Part 3 out of 5
Before the sun rose next morning, and while many of the brighter stars
were still struggling for existence with the approaching day, Joe was
up and buckling on the saddle-bags, while he shouted to his unwilling
companions to rise.
"If it depended on you," he said, "the Pawnees wouldn't be long afore
they got our scalps. Jump, ye dogs, an' lend a hand, will ye?"
A snore from Dick and a deep sigh from Henri was the answer to this
pathetic appeal. It so happened, however, that Henri's pipe, in
falling from his lips, had emptied the ashes just under his nose, so
that the sigh referred to drew a quantity thereof into his throat and
almost choked him. Nothing could have been a more effective awakener.
He was up in a moment coughing vociferously. Most men have a tendency
to vent ill-humour on some one, and they generally do it on one whom
they deem to be worse than themselves. Henri, therefore, instead of
growling at Joe for rousing him, scolded Dick for not rising.
"Ha, mauvais dog! bad chien! vill you dare to look to me?"
Crusoe did look with amiable placidity, as though to say, "Howl away,
old boy, I won't budge till Dick does."
With a mighty effort Giant Sleep was thrown off at last, and the
hunters were once more on their journey, cantering lightly over the
"Ho, let's have a run!" cried Dick, unable to repress the feelings
aroused by the exhilarating morning air.
"Have a care, boy," cried Joe, as they stretched out at full gallop.
"Keep off the ridge; it's riddled wi' badger--Ha! I thought so."
At that moment Dick's horse put its foot into a badger-hole and turned
completely over, sending its rider through the air in a curve that an
East Indian acrobat would have envied. For a few seconds Dick lay flat
on his back, then he jumped up and laughed, while his comrades hurried
up anxiously to his assistance.
"No bones broke?" inquired Joe.
Dick gave a hysterical gasp. "I--I think not."
"Let's have a look. No, nothin' to speak o', be good luck. Ye should
niver go slap through a badger country like that, boy; always keep i'
the bottoms, where the grass is short. Now then, up ye go. That's it!"
Dick remounted, though not with quite so elastic a spring as usual,
and they pushed forward at a more reasonable pace.
Accidents of this kind are of common occurrence in the prairies. Some
horses, however, are so well trained that they look sharp out for
these holes, which are generally found to be most numerous on the high
and dry grounds. But in spite of all the caution both of man and horse
many ugly falls take place, and sometimes bones are broken.
They had not gone far after this accident when an antelope leaped from
a clump of willows, and made for a belt of woodland that lay along the
margin of a stream not half-a-mile off.
"Hurrah!" cried Dick, forgetting his recent fall. "Come along,
Crusoe." And away they went again full tilt, for the horse had not
been injured by its somersault.
The antelope which Dick was thus wildly pursuing was of the same
species as the one he had shot some time before--namely, the
prong-horned antelope. These graceful creatures have long, slender
limbs, delicately-formed heads, and large, beautiful eyes. The horns
are black, and rather short; they have no branches, like the antlers
of the red-deer, but have a single projection on each horn, near the
head, and the extreme points of the horns curve suddenly inwards,
forming the hook or prong from which the name of the animal is
derived. Their colour is dark yellowish brown. They are so fleet that
not one horse in a hundred can overtake them; and their sight and
sense of smell are so acute that it would be next to impossible to
kill them, were it not for the inordinate curiosity which we have
before referred to. The Indians manage to attract these simple little
creatures by merely lying down on their backs and kicking their heels
in the air, or by waving any white object on the point of an arrow,
while the hunter keeps concealed by lying flat in the grass. By these
means a herd of antelopes may be induced to wheel round and round an
object in timid but intense surprise, gradually approaching until they
come near enough to enable the hunter to make sure of his mark. Thus
the animals, which of all others _ought_ to be the most difficult to
slay, are, in consequence of their insatiable curiosity, more easily
shot than any other deer of the plains.
May we not gently suggest to the reader for his or her consideration
that there are human antelopes, so to speak, whose case bears a
striking resemblance to the prong-horn of the North American prairie?
Dick's horse was no match for the antelope, neither was Crusoe; so
they pulled up shortly and returned to their companions, to be laughed
"It's no manner o' use to wind yer horse, lad, after sich game.
They're not much worth, an', if I mistake not, we'll be among the
buffalo soon. There's fresh tracks everywhere, and the herds are
scattered now. Ye see, when they keep together in bands o' thousands
ye don't so often fall in wi' them. But when they scatters about in
twos, an' threes, an' sixes ye may shoot them every day as much as ye
Several groups of buffalo had already been seen on the horizon, but as
a red-deer had been shot in a belt of woodland the day before they
did not pursue them. The red-deer is very much larger than the
prong-horned antelope, and is highly esteemed both for its flesh
and its skin, which latter becomes almost like chamois leather when
dressed. Notwithstanding this supply of food, the hunters could not
resist the temptation to give chase to a herd of about nine buffaloes
that suddenly came into view as they overtopped an undulation in the
"It's no use," cried Dick, "I _must_ go at them!"
Joe himself caught fire from the spirit of his young friend, so
calling to Henri to come on and let the pack-horse remain to feed, he
dashed away in pursuit. The buffaloes gave one stare of surprise, and
then fled as fast as possible. At first it seemed as if such huge,
unwieldy carcasses could not run very fast; but in a few minutes they
managed to get up a pace that put the horses to their mettle. Indeed,
at first it seemed as if the hunters did not gain an inch; but by
degrees they closed with them, for buffaloes are not long winded.
On nearing the herd, the three men diverged from each other and
selected their animals. Henri, being short-sighted, naturally singled
out the largest; and the largest--also naturally--was a tough old
bull. Joe brought down a fat young cow at the first shot, and Dick was
equally fortunate. But he well-nigh shot Crusoe, who, just as he was
about to fire, rushed in unexpectedly and sprang at the animal's
throat, for which piece of recklessness he was ordered back to watch
Meanwhile, Henri, by dint of yelling, throwing his arms wildly about,
and digging his heels into the sides of his long-legged horse,
succeeded in coming close up with the bull, which once or twice turned
his clumsy body half round and glared furiously at its pursuer with
its small black eyes. Suddenly it stuck out its tail, stopped short,
and turned full round. Henri stopped short also. Now, the sticking out
of a buffalo's tail has a peculiar significance which it is well to
point out. It serves, in a sense, the same purpose to the hunter that
the compass does to the mariner--it points out where to go and what to
do. When galloping away in ordinary flight, the buffalo carries his
tail like ordinary cattle, which indicates that you may push on. When
wounded, he lashes it from side to side, or carries it over his back,
up in the air; this indicates, "Look out! haul off a bit!" But when he
carries it stiff and horizontal, with a _slight curve_ in the middle
of it, it says plainly, "Keep back, or kill me as quick as you can,"
for that is what Indians call the _mad tail_, and is a sign that
mischief is brewing.
Henri's bull displayed the mad tail just before turning, but he didn't
observe it, and, accordingly, waited for the bull to move and show his
shoulder for a favourable shot. But instead of doing this he put his
head down, and, foaming with rage, went at him full tilt. The big
horse never stirred; it seemed to be petrified, Henri had just time to
fire at the monster's neck, and the next moment was sprawling on his
back, with the horse rolling over four or five yards beyond him. It
was a most effective tableau--Henri rubbing his shins and grinning
with pain, the horse gazing in affright as he rose trembling from the
plain, and the buffalo bull looking on half stunned, and evidently
very much surprised at the result of his charge.
Fortunately, before he could repeat the experiment, Dick galloped up
and put a ball through his heart.
Joe and his comrades felt a little ashamed of their exploit on this
occasion, for there was no need to have killed three animals--they
could not have carried with them more than a small portion of one--and
they upbraided themselves several times during the operation of
cutting out the tongues and other choice portions of the two victims.
As for the bull, he was almost totally useless, so they left him as a
gift to the wolves.
Now that they had come among the buffalo, wolves were often seen
sneaking about and licking their hungry jaws; but although they
approached pretty near to the camp at nights, they did not give the
hunters any concern. Even Crusoe became accustomed to them at last,
and ceased to notice them. These creatures are very dangerous
sometimes, however, and when hard pressed by hunger will even attack
man. The day after this hunt the travellers came upon a wounded old
buffalo which had evidently escaped from the Indians (for a couple of
arrows were sticking in its side), only to fall a prey to his deadly
enemies, the white wolves. These savage brutes hang on the skirts of
the herds of buffaloes to attack and devour any one that may chance,
from old age or from being wounded, to linger behind the rest. The
buffalo is tough and fierce, however, and fights so desperately that,
although surrounded by fifty or a hundred wolves, he keeps up the
unequal combat for several days before he finally succumbs.
The old bull that our travellers discovered had evidently been long
engaged with his ferocious adversaries, for his limbs and flesh were
torn in shreds in many places, and blood was streaming from his sides.
Yet he had fought so gallantly that he had tossed and stamped to death
dozens of the enemy. There could not have been fewer than fifty wolves
round him; and they had just concluded another of many futile attacks
when the hunters came up, for they were ranged in a circle round their
huge adversary--some lying down, some sitting on their haunches to
rest, and others sneaking about, lolling out their red tongues and
licking their chops as if impatient to renew the combat. The poor
buffalo was nearly spent, and it was clear that a few hours more would
see him torn to shreds and his bones picked clean.
"Ugh! de brutes," ejaculated Henri.
"They don't seem to mind us a bit," remarked Dick, as they rode up to
within pistol shot.
"It'll be merciful to give the old fellow a shot," said Joe. "Them
varmints are sure to finish him at last."
Joe raised his rifle as he spoke, and fired. The old bull gave his
last groan and fell, while the wolves, alarmed by the shot, fled in
all directions; but they did not run far. They knew well that some
portion, at least, of the carcass would fall to their share; so they
sat down at various distances all round, to wait as patiently as they
might for the hunters to retire. Dick left the scene with a feeling
of regret that the villanous wolves should have their feast so much
sooner than they expected.
Yet, after all, why should we call these wolves villanous? They did
nothing wrong--nothing contrary to the laws of their peculiar nature.
Nay, if we come to reason upon it, they rank higher in this matter
than man; for while the wolf does no violence to the laws of its
instincts, man often deliberately silences the voice of conscience,
and violates the laws of his own nature. But we will not insist on the
term, good reader, if you object strongly to it. We are willing to
admit that the wolves are _not_ villanous, but, _assuredly_, they are
In the course of the afternoon the three horsemen reached a small
creek, the banks of which were lined with a few stunted shrubs and
trees. Having eaten nothing since the night before, they dismounted
here to "feed," as Joe expressed it.
"Cur'ous thing," remarked Joe, as he struck a light by means of flint,
steel, and tinder-box--"cur'ous thing that we're made to need sich a
lot o' grub. If we could only get on like the sarpints, now, wot can
breakfast on a rabbit, and then wait a month or two for dinner! Ain't
Dick admitted that it was, and stooped to blow the fire into a blaze.
Here Henri uttered a cry of consternation, and stood speechless, with
his mouth open.
"What's the matter? what is't?" cried Dick and Joe, seizing their
There was a look of blank horror, and then a burst of laughter from
Dick Varley. "Well, well," cried he, "we've got lots o' tea an' sugar,
an' some flour; we can git on wi' that till we shoot another buffalo,
Dick observed a wild turkey stalking among the willows as he spoke. It
was fully a hundred yards off, and only its head was seen above the
leaves. This was a matter of little moment, however, for by aiming a
little lower he knew that he must hit the body. But Dick had driven
the nail too often to aim at its body; he aimed at the bird's eye, and
cut its head off.
"Fetch it, Crusoe."
In three minutes it was at Dick's feet, and it is not too much to say
that in five minutes more it was in the pot.
As this unexpected supply made up for the loss of the meat which
Henri had forgotten at their last halting-place, their equanimity was
restored; and while the meal was in preparation Dick shouldered his
rifle and went into the bush to try for another turkey. He did not
get one, however, but he shot a couple of prairie-hens, which are
excellent eating. Moreover, he found a large quantity of wild grapes
and plums. These were unfortunately not nearly ripe, but Dick resolved
to try his hand at a new dish, so he stuffed the breast of his coat
full of them.
After the pot was emptied, Dick washed it out, and put a little clean
water in it. Then he poured some flour in, and stirred it well. While
this was heating, he squeezed the sour grapes and plums into what Joe
called a "mush," mixed it with a spoonful of sugar, and emptied it
into the pot. He also skimmed a quantity of the fat from the remains
of the turkey soup and added that to the mess, which he stirred with
earnest diligence till it boiled down into a sort of thick porridge.
"D'ye think it'll be good?" asked Joe gravely; "I've me doubts of it."
"We'll see.--Hold the tin dish, Henri."
"Take care of de fingers. Ha! it looks magnifique--superb!"
The first spoonful produced an expression on Henri's face that needed
not to be interpreted. It was as sour as vinegar.
"Ye'll ha' to eat it yerself, Dick, lad," cried Joe, throwing down his
spoon, and spitting out the unsavoury mess.
"Nonsense," cried Dick, bolting two or three mouthfuls, and trying to
look as if he liked it. "Try again; it's not so bad as you think."
"Ho-o-o-o-o!" cried Henri, after the second mouthful. "Tis vinegre.
All de sugare in de pack would not make more sweeter one bite of it."
Dick was obliged to confess the dish a failure, so it was thrown out
after having been offered to Crusoe, who gave it one sniff and turned
away in silence. Then they mounted and resumed their journey.
At this place mosquitoes and horse-flies troubled our hunters and
their steeds a good deal. The latter especially were very annoying to
the poor horses. They bit them so much that the blood at last came
trickling down their sides. They were troubled also, once or twice, by
cockchafers and locusts, which annoyed them, not indeed by biting,
but by flying blindly against their faces, and often-narrowly missed
hitting them in the eyes. Once particularly they were so bad that
Henri in his wrath opened his lips to pronounce a malediction on the
whole race, when a cockchafer flew straight into his mouth, and, to
use his own forcible expression, "nearly knocked him off de hoss." But
these were minor evils, and scarcely cost the hunters a thought.
_Wanderings on the prairie_--_A war party_--_Chased by Indians_--_A
bold leap for life_.
For many days the three hunters wandered over the trackless prairie in
search of a village of the Sioux Indians, but failed to find one, for
the Indians were in the habit of shifting their ground and following
the buffalo. Several times they saw small isolated bands of Indians;
but these they carefully avoided, fearing they might turn out to be
war parties, and if they fell into their hands the white men could not
expect civil treatment, whatever nation the Indians might belong to.
During the greater portion of this time they met with numerous herds
of buffalo and deer, and were well supplied with food; but they had to
cook it during the day, being afraid to light a fire at night while
Indians were prowling about.
One night they halted near the bed of a stream which was almost dry.
They had travelled a day and a night without water, and both men and
horses were almost choking, so that when they saw the trees on the
horizon which indicated the presence of a stream, they pushed forward
with almost frantic haste.
"Hope it's not dry," said Joe anxiously as they galloped up to it.
"No, there's water, lads," and they dashed forward to a pool that had
not yet been dried up. They drank long and eagerly before they noticed
that the pool was strongly impregnated with salt. Many streams in
those parts of the prairies are quite salt, but fortunately this one
was not utterly undrinkable, though it was very unpalatable.
"We'll make it better, lads," said Joe, digging a deep hole in the
sand with his hands, a little below the pool. In a short time the
water filtered through, and though not rendered fresh, it was,
nevertheless, much improved.
"We may light a fire to-night, d'ye think?" inquired Dick; "we've not
seed Injuns for some days."
"P'r'aps 'twould be better not," said Joe; "but I daresay we're safe
A fire was therefore lighted in as sheltered a spot as could be found,
and the three friends bivouacked as usual. Towards dawn they were
aroused by an angry growl from Crusoe.
"It's a wolf likely," said Dick, but all three seized and cocked their
Again Crusoe growled more angrily than before, and springing out of
the camp snuffed the breeze anxiously.
"Up, lads! catch the nags! There's something in the wind, for the dog
niver did that afore."
In a few seconds the horses were saddled and the packs secured.
"Call in the dog," whispered Joe Blunt; "if he barks they'll find out
"Here, Crusoe, come--"
It was too late; the dog barked loudly and savagely at the moment,
and a troop of Indians came coursing over the plain. On hearing the
unwonted sound they wheeled directly and made for the camp.
"It's a war party; fly, lads! nothin' 'll save our scalps now but our
horses' heels," cried Joe.
In a moment they vaulted into the saddle and urged their steeds
forward at the utmost speed. The savages observed them, and with an
exulting yell dashed after them. Feeling that there was now no need
of concealment, the three horsemen struck off into the open prairie,
intending to depend entirely on the speed and stamina of their horses.
As we have before remarked, they were good ones; but the Indians soon
proved that they were equally well if not better mounted.
"It'll be a hard run," said Joe in a low, muttering tone, and looking
furtively over his shoulder. "The varmints are mounted on wild
horses--leastways they were wild not long agone. Them chaps can
throw the lasso and trip a mustang as well as a Mexican. Mind the
badger-holes, Dick.--Hold in a bit, Henri; yer nag don't need drivin';
a foot in a hole just now would cost us our scalps. Keep down by the
"Ha! how dey yell," said Henri in a savage tone, looking back, and
shaking his rifle at them, an act that caused them to yell more
fiercely than ever. "Dis old pack-hoss give me moche trobel."
The pace was now tremendous. Pursuers and pursued rose and sank on the
prairie billows as they swept along, till they came to what is termed
a "dividing ridge," which is a cross wave, as it were, that cuts the
others in two, thus forming a continuous level. Here they advanced
more easily; but the advantage was equally shared with their pursuers,
who continued the headlong pursuit with occasional yells, which served
to show the fugitives that they at least did not gain ground.
A little to the right of the direction in which they were flying a
blue line was seen on the horizon. This indicated the existence of
trees to Joe's practised eyes, and feeling that if the horses broke
down they could better make a last manful stand in the wood than on
the plain he urged his steed towards it. The savages noticed the
movement at once, and uttered a yell of exultation, for they regarded
it as an evidence that the fugitives doubted the strength of their
"Ye haven't got us yet," muttered Joe, with a sardonic grin. "If they
get near us, Dick, keep yer eyes open an' look out for yer neck, else
they'll drop a noose over it, they will, afore ye know they're near,
an' haul ye off like a sack."
Dick nodded in reply, but did not speak, for at that moment his eye
was fixed on a small creek ahead which they must necessarily leap or
dash across. It was lined with clumps of scattered shrubbery, and he
glanced rapidly for the most suitable place to pass. Joe and Henri did
the same, and having diverged a little to the different points chosen,
they dashed through the shrubbery and were hid from each other's view.
On approaching the edge of the stream, Dick found to his consternation
that the bank was twenty feet high opposite him, and too wide for any
horse to clear. Wheeling aside without checking speed, at the risk of
throwing his steed, he rode along the margin of the stream for a few
hundred yards until he found a ford--at least such a spot as might be
cleared by a bold leap. The temporary check, however, had enabled an
Indian to gain so close upon his heels that his exulting yell sounded
close in his ear.
With a vigorous bound his gallant little horse went over. Crusoe could
not take it, but he rushed down the one bank and up the other, so that
he only lost a few yards. These few yards, however, were sufficient
to bring the Indian close upon him as he cleared the stream at full
gallop. The savage whirled his lasso swiftly round for a second, and
in another moment Crusoe uttered a tremendous roar as he was tripped
up violently on the plain.
Dick heard the cry of his faithful dog, and turned quickly round, just
in time to see him spring at the horse's throat, and bring both steed
and rider down upon him. Dick's heart leaped to his throat. Had a
thousand savages been rushing on him he would have flown to the rescue
of his favourite; but an unexpected obstacle came in the way. His
fiery little steed, excited by the headlong race and the howls of the
Indians, had taken the bit in his teeth and was now unmanageable. Dick
tore at the reins like a maniac, and in the height of his frenzy even
raised the butt of his rifle with the intent to strike the poor horse
to the earth, but his better nature prevailed. He checked the uplifted
hand, and with, a groan dropped the reins, and sank almost helplessly
forward on the saddle; for several of the Indians had left the main
body and were pursuing him alone, so that there would have been now no
chance of his reaching the place where Crusoe fell, even if he could
have turned his horse.
Spiritless, and utterly indifferent to what his fate might be, Dick
Varley rode along with his head drooping, and keeping his seat almost
mechanically, while the mettlesome little steed flew on over wave and
hollow. Gradually he awakened from this state of despair to a sense
of danger. Glancing round he observed that the Indians were now
far behind him, though still pursuing. He also observed that his
companions were galloping miles away on the horizon to the left, and
that he had foolishly allowed the savages to get between him and them.
The only chance that remained for him was to outride his pursuers, and
circle round towards his comrades, and this he hoped to accomplish,
for his little horse had now proved itself to be superior to those of
the Indians, and there was good running in him still.
Urging him forward, therefore, he soon left the savages still farther
behind, and feeling confident that they could not now overtake him he
reined up and dismounted. The pursuers quickly drew near, but short
though it was the rest did his horse good. Vaulting into the saddle,
he again stretched out, and now skirted along the margin of a wood
which seemed to mark the position of a river of considerable size.
At this moment his horse put his foot into a badger-hole, and both of
them came heavily to the ground. In an instant Dick rose, picked up
his gun, and leaped unhurt into the saddle. But on urging his poor
horse forward he found that its shoulder was badly sprained.
There was no room for mercy, however--life and death were in the
balance--so he plied the lash vigorously, and the noble steed warmed
into something like a run, when again it stumbled, and fell with
a crash on the ground, while the blood burst from its mouth and
nostrils. Dick could hear the shout of triumph uttered by his
"My poor, poor horse!" he exclaimed in a tone of the deepest
commiseration, while he stooped and stroked its foam-studded neck.
The dying steed raised its head for a moment, it almost seemed as
if to acknowledge the tones of affection, then it sank down with a
Dick sprang up, for the Indians were now upon him, and bounded like an
antelope into the thickest of the shrubbery; which was nowhere
thick enough, however, to prevent the Indians following. Still, it
sufficiently retarded them to render the chase a more equal one than
could have been expected. In a few minutes Dick gained a strip of open
ground beyond, and found himself on the bank of a broad river, whose
evidently deep waters rushed impetuously along their unobstructed
channel. The bank at the spot where he reached it was a sheer
precipice of between thirty and forty feet high. Glancing up and
down the river he retreated a few paces, turned round and shook his
clenched fist at the savages, accompanying the action with a shout of
defiance, and then running to the edge of the bank, sprang far out
into the boiling flood and sank.
The Indians pulled up on reaching the spot. There was no possibility
of galloping down the wood-encumbered banks after the fugitive; but
quick as thought each Red-man leaped to the ground, and fitting an
arrow to his bow, awaited Dick's re-appearance with eager gaze.
Young though he was, and unskilled in such wild warfare, Dick knew
well enough what sort of reception he would meet with on coming to the
surface, so he kept under water as long as he could, and struck out as
vigorously as the care of his rifle would permit. At last he rose for
a few seconds, and immediately half-a-dozen arrows whizzed through the
air; but most of them fell short--only one passed close to his cheek,
and went with a "whip" into the river. He immediately sank again, and
the next time he rose to breathe he was far beyond the reach of his
_Escape from Indians--A discovery--Alone in the desert_.
Dick Varley had spent so much of his boyhood in sporting about among
the waters of the rivers and lakes near which he had been reared, and
especially during the last two years had spent so much of his leisure
time in rolling and diving with his dog Crusoe in the lake of the
Mustang Valley, that he had become almost as expert in the water as a
South Sea islander; so that when he found himself whirling down the
rapid river, as already described, he was more impressed with a
feeling of gratitude to God for his escape from the Indians than
anxiety about getting ashore.
He was not altogether blind or indifferent to the danger into which he
might be hurled if the channel of the river should be found lower down
to be broken with rocks, or should a waterfall unexpectedly appear.
After floating down a sufficient distance to render pursuit out of the
question, he struck into the bank opposite to that from which he had
plunged, and clambering up to the greensward above, stripped off the
greater part of his clothing and hung it on the branches of a bush to
dry. Then he sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree to consider what
course he had best pursue in his present circumstances.
These circumstances were by no means calculated to inspire him with
hope or comfort. He was in the midst of an unknown wilderness,
hundreds of miles from any white man's settlement; surrounded by
savages; without food or blanket; his companions gone, he knew not
whither--perhaps taken and killed by the Indians; his horse dead; and
his dog, the most trusty and loving of all his friends, lost to him,
probably, for ever! A more veteran heart might have quailed in the
midst of such accumulated evils; but Dick Varley possessed a strong,
young, and buoyant constitution, which, united with a hopefulness
of disposition that almost nothing could overcome, enabled him very
quickly to cast aside the gloomy view of his case and turn to its
He still grasped his good rifle, that was some comfort; and as his eye
fell upon it, he turned with anxiety to examine into the condition of
his powder-horn and the few things that he had been fortunate enough
to carry away with him about his person.
The horn in which western hunters carry their powder is usually that
of an ox. It is closed up at the large end with a piece of hard wood
fitted tightly into it, and the small end is closed with a wooden peg
or stopper. It is therefore completely water-tight, and may be for
hours immersed without the powder getting wet, unless the stopper
should chance to be knocked out. Dick found, to his great
satisfaction, that the stopper was fast and the powder perfectly dry.
Moreover, he had by good fortune filled it full two days before from
the package that contained the general stock of ammunition, so that
there were only two or three charges out of it. His percussion caps,
however, were completely destroyed; and even though they had not
been, it would have mattered little, for he did not possess more than
half-a-dozen. But this was not so great a misfortune as at first
it might seem, for he had the spare flint locks and the little
screw-driver necessary for fixing and unfixing them stowed away in his
To examine his supply of bullets was his next care, and slowly he
counted them out, one by one, to the number of thirty. This was a
pretty fair supply, and with careful economy would last him many days.
Having relieved his mind on these all-important points, he carefully
examined every pouch and corner of his dress to ascertain the exact
amount and value of his wealth.
Besides the leather leggings, moccasins, deerskin hunting-shirt,
cap, and belt which composed his costume, he had a short heavy
hunting-knife, a piece of tinder, a little tin pannikin, which he had
been in the habit of carrying at his belt, and a large cake of maple
sugar. This last is a species of sugar which is procured by the
Indians from the maple-tree. Several cakes of it had been carried off
from the Pawnee village, and Dick usually carried one in the breast of
his coat. Besides these things, he found that the little Bible, for
which his mother had made a small inside breast-pocket, was safe.
Dick's heart smote him when he took it out and undid the clasp, for he
had not looked at it until that day. It was firmly bound with a brass
clasp, so that, although the binding and the edges of the leaves were
soaked, the inside was quite dry. On opening the book to see if it
had been damaged, a small paper fell out. Picking it up quickly, he
unfolded it, and read, in his mother's handwriting: "_Call upon me in
the time of trouble; and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify
me. My son, give me thine heart_."
Dick's eyes filled with tears while the sound, as it were, of
his mother's voice thus reached him unexpectedly in that lonely
wilderness. Like too many whose hearts are young and gay, Dick had
regarded religion, if not as a gloomy, at least as not a cheerful
thing. But he felt the comfort of these words at that moment, and he
resolved seriously to peruse his mother's parting gift in time to
The sun was hot, and a warm breeze gently shook the leaves, so that
Dick's garments were soon dry. A few minutes served to change the
locks of his rifle, draw the wet charges, dry out the barrels, and
re-load. Then throwing it across his shoulder, he entered the wood
and walked lightly away. And well he might, poor fellow, for at that
moment he felt light enough in person if not in heart. His worldly
goods were not such as to oppress him; but the little note had turned
his thoughts towards home, and he felt comforted.
Traversing the belt of woodland that marked the course of the river,
Dick soon emerged on the wide prairie beyond, and here he paused in
some uncertainty as to how he should proceed.
He was too good a backwoodsman, albeit so young, to feel perplexed as
to the points of the compass. He knew pretty well what hour it was, so
that the sun showed him the general bearings of the country, and he
knew that when night came he could correct his course by the pole
star. Dick's knowledge of astronomy was limited; he knew only one star
by name, but that one was an inestimable treasure of knowledge. His
perplexity was owing to his uncertainty as to the direction in which
his companions and their pursuers had gone; for he had made up his
mind to follow their trail if possible, and render all the succour his
single arm might afford. To desert them, and make for the settlement,
he held, would be a faithless and cowardly act.
While they were together Joe Blunt had often talked to him about the
route he meant to pursue to the Rocky Mountains, so that, if they had
escaped the Indians, he thought there might be some chance of finding
them at last. But, to set against this, there was the probability that
they had been taken and carried away in a totally different direction;
or they might have taken to the river, as he had done, and gone
farther down without his observing them. Then, again, if they had
escaped, they would be sure to return and search the country round for
him, so that if he left the spot he might miss them.
"Oh for my dear pup Crusoe!" he exclaimed aloud in this dilemma; but
the faithful ear was shut now, and the deep silence that followed his
cry was so oppressive that the young hunter sprang forward at a
run over the plain, as if to fly from solitude. He soon became so
absorbed, however, in his efforts to find the trail of his companions,
that he forgot all other considerations, and ran straight forward for
hours together with his eyes eagerly fixed on the ground. At last he
felt so hungry, having tasted no food since supper-time the previous
evening, that he halted for the purpose of eating a morsel of maple
sugar. A line of bushes in the distance indicated water, so he sped on
again, and was soon seated beneath a willow, drinking water from the
cool stream. No game was to be found here, but there were several
kinds of berries, among which wild grapes and plums grew in abundance.
With these and some sugar he made a meal, though not a good one, for
the berries were quite green and intensely sour.
All that day Dick Varley followed up the trail of his companions,
which he discovered at a ford in the river. They had crossed,
therefore, in safety, though still pursued; so he ran on at a regular
trot, and with a little more hope than he had felt during the day.
Towards night, however, Dick's heart sank again, for he came upon
innumerable buffalo tracks, among which those of the horses soon
became mingled up, so that he lost them altogether. Hoping to find
them again more easily by broad daylight, he went to the nearest clump
of willows he could find, and encamped for the night.
Remembering the use formerly made of the tall willows, he set to work
to construct a covering to protect him from the dew. As he had no
blanket or buffalo skin, he used leaves and grass instead, and found
it a better shelter than he had expected, especially when the fire was
lighted, and a pannikin of hot sugar and water smoked at his feet; but
as no game was to be found, he was again compelled to sup off unripe
berries. Before lying down to rest he remembered his resolution, and
pulling out the little Bible, read a portion of it by the fitful blaze
of the fire, and felt great comfort in its blessed words. It seemed
to him like a friend with whom he could converse in the midst of his
The plunge into the river having broken Dick's pipe and destroyed his
tobacco, he now felt the want of that luxury very severely, and, never
having wanted it before, he was greatly surprised to find how much he
had become enslaved to the habit. It cost him more than an hour's rest
that night, the craving for his wonted pipe.
The sagacious reader will doubtless not fail here to ask himself the
question, whether it is wise in man to create in himself an unnatural
and totally unnecessary appetite, which may, and often does, entail
hours--ay, sometimes months--of exceeding discomfort; but we would
not for a moment presume to suggest such a question to him. We have a
distinct objection to the ordinary method of what is called "drawing a
moral." It is much better to leave wise men to do this for themselves.
Next morning Dick rose with the sun, and started without breakfast,
preferring to take his chance of finding a bird or animal of some kind
before long, to feeding again on sour berries. He was disappointed,
however, in finding the tracks of his companions. The ground here was
hard and sandy, so that little or no impression of a distinct kind was
made on it; and as buffaloes had traversed it in all directions, he
was soon utterly bewildered. He thought it possible that, by running
out for several miles in a straight line, and then taking a wide
circuit round, he might find the tracks emerging from the confusion
made by the buffaloes. But he was again disappointed, for the buffalo
tracks still continued, and the ground became less capable of showing
Soon Dick began to feel so ill and weak from eating such poor fare,
that he gave up all hope of discovering the tracks, and was compelled
to push forward at his utmost speed in order to reach a less barren
district, where he might procure fresh meat; but the farther he
advanced the worse and more sandy did the district become. For several
days he pushed on over this arid waste without seeing bird or beast,
and, to add to his misery, he failed at last to find water. For a day
and a night he wandered about in a burning fever, and his throat so
parched that he was almost suffocated. Towards the close of the second
day he saw a slight line of bushes away down in a hollow on his right.
With eager steps he staggered towards them, and, on drawing near,
beheld--blessed sight!--a stream of water glancing in the beams of the
Dick tried to shout for joy, but his parched throat refused to give
utterance to the voice. It mattered not. Exerting all his remaining
strength he rushed down the bank, dropped his rifle, and plunged
headforemost into the stream.
The first mouthful sent a thrill of horror to his heart; it was salt
The poor youth's cup of bitterness was now full to overflowing.
Crawling out of the stream, he sank down on the bank in a species of
lethargic torpor, from which, he awakened next morning in a raging
fever. Delirium soon rendered him insensible to his sufferings. The
sun rose like a ball of fire, and shone down with scorching power on
the arid plain. What mattered it to Dick? He was far away in the shady
groves of the Mustang Valley, chasing the deer at times, but more
frequently cooling his limbs and sporting with Crusoe in the bright
blue lake. Now he was in his mother's cottage, telling her how he had
thought of her when far away on the prairie, and what a bright, sweet
word it was she had whispered in his ear--so unexpectedly, too. Anon
he was scouring over the plains on horseback, with the savages at his
heels; and at such times Dick would spring with almost supernatural
strength from the ground, and run madly over the burning plain; but,
as if by a species of fascination, he always returned to the salt
river, and sank exhausted by its side, or plunged helplessly into its
These sudden immersions usually restored him for a short time to
reason, and he would crawl up the bank and gnaw a morsel of the maple
sugar; but he could not eat much, for it was in a tough, compact cake,
which his jaws had not power to break. All that day and the next night
he lay on the banks of the salt stream, or rushed wildly over the
plain. It was about noon of the second day after his attack that he
crept slowly out of the water, into which he had plunged a few seconds
before. His mind was restored, but he felt an indescribable sensation
of weakness, that seemed to him to be the approach of death. Creeping
towards the place where his rifle lay, he fell exhausted beside it,
and laid his cheek on the Bible, which had fallen out of his pocket
While his eyes were closed in a dreamy sort of half-waking slumber, he
felt the rough, hairy coat of an animal brush against his forehead.
The idea of being torn to pieces by wolves flashed instantly across
his mind, and with a shriek of terror he sprang up--to be almost
overwhelmed by the caresses of his faithful dog.
Yes, there he was, bounding round his master, barking and whining, and
giving vent to every possible expression of canine joy!
_Crusoe's return, and his private adventures among the Indians--Dick
at a very low ebb--Crusoe saves him_.
The means by which Crusoe managed to escape from his two-legged
captors, and rejoin his master, require separate and special notice.
In the struggle with the fallen horse and Indian, which Dick had seen
begun but not concluded, he was almost crushed to death; and the
instant the Indian gained his feet, he sent an arrow at his head with
savage violence. Crusoe, however, had been so well used to dodging the
blunt-headed arrows that were wont to be shot at him by the boys of
the Mustang Valley, that he was quite prepared, and eluded the shaft
by an active bound. Moreover, he uttered one of his own peculiar
roars, flew at the Indian's throat, and dragged him down. At the same
moment the other Indians came up, and one of them turned aside to the
rescue. This man happened to have an old gun, of the cheap sort at
that time exchanged for peltries by the fur-traders. With the butt of
this he struck Crusoe a blow on the head that sent him sprawling on
The rest of the savages, as we have seen, continued in pursuit of Dick
until he leaped into the river; then they returned, took the saddle
and bridle off his dead horse, and rejoined their comrades. Here they
held a court-martial on Crusoe, who was now bound foot and muzzle
with cords. Some were for killing him; others, who admired his noble
appearance, immense size, and courage, thought it would be well to
carry him to their village and keep him. There was a pretty violent
dispute on the subject, but at length it was agreed that they should
spare his life in the meantime, and perhaps have a dog-dance round him
when they got to their wigwams.
This dance, of which Crusoe was to be the chief though passive
performer, is peculiar to some of the tribes east of the Rocky
Mountains, and consists in killing a dog and cutting out its liver,
which is afterwards sliced into shreds or strings and hung on a pole
about the height of a man's head. A band of warriors then come and
dance wildly round this pole, and each one in succession goes up to
the raw liver and bites a piece off it, without, however, putting his
hands near it. Such is the dog-dance, and to such was poor Crusoe
destined by his fierce captors, especially by the one whose throat
still bore very evident marks of his teeth.
But Crusoe was much too clever a dog to be disposed of in so
disgusting a manner. He had privately resolved in his own mind that
he would escape; but the hopelessness of his ever carrying that
resolution into effect would have been apparent to any one who could
have seen the way in which his muzzle was secured, and his four paws
were tied together in a bunch, as he hung suspended across the saddle
of one of the savages!
This particular party of Indians who had followed Dick Varley
determined not to wait for the return of their comrades who were in
pursuit of the other two hunters, but to go straight home, so for
several days they galloped away over the prairie. At nights, when they
encamped, Crusoe was thrown on the ground like a piece of old lumber,
and left to lie there with a mere scrap of food till morning, when he
was again thrown across the horse of his captor and carried on. When
the village was reached, he was thrown again on the ground, and would
certainly have been torn to pieces in five minutes by the Indian curs
which came howling round him, had not an old woman come to the rescue
and driven them away. With the help of her grand-son--a little naked
creature, just able to walk, or rather to stagger--she dragged him to
her tent, and, undoing the line that fastened his mouth, offered him a
Although lying in a position that was unfavourable for eating
purposes, Crusoe opened his jaws and took it. An awful crash was
followed by two crunches--and it was gone! and Crusoe looked up in the
old squaw's face with a look that said plainly, "Another of the same,
please, and as quick as possible." The old woman gave him another,
and then a lump of meat, which latter went down with a gulp; but he
coughed after it! and it was well he didn't choke. After this the
squaw left him, and Crusoe spent the remainder of that night gnawing
the cords that bound him. So diligent was he that he was free before
morning and walked deliberately out of the tent. Then he shook
himself, and with a yell that one might have fancied was intended for
defiance he bounded joyfully away, and was soon out of sight.
To a dog with a good appetite which had been on short allowance for
several days, the mouthful given to him by the old squaw was a mere
nothing. All that day he kept bounding over the plain from bluff to
bluff in search of something to eat, but found nothing until dusk,
when he pounced suddenly and most unexpectedly on a prairie-hen fast
asleep. In one moment its life was gone. In less than a minute its
body was gone too--feathers and bones and all--down Crusoe's ravenous
On the identical spot Crusoe lay down and slept like a top for four
hours. At the end of that time he jumped up, bolted a scrap of skin
that somehow had been overlooked at supper, and flew straight over the
prairie to the spot where he had had the scuffle with the Indian. He
came to the edge of the river, took precisely the same leap that his
master had done before him, and came out on the other side a good deal
higher up than Dick had done, for the dog had no savages to dodge, and
was, as we have said before, a powerful swimmer.
It cost him a good deal of running about to find the trail, and it was
nearly dark before he resumed his journey; then, putting his keen nose
to the ground, he ran step by step over Dick's track, and at last
found him, as we have shown, on the banks of the salt creek.
It is quite impossible to describe the intense joy which filled Dick's
heart on again beholding his favourite. Only those who have lost and
found such an one can know it. Dick seized him round the neck and
hugged him as well as he could, poor fellow! in his feeble arms; then
he wept, then he laughed, and then he fainted.
This was a consummation that took Crusoe quite aback. Never having
seen his master in such a state before he seemed to think at first
that he was playing some trick, for he bounded round him, and barked,
and wagged his tail. But as Dick lay quite still and motionless, he
went forward with a look of alarm; snuffed him once or twice, and
whined piteously; then he raised his nose in the air and uttered a
long melancholy wail.
The cry seemed to revive Dick, for he moved, and with some difficulty
sat up, to the dog's evident relief. There is no doubt whatever that
Crusoe learned an erroneous lesson that day, and was firmly convinced
thenceforth that the best cure for a fainting fit is a melancholy
yell. So easy is it for the wisest of dogs as well as men to fall into
"Crusoe," said Dick, in a feeble voice, "dear good pup, come here."
He crawled, as he spoke, down to the water's edge, where there was a
level patch of dry sand.
"Dig," said Dick, pointing to the sand.
Crusoe looked at him in surprise, as well he might, for he had never
heard the word "dig" in all his life before.
Dick pondered a minute then a thought struck him.
He turned up a little of the sand with his fingers, and, pointing to
the hole, cried, "_Seek him out, pup_!"
Ha! Crusoe understood _that_. Many and many a time had he unhoused
rabbits, and squirrels, and other creatures at that word of command;
so, without a moment's delay, he commenced to dig down into the sand,
every now and then stopping for a moment and shoving in his nose, and
snuffing interrogatively, as if he fully expected to find a buffalo at
the bottom of it. Then he would resume again, one paw after another
so fast that you could scarce see them going--"hand over hand," as
sailors would have called it--while the sand flew out between his hind
legs in a continuous shower. When the sand accumulated so much behind
him as to impede his motions he scraped it out of his way, and set to
work again with tenfold earnestness. After a good while he paused and
looked up at Dick with an "it-won't-do,-I-fear,-there's-nothing-here"
expression on his face.
"Seek him out, pup!" repeated Dick.
"Oh! very good," mutely answered the dog, and went at it again, tooth
and nail, harder than ever.
In the course of a quarter of an hour there was a deep yawning hole
in the sand, into which Dick peered with intense anxiety. The bottom
appeared slightly _damp_. Hope now reanimated Dick Varley, and by
various devices he succeeded in getting the dog to scrape away a sort
of tunnel from the hole, into which he might roll himself and put down
his lips to drink when the water should rise high enough. Impatiently
and anxiously he lay watching the moisture slowly accumulate in the
bottom of the hole, drop by drop, and while he gazed he fell into a
troubled, restless slumber, and dreamed that Crusoe's return was a
dream, and that he was alone again, perishing for want of water.
When he awakened the hole was half full of clear water, and Crusoe was
lapping it greedily.
"Back, pup!" he shouted, as he crept down to the hole and put his
trembling lips to the water. It was brackish, but drinkable, and as
Dick drank deeply of it he esteemed it at that moment better than
nectar. Here he lay for half-an-hour, alternately drinking and gazing
in surprise at his own emaciated visage as reflected in the pool.
The same afternoon Crusoe, in a private hunting excursion of his own,
discovered and caught a prairie-hen, which he quietly proceeded to
devour on the spot, when Dick, who saw what had occurred, whistled to
Obedience was engrained in every fibre of Crusoe's mental and
corporeal being. He did not merely answer at once to the call--he
_sprang_ to it, leaving the prairie-hen untasted.
"Fetch it, pup," cried Dick eagerly as the dog came up.
In a few moments the hen was at his feet. Dick's circumstances could
not brook the delay of cookery; he gashed the bird with his knife and
drank the blood, and then gave the flesh to the dog, while he crept
to the pool again for another draught. Ah! think not, reader, that
although we have treated this subject in a slight vein of pleasantry,
because it ended well, that therefore our tale is pure fiction. Not
only are Indians glad to satisfy the urgent cravings of hunger with
raw flesh, but many civilized men and delicately nurtured have done
the same--ay, and doubtless will do the same again, as long as
enterprising and fearless men shall go forth to dare the dangers of
flood and field in the wild places of our wonderful world!
Crusoe had finished his share of the feast before Dick returned from
the pool. Then master and dog lay down together side by side and fell
into a long, deep, peaceful slumber.
_Health and happiness return_--Incidents of the journey_--_A buffalo
shot_--_A wild horse "creased"_--_Dick's battle with a mustang_.
Dick Varley's fears and troubles, in the meantime, were ended. On the
day following he awoke refreshed and happy--so happy and light at
heart, as he felt the glow of returning health coursing through his
veins, that he fancied he must have dreamed it all. In fact, he was so
certain that his muscles were strong that he endeavoured to leap up,
but was powerfully convinced of his true condition by the miserable
stagger that resulted from the effort.
However, he knew he was recovering, so he rose, and thanking God for
his recovery, and for the new hope that was raised in his heart, he
went down to the pool and drank deeply of its water. Then he returned,
and, sitting down beside his dog, opened the Bible and read long--and,
for the first time, _earnestly_--the story of Christ's love for sinful
man. He at last fell asleep over the book, and when he awakened felt
so much refreshed in body and mind that he determined to attempt to
pursue his journey.
He had not proceeded far when he came upon a colony of prairie-dogs.
Upon this occasion he was little inclined to take a humorous view of
the vagaries of these curious little creatures, but he shot one, and,
as before, ate part of it raw. These creatures are so active that they
are difficult to shoot, and even when killed generally fall into their
holes and disappear. Crusoe, however, soon unearthed the dead animal
on this occasion. That night the travellers came to a stream of fresh
water, and Dick killed a turkey, so that he determined to spend a
couple of days there to recruit. At the end of that time he again set
out, but was able only to advance five miles when he broke down. In
fact, it became evident to him that he must have a longer period of
absolute repose ere he could hope to continue his journey; but to do
so without food was impossible. Fortunately there was plenty of water,
as his course lay along the margin of a small stream, and, as the arid
piece of prairie was now behind him, he hoped to fall in with birds,
or perhaps deer, soon.
While he was plodding heavily and wearily along, pondering these
things, he came to the brow of a wave from which he beheld a most
magnificent view of green grassy plains decked with flowers, and
rolling out to the horizon, with a stream meandering through it, and
clumps of trees scattered everywhere far and wide. It was a glorious
sight; but the most glorious object in it to Dick, at that time, was a
fat buffalo which stood grazing not a hundred yards off. The wind was
blowing towards him, so that the animal did not scent him, and, as he
came up very slowly, and it was turned away, it did not see him.
Crusoe would have sprung forward in an instant, but his master's
finger imposed silence and caution. Trembling with eagerness, Dick
sank flat down in the grass, cocked both barrels of his piece, and,
resting it on his left hand with his left elbow on the ground, he
waited until the animal should present its side. In a few seconds
it moved; Dick's eye glanced along the barrel, but it trembled--his
wonted steadiness of aim was gone. He fired, and the buffalo sprang
off in terror. With a groan of despair he fired again--almost
recklessly--and the buffalo fell! It rose once or twice and stumbled
forward a few paces, then it fell again. Meanwhile Dick reloaded with
trembling hand, and advanced to give it another shot; but it was not
needful--the buffalo was already dead.
"Now, Crusoe," said Dick, sitting down on the buffalo's shoulder and
patting his favourite on the head, "we're all right at last. You and I
shall have a jolly time o't, pup, from this time for'ard."
Dick paused for breath, and Crusoe wagged his tail and looked as if to
say--pshaw! "_as if!_"
We tell you what it is, reader, it's of no use at all to go on writing
"as if," when we tell you what Crusoe said. If there is any language
in eyes whatever--if there is language in a tail, in a cocked ear, in
a mobile eyebrow, in the point of a canine nose,--if there is language
in any terrestrial thing at all, apart from that which flows from the
tongue, then Crusoe _spoke!_ Do we not speak at this moment to _you?_
and if so, then tell me wherein lies the difference between a written
_letter_ and a given _sign?_
Yes, Crusoe spoke. He said to Dick as plain as dog could say it,
slowly and emphatically, "That's my opinion precisely, Dick. You're
the dearest, most beloved, jolliest fellow that ever walked on two
legs, you are; and whatever's your opinion is mine, no matter _how_
absurd it may be."
Dick evidently understood him perfectly, for he laughed as he looked
at him and patted him on the head, and called him a "funny dog." Then
he continued his discourse:--
"Yes, pup, we'll make our camp here for a long bit, old dog, in this
beautiful plain. We'll make a willow wigwam to sleep in, you and I,
jist in yon clump o' trees, not a stone's-throw to our right, where
we'll have a run o' pure water beside us, and be near our buffalo at
the same time. For, ye see, we'll need to watch him lest the wolves
take a notion to eat him--that'll be _your_ duty, pup. Then I'll skin
him when I get strong enough, which'll be in a day or two, I hope, and
we'll put one-half of the skin below us and t'other half above us
i' the camp, an' sleep, an' eat, an' take it easy for a week or
two--won't we, pup?"
"Hoora-a-a-y!" shouted Crusoe, with a jovial wag of his tail, that no
human arm with hat, or cap, or kerchief ever equalled.
Poor Dick Varley! He smiled to think how earnestly he had been talking
to the dog; but he did not cease to do it, for although he entered
into discourses the drift of which Crusoe's limited education did not
permit him to follow, he found comfort in hearing the sound of his own
voice, and in knowing that it fell pleasantly on another ear in that
Our hero now set about his preparations as vigorously as he could. He
cut out the buffalo's tongue--a matter of great difficulty to one in
his weak state--and carried it to a pleasant spot near to the stream
where the turf was level and green, and decked with wild flowers. Here
he resolved to make his camp.
His first care was to select a bush whose branches were long enough to
form a canopy over his head when bent, and the ends thrust into the
ground. The completing of this exhausted him greatly, but after a rest
he resumed his labours. The next thing was to light a fire--a comfort
which he had not enjoyed for many weary days. Not that he required it
for warmth, for the weather was extremely warm, but he required it to
cook with, and the mere _sight_ of a blaze in a dark place is a most
heart-cheering thing, as every one knows.
When the fire was lighted he filled his pannikin at the brook and put
it on to boil, and cutting several slices of buffalo tongue, he thrust
short stakes through them and set them up before the fire to roast. By
this time the water was boiling, so he took it off with difficulty,
nearly burning his fingers and singeing the tail of his coat in so
doing. Into the pannikin he put a lump of maple sugar, and stirred it
about with a stick, and tasted it. It seemed to him even better than
tea or coffee. It was absolutely delicious!
Really one has no notion what he can do if he makes believe _very
hard_. The human mind is a nicely balanced and extremely complex
machine, and when thrown a little off the balance can be made
to believe almost anything, as we see in the case of some poor
monomaniacs, who have fancied that they were made of all sorts of
things--glass and porcelain, and such like. No wonder then that poor
Dick Varley, after so much suffering and hardship, came to regard that
pannikin of hot sirup as the most delicious beverage he ever drank.
During all these operations Crusoe sat on his haunches beside him and
looked. And you haven't, no, you haven't got the most distant notion
of the way in which that dog manoeuvred with his head and face. He
opened his eyes wide, and cocked his ears, and turned his head first a
little to one side, then a little to the other. After that he turned
it a _good deal_ to one side, and then a good deal more to the other.
Then he brought it straight, and raised one eyebrow a little, and then
the other a little, and then both together very much. Then, when Dick
paused to rest and did nothing, Crusoe looked mild for a moment, and
yawned vociferously. Presently Dick moved--up went the ears again, and
Crusoe came, in military parlance, "to the position of attention!" At
last supper was ready and they began.
Dick had purposely kept the dog's supper back from him, in order that
they might eat it in company. And between every bite and sup that Dick
took, he gave a bite--but not a sup--to Crusoe. Thus lovingly they
ate together; and when Dick lay that night under the willow branches,
looking up through them at the stars, with his feet to the fire and
Crusoe close along his side, he thought it the best and sweetest
supper he ever ate, and the happiest evening he ever spent--so
wonderfully do circumstances modify our notions of felicity.
Two weeks after this "Richard was himself again."
The muscles were springy, and the blood coursed fast and free, as was
its wont. Only a slight, and, perhaps, salutary feeling of weakness
remained, to remind him that young muscles might again become more
helpless than those of an aged man or a child.
Dick had left his encampment a week ago, and was now advancing by
rapid stages towards the Rocky Mountains, closely following the trail
of his lost comrades, which he had no difficulty in finding and
keeping now that Crusoe was with him. The skin of the buffalo that he
had killed was now strapped to his shoulders, and the skin of another
animal that he had shot a few days after was cut up into a long line
and slung in a coil round his neck. Crusoe was also laden. He had a
little bundle of meat slung on each side of him.
For some time past numerous herds of mustangs, or wild horses, had
crossed their path, and Dick was now on the look-out for a chance to
_crease_ one of those magnificent creatures.
On one occasion a band of mustangs galloped close up to him before
they were aware of his presence, and stopped short with a wild snort
of surprise on beholding him; then, wheeling round, they dashed away
at full gallop, their long tails and manes flying wildly in the air,
and their hoofs thundering on the plain. Dick did not attempt to
crease one upon this occasion, fearing that his recent illness might
have rendered his hand too unsteady for so extremely delicate an
In order to crease a wild horse the hunter requires to be a perfect
shot, and it is not every man of the west who carries a rifle that can
do it successfully. Creasing consists in sending a bullet through the
gristle of the mustang's neck, just above the bone, so as to stun the
animal. If the ball enters a hair's-breadth too low, the horse
falls dead instantly. If it hits the exact spot, the horse falls as
instantaneously, and dead to all appearance; but, in reality, he is
only stunned, and if left for a few minutes will rise and gallop away
nearly as well as ever. When hunters crease a horse successfully they
put a rope, or halter, round his under jaw and hobbles round his feet,
so that when he rises he is secured, and, after considerable trouble,
reduced to obedience.
The mustangs which roam in wild freedom on the prairies of the far
west are descended from the noble Spanish steeds that were brought
over by the wealthy cavaliers who accompanied Fernando Cortez, the
conqueror of Mexico, in his expedition to the New World in 1518. These
bold, and, we may add, lawless cavaliers were mounted on the finest
horses that could be procured from Barbary and the deserts of the Old
World. The poor Indians of the New World were struck with amazement
and terror at these awful beings, for, never having seen horses
before, they believed that horse and rider were one animal. During the
wars that followed many of the Spaniards were killed, and their
steeds bounded into the wilds of the new country, to enjoy a life of
unrestrained freedom. These were the forefathers of the present race
of magnificent creatures which are found in immense droves all over
the western wilderness, from the Gulf of Mexico to the confines of the
snowy regions of the far north.
At first the Indians beheld these horses with awe and terror, but
gradually they became accustomed to them, and finally succeeded in
capturing great numbers and reducing them to a state of servitude.
Not, however, to the service of the cultivated field, but to the
service of the chase and war. The savages soon acquired the method of
capturing wild horses by means of the lasso--as the noose at that end
of a long line of raw hide is termed--which they adroitly threw over
the heads of the animals and secured them, having previously run them
down. At the present day many of the savage tribes of the west almost
live upon horseback, and without these useful creatures they could
scarcely subsist, as they are almost indispensable in the chase of the
Mustangs are regularly taken by the Indians to the settlements of the
white men for trade, but very poor specimens are these of the breed
of wild horses. This arises from two causes. First, the Indian cannot
overtake the finest of a drove of wild mustangs, because his own steed
is inferior to the best among the wild ones, besides being weighted
with a rider, so that only the weak and inferior animals are captured.
And, secondly, when the Indian does succeed in lassoing a first-rate
horse he keeps it for his own use. Thus, those who have not visited
the far-off prairies and seen the mustang in all the glory of
untrammelled freedom, can form no adequate idea of its beauty,
fleetness, and strength.
The horse, however, was not the only creature imported by Cortez.
There were priests in his army who rode upon asses, and although we
cannot imagine that the "fathers" charged with the cavaliers and were
unhorsed, or, rather, un-assed in battle, yet, somehow, the asses got
rid of their riders and joined the Spanish chargers in their joyous
bound into a new life of freedom. Hence wild asses also are found in
the western prairies. But think not, reader, of those poor miserable
wretches we see at home, which seem little better than rough door-mats
sewed up and stuffed, with head, tail, and legs attached, and just
enough of life infused to make them move! No, the wild ass of the
prairie is a large powerful, swift creature. He has the same long
ears, it is true, and the same hideous, exasperating bray, and the
same tendency to flourish his heels; but for all that he is a very
fine animal, and often wages _successful_ warfare with the wild horse.
But to return. The next drove of mustangs that Dick and Crusoe saw
were feeding quietly and unsuspectingly in a rich green hollow in the
plain. Dick's heart leaped up as his eyes suddenly fell on them,
for he had almost discovered himself before he was aware of their
"Down, pup!" he whispered, as he sank and disappeared among the grass,
which was just long enough to cover him when lying quite flat.
Crusoe crouched immediately, and his master made his observations of
the drove, and the dispositions of the ground that might favour his
approach, for they were not within rifle range. Having done so he
crept slowly back until the undulation of the prairie hid him from
view; then he sprang to his feet, and ran a considerable distance
along the bottom until he gained the extreme end of a belt of low
bushes, which would effectually conceal him while he approached to
within a hundred yards or less of the troop.
Here he made his arrangements. Throwing down his buffalo robe, he took
the coil of line and cut off a piece of about three yards in length.
On this he made a running noose. The longer line he also prepared with
a running noose. These he threw in a coil over his arm.
He also made a pair of hobbles, and placed them in the breast of his
coat, and then, taking up his rifle, advanced cautiously through the
bushes--Crusoe following close behind him. In a few minutes he was
gazing in admiration at the mustangs, which were now within easy shot,
and utterly ignorant of the presence of man, for Dick had taken care
to approach in such a way that the wind did not carry the scent of him
in their direction.
And well might he admire them. The wild horse of these regions is not
very large, but it is exceedingly powerful, with prominent eye,
sharp nose, distended nostril, small feet, and a delicate leg. Their
beautiful manes hung at great length down their arched necks, and
their thick tails swept the ground. One magnificent fellow in
particular attracted Dick's attention. He was of a rich dark-brown
colour, with black mane and tail, and seemed to be the leader of the
Although not the nearest to him, he resolved to crease this horse. It
is said that creasing generally destroys or damages the spirit of the
horse, so Dick determined to try whether his powers of close shooting
would not serve him on this occasion. Going down on one knee he aimed
at the creature's neck, just a hair's-breadth above the spot where he
had been told that hunters usually hit them, and fired. The effect
upon the group was absolutely tremendous. With wild cries and snorting
terror they tossed their proud heads in the air, uncertain for one
moment in which direction to fly; then there was a rush as if a
hurricane swept over the place, and they were gone.
But the brown horse was down. Dick did not wait until the others
had fled. He dropped his rifle, and with the speed of a deer sprang
towards the fallen horse, and affixed the hobbles to his legs. His aim
had been true. Although scarcely half a minute elapsed between the
shot and the fixing of the hobbles, the animal recovered, and with a
frantic exertion rose on his haunches, just as Dick had fastened the
noose of the short line in his under jaw. But this was not enough. If
the horse had gained his feet before the longer line was placed round
his neck, he would have escaped. As the mustang made the second
violent plunge that placed it on its legs, Dick flung the noose
hastily; it caught on one ear, and would have fallen off, had not the
horse suddenly shaken its head, and unwittingly sealed its own fate by
bringing the noose round its neck.
And now the struggle began. Dick knew well enough, from hearsay, the
method of "breaking down" a wild horse. He knew that the Indians choke
them with the noose round the neck until they fall down exhausted and
covered with foam, when they creep up, fix the hobbles, and the line
in the lower jaw, and then loosen the lasso to let the horse breathe,
and resume its plungings till it is almost subdued, when they
gradually draw near and breathe into its nostrils. But the violence
and strength of this animal rendered this an apparently hopeless task.
We have already seen that the hobbles and noose in the lower jaw
had been fixed, so that Dick had nothing now to do but to choke his
captive, and tire him out, while Crusoe remained a quiet though
excited spectator of the scene.
But there seemed to be no possibility of choking this horse. Either
the muscles of his neck were too strong, or there was something
wrong with the noose which prevented it from acting, for the furious
creature dashed and bounded backwards and sideways in its terror for
nearly an hour, dragging Dick after it, till he was almost exhausted;
and yet, at the end of that time, although flecked with foam and
panting with terror, it seemed as strong as ever. Dick held both
lines, for the short one attached to its lower jaw gave him great
power over it. At last he thought of seeking assistance from his dog.
"Crusoe," he cried, "lay hold, pup!"
The dog seized the long line in his teeth and pulled with all his
might. At the same moment Dick let go the short line and threw all
his weight upon the long one. The noose tightened suddenly under this
strain, and the mustang, with a gasp, fell choking to the ground.
Dick had often heard of the manner in which the Mexicans "break" their
horses, so he determined to abandon the method which had already
almost worn him out, and adopt the other, as far as the means in his
power rendered it possible. Instead, therefore, of loosening the lasso
and re-commencing the struggle, he tore a branch from a neighbouring
bush, cut the hobbles, strode with his legs across the fallen steed,
seized the end of the short line or bridle, and then, ordering Crusoe
to quit his hold, he loosened the noose which compressed the horse's
neck and had already well-nigh terminated its existence.
One or two deep sobs restored it, and in a moment it leaped to its
feet with Dick firmly on its back. To say that the animal leaped and
kicked in its frantic efforts to throw this intolerable burden
would be a tame manner of expressing what took place. Words cannot
adequately describe the scene. It reared, plunged, shrieked, vaulted
into the air, stood straight up on its hind legs, and then almost as
straight upon its fore ones; but its rider held on like a burr. Then
the mustang raced wildly forwards a few paces, then as wildly back,
and then stood still and trembled violently. But this was only a brief
lull in the storm, so Dick saw that the time was now come to assert
the superiority of his race.
"Stay back, Crusoe, and watch my rifle, pup," he cried, and raising
his heavy switch he brought it down with a sharp cut across the
horse's flank, at the same time loosening the rein which hitherto he
had held tight.
The wild horse uttered a passionate cry, and sprang forward like the
bolt from a cross-bow.
And now commenced a race which, if not so prolonged, was at least as
furious as that of the far-famed Mazeppa. Dick was a splendid rider,
however--at least as far as "sticking on" goes. He might not have come
up to the precise pitch desiderated by a riding-master in regard to
carriage, etc., but he rode that wild horse of the prairie with as
much ease as he had formerly ridden his own good steed, whose bones
had been picked by the wolves not long ago.
The pace was tremendous, for the youth's weight was nothing to that
muscular frame, which bounded with cat-like agility from wave to wave
of the undulating plain in ungovernable terror. In a few minutes the
clump of willows where Crusoe and his rifle lay were out of sight
behind; but it mattered not, for Dick had looked up at the sky and
noted the position of the sun at the moment of starting. Away they
went on the wings of the wind, mile after mile over the ocean-like
waste--curving slightly aside now and then to avoid the bluffs that
occasionally appeared on the scene for a few minutes and then swept
out of sight behind them. Then they came to a little rivulet. It was a
mere brook of a few feet wide, and two or three yards, perhaps, from
bank to bank. Over this they flew so easily that the spring was
scarcely felt, and continued the headlong course. And now a more
barren country was around them. Sandy ridges and scrubby grass
appeared everywhere, reminding Dick of the place where he had been
so ill. Rocks, too, were scattered about, and at one place the horse
dashed with clattering hoofs between a couple of rocky sand-hills
which, for a few seconds, hid the prairie from view. Here the mustang
suddenly shied with such violence that his rider was nearly thrown,
while a rattlesnake darted from the path. Soon they emerged from this
pass, and again the plains became green and verdant. Presently a
distant line of trees showed that they were approaching water, and
in a few minutes they were close on it. For the first time Dick felt
alarm. He sought to check his steed, but no force he could exert had
the smallest influence on it.
Trees and bushes flew past in bewildering confusion. The river was
before him; what width, he could not tell, but he was reckless now,
like his charger, which he struck with the willow rod with all his
force as they came up. One tremendous bound, and they were across, but
Dick had to lie flat on the mustang's back as it crashed through the
bushes to avoid being scraped off by the trees. Again they were on the
open plain, and the wild horse began to show signs of exhaustion.
Now was its rider's opportunity to assert his dominion. He plied the
willow rod and urged the panting horse on, until it was white with
foam and laboured a little in its gait. Then Dick gently drew the
halter, and it broke into a trot; still tighter, and it walked, and in
another minute stood still, trembling in every limb. Dick now quietly
rubbed its neck, and spoke to it in soothing tones; then he wheeled it
gently round, and urged it forward. It was quite subdued and docile.
In a little time they came to the river and forded it, after which
they went through the belt of woodland at a walk. By the time they
reached the open prairie the mustang was recovered sufficiently to
feel its spirit returning, so Dick gave it a gentle touch with the
switch, and away they went on their return journey.
But it amazed Dick not a little to find how long that journey was.
Very different was the pace, too, from the previous mad gallop, and
often would the poor horse have stopped had Dick allowed him. But this
might not be. The shades of night were approaching, and the camp lay a
long way ahead.
At last it was reached, and Crusoe came out with great demonstrations
of joy, but was sent back lest he should alarm the horse. Then Dick
jumped off his back, stroked his head, put his cheek close to his
mouth and whispered softly to him, after which he fastened him to a
tree and rubbed him down slightly with a bunch of grass. Having done
this, he left him to graze as far as his tether would permit; and,
after supping with Crusoe, lay down to-rest, not a little elated with
his success in this first attempt at "creasing" and "breaking" a
_Dick becomes a horse tamer--Resumes his journey--Charlie's
doings--Misfortunes which lead to, but do not terminate in, the Rocky
Mountains--A grizzly bear_.
There is a proverb--or a saying--or at least somebody or book has told
us, that some Irishman once said, "Be aisy; or, if ye can't be aisy,
be as aisy as ye can."
Now, we count that good advice, and strongly recommend it to all and
sundry. Had we been at the side of Dick Varley on the night after his
taming of the wild horse, we would have strongly urged that advice
upon him. Whether he would have listened to it or not is quite another
question; we rather think not. Reader, if you wish to know why, go and
do what he did, and if you feel no curious sensations about the region
of the loins after it, we will tell you why Dick Varley wouldn't have
listened to that advice. Can a man feel as if his joints were wrenched
out of their sockets, and listen to advice--be that advice good or
bad? Can he feel as though these joints were trying to re-set and
re-dislocate themselves perpetually, and listen to advice? Can he feel
as if he were sitting down on red-hot iron, when he's not sitting down
at all, and listen to advice? Can he--but no! why pursue the subject.
Poor Dick spent that night in misery, and the greater part of the
following day in sleep, to make up for it.
When he got up to breakfast in the afternoon he felt much better, but
"Now, pup," he said, stretching himself, "we'll go and see our horse.
_Ours_, pup; yours and mine: didn't you help to catch him, eh, pup?"
Crusoe acknowledged the fact with a wag and a playful
"bow-wow--wow-oo-ow!" and followed his master to the place where
the horse had been picketed. It was standing there quite quiet, but
looking a little timid.
Dick went boldly up to it, and patted its head and stroked its nose,
for nothing is so likely to alarm either a tame or a wild horse as any
appearance of timidity or hesitation on the part of those who approach
After treating it thus for a short time, he stroked down its neck,
and then its shoulders--the horse eying him all the time nervously.
Gradually he stroked its back and limbs gently, and walked quietly
round and round it once or twice, sometimes approaching and sometimes
going away, but never either hesitating or doing anything abruptly.
This done, he went down to the stream and filled his cap with water
and carried it to the horse, which snuffed suspiciously and backed a
little; so he laid the cap down, and went up and patted him again.
Presently he took up the cap and carried it to his nose. The poor
creature was almost choking with thirst, so that, the moment he
understood what was in the cap, he buried his lips in it and sucked it
This was a great point gained: he had accepted a benefit at the hands
of his new master; he had become a debtor to man, and no doubt he felt
the obligation. Dick filled the cap and the horse emptied it again,
and again, and again, until its burning thirst was slaked. Then Dick
went up to his shoulder, patted him, undid the line that fastened him,
and vaulted lightly on his back!
We say _lightly_, for it was so, but it wasn't _easily_, as Dick could
have told you! However, he was determined not to forego the training
of his steed on account of what _he_ would have called a "little bit
At this unexpected act the horse plunged and reared a good deal, and
seemed inclined to go through the performance of the day before over
again; but Dick patted and stroked him into quiescence, and having
done so, urged him into a gallop over the plains, causing the dog to
gambol round in order that he might get accustomed to him. This tried
his nerves a good deal, and no wonder, for if he took Crusoe for a
wolf, which no doubt he did, he must have thought him a very giant of
By degrees they broke into a furious gallop, and after breathing him
well, Dick returned and tied him to the tree. Then he rubbed him down
again, and gave him another drink. This time the horse smelt his new
master all over, and Dick felt that he had conquered him by kindness.
No doubt the tremendous run of the day before could scarcely be called
kindness, but without this subduing run he never could have brought
the offices of kindness to bear on so wild a steed.
During all these operations Crusoe sat looking on with demure
sagacity--drinking in wisdom and taking notes. We know not whether any
notes made by the canine race have ever been given to the world, but
certain are we that, if the notes and observations made by Crusoe on
that journey were published, they would, to say the least, surprise
Next day Dick gave the wild horse his second lesson, and his name.
He called him "Charlie," after a much-loved companion in the Mustang
Valley. And long and heartily did Dick Varley laugh as he told the
horse his future designation in the presence of Crusoe, for it struck
him as somewhat ludicrous that a mustang which, two days ago, pawed
the earth in all the pride of independent freedom, should suddenly
come down so low as to carry a hunter on his back and be named
The next piece of instruction began by Crusoe being led up under
Charlie's nose, and while Dick patted the dog with his right hand he
patted the horse with his left. It backed a good deal at first and
snorted, but Crusoe walked slowly and quietly in front of him several
times, each time coming nearer, until he again stood under his nose;
then the horse smelt him nervously, and gave a sigh of relief when he
found that Crusoe paid no attention to him whatever. Dick then ordered
the dog to lie down at Charlie's feet, and went to the camp to fetch
his rifle, and buffalo robe, and pack of meat. These and all the other
things belonging to him were presented for inspection, one by one, to
the horse, who arched his neck, and put forward his ears, and eyed
them at first, but smelt them all over, and seemed to feel more easy
in his mind.
Next, the buffalo robe was rubbed over his nose, then over his eyes
and head, then down his neck and shoulder, and lastly was placed on
his back. Then it was taken off and _flung_ on; after that it was
strapped on, and the various little items of the camp were attached to
it. This done, Dick took up his rifle and let him smell it; then he
put his hand on Charlie's shoulder, vaulted on to his back, and rode
Charlie's education was completed. And now our hero's journey began
again in earnest, and with some prospect of its speedy termination.
In this course of training through which Dick put his wild horse, he
had been at much greater pains and had taken far longer time than is
usually the case among the Indians, who will catch, and "break," and
ride a wild horse into camp in less than _three hours_. But Dick
wanted to do the thing well, which the Indians are not careful to
do; besides, it must be borne in remembrance that this was his
first attempt, and that his horse was one of the best and most
high-spirited, while those caught by the Indians, as we have said, are
generally the poorest of a drove.
Dick now followed the trail of his lost companions at a rapid pace,
yet not so rapidly as he might have done, being averse to exhausting
his good dog and his new companion. Each night he encamped under the
shade of a tree or a bush when he could find one, or in the open
prairie when there were none, and, picketing his horse to a short
stake or pin which he carried with him for the purpose, lit his fire,
had supper, and lay down to rest. In a few days Charlie became so
tame and so accustomed to his master's voice that he seemed quite
reconciled to his new life. There can be no doubt whatever that he had
a great dislike to solitude; for on one occasion, when Dick and Crusoe
went off a mile or so from the camp, where Charlie was tied, and
disappeared from his view, he was heard to neigh so loudly that Dick
ran back, thinking the wolves must have attacked him. He was all
right, however, and exhibited evident tokens of satisfaction when they
On another occasion his fear of being left alone was more clearly
Dick had been unable to find wood or water that day, so he was obliged
to encamp upon the open plain. The want of water was not seriously
felt, however, for he had prepared a bladder in which he always
carried enough to give him one pannikin of hot sirup, and leave
a mouthful for Crusoe and Charlie. Dried buffalo dung formed a
substitute for fuel. Spreading his buffalo robe, he lit his fire, put
on his pannikin to boil, and stuck up a piece of meat to roast, to the
great delight of Crusoe, who sat looking on with much interest.
Suddenly Charlie, who was picketed a few hundred yards off in a grassy
spot, broke his halter close by the headpiece, and with a snort of
delight bounded away, prancing and kicking up his heels!
Dick heaved a deep sigh, for he felt sure that his horse was gone.
However, in a little Charlie stopped, and raised his nose high in the
air, as if to look for his old equine companions. But they were gone;
no answering neigh replied to his; and he felt, probably for the first
time, that he was really alone in the world. Having no power of smell,
whereby he might have traced them out as the dog would have done, he
looked in a bewildered and excited state all round the horizon. Then
his eye fell on Dick and Crusoe sitting by their little fire. Charlie
looked hard at them, and then again at the horizon; and then, coming
to the conclusion, no doubt, that the matter was quite beyond his
comprehension, he quietly took to feeding.
Dick availed himself of the chance, and tried to catch him; but he
spent an hour with Crusoe in the vain attempt, and at last they gave
it up in disgust and returned to the fire, where they finished their
supper and went to bed.
Next morning they saw Charlie feeding close at hand, so they took
breakfast, and tried to catch him again. But it was of no use; he was
evidently coquetting with them, and dodged about and defied their
utmost efforts, for there were only a few inches of line hanging to
his head. At last it occurred to Dick that he would try the experiment
of forsaking him. So he packed up his things, rolled up the buffalo
robe, threw it and the rifle on his shoulder, and walked deliberately
"Come along, Crusoe!" he cried, after walking a few paces.
But Crusoe stood by the fire with his head up, and an expression on
his face that said, "Hallo, man! what's wrong? You've forgot Charlie!
Hold on! Are you mad?"
"Come here, Crusoe!" cried his master in a decided tone.
Crusoe obeyed at once. Whatever mistake there might be, there was
evidently none in that command; so he lowered his head and tail
humbly, and trotted on with his master, but he perpetually turned his
head as he went, first on this side and then on that, to look and
wonder at Charlie.
When they were far away on the plain, Charlie suddenly became aware
that something was wrong. He trotted to the brow of a slope, with his
head and tail very high up indeed, and looked after them; then he
looked at the fire, and neighed; then he trotted quickly up to it, and
seeing that everything was gone he began to neigh violently, and at
last started off at full speed, and overtook his friends, passing
within a few feet of them, and, wheeling round a few yards off, stood
trembling like an aspen leaf.
Dick called him by his name and advanced, while Charlie met him
half-way, and allowed himself to be saddled, bridled, and mounted
After this Dick had no further trouble with his wild horse.
At his next camping-place, which was in the midst of a cluster of
bushes close beside a creek, Dick came unexpectedly upon a little
wooden cross which marked the head of a grave. There was no
inscription on it, but the Christian symbol told that it was the grave
of a white man. It is impossible to describe the rush of mingled
feelings that filled the soul of the young hunter as he leaned on the
muzzle of his rifle and looked at this solitary resting-place of one
who, doubtless like himself, had been a roving hunter. Had he been
young or old when he fell? had he a mother in the distant settlement
who watched and longed and waited for the son that was never more to
gladden her eyes? had he been murdered, or had he died there and been
buried by his sorrowing comrades? These and a thousand questions
passed rapidly through his mind as he gazed at the little cross.
Suddenly he started. "Could it be the grave of Joe or Henri?" For an
instant the idea sent a chill to his heart; but it passed quickly, for
a second glance showed that the grave was old, and that the wooden
cross had stood over it for years.
Dick turned away with a saddened heart; and that night, as he pored
over the pages of his Bible, his mind was filled with many thoughts
about eternity and the world to come. He, too, must come to the grave
one day, and quit the beautiful prairies and his loved rifle. It was a
sad thought; but while he meditated he thought upon his mother. "After
all," he murmured, "there must be happiness _without_ the rifle, and
youth, and health, and the prairie! My mother's happy, yet she don't
shoot, or ride like wild-fire over the plains." Then that word which
had been sent so sweetly to him through her hand came again to his
mind, "My son, give me thine heart;" and as he read God's Book, he met
with the word, "Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee
the desire of thine heart." "_The desire of thine heart_" Dick
repeated this, and pondered it till he fell asleep.
A misfortune soon after this befell Dick Varley which well-nigh caused
him to give way to despair. For some time past he had been approaching
the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains--those ragged, jagged,
mighty hills which run through the whole continent from north to south
in a continuous chain, and form, as it were, the backbone of America.
One morning, as he threw the buffalo robe off his shoulders and sat
up, he was horrified to find the whole earth covered with a mantle
of snow. We say he was horrified, for this rendered it absolutely
impossible any further to trace his companions either by scent or
For some time he sat musing bitterly on his sad fate, while his dog
came and laid his head sympathizingly on his arm.
"Ah, pup!" he said, "I know ye'd help me if ye could! But it's all up
now; there's no chance of findin' them--none!"
To this Crusoe replied by a low whine. He knew full well that
something distressed his master, but he hadn't yet ascertained what
it was. As something had to be done, Dick put the buffalo robe on
his steed, and mounting said, as he was in the habit of doing each
morning, "Lead on, pup."
Crusoe put his nose to the ground and ran forward a few paces, then he
returned and ran about snuffing and scraping up the snow. At last he
looked up and uttered a long melancholy howl.
"Ah! I knowed it," said Dick, pushing forward. "Come on, pup; you'll
have to _follow_ now. Any way we must go on."
The snow that had fallen was not deep enough to offer the slightest
obstruction to their advance. It was, indeed, only one of those
occasional showers common to that part of the country in the late
autumn, which season had now crept upon Dick almost before he was
aware of it, and he fully expected that it would melt away in a few
days. In this hope he kept steadily advancing, until he found himself
in the midst of those rocky fastnesses which divide the waters that
flow into the Atlantic from those that flow into the Pacific Ocean.
Still the slight crust of snow lay on the ground, and he had no means
of knowing whether he was going in the right direction or not.
Game was abundant, and there was no lack of wood now, so that his
night bivouac was not so cold or dreary as might have been expected.
Travelling, however, had become difficult, and even dangerous, owing
to the rugged nature of the ground over which he proceeded. The
scenery had completely changed in its character. Dick no longer
coursed over the free, open plains, but he passed through beautiful
valleys filled with luxuriant trees, and hemmed in by stupendous
mountains, whose rugged sides rose upward until the snow-clad peaks
pierced the clouds.
There was something awful in these dark solitudes, quite overwhelming
to a youth of Dick's temperament. His heart began to sink lower and
lower every day, and the utter impossibility of making up his mind
what to do became at length agonizing. To have turned and gone back
the hundreds of miles over which he had travelled would have caused
him some anxiety under any circumstances, but to do so while Joe and
Henri were either wandering about there or in the power of the savages
was, he felt, out of the question. Yet in which way should he go?
Whatever course he took might lead him farther and farther away from
In this dilemma he came to the determination of remaining where he
was, at least until the snow should leave the ground.
He felt great relief even when this hopeless course was decided
upon, and set about making himself an encampment with some degree of
cheerfulness. When he had completed this task, he took his rifle, and
leaving Charlie picketed in the centre of a dell, where the long, rich
grass rose high above the snow, went off to hunt.
On turning a rocky point his heart suddenly bounded into his throat,
for there, not thirty yards distant, stood a huge grizzly bear!
Yes, there he was at last, the monster to meet which the young hunter
had so often longed--the terrible size and fierceness of which he had
heard so often spoken about by the old hunters. There it stood at
last; but little did Dick Varley think that the first time he should
meet with his foe should be when alone in the dark recesses of the
Rocky Mountains, and with none to succour him in the event of the
battle going against him. Yes, there was one. The faithful Crusoe
stood by his side, with his hair bristling, all his formidable teeth
exposed, and his eyes glaring in their sockets. Alas for poor Crusoe
had he gone into that combat alone! One stroke of that monster's paw
would have hurled him dead upon the ground.
_Dick's first fight with a grizzly_--_Adventure with a deer_--_A
There is no animal in all the land so terrible and dangerous as the
grizzly bear. Not only is he the largest of the species in America,
but he is the fiercest, the strongest, and the most tenacious of
life--facts which are so well understood that few of the western
hunters like to meet him single-handed, unless they happen to be
first-rate shots; and the Indians deem the encounter so dangerous that
to wear a collar composed of the claws of a grizzly bear of his own
killing is counted one of the highest honours to which a young warrior
The grizzly bear resembles the brown bear of Europe, but it is larger,
and the hair is long, the points being of a paler shade. About the
head there is a considerable mixture of gray hair, giving it the
"grizzly" appearance from which it derives its name. The claws are
dirty white, arched, and very long, and so strong that when the animal
strikes with its paw they cut like a chisel. These claws are not
embedded in the paw, as is the case with the cat, but always project
far beyond the hair, thus giving to the foot a very ungainly
appearance. They are not sufficiently curved to enable the grizzly
bear to climb trees, like the black and brown bears; and this
inability on their part is often the only hope of the pursued hunter,
who, if he succeeds in ascending a tree, is safe, for the time at
least, from the bear's assaults. But "Caleb" is a patient creature,
and will often wait at the foot of the tree for many hours for his
The average length of his body is about nine feet, but he sometimes
attains to a still larger growth. Caleb is more carnivorous in his
habits than other bears; but, like them, he does not object to indulge
occasionally in vegetable diet, being partial to the bird-cherry, the
choke-berry, and various shrubs. He has a sweet tooth, too, and revels
in honey--when he can get it.
The instant the grizzly bear beheld Dick Varley standing in his path,
he rose on his hind legs and made a loud hissing noise, like a man
breathing quick, but much harsher. To this Crusoe replied by a deep
growl, and showing the utmost extent of his teeth, gums and all; and
Dick cocked both barrels of his rifle.
To say that Dick Varley felt no fear would be simply to make him out
that sort of hero which does not exist in nature--namely, a _perfect_
hero. He _did_ feel a sensation as if his bowels had suddenly melted
into water! Let not our reader think the worse of Dick for this. There
is not a man living who, having met with a huge grizzly bear for the
first time in his life in a wild, solitary place, all alone, has
not experienced some such sensation. There was no cowardice in this
Fear is not cowardice. Acting in a wrong and contemptible manner
because of our fear is cowardice.
It is said that Wellington or Napoleon, we forget which, once stood
watching the muster of the men who were to form the forlorn-hope in
storming a citadel. There were many brave, strong, stalwart men there,
in the prime of life, and flushed with the blood of high health and
courage. There were also there a few stern-browed men of riper years,
who stood perfectly silent, with lips compressed, and as pale as
death. "Yonder veterans," said the general, pointing to these
soldiers, "are men whose courage I can depend on; they _know_ what
they are going to, the others _don't!_" Yes, these young soldiers
_very probably_ were brave; the others _certainly_ were.
Dick Varley stood for a few seconds as if thunderstruck, while the
bear stood hissing at him. Then the liquefaction of his interior
ceased, and he felt a glow of fire gush through his veins. Now Dick
knew well enough that to fly from a grizzly bear was the sure and
certain way of being torn to pieces, as when taken thus by surprise
they almost invariably follow a retreating enemy. He also knew that
if he stood where he was, perfectly still, the bear would get
uncomfortable under his stare, and would retreat from him. But he
neither intended to run away himself nor to allow the bear to do so;
he intended to kill it, so he raised his rifle quickly, "drew a bead,"
as the hunters express it, on the bear's heart, and fired.
It immediately dropped on its fore legs and rushed at him. "Back,
Crusoe! out of the way, pup!" shouted Dick, as his favourite was about
to spring forward.
The dog retired, and Dick leaped behind a tree. As the bear passed he
gave it the contents of the second barrel behind the shoulder, which
brought it down; but in another moment it rose and again rushed at
him. Dick had no time to load, neither had he time to spring up the
thick tree beside which he stood, and the rocky nature of the ground
out of which it grew rendered it impossible to dodge round it. His
only resource was flight; but where was he to fly to? If he ran along
the open track, the bear would overtake him in a few seconds. On the
right was a sheer precipice one hundred feet high; on the left was an
impenetrable thicket. In despair he thought for an instant of clubbing
his rifle and meeting the monster in close conflict; but the utter
hopelessness of such an effort was too apparent to be entertained for
a moment. He glanced up at the overhanging cliffs. There were one or
two rents and projections close above him. In the twinkling of an eye
he sprang up and grasped a ledge of about an inch broad, ten or twelve
feet up, to which he clung while he glanced upward. Another projection
was within reach; he gained it, and in a few seconds he stood upon a
ledge about twenty feet up the cliff, where he had just room to plant
his feet firmly.
Without waiting to look behind, he seized his powder-horn and loaded
one barrel of his rifle; and well was it for him that his early
training had fitted him to do this with rapidity, for the bear dashed
up the precipice after him at once. The first time it missed its hold,
and fell back with a savage growl; but on the second attempt it sunk
its long claws into the fissures between the rocks, and ascended
steadily till within a foot of the place where Dick stood.
At this moment Crusoe's obedience gave way before a sense of Dick's
danger. Uttering one of his lion-like roars, he rushed up the
precipice with such violence that, although naturally unable to climb,
he reached and seized the bear's flank, despite his master's stern
order to "keep back," and in a moment the two rolled down the face of
the rock together, just as Dick completed loading.
Knowing that one stroke of the bear's paw would be certain death to
his poor dog, Dick leaped from his perch, and with one bound reached
the ground at the same moment with the struggling animals, and close
beside them, and, before they had ceased rolling, he placed the muzzle
of his rifle into the bear's ear, and blew out its brains.
Crusoe, strange to say, escaped with only one scratch on the side. It
was a deep one, but not dangerous, and gave him but little pain at the
time, although it caused him many a smart for some weeks after.
Thus happily ended Dick's first encounter with a grizzly bear; and
although, in the course of his wild life, he shot many specimens of
"Caleb," he used to say that "he an' pup were never so near goin'
under as on the day he dropped _that_ bar!"
Having refreshed himself with a long draught from a neighbouring
rivulet, and washed Crusoe's wound, Dick skinned the bear on the spot.
"We chawed him up that time, didn't we, pup?" said Dick, with a smile
of satisfaction, as he surveyed his prize.
Crusoe looked up and assented to this.
"Gave us a hard tussle, though; very nigh sent us both under, didn't
Crusoe agreed entirely, and, as if the remark reminded him of
honourable scars, he licked his wound.
"Ah, pup!" cried Dick, sympathetically, "does't hurt ye, eh, poor
Hurt him? such a question! No, he should think not; better ask if that
leap from the precipice hurt yourself.
So Crusoe might have said, but he didn't; he took no notice of the
"We'll cut him up now, pup," continued Dick. "The skin'll make a
splendid bed for you an' me o' nights, and a saddle for Charlie."
Dick cut out all the claws of the bear by the roots, and spent the
remainder of that night in cleaning them and stringing them on a strip
of leather to form a necklace. Independently of the value of these
enormous claws (the largest as long as a man's middle finger) as an
evidence of prowess, they formed a remarkably graceful collar, which
Dick wore round his neck ever after with as much pride as if he had
been a Pawnee warrior.
When it was finished he held it out at arm's-length, and said,
"Crusoe, my pup, ain't ye proud of it? I'll tell ye what it is, pup,
the next time you an' I floor Caleb, I'll put the claws round _your_
neck, an' make ye wear em ever arter, so I will."
The dog did not seem quite to appreciate this piece of prospective
good fortune. Vanity had no place in his honest breast, and, sooth to
say, it had not a large place in that of his master either, as we may
well grant when we consider that this first display of it was on the
occasion of his hunter's soul having at last realized its brightest
Dick's dangers and triumphs seemed to accumulate on him rather thickly
at this place, for on the very next day he had a narrow escape of
being killed by a deer. The way of it was this.
Having run short of meat, and not being particularly fond of grizzly
bear steak, he shouldered his rifle and sallied forth in quest of