knows it," answered the woman; "she is sorry. She
would help the Pale-faces if she could."
This was uttered in a low tone, and with a meaning glance of the eye.
Joe hesitated again--could he trust her? Yes; the feelings that filled
her breast and prompted her words were not those of the Indian just
now--they were those of a _mother_, whose gratitude was too full for
"Will the Dark Flower," said Joe, catching the name she had given
herself, "help the Pale-face if he opens his heart to her? Will she
risk the anger of her nation?"
"She will," replied the woman; "she will do what she can."
Joe and his dark friend now dropped their high-sounding style of
speech, and spoke for some minutes rapidly in an undertone. It was
finally arranged that on a given day, at a certain hour, the woman
should take the four horses down the shores of the lake to its lower
end, as if she were going for firewood, there cross the creek at the
ford, and drive them to the willow bluff, and guard them till the
hunters should arrive.
Having settled this, Joe returned to the tent and informed his
comrades of his success.
During the next three days Joe kept the Indians in good-humour by
giving them one or two trinkets, and speaking in glowing terms of the
riches of the white men, and the readiness with which they would part
with them to the savages if they would only make peace.
Meanwhile, during the dark hours of each night, Dick managed to
abstract small quantities of goods from their pack, in room of which
he stuffed in pieces of leather to keep up the size and appearance.
The goods thus taken out he concealed about his person, and went off
with a careless swagger to the outskirts of the village, with Crusoe
at his heels. Arrived there, he tied the goods in a small piece of
deerskin, and gave the bundle to the dog, with the injunction, "Take
it yonder, pup."
Crusoe took it up at once, darted off at full speed with the bundle in
his mouth, down the shore of the lake towards the ford of the river,
and was soon lost to view. In this way, little by little, the goods
were conveyed by the faithful dog to the willow bluff and left there,
while the stuffed pack still remained in safe keeping in the chiefs
Joe did not at first like the idea of thus sneaking off from the camp,
and more than once made strong efforts to induce San-it-sa-rish to let
him go; but even that chief's countenance was not so favourable as it
had been. It was clear that he could not make up his mind to let slip
so good a chance of obtaining guns, powder and shot, horses, and
goods, without any trouble; so Joe made up his mind to give them the
slip at once.
A dark night was chosen for the attempt, and the Indian woman went off
with the horses to the place where firewood for the camp was usually
cut. Unfortunately, the suspicion of that wily savage Mahtawa had been
awakened, and he stuck close to the hunters all day--not knowing what
was going on, but feeling convinced that something was brewing which
he resolved to watch, without mentioning his suspicions to any one.
"I think that villain's away at last," whispered Joe to his comrades.
"It's time to go, lads; the moon won't be up for an hour. Come along."
"Have ye got the big powder-horn, Joe?"
"Ay, ay, all right."
"Stop! stop! my knife, my couteau. Ah, here I be! Now, boy."
The three set off as usual, strolling carelessly to the outskirts
of the camp; then they quickened their pace, and, gaining the lake,
pushed off in a small canoe.
At the same moment Mahtawa stepped from the bushes, leaped into
another canoe, and followed them.
"Ha! he must die," muttered Henri.
"Not at all," said Joe; "we'll manage him without that."
The chief landed and strode boldly up to them, for he knew well that
whatever their purpose might be they would not venture to use their
rifles within sound of the camp at that hour of the night. As for
their knives, he could trust to his own active limbs and the woods to
escape and give the alarm if need be.
"The Pale-faces hunt very late," he said, with a malicious grin. "Do
they love the dark better than the sunshine?"
"Not so," replied Joe, coolly; "but we love to walk by the light of
the moon. It will be up in less than an hour, and we mean to take a
long ramble to-night."
"The Pawnee chief loves to walk by the moon, too; he will go with the
"Good!" ejaculated Joe. "Come along, then."
The party immediately set forward, although the savage was a little
taken by surprise at the indifferent way in which Joe received his
proposal to accompany them. He walked on to the edge of the prairie,
however, and then stopped.
"The Pale-faces must go alone," said he; "Mahtawa will return to his
Joe replied to this intimation by seizing him suddenly by the throat
and choking back the yell that would otherwise have brought the Pawnee
warriors rushing to the scene of action in hundreds. Mahtawa's hand
was on the handle of his scalping-knife in a moment, but before he
could draw it his arms were glued to his sides by the bear-like
embrace of Henri, while Dick tied a handkerchief quickly yet firmly
round his mouth. The whole thing was accomplished in two minutes.
After taking his knife and tomahawk away, they loosened their gripe
and escorted him swiftly over the prairie.
Mahtawa was perfectly submissive after the first convulsive struggle
was over. He knew that the men who walked on each side of him grasping
his arms were more than his match singly, so he wisely made no
Hurrying him to a clump of small trees on the plain which was so far
distant from the village that a yell could not be heard, they removed
the bandage from Mahtawa's mouth.
"_Must_ he be kill?" inquired Henri, in a tone of commiseration.
"Not at all," answered Joe; "we'll tie him to a tree and leave him
"Then he vill be starve to deat'. Oh, dat is more horrobell!"
"He must take his chance o' that. I've no doubt his friends'll find
him in a day or two, an' he's game to last for a week or more. But
you'll have to run to the willow bluff, Dick, and bring a bit of line
to tie him. We can't spare it well; but there's no help."
"But there _is_ help," retorted Dick. "Just order the villain to climb
into that tree."
"Why so, lad?"
"Don't ask questions, but do what I bid ye."
The hunter smiled for a moment as he turned to the Indian, and ordered
him to climb up a small tree near to which he stood. Mahtawa looked
surprised, but there was no alternative. Joe's authoritative tone
brooked no delay, so he sprang into the tree like a monkey.
"Crusoe," said Dick, "_watch him!_"
The dog sat quietly down at the foot of the tree, and fixed his eyes
on the savage with a glare that spoke unutterable things. At the same
time he displayed his full complement of teeth, and uttered a sound
like distant thunder.
Joe almost laughed, and Henri did laugh outright.
"Come along; he's safe now," cried Dick, hurrying away in the
direction of the willow bluff, which they soon reached, and found that
the faithful squaw had tied their steeds to the bushes, and, moreover,
had bundled up their goods into a pack, and strapped it on the back of
the pack-horse; but she had not remained with them.
"Bless yer dark face!" ejaculated Joe, as he sprang into the saddle
and rode out of the clump of bushes.
He was followed immediately by the others, and in three minutes they
were flying over the plain at full speed.
On gaining the last far-off ridge, that afforded a distant view of the
woods skirting the Pawnee camp, they drew up; and Dick, putting his
fingers to his mouth, drew a long, shrill whistle.
It reached the willow bluff like a faint echo. At the same moment the
moon arose and more clearly revealed Crusoe's cataleptic glare at the
Indian chief, who, being utterly unarmed, was at the dog's mercy. The
instant the whistle fell on his ear, however, he dropped his eyes,
covered his teeth, and, leaping through the bushes, flew over the
plains like an arrow. At the same instant Mahtawa, descending from
his tree, ran as fast as he could towards the village, uttering the
terrible war-whoop when near enough to be heard. No sound sends such a
thrill through an Indian camp. Every warrior flew to arms, and vaulted
on his steed. So quickly was the alarm given that in less than ten
minutes a thousand hoofs were thundering on the plain, and faintly
reached the ears of the fugitives.
Joe smiled. "It'll puzzle them to come up wi' nags like ours. They're
in prime condition, too--lots o' wind in' em. If we only keep out o'
badger holes we may laugh at the red varmints."
Joe's opinion of Indian horses was correct. In a very few minutes the
sound of hoofs died away; but the fugitives did not draw bridle during
the remainder of that night, for they knew not how long the pursuit
might be continued. By pond, and brook, and bluff they passed, down
in the grassy bottoms and over the prairie waves--nor checked their
headlong course till the sun blazed over the level sweep of the
eastern plain as if it arose out of the mighty ocean.
Then they sprang from the saddle, and hastily set about the
preparation of their morning meal.
_Evening meditations and morning reflections--Buffaloes, badgers,
antelopes, and accidents--An old bull and the wolves--"Mad
tails"--Henri floored, etc._
There is nothing that prepares one so well for the enjoyment of rest,
both mental and physical, as a long-protracted period of excitement
and anxiety, followed up by bodily fatigue. Excitement alone banishes
rest; but, united with severe physical exertion, it prepares for it.
At least, courteous reader, this is our experience; and certainly this
was the experience of our three hunters as they lay on their backs
beneath the branches of a willow bush and gazed serenely up at the
twinkling stars two days after their escape from the Indian village.
They spoke little; they were too tired for that, also they were too
comfortable. Their respective suppers of fresh antelope steak, shot
that day, had just been disposed of. Their feet were directed towards
the small fire on which the said steaks had been cooked, and which
still threw a warm, ruddy glow over the encampment. Their blankets
were wrapped comfortably round them, and tucked in as only hunters and
mothers know _how_ to tuck them in. Their respective pipes delivered
forth, at stated intervals, three richly yellow puffs of smoke, as if
a three-gun battery were playing upon the sky from that particular
spot of earth. The horses were picketed and hobbled in a rich grassy
bottom close by, from which the quiet munch of their equine jaws
sounded pleasantly, for it told of healthy appetites, and promised
speed on the morrow. The fear of being overtaken during the night was
now past, and the faithful Crusoe, by virtue of sight, hearing, and
smell, guaranteed them against sudden attack during the hours of
slumber. A perfume of wild flowers mingled with the loved odours of
the "weed," and the tinkle of a tiny rivulet fell sweetly on their
ears. In short, the "Pale-faces" were supremely happy, and disposed to
be thankful for their recent deliverance and their present comforts.
"I wonder what the stars are," said Dick, languidly taking the pipe
out of his mouth.
"Bits o' fire," suggested Joe.
"I tink dey are vorlds," muttered Henri, "an' have peepels in dem. I
have hear men say dat."
A long silence followed, during which, no doubt, the star-gazers were
working out various theories in their own minds.
"Wonder," said Dick again, "how far off they be."
"A mile or two, maybe," said Joe.
Henri was about to laugh sarcastically at this, but on further
consideration he thought it would be more comfortable not to, so he
lay still. In another minute he said,--
"Joe Blunt, you is ver' igrant. Don't you know dat de books say de
stars be hondreds, tousands--oh! milleryons of mile away to here, and
dat dey is more bigger dan dis vorld?"
Joe snored lightly, and his pipe fell out of his mouth at this point,
so the conversation dropped. Presently Dick asked in a low tone, "I
say, Henri, are ye asleep?"
"Oui," replied Henry faintly. "Don't speak, or you vill vaken me."
"Ah, Crusoe! you're not asleep, are you, pup?" No need to ask that
question. The instantaneous wag of that speaking tail and the glance
of that wakeful eye, as the dog lifted his head and laid his chin on
Dick's arm, showed that he had been listening to every word that was
spoken. We cannot say whether he understood it, but beyond all doubt
he heard it. Crusoe never presumed to think of going to sleep until
his master was as sound as a top, then he ventured to indulge in that
light species of slumber which is familiarly known as "sleeping with
one eye open." But, comparatively as well as figuratively speaking,
Crusoe slept usually with one eye and a half open, and the other half
was never very tightly shut.
Gradually Dick's pipe fell out of his mouth, an event which the dog,
with an exercise of instinct almost, if not quite, amounting to
reason, regarded as a signal for him to go off. The camp fire went
slowly out, the stars twinkled down at their reflections in the brook,
and a deep breathing of wearied men was the only sound that rose in
harmony with the purling stream.