Part 4 out of 5
game, accompanied by Crusoe, whose frequent glances towards his
wounded side showed that, whatever may have been the case the day
before, it "hurt" him now.
They had not gone far when they came on the track of a deer in the
snow, and followed it up till they spied a magnificent buck about
three hundred yards off, standing in a level patch of ground which was
everywhere surrounded either by rocks or thicket. It was a long shot,
but as the nature of the ground rendered it impossible for Dick to get
nearer without being seen, he fired, and wounded the buck so badly
that he came up with it in a few minutes. The snow had drifted in the
place where it stood bolt upright, ready for a spring, so Dick went
round a little way, Crusoe following, till he was in a proper position
to fire again. Just as he pulled the trigger, Crusoe gave a howl
behind him and disturbed his aim, so that he feared he had missed; but
the deer fell, and he hurried towards it. On coming up, however,
the buck sprang to its legs, rushed at him with its hair bristling,
knocked him down in the snow, and deliberately commenced stamping him
Dick was stunned for a moment, and lay quite still, so the deer left
off pommelling him, and stood looking at him. But the instant he moved
it plunged at him again and gave him another pounding, until he was
content to lie still. This was done several times, and Dick felt his
strength going fast. He was surprised that Crusoe did not come to his
rescue, and once he cleared his mouth and whistled to him; but as the
deer gave him another pounding for this, he didn't attempt it again.
He now for the first time bethought him of his knife, and quietly drew
it from his belt; but the deer observed the motion, and was on him
again in a moment. Dick, however, sprang up on his left elbow, and
making several desperate thrusts upward, succeeded in stabbing the
animal to the heart.
Rising and shaking the snow from his garments, he whistled loudly to
Crusoe, and, on listening, heard him whining piteously. He hurried
to the place whence the sound came, and found that the poor dog
had fallen into a deep pit or crevice in the rocks, which had been
concealed from view by a crust of snow, and he was now making frantic
but unavailing efforts to leap out.
Dick soon freed him from his prison by means of his belt, which he
let down for the dog to grasp, and then returned to camp with as much
deer-meat as he could carry. Dear meat it certainly was to him, for
it had nearly cost him his life, and left him all black and blue
for weeks after. Happily no bones were broken, so the incident only
confined him a day to his encampment.
Soon after this the snow fell thicker than ever, and it became
evident that an unusually early winter was about to set in among the
mountains. This was a terrible calamity, for if the regular snow of
winter set in, it would be impossible for him either to advance or
While he was sitting on his bearskin by the camp-fire one day,
thinking anxiously what he should do, and feeling that he must either
make the attempt to escape or perish miserably in that secluded spot,
a strange, unwonted sound struck upon his ear, and caused both him
and Crusoe to spring violently to their feet and listen. Could he be
dreaming?--it seemed like the sound of human voices. For a moment he
stood with his eyes rivetted on the ground, his lips apart, and his
nostrils distended, as he listened with the utmost intensity. Then he
darted out and bounded round the edge of a rock which concealed
an extensive but narrow valley from his view, and there, to his
amazement, he beheld a band of about a hundred human beings advancing
on horseback slowly through the snow.
_A surprise, and a piece of good news--The fur-traders--Crusoe proved,
and the Peigans pursued_.
Dick's first and most natural impulse, on beholding this band, was to
mount his horse and fly, for his mind naturally enough recurred to the
former rough treatment he had experienced at the hands of Indians. On
second thoughts, however, he considered it wiser to throw himself upon
the hospitality of the strangers; "for," thought he, "they can but
kill me, an' if I remain here I'm like to die at any rate."
So Dick mounted his wild horse, grasped his rifle in his right hand,
and, followed by Crusoe, galloped full tilt down the valley to meet
He had heard enough of the customs of savage tribes, and had also of
late experienced enough, to convince him that when a man found himself
in the midst of an overwhelming force, his best policy was to assume
an air of confident courage. He therefore approached them at his
The effect upon the advancing band was electrical; and little wonder,
for the young hunter's appearance was very striking. His horse, from
having rested a good deal of late, was full of spirit. Its neck was
arched, its nostrils expanded, and its mane and tail never having been
checked in their growth flew wildly around him in voluminous curls.
Dick's own hair, not having been clipped for many months, appeared
scarcely less wild, as they thundered down the rocky pass at what
appeared a break-neck gallop. Add to this the grandeur of the scene
out of which they sprang, and the gigantic dog that bounded by his
side, and you will not be surprised to hear that the Indian warriors
clustered together, and prepared to receive this bold horseman as if
he, in his own proper person, were a complete squadron of cavalry. It
is probable, also, that they fully expected the tribe of which Dick
was the chief to be at his heels.
As he drew near the excitement among the strangers seemed very great,
and, from the peculiarity of the various cries that reached him, he
knew that there were women and children in the band--a fact which, in
such a place and at such a season, was so unnatural that it surprised
him very much. He noted also that, though the men in front were
Indians, their dresses were those of trappers and hunters, and he
almost leaped out of his saddle when he observed that "_Pale-faces_"
were among them. But he had barely time to note these facts when he
was up with the band. According to Indian custom, he did not check his
speed till he was within four or five yards of the advance-guard, who
stood in a line before him, quite still, and with their rifles lying
loosely in their left palms; then he reined his steed almost on its
One of the Indians advanced and spoke a few words in a language which
was quite unintelligible to Dick, who replied, in the little Pawnee he
could muster, that he didn't understand him.
"Why, you must be a trapper!" exclaimed a thick-set, middle-aged man,
riding out from the group. "Can you speak English?"
"Ay, that can I," cried Dick joyfully, riding up and shaking the
stranger heartily by the hand; "an' right glad am I to fall in wi' a
white-skin an' a civil tongue in his head."
"Good sooth, sir," replied the stranger, with a quiet smile on his
kind, weather-beaten face, "I can return you the compliment; for when
I saw you come thundering down the corrie with that wonderful horse
and no less wonderful dog of yours, I thought you were the wild man o'
the mountain himself, and had an ambush ready to back you. But, young
man, do you mean to say that you live here in the mountain all alone
after this fashion?"
"No, that I don't. I've comed here in my travels, but truly this
bean't my home. But, sir (for I see you are what the fur-traders call
a bourgeois), how comes it that such a band as this rides i' the
mountains? D'ye mean to say that _they_ live here?" Dick looked round
in surprise, as he spoke, upon the crowd of mounted men and women,
with children and pack-horses, that now surrounded him.
"'Tis a fair question, lad. I am a principal among the fur-traders
whose chief trading-post lies near the Pacific Ocean, on the west side
of these mountains; and I have come with these trappers and their
families, as you see, to hunt the beaver and other animals for a
season in the mountains. We've never been here before; but that's a
matter of little moment, for it's not the first time I've been on
what may be called a discovery-trading expedition. We are somewhat
entangled, however, just now among these wild passes, and if you can
guide us out of our difficulties to the east side of the mountains,
I'll thank you heartily and pay you well. But first tell me who and
what you are, if it's a fair question."
"My name is Dick Varley, and my home's in the Mustang Valley, near
the Missouri River. As to _what_ I am--I'm nothin' yet, but I hope to
desarve the name o' a hunter some day. I can guide you to the east
side o' the mountains, for I've comed from there; but more than that I
can't do, for I'm a stranger to the country here, like yourself. But
you're on the east side o' the mountains already, if I mistake not;
only these mountains are so rugged and jumbled up, that it's not easy
tellin' where ye are. And what," continued Dick, "may be the name o'
the bourgeois who speaks to me?"
"My name is Cameron--Walter Cameron--a well-known name among the
Scottish hills, although it sounds a little strange here. And now,
young man, will you join my party as guide, and afterwards remain as
trapper? It will pay you better, I think, than roving about alone."
Dick shook his head and looked grave. "I'll guide you," said he, "as
far as my knowledge 'll help me; but after that I must return to look
for two comrades whom I have lost. They have been driven into the
mountains by a band of Injuns. God grant they may not have bin
The trader's face looked troubled, and he spoke with one of his
Indians for a few minutes in earnest, hurried tones.
"What were they like, young man?"
Dick described them.
"The same," continued the trader. "They've been seen, lad, not more
than two days ago, by this Indian here, when he was out hunting alone
some miles away from our camp. He came suddenly on a band of Indians
who had two prisoners with them, such as you describe. They were
stout, said you?"
"Yes, both of them," cried Dick, listening with intense eagerness.
"Ay. They were tied to their horses, an' from what I know of these
fellows I'm sure they're doomed. But I'll help you, my friend, as well
as I can. They can't be far from this. I treated my Indian's story
about them as a mere fabrication, for he's the most notorious liar in
my company; but he seems to have spoken truth for once."
"Thanks, thanks, good sir," cried Dick. "Had we not best turn back and
follow them at once?"
"Nay, friend, not quite so fast," replied Cameron, pointing to his
people. "These must be provided for first, but I shall be ready before
the sun goes down. And now, as I presume you don't bivouac in the
snow, will you kindly conduct us to your encampment, if it be not far
Although burning with impatience to fly to the rescue of his friends,
Dick felt constrained to comply with so reasonable a request, so
he led the way to his camping-place, where the band of fur-traders
immediately began to pitch their tents, cut down wood, kindle fires,
fill their kettles with water, cook their food, and, in fact, make
themselves comfortable. The wild spot which, an hour before, had been
so still, and grand, and gloomy, was now, as if by magic, transformed
into a bustling village, with bright fires blazing among the rocks and
bushes, and merry voices of men, women, and children ringing in
the air. It seemed almost incredible, and no wonder Dick, in his
bewilderment, had difficulty in believing it was not all a dream.
In days long gone by the fur-trade in that country was carried on in a
very different way from the manner in which it is now conducted. These
wild regions, indeed, are still as lonesome and untenanted (save by
wild beasts and wandering tribes of Indians) as they were then;
but the Indians of the present day have become accustomed to the
"Pale-face" trader, whose little wooden forts or trading-posts are
dotted here and there, at wide intervals, all over the land. But in
the days of which we write it was not so. The fur-traders at that time
went forth in armed bands into the heart of the Indians' country, and
he who went forth did so "with his life in his hand." As in the case
of the soldier who went out to battle, there was great probability
that he might never return.
The band of which Walter Cameron was the chief had, many months
before, started from one of the distant posts of Oregon on a hunting
expedition into the then totally unknown lands of the Snake Indians.
It consisted of about sixty men, thirty women, and as many children
of various ages--about a hundred and twenty souls in all. Many of the
boys were capable of using the gun and setting a beaver-trap. The men
were a most motley set. There were Canadians, half-breeds, Iroquois,
and Scotchmen. Most of the women had Indian blood in their veins, and
a few were pure Indians.
The equipment of this strange band consisted of upwards of two
hundred beaver-traps--which are similar to our rat-traps, with this
difference, that they have two springs and no teeth--seventy guns, a
few articles for trade with the Indians, and a large supply of powder
and ball; the whole--men, women, children, goods, and chattels--being
carried on the backs of nearly four hundred horses. Many of these
horses, at starting, were not laden, being designed for the transport
of furs that were to be taken in the course of the season.
For food this adventurous party depended entirely on their guns, and
during the march hunters were kept constantly out ahead. As a matter
of course, their living was precarious. Sometimes their kettles were
overflowing; at others they scarce refrained from eating their horses.
But during the months they had already spent in the wilderness good
living had been the rule, starvation the exception. They had already
collected a large quantity of beaver skins, which at that time were
among the most valuable in the market, although they are now scarcely
saleable! Having shot two wild horses, seven elks, six small deer, and
four big-horned sheep the day before they met Dick Varley, the camp
kettles were full, and the people consequently happy.
"Now, Master Dick Varley," said Cameron, touching the young hunter on
the shoulder as he stood ready equipped by one of the camp-fires,
"I'm at your service. The people won't need any more looking after
to-night. I'll divide my men--thirty shall go after this rascally band
of Peigans, for such I believe they are, and thirty shall remain to
guard the camp. Are you ready?"
"Ready! ay, this hour past."
"Mount then, lad; the men have already been told off, and are
mustering down yonder where the deer gave you such a licking."
Dick needed no second bidding. He vaulted on Charlie's back, and along
with their commander joined the men, who were thirty as fine, hardy,
reckless looking fellows as one could desire for a forlorn-hope.
They were chatting and laughing while they examined their guns and
saddle-girths. Their horses were sorry looking animals compared with
the magnificent creature that Dick bestrode, but they were hardy,
nevertheless, and well fitted for their peculiar work.
"My! wot a blazer!" exclaimed a trapper as Dick rode up.
"Where you git him?" inquired a half-breed.
"I caught him," answered Dick.
"Baw!" cried the first speaker.
Dick took no notice of this last remark.
"No, did ye though?" he asked again.
"I did," answered Dick quietly. "I creased him in the prairie; you can
see the mark on his neck if you look."
The men began to feel that the young hunter was perhaps a little
beyond them at their own trade, and regarded him with increased
"Look sharp now, lads," said Cameron, impatiently, to several dilatory
members of the band. "Night will be on us ere long."
"Who sold ye the bear-claw collar?" inquired another man of Dick.
"I didn't buy it. I killed the bear and made it."
"Did ye, though, all be yer lone?"
"Ay; that wasn't much, was it?"
"You've begun well, yonker," said a tall, middle-aged hunter, whose
general appearance was not unlike that of Joe Blunt. "Jest keep clear
o' the Injuns an' the grog bottle, an' ye've a glor'ous life before
At this point the conversation was interrupted by the order being
given to move on, which was obeyed in silence, and the cavalcade,
descending the valley, entered one of the gorges in the mountains.
For the first half-mile Cameron rode a little ahead of his men, then
he turned to speak to one of them, and for the first time observed
Crusoe trotting close beside his master's horse.
"Ah! Master Dick," he exclaimed with a troubled expression, "that
won't do. It would never do to take a dog on an expedition like this."
"Why not?" asked Dick; "the pup's quiet and peaceable."
"I doubt it not; but he will betray our presence to the Indians, which
might be inconvenient."
"I have travelled more than a thousand miles through prairie and
forest, among game an' among Injuns, an' the pup never betrayed me
yet," said Dick, with suppressed vehemence. "He has saved my life more
than once though."
"You seem to have perfect confidence in your dog, but as this is a
serious matter you must not expect me to share in it without proof of
"The pup may be useful to us; how would you have it proved?" inquired
"Any way you like."
"You forgot your belt at starting, I think I heerd ye say."
"Yes, I did," replied the trader, smiling.
Dick immediately took hold of Cameron's coat, and bade Crusoe smell
it, which the dog did very carefully. Then he showed him his own belt
and said, "Go back to the camp and fetch it, pup."
Crusoe was off in a moment, and in less than twenty minutes returned
with Cameron's belt in his mouth.
"Well, I'll trust him," said Cameron, patting Crusoe's head. "Forward,
lads!" and away they went at a brisk trot along the bottom of a
beautiful valley on each side of which the mountains towered in dark
masses. Soon the moon rose and afforded light sufficient to enable
them to travel all night in the track of the Indian hunter who said he
had seen the Peigans, and who was constituted guide to the party. Hour
after hour the horsemen pressed on without check, now galloping over a
level plain, now bounding by the banks of a rivulet, or bending their
heads to escape the boughs of overhanging trees, and anon toiling
slowly up among the rocks of some narrow defile. At last the moon set,
and the order was given to halt in a little plain where there were
wood and water.
The horses were picketed, a fire kindled, a mouthful of dried meat
hastily eaten, the watch was set, and then each man scraped away the
snow, spread some branches on the ground, and wrapping himself in his
blanket, went to sleep with his feet presented towards the fire.
Two hours were allowed for rest; then they were awakened, and in a few
minutes were off again by the gray light of dawn. In this way they
travelled two nights and a day. At the end of that time they came
suddenly on a small party of nine Indians, who were seated on the
ground with their snow-shoes and blankets by their sides. They had
evidently been taken by surprise, but they made no attempt to escape,
knowing that it was useless. Each sat still with his bow and arrows
between his legs on the ground ready for instant use.
As soon as Cameron spoke, however, in their own language they felt
relieved, and began to talk.
"Where do you come from, and what are you doing here?" asked the
"We have come to trade with the white men," one of them replied, "and
to hunt. We have come from the Missouri. Our country is far away."
"Do Peigans hunt with _war-arrows?_" asked Cameron, pointing to their
This question seemed to perplex them, for they saw that their
interrogator knew the difference between a war and a hunting
arrow--the former being barbed in order to render its extraction from
the wound difficult, while the head of the latter is round, and can be
drawn out of game that has been killed, and used again.
"And do Peigans," continued Cameron, "come from a far country to trade
with the white men _with nothing?_"
Again the Indians were silent, for they had not an article to trade
Cameron now felt convinced that this party of Peigans, into whose
hands Joe Blunt and Henri had fallen, were nothing else than a war
party, and that the men now before him were a scouting party sent out
from them, probably to spy out his own camp, on the trail of which
they had fallen, so he said to them:--
"The Peigans are not wise men; they tell lies to the traders. I
will tell you that you are a war party, and that you are only a
few warriors sent out to spy the traders' camp. You have also two
_Pale-face_ prisoners in your camp. You cannot deceive me. It is
useless to try. Now, conduct me to your camp. My object is not war; it
is peace. I will speak with your chiefs about trading with the white
men, and we will smoke the pipe of peace. Are my words good?"
Despite their proverbial control of muscle, these Indians could not
conceal their astonishment at hearing so much of their affairs thus
laid bare; so they said that the Pale-face chief was wise, that he
must be a great medicine man, and that what he said was all true
except about the white men. They had never seen any Pale-faces, and
knew nothing whatever about those he spoke of.
This was a terrible piece of news to poor Dick, and at first his heart
fairly sank within him, but by degrees he came to be more hopeful. He
concluded that if these men told lies in regard to one thing, they
would do it in regard to another, and perhaps they might have some
strong reason for denying any knowledge of Joe and Henri.
The Indians now packed up the buffalo robes on which they had slept,
and the mouthful of provisions they had taken with them.
"I don't believe a word of what they say about your friends," said
Cameron to Dick in a low tone while the Indians were thus engaged.
"Depend upon it they hope to hide them till they can send to the
settlements and get a ransom, or till they get an opportunity of
torturing them to death before their women and children when they get
back to their own village. But we'll balk them, my friend, do not
The Indians were soon ready to start, for they were cumbered with
marvellously little camp equipage. In less than half-an-hour after
their discovery they were running like deer ahead of the cavalcade in
the direction of the Peigan camp.
_Adventures with the Peigans_--_Crusoe does good service as a
discoverer_--_The savages outwitted_--_The rescue_.
A run of twenty miles brought the travellers to a rugged defile in
the mountains, from which they had a view of a beautiful valley of
considerable extent. During the last two days a steady thaw had been
rapidly melting away the snow, so that it appeared only here and
there in the landscape in dazzling patches. At the distance of about
half-a-mile from where they halted to breathe the horses before
commencing the descent into this vale, several thin wreaths of smoke
were seen rising above the trees.
"Is that your camp?" inquired Cameron, riding up to the Indian
runners, who stood in a group in front, looking as fresh after their
twenty miles' run as though they had only had a short walk.
To this they answered in the affirmative, adding that there were about
two hundred Peigans there.
It might have been thought that thirty men would have hesitated to
venture to attack so large a number as two hundred; but it had always
been found in the experience of Indian life that a few resolute white
men well armed were more than a match for ten times their number of
Indians. And this arose not so much from the superior strength or
agility of the Whites over their red foes, as from that bull-dog
courage and utter recklessness of their lives in combat--qualities
which the crafty savage can neither imitate nor understand. The
information was received with perfect indifference by most of the
trappers, and with contemptuous laughter by some; for a large number
of Cameron's men were wild, evil-disposed fellows, who would have as
gladly taken the life of an Indian as that of a buffalo.
Just as the word was given to resume the march, Dick Varley rode up to
Cameron and said in a somewhat anxious tone,--
"D'ye obsarve, sir, that one o' the Redskins has gone off ahead o' his
"I see that, Master Dick; and it was a mistake of mine not to have
stopped him, but he was gone too far before I observed it, and I
thought it better to appear unconcerned. We must push on, though, and
give him as short time as possible to talk with his comrades in the
The trappers pressed forward accordingly at a gallop, and were soon in
front of the clump of trees amongst which the Peigans were encamped.
Their approach had evidently spread great alarm among them, for there
was a good deal of bustle and running to and fro; but by the time the
trappers had dismounted and advanced in a body on foot, the savages
had resumed their usual quiet dignity of appearance, and were seated
calmly round their fires with their bows and arrows beside them. There
were no tents, no women or children, and the general aspect of the men
showed Cameron conclusively that his surmise about their being a war
party was correct.
A council was immediately called. The trappers ranged themselves on
one side of the council fire and the Indians on the other. Meanwhile,
our friend Crusoe had been displaying considerable irritability
against the Indians, and he would certainly have attacked the whole
two hundred single-handed if he had not been ordered by his master to
lie still; but never in his life before had Crusoe obeyed with such a
bad grace. He bristled and whined in a low tremulous tone, and looked
imploringly at Dick as if for permission to fly at them.
"The Pale-face traders are glad to meet with the Peigans," began
Cameron, who determined to make no allusion to his knowledge that they
were a war party, "for they wish to be friends with all the children
of the woods and prairies. They wish to trade with them--to exchange
blankets, and guns, and beads, and other goods which the Peigans
require, for furs of animals which the Pale-faces require."
"Ho! ho!" exclaimed the Indians, which expression might be translated,
"But," continued Cameron, "we wish to have no war. We wish to see the
hatchet buried, and to see all the red men and the white men smoking
the pipe of peace, and hunting like brothers."
The "Ho--ho--ing" at this was very emphatic.
"Now," resumed the trader, "the Peigans have got two prisoners--two
Pale-faces--in their camp, and as we cannot be on good terms while our
brothers are detained, we have come to ask for them, and to _present
some gifts_ to the Peigans."
To this there was no "Ho" at all, but a prolonged silence, which was
at length interrupted by a tall chief stepping forward to address the
"What the Pale-face chief has said is good," began the Indian. "His
words are wise, and his heart is not double. The Red-men are willing
to smoke the pipe of peace, and to hunt with all men as brothers, but
they cannot do it while many of their scalps are hanging in the lodges
of their enemies and fringing the robes of the warriors. The Peigans
must have vengeance; then they will make peace."
After a short pause he continued,--
"The chief is wrong when he says there are Pale-faces in the Peigan
camp. The Peigans are not at war with the Pale-faces; neither have
they seen any on their march. The camp is open. Let the Pale-faces
look round and see that what we say is true."
The chief waved his hand towards his warriors as he concluded, as if
to say, "Search amongst them. There are no Pale-faces there."
Cameron now spoke to Dick in a low tone. "They speak confidently," he
said, "and I fear greatly that your poor comrades have either been
killed or conveyed away from the camp and hidden among the mountains,
in which case, even though they should not be far off, it would be
next to impossible to find them, especially when such a band of
rascals is near, compelling us to keep together. But I'll try what a
little tempting them with goods will do. At any rate, we shan't give
in without a scuffle."
It now, for the first time, flashed across Dick Varley that there was
something more than he imagined in Crusoe's restless anxiety, which
had not in the least abated, and the idea of making use of him now
occurred to his mind.
"I've a notion that I'll settle this matter in a shorter time than you
think," he said hurriedly, "if you'll agree to try what _threatening_
The trader looked grave and undecided. "I never resort to that except
as a last hope," he answered; "but I've a good deal of confidence in
your prudence. What would you advise?"
Dick and the trader whispered a few minutes together, while some of
the men, in order to show the Indians how perfectly unconcerned they
were, and how ready for _anything_, took out their pipes and began
to smoke. Both parties were seated on the ground, and during this
interval the Indians also held eager discussion.
At length Cameron stood up, and said to his men in a quiet tone, "Be
ready, lads, for instant action. When I give the word 'Up,' spring to
your feet and cock your guns; but _don't fire a shot till you get the
word_." He then stepped forward and said,--
"The Peigan warriors are double-tongued; they know that they have hid
the Pale-face prisoners. We do not wish to quarrel, but if they are
not delivered up at once the Pale-faces and the Peigans will not be
Upon this the Indian chief again stood forward and said, "The Peigans
are _not_ double-tongued. They have not seen Pale-faces till to-day.
They can say no more."
Without moving hand or foot, Cameron then said in a firm tone, "The
first Peigan that moves shall die! Up, lads, and ready!"
In the twinkling of an eye the trappers sprang to their feet, and
cocking their rifles stood perfectly motionless, scowling at the
savages, who were completely taken by surprise at the unusual
suddenness and informality of such a declaration of war. Not a man
moved, for, unlike white men, they seldom risk their lives in open
fight; and as they looked at the formidable row of muzzles that waited
but a word to send instant death into their midst, they felt that
discretion was at that time the better part of valour.
"Now," said Cameron, while Dick Varley and Crusoe stepped up beside
him, "my young warrior will search for the Pale-face prisoners. If
they are found, we will take them and go away. If they are not found,
we will ask the Peigans to forgive us, and will give them gifts. But
in the meantime, if a Peigan moves from the spot where he sits, or
lifts a bow, my young men shall fire, and the Peigans know that the
rifle of the Pale-face always kills."
Without waiting for an answer, Dick immediately said, "Seek 'em out,
pup," and Crusoe bounded away.
For a few minutes he sprang hither and thither through the camp, quite
regardless of the Indians, and snuffed the air several times, whining
in an excited tone, as if to relieve his feelings. Then he put his
nose to the ground and ran straight forward into the woods.
Dick immediately bounded after him like a deer, while the trappers
kept silent guard over the savages.
For some time Crusoe ran straight forward. Then he came to a spot
where there was a good deal of drifted snow on the ground. Here
he seemed to lose the trail for a little, and ran about in all
directions, whining in a most piteous tone.
"Seek 'em out, pup," repeated Dick encouragingly, while his own breast
heaved with excitement and expectation.
In a few seconds the dog resumed its onward course, and led the
way into a wild, dark spot, which was so overshadowed by trees and
precipitous cliffs that the light of the sun scarce found entrance.
There were many huge masses of rock scattered over the ground, which
had fallen from the cliffs. Behind one of these lay a mound of dried
leaves, towards which Crusoe darted and commenced scraping violently.
Trembling with dread that he should find this to be the grave of his
murdered companions, Dick rushed forward and hastily cleared away the
leaves. The first handful thrown off revealed part of the figure of a
man. Dick's heart beat audibly as he cleared the leaves from the face,
and he uttered a suppressed cry on beholding the well-known features
of Joe Blunt. But they were not those of a dead man. Joe's eyes met
his with a scowl of anger, which instantly gave place to one of
"Joe Blunt!" exclaimed Dick in a voice of intense amazement, while
Crusoe snuffed round the heap of leaves and whined with excitement.
But Joe did not move, neither did he speak a word in reply--for the
very good reason that his mouth was tightly bound with a band of
leather, his hands and feet were tied, and his whole body was secured
in a rigid, immovable position by being bound to a pole of about his
In a moment Dick's knife was out, bands and cords were severed, and
Joe Blunt was free.
"Thank God!" exclaimed Joe with a deep, earnest sigh, the instant his
lips were loosened, "and thanks to _you_, lad!" he added, endeavouring
to rise; but his limbs had become so benumbed in consequence of the
cords by which they had been compressed that for some time he could
"I'll rub ye, Joe; I'll soon rub ye into a right state," said Dick,
going down on his knees.
"No, no, lad, look sharp and dig up Henri. He's just beside me here."
Dick immediately rose, and pushing aside the heap of leaves, found
Henri securely bound in the same fashion. But he could scarce refrain
from laughing at the expression of that worthy's face. Hearing the
voices of Joe and Dick Varley in conversation, though unable to see
their persons, he was filled with such unbounded amazement that his
eyes, when uncovered, were found to be at their largest possible
stretch, and as for the eyebrows they were gone, utterly lost among
the roots of his voluminous hair.
"Henri, friend, I knew I should find ye," said Dick, cutting the
thongs that bound him. "Get up if ye can; we haven't much time
to lose, an' mayhap we'll have to fight afore we're done wi' the
Redskins. Can ye rise?"
Henri could do nothing but lie on his back and gasp, "Eh! possible!
mon frere! Oh, non, non, _not_ possible. Oui! my broder Deek!"
Here he attempted to rise, but being unable fell back again, and the
whole thing came so suddenly, and made so deep an impression on his
impulsive mind, that he incontinently burst into tears; then he burst
into a long laugh. Suddenly he paused, and scrambling up to a sitting
posture, looked earnestly into Dick's face through his tearful eyes.
"Oh, non, non!" he exclaimed, stretching himself out at full length
again, and closing his eyes; "it are too goot to be true. I am dream.
I vill wait till I am wake."
Dick roused him out of this, resolute sleep, however, somewhat
roughly. Meanwhile Joe had rubbed and kicked himself into a state of
animation, exclaiming that he felt as if he wos walkin' on a thousand
needles and pins, and in a few minutes they were ready to accompany
their overjoyed deliverer back to the Peigan camp. Crusoe testified
his delight in various elephantine gambols round the persons of his
old friends, who were not slow to acknowledge his services.
"They haven't treated us overly well," remarked Joe Blunt, as they
strode through the underwood.
"Non, de rascale, vraiment, de am villains. Oui! How de have talk,
too, 'bout--oh-o-oo-ooo-wah!--roastin' us alive, an' puttin' our scalp
in de vigvam for de poo-poose to play wid!"
"Well, niver mind, Henri, we'll be quits wi' them now," said Joe, as
they came in sight of the two bands, who remained in precisely the
same position in which they had been left, except that one or two of
the more reckless of the trappers had lit their pipes and taken to
smoking, without, however, laying down their rifles or taking their
eyes off the savages.
A loud cheer greeted the arrival of the prisoners, and looks of
considerable discomfort began to be evinced by the Indians.
"Glad to see you, friends," said Cameron, as they came up.
"Ve is 'appy ov de same," replied Henri, swaggering up in the
joviality of his heart, and seizing the trader's hand in his own
enormous fist. "Shall ve go to vork an' slay dem all at vonce, or von
at a time?"
"We'll consider that afterwards, my lad. Meantime go you to the rear
and get a weapon of some sort."
"Oui. Ah! c'est charmant," he cried, going with an immense flounder
into the midst of the amused trappers, and slapping those next to
him on the back. "Give me veapon, do, mes amis--gun, pistol,
anyting--cannon, if you have von."
Meanwhile Cameron and Joe spoke together for a few moments.
"You had goods with you, and horses, I believe, when you were
captured," said the former.
"Ay, that we had. Yonder stand the horses, under the pine-tree, along
wi' the rest o' the Redskin troop; an' a hard time they've had o't,
as their bones may tell without speakin'. As for the goods," he
continued, glancing round the camp, "I don't know where--ah! yes,
there they be in the old pack. I see all safe."
Cameron now addressed the Indians.
"The Peigans," he said, "have not done well. Their hearts have not
been true to the Pale-faces. Even now I could take your scalps where
you sit, but white men do not like war, they do not like revenge. The
Peigans may go free."
Considering the fewness of their numbers, this was bold language to
use towards the Indians; but the boldest is generally the best policy
on such occasions. Moreover, Cameron felt that, being armed with
rifles, while the Indians had only bows and arrows, the trappers had a
great advantage over them.
The Indian who had spoken before now rose and said he was sorry there
should be any cause of difference between them, and added he was sorry
for a great many more things besides, but he did not say he was sorry
for having told a lie.
"But, before you go, you must deliver up the horses and goods
belonging to these men," said Cameron, pointing to Joe and Henri.
This was agreed to. The horses were led out, the two little packs
containing Joe's goods were strapped upon them, and then the trappers
turned to depart. The Indians did not move until they had mounted;
then they rose and advanced in a body to the edge of the wood, to see
the Pale-faces go away. Meanwhile Joe spoke a few words to Cameron,
and the men were ordered to halt, while the former dismounted and led
his horse towards the band of savages.
"Peigans," he said, "you know the object for which I came into this
country was to make peace between you and the Pale-faces. I have often
told you so when you would not listen, and when you told me that I had
a double heart and told lies. You were wrong when you said this; but I
do not wonder, for you live among nations who do not fear God, and
who think it right to lie. I now repeat to you what I said before.
It would be good for the Red-men if they would make peace with the
Pale-faces, and if they would make peace with each other. I will now
convince you that I am in earnest, and have all along been speaking
Hereupon Joe Blunt opened his bundle of goods, and presented fully
one-half of the gaudy and brilliant contents to the astonished
Indians, who seemed quite taken aback by such generous treatment.
The result of this was that the two parties separated with mutual
expressions of esteem and good-will. The Indians then returned to the
forest, and the white men galloped back to their camp among the hills.
_New plans_--_Our travellers join the fur-traders, and see many
strange things_--_A curious fight_--_A narrow escape, and a prisoner
Not long after the events related in the last chapter, our four
friends--Dick, and Joe, and Henri, and Crusoe--agreed to become for a
time members of Walter Cameron's band of trappers. Joe joined because
one of the objects which the traders had in view was similar to his
own mission--namely, the promoting of peace among the various Indian
tribes of the mountains and plains to the west. Joe, therefore,
thought it a good opportunity of travelling with a band of men who
could secure him a favourable hearing from the Indian tribes they
might chance to meet with in the course of their wanderings. Besides,
as the traders carried about a large supply of goods with them, he
could easily replenish his own nearly exhausted pack by hunting wild
animals and exchanging their skins for such articles as he might
Dick joined because it afforded him an opportunity of seeing the wild,
majestic scenery of the Rocky Mountains, and shooting the big-horned
sheep which abounded there, and the grizzly "bars," as Joe named them,
or "Caleb," as they were more frequently styled by Henri and the other
Henri joined because it was agreeable to the inclination of his own
rollicking, blundering, floundering, crashing disposition, and because
he would have joined anything that had been joined by the other two.
Crusoe's reason for joining was single, simple, easy to be expressed,
easy to be understood, and commendable. _He_ joined--because Dick did.
The very day after the party left the encampment where Dick had shot
the grizzly bear and the deer, he had the satisfaction of bringing
down a splendid specimen of the big-horned sheep. It came suddenly
out from a gorge of the mountain, and stood upon the giddy edge of a
tremendous precipice, at a distance of about two hundred and fifty
"_You_ could not hit that," said a trapper to Henri, who was rather
fond of jeering him about his shortsightedness.
"Non!" cried Henri, who didn't see the animal in the least; "say you
dat? ve shall see;" and he let fly with a promptitude that amazed his
comrades, and with a result that drew from them peals of laughter.
"Why, you have missed the mountain!"
"Oh, non! dat am eempossoble."
It was true, nevertheless, for his ball had been arrested in its
flight by the stem of a tree not twenty yards before him.
While the shot was yet ringing, and before the laugh above referred to
had pealed forth, Dick Varley fired, and the animal, springing wildly
into the air, fell down the precipice, and was almost dashed to
pieces at their feet. This Rocky Mountain or big-horned sheep was a
particularly large and fine one, but being a patriarch of the flock
was not well suited for food. It was considerably larger in size than
the domestic sheep, and might be described as somewhat resembling a
deer in the body and a ram in the head. Its horns were the chief point
of interest to Dick; and, truly, they were astounding! Their enormous
size was out of all proportion to the animal's body, and they curved
backwards and downwards, and then curled up again in a sharp point.
These creatures frequent the inaccessible heights of the Rocky
Mountains, and are difficult to approach. They have a great fondness
for salt, and pay regular visits to the numerous caverns of these
mountains, which are encrusted with a saline substance.
Walter Cameron now changed his intention of proceeding to the
eastward, as he found the country not so full of beaver at that
particular spot as he had anticipated. He therefore turned towards
the west, penetrated into the interior of the mountains, and took a
considerable sweep through the lovely valleys on their western slopes.
The expedition which this enterprising fur-trader was conducting was
one of the first that ever penetrated these wild regions in search of
furs. The ground over which they travelled was quite new to them, and
having no guide they just moved about at haphazard, encamping on the
margin of every stream or river on which signs of the presence of
beaver were discovered, and setting their traps.
Beaver skins at this time were worth 25s. a-piece in the markets of
civilized lands, and in the Snake country, through which our friends
were travelling, thousands of them were to be had from the Indians for
trinkets and baubles that were scarce worth a farthing. A beaver skin
could be procured from the Indians for a brass finger-ring or a penny
looking-glass. Horses were also so numerous that one could be procured
for an axe or a knife.
Let not the reader, however, hastily conclude that the traders cheated
the Indians in this traffic, though the profits were so enormous. The
ring or the axe was indeed a trifle to the trader, but the beaver skin
and the horse were equally trifles to the savage, who could procure as
many of them as he chose with very little trouble, while the ring and
the axe were in his estimation of priceless value. Besides, be it
remembered, to carry that ring and that axe to the far-distant haunts
of the Red-man cost the trader weeks and months of constant toil,
trouble, anxiety, and, alas! too frequently cost him his life! The
state of trade is considerably modified in these regions at the
present day. It is not more _justly_ conducted, for, in respect of the
value of goods given for furs, it was justly conducted _then_, but
time and circumstances have tended more to equalize the relative
values of articles of trade.
The snow which had prematurely fallen had passed away, and the
trappers now found themselves wandering about in a country so
beautiful and a season so delightful, that it would have seemed to
them a perfect paradise, but for the savage tribes who hovered about
them, and kept them ever on the _qui vive_.
They soon passed from the immediate embrace of stupendous heights and
dark gorges to a land of sloping ridges, which divided the country
into a hundred luxuriant vales, composed part of woodland and part of
prairie. Through these, numerous rivers and streams flowed deviously,
beautifying the landscape and enriching the land. There were also many
lakes of all sizes, and these swarmed with fish, while in some of them
were found the much-sought-after and highly-esteemed beaver. Salt
springs and hot springs of various temperatures abounded here, and
many of the latter were so hot that meat could be boiled in them.
Salt existed in all directions in abundance and of good quality. A
sulphurous spring was also discovered, bubbling out from the base of a
perpendicular rock three hundred feet high, the waters of which were
dark-blue and tasted like gunpowder. In short, the land presented
every variety of feature calculated to charm the imagination and
delight the eye.
It was a mysterious land, too; for broad rivers burst in many places
from the earth, flowed on for a short space, and then disappeared
as if by magic into the earth from which they rose. Natural bridges
spanned the torrents in many places, and some of these were so
correctly formed that it was difficult to believe they had not been
built by the hand of man. They often appeared opportunely to our
trappers, and saved them the trouble and danger of fording rivers.
Frequently the whole band would stop in silent wonder and awe as they
listened to the rushing of waters under their feet, as if another
world of streams, and rapids, and cataracts were flowing below the
crust of earth on which they stood. Some considerable streams were
likewise observed to gush from the faces of precipices, some twenty or
thirty feet from their summits, while on the top no water was to be
Wild berries of all kinds were found in abundance, and wild
vegetables, besides many nutritious roots. Among other fish, splendid
salmon were found in the lakes and rivers, and animal life swarmed on
hill and in dale. Woods and valleys, plains and ravines, teemed with
it. On every plain the red-deer grazed in herds by the banks of lake
and stream. Wherever there were clusters of poplar and elder trees and
saplings, the beaver was seen nibbling industriously with his sharp
teeth, and committing as much havoc in the forest as if he had been
armed with the woodman's axe; others sported in the eddies. Racoons
sat in the tree-tops; the marten, the black fox, and the wolf prowled
in the woods in quest of prey; mountain sheep and goats browsed on the
rocky ridges; and badgers peeped from their holes.
Here, too, the wild horse sprang snorting and dishevelled from his
mountain retreats--with flourishing mane and tail, spanking step, and
questioning gaze--and thundered away over the plains and valleys,
while the rocks echoed back his shrill neigh. The huge, heavy,
ungainly elk, or moose-deer, _trotted_ away from the travellers with
speed equal to that of the mustang: elks seldom gallop; their best
speed is attained at the trot. Bears, too, black, and brown, and
grizzly, roamed about everywhere.
So numerous were all these creatures that on one occasion the hunters
of the party brought in six wild horses, three bears, four elks, and
thirty red-deer; having shot them all a short distance ahead of the
main body, and almost without diverging from the line of march. And
this was a matter of everyday occurrence--as it had need to be,
considering the number of mouths that had to be filled.
The feathered tribes were not less numerous. Chief among these were
eagles and vultures of uncommon size, the wild goose, wild duck, and
the majestic swan.
In the midst of such profusion the trappers spent a happy time of it,
when not molested by the savages, but they frequently lost a horse or
two in consequence of the expertness of these thievish fellows. They
often wandered, however, for days at a time without seeing an Indian,
and at such times they enjoyed to the full the luxuries with which a
bountiful God had blessed these romantic regions.
Dick Varley was almost wild with delight. It was his first excursion
into the remote wilderness; he was young, healthy, strong, and
romantic; and it is a question whether his or his dog's heart, or that
of the noble wild horse he bestrode, bounded most with joy at
the glorious sights and sounds and influences by which they were
surrounded. It would have been perfection, had it not been for the
frequent annoyance and alarms caused by the Indians.
Alas! alas! that we who write and read about those wondrous scenes
should have to condemn our own species as the most degraded of all the
works of the Creator there! Yet so it is. Man, exercising his reason
and conscience in the path of love and duty which his Creator points
out, is God's noblest work; but man, left to the freedom of his own
fallen will, sinks morally lower than the beasts that perish. Well
may every Christian wish and pray that the name and the gospel of the
blessed Jesus may be sent speedily to the dark places of the earth;
for you may read of, and talk about, but you _cannot conceive_ the
fiendish wickedness and cruelty which causes tearless eyes to glare,
and maddened hearts to burst, in the lands of the heathen.
While we are on this subject, let us add (and our young readers
will come to know it if they are spared to see many years) that
_civilization_ alone will never improve the heart. Let history speak,
and it will tell you that deeds of darkest hue have been perpetrated
in so-called civilized though pagan lands. Civilization is like the
polish that beautifies inferior furniture, which water will wash off
if it be but _hot enough_. Christianity resembles dye, which permeates
every fibre of the fabric, and which nothing can eradicate.
The success of the trappers in procuring beaver here was great. In all
sorts of creeks and rivers they were found. One day they came to one
of the curious rivers before mentioned, which burst suddenly out of
a plain, flowed on for several miles, and then disappeared into the
earth as suddenly as it had risen. Even in this strange place beaver
were seen, so the traps were set, and a hundred and fifty were caught
at the first lift.
The manner in which the party proceeded was as follows:--They marched
in a mass in groups or in a long line, according to the nature of
the ground over which they travelled. The hunters of the party went
forward a mile or two in advance, and scattered through the woods.
After them came the advance-guard, being the bravest and most stalwart
of the men mounted on their best steeds, and with rifle in hand;
immediately behind followed the women and children, also mounted, and
the pack-horses with the goods and camp equipage. Another band of
trappers formed the rear-guard to this imposing cavalcade. There was
no strict regimental order kept, but the people soon came to adopt the
arrangements that were most convenient for all parties, and at length
fell naturally into their places in the line of march.
Joe Blunt usually was the foremost and always the most successful of
the hunters. He was therefore seldom seen on the march except at the
hour of starting, and at night when he came back leading his horse,
which always groaned under its heavy load of meat. Henri, being a
hearty, jovial soul and fond of society, usually kept with the main
body. As for Dick, he was everywhere at once, at least as much so as
it is possible for human nature to be! His horse never wearied; it
seemed to delight in going at full speed; no other horse in the troop
could come near Charlie, and Dick indulged him by appearing now at
the front, now at the rear, anon in the centre, and frequently
_nowhere_!--having gone off with Crusoe like a flash of lightning
after a buffalo or a deer. Dick soon proved himself to be the best
hunter of the party, and it was not long before he fulfilled his
promise to Crusoe and decorated his neck with a collar of grizzly bear
claws. Well, when the trappers came to a river where there were signs
of beaver they called a halt, and proceeded to select a safe and
convenient spot, near wood and water, for the camp. Here the property
of the band was securely piled in such a manner as to form a
breastwork or slight fortification, and here Walter Cameron
established headquarters. This was always the post of danger, being
exposed to sudden attack by prowling savages, who often dogged the
footsteps of the party in their journeyings to see what they could
steal. But Cameron was an old hand, and they found it difficult to
escape his vigilant eye.
From this point all the trappers were sent forth in small parties
every morning in various directions, some on foot and some on
horseback, according to the distances they had to go; but they never
went farther than twenty miles, as they had to return to camp every
Each trapper had ten steel traps allowed him. These he set every
night, and visited every morning, sometimes oftener when practicable,
selecting a spot in the stream where many trees had been cut down by
beavers for the purpose of damming up the water. In some places as
many as fifty tree stumps were seen in one spot, within the compass of
half an acre, all cut through at about eighteen inches from the
root. We may remark, in passing, that the beaver is very much like a
gigantic water-rat, with this marked difference, that its tail is very
broad and flat like a paddle. The said tail is a greatly-esteemed
article of food, as, indeed, is the whole body at certain seasons of
the year. The beaver's fore legs are very small and short, and it uses
its paws as hands to convey food to its mouth, sitting the while in an
erect position on its hind legs and tail. Its fur is a dense coat of
a grayish-coloured down, concealed by long coarse hair, which lies
smooth, and is of a bright chestnut colour. Its teeth and jaws are of
enormous power; with them it can cut through the branch of a tree as
thick as a walking-stick at one snap, and, as we have said, it gnaws
through thick trees themselves.
As soon as a tree falls, the beavers set to work industriously to lop
off the branches, which, as well as the smaller trunks, they cut into
lengths, according to their weight and thickness. These are then
dragged by main force to the water-side, launched, and floated to
their destination. Beavers build their houses, or "lodges," under the
banks of rivers and lakes, and always select those of such depth of
water that there is no danger of their being frozen to the bottom.
When such cannot be found, and they are compelled to build in small
rivulets of insufficient depth, these clever little creatures dam up
the waters until they are deep enough. The banks thrown up by them
across rivulets for this purpose are of great strength, and would do
credit to human engineers. Their lodges are built of sticks, mud, and
stones, which form a compact mass; this freezes solid in winter, and
defies the assaults of that housebreaker, the wolverine, an animal
which is the beaver's implacable foe. From this lodge, which is
capable often of holding four old and six or eight young ones, a
communication is maintained with the water below the ice, so that,
should the wolverine succeed in breaking up the lodge, he finds the
family "not at home," they having made good their retreat by the
back-door. When man acts the part of housebreaker, however, he
cunningly shuts the back-door _first_, by driving stakes through the
ice, and thus stopping the passage. Then he enters, and, we almost
regret to say, finds the family at home. We regret it, because the
beaver is a gentle, peaceable, affectionate, hairy little creature,
towards which one feels an irresistible tenderness. But to return from
this long digression.
Our trappers, having selected their several localities, set their
traps in the water, so that when the beavers roamed about at night
they put their feet into them, and were caught and drowned; for
although they can swim and dive admirably, they cannot live altogether
Thus the different parties proceeded; and in the mornings the camp was
a busy scene indeed, for then the whole were engaged in skinning the
animals. The skins were always stretched, dried, folded up with the
hair in the inside, and laid by; and the flesh was used for food.
But oftentimes the trappers had to go forth with the gun in one hand
and their traps in the other, while they kept a sharp look-out on the
bushes to guard against surprise. Despite their utmost efforts, a
horse was occasionally stolen before their very eyes, and sometimes
even an unfortunate trapper was murdered, and all his traps carried
An event of this kind occurred soon after the party had gained the
western slopes of the mountains. Three Iroquois Indians, who belonged
to the band of trappers, were sent to a stream about ten miles off.
Having reached their destination, they all entered the water to
set their traps, foolishly neglecting the usual precaution of one
remaining on the bank to protect the others. They had scarcely
commenced operations when three arrows were discharged into their
backs, and a party of Snake Indians rushed upon and slew them,
carrying away their traps and horses and scalps. This was not known
for several days, when, becoming anxious about their prolonged
absence, Cameron sent out a party, which found their mangled bodies
affording a loathsome banquet to the wolves and vultures.
After this sad event, the trappers were more careful to go in larger
parties, and keep watch.
As long as beaver were taken in abundance, the camp remained
stationary; but whenever the beaver began to grow scarce, the camp was
raised, and the party moved on to another valley.
One day Dick Varley came galloping into camp with the news that there
were several bears in a valley not far distant, which he was anxious
not to disturb until a number of the trappers were collected together
to go out and surround them.
On receiving the information, Walter Cameron shook his head.
"We have other things to do, young man," said he, "than go a-hunting
after bears. I'm just about making up my mind to send off a party to
search out the valley on the other side of the Blue Mountains yonder,
and bring back word if there are beaver there; for if not, I mean
to strike away direct south. Now, if you've a mind to go with them,
you're welcome. I'll warrant you'll find enough in the way of
bear-hunting to satisfy you; perhaps a little Indian hunting to boot,
for if the Banattees get hold of your horses, you'll have a long hunt
before you find them again. Will you go?"
"Ay, right gladly," replied Dick. "When do we start?"
Dick went off at once to his own part of the camp to replenish his
powder-horn and bullet-pouch, and wipe out his rifle.
That evening the party, under command of a Canadian named Pierre, set
out for the Blue Hills. They numbered twenty men, and expected to be
absent three days, for they merely went to reconnoitre, not to trap.
Neither Joe nor Henri was of this party, both having been out hunting
when it was organized; but Crusoe and Charlie were, of course.
Pierre, although a brave and trusty man, was of a sour, angry
disposition, and not a favourite with Dick; but the latter resolved to
enjoy himself, and disregard his sulky comrade. Being so well mounted,
he not unfrequently shot far ahead of his companions, despite their
warnings that he ran great risk by so doing. On one of these occasions
he and Crusoe witnessed a very singular fight, which is worthy of
Dick had felt a little wilder in spirit that morning than usual, and
on coming to a pretty open plain he gave the rein to Charlie, and with
an "_Adieu, mes camarade_," he was out of sight in a few minutes. He
rode on several miles in advance without checking speed, and then came
to a wood where rapid motion was inconvenient; so he pulled up, and,
dismounting, tied Charlie to a tree, while he sauntered on a short way
On coming to the edge of a small plain he observed two large birds
engaged in mortal conflict. Crusoe observed them too, and would soon
have put an end to the fight had Dick not checked him. Creeping as
close to the belligerents as possible, he found that one was a wild
turkey-cock, the other a white-headed eagle. These two stood with
their heads down and all their feathers bristling for a moment; then
they dashed at each other, and struck fiercely with their spurs, as
our domestic cocks do, but neither fell, and the fight was continued
for about five minutes without apparent advantage on either side.
Dick now observed that, from the uncertainty of its motions, the
turkey-cock was blind, a discovery which caused a throb of compunction
to enter his breast for standing and looking on, so he ran forward.
The eagle saw him instantly, and tried to fly away, but was unable
"At him, Crusoe," cried Dick, whose sympathies all lay with the other
Crusoe went forward at a bound, and was met by a peck between the eyes
that would have turned most dogs; but Crusoe only winked, and the next
moment the eagle's career was ended.
Dick found that the turkey-cock was quite blind, the eagle having
thrust out both its eyes, so, in mercy, he put an end to its
The fight had evidently been a long and severe one, for the grass all
round the spot, for about twenty yards, was beaten to the ground, and
covered with the blood and feathers of the fierce combatants.
Meditating on the fight which he had just witnessed, Dick returned
towards the spot where he had left Charlie, when he suddenly missed
Crusoe from his side.
"Hallo, Crusoe! here, pup! where are you?" he cried.
The only answer to this was a sharp whizzing sound, and an arrow,
passing close to his ear, quivered in a tree beyond. Almost at the
same moment Crusoe's angry roar was followed by a shriek from some one
in fear or agony. Cocking his rifle, the young hunter sprang through
the bushes towards his horse, and was just in time to save a Banattee
Indian from being strangled by the dog. It had evidently scented out
this fellow, and pinned him just as he was in the act of springing on
the back of Charlie, for the halter was cut, and the savage lay on the
ground close beside him.
Dick called off the dog, and motioned to the Indian to rise, which he
did so nimbly that it was quite evident he had sustained no injury
beyond the laceration of his neck by Crusoe's teeth, and the surprise.
He was a tall strong Indian for the tribe to which he belonged, so
Dick proceeded to secure him at once. Pointing to his rifle and to
the Indian's breast, to show what he might expect if he attempted to
escape, Dick ordered Crusoe to keep him steady in that position.
The dog planted himself in front of the savage, who began to tremble
for his scalp, and gazed up in his face with a look which, to say the
least of it, was the reverse of amiable, while Dick went towards his
horse for the purpose of procuring a piece of cord to tie him with.
The Indian naturally turned his head to see what was going to be done,
but a peculiar _gurgle_ in Crusoe's throat made him turn it round
again very smartly, and he did not venture thereafter to move a
In a few seconds Dick returned with a piece of leather and tied his
hands behind his back. While this was being done the Indian glanced
several times at his bow, which lay a few feet away, where it had
fallen when the dog caught him; but Crusoe seemed to understand him,
for he favoured him with such an additional display of teeth, and
such a low--apparently distant, almost, we might say, subterranean
--_rumble_, that he resigned himself to his fate.
His hands secured, a long line was attached to his neck with a running
noose, so that if he ventured to run away the attempt would effect its
own cure by producing strangulation. The other end of this line was
given to Crusoe, who at the word of command marched him off, while
Dick mounted Charlie and brought up the rear.
Great was the laughter and merriment when this apparition met the eyes
of the trappers; but when they heard that he had attempted to shoot
Dick their ire was raised, and a court-martial was held on the spot.
"Hang the reptile!" cried one.
"Burn him!" shouted another.
"No, no," said a third; "don't imitate them villains: don't be cruel.
Let's shoot him." "Shoot 'im," cried Pierre. "Oui, dat is de ting; it
too goot pour lui, mais it shall be dooed."
"Don't ye think, lads, it would be better to let the poor wretch off?"
said Dick Varley; "he'd p'r'aps give a good account o' us to his
There was a universal shout of contempt at this mild proposal.
Unfortunately, few of the men sent on this exploring expedition were
imbued with the peace-making spirit of their chief, and most of them
seemed glad to have a chance of venting their hatred of the poor
Indians on this unhappy wretch, who, although calm, looked sharply
from one speaker to another, to gather hope, if possible, from the
tones of their voices.
Dick was resolved, at the risk of a quarrel with Pierre, to save the
poor man's life, and had made up his mind to insist on having him
conducted to the camp to be tried by Cameron, when one of the men
suggested that they should take the savage to the top of a hill about
three miles farther on, and there hang him up on a tree as a warning
to all his tribe.
"Agreed, agreed!" cried the men; "come on."
Dick, too, seemed to agree to this proposal, and hastily ordered
Crusoe to run on ahead with the savage; an order which the dog obeyed
so vigorously that, before the men had done laughing at him, he was a
couple of hundred yards ahead of them.
"Take care that he don't get off!" cried Dick, springing on Charlie
and stretching out at a gallop.
In a moment he was beside the Indian. Scraping together the little of
the Indian language he knew, he stooped down, and, cutting the thongs
that bound him, said,--
"Go! white men love the Indians."
The man cast on his deliverer one glance of surprise, and the next
moment bounded aside into the bushes and was gone.
A loud shout from the party behind showed that this act had been
observed; and Crusoe stood with the end of the line in his mouth,
and an expression on his face that said, "You're absolutely
incomprehensible, Dick! It's all right, I _know_, but to my feeble
capacity it _seems_ wrong."
"Fat for you do dat?" shouted Pierre in a rage, as he came up with a
Dick confronted him. "The prisoner was mine. I had a right to do with
him as it liked me."
"True, true," cried several of the men who had begun to repent of
their resolution, and were glad the savage was off. "The lad's right.
Get along, Pierre."
"You had no right, you vas wrong. Oui, et I have goot vill to give you
one knock on de nose."
Dick looked Pierre in the face, as he said this, in a manner that
"It is time," he said quietly, pointing to the sun, "to go on. Your
bourgeois expects that time won't be wasted."
Pierre muttered something in an angry tone, and wheeling round his
horse, dashed forward at full gallop, followed by the rest of the men.
The trappers encamped that night on the edge of a wide grassy plain,
which offered such tempting food for the horses that Pierre resolved
to forego his usual cautious plan of picketing them close to the camp,
and set them loose on the plain, merely hobbling them to prevent their
Dick remonstrated, but in vain. An insolent answer was all he got for
his pains. He determined, however, to keep Charlie close beside him
all night, and also made up his mind to keep a sharp look-out on the
At supper he again remonstrated.
"No 'fraid," said Pierre, whose pipe was beginning to improve his
temper. "The red reptiles no dare to come in open plain when de moon
"Dun know that," said a taciturn trapper, who seldom ventured a remark
of any kind; "them varmints 'ud steal the two eyes out o' you' head
when they set their hearts on't."
"Dat ar' umposs'ble, for dey have no hearts," said a half-breed; "dey
have von hole vere de heart vas be."
This was received with a shout of laughter, in the midst of which an
appalling yell was heard, and, as if by magic, four Indians were seen
on the backs of four of the best horses, yelling like fiends, and
driving all the other horses furiously before them over the plain!
How they got there was a complete mystery, but the men did not wait
to consider that point. Catching up their guns they sprang after them
with the fury of madmen, and were quickly scattered far and wide. Dick
ordered Crusoe to follow and help the men, and turned to spring on the
back of Charlie; but at that moment he observed an Indian's head and
shoulders rise above the grass, not fifty yards in advance from him,
so without hesitation he darted forward, intending to pounce upon him.
Well would it have been for Dick Varley had he at that time possessed
a little more experience of the wiles and stratagems of the Banattees.
The Snake nation is subdivided into several tribes, of which those
inhabiting the Rocky Mountains, called the Banattees, are the most
perfidious. Indeed, they are confessedly the banditti of the hills,
and respect neither friend nor foe, but rob all who come in their way.
Dick reached the spot where the Indian had disappeared in less than a
minute, but no savage was to be seen. Thinking he had crept ahead, he
ran on a few yards farther, and darted about hither and thither,
while his eye glanced from side to side. Suddenly a shout in the camp
attracted his attention, and looking back he beheld the savage on
Charlie's back turning to fly. Next moment he was off and away far
beyond the hope of recovery. Dick had left his rifle in the camp,
otherwise the savage would have gone but a short way. As it was, Dick
returned, and sitting down on a mound of grass, stared straight before
him with a feeling akin to despair. Even Crusoe could not have helped
him had he been there, for nothing on four legs, or on two, could keep
pace with Charlie.
The Banattee achieved this feat by adopting a stratagem which
invariably deceives those who are ignorant of their habits and
tactics. When suddenly pursued the Banattee sinks into the grass, and,
serpent-like, creeps along with wonderful rapidity, not _from_ but
_towards_ his enemy, taking care, however, to avoid him, so that when
the pursuer reaches the spot where the pursued is supposed to be
hiding, he hears him shout a yell of defiance far away in the rear.
It was thus that the Banattee eluded Dick and gained the camp almost
as soon as the other reached the spot where he had disappeared.
One by one the trappers came back weary, raging, and despairing. In a
short time they all assembled, and soon began to reproach each other.
Ere long one or two had a fight, which resulted in several bloody
noses and black eyes, thus adding to the misery which, one would
think, had been bad enough without such additions. At last they
finished their suppers and their pipes, and then lay down to sleep
under the trees till morning, when they arose in a particularly silent
and sulky mood, rolled up their blankets, strapped their things on
their shoulders, and began to trudge slowly back to the camp on foot.
_Wolves attack the horses, and Cameron circumvents the wolves_--_A
bear-hunt, in which Henri shines conspicuous_--_Joe and the
"Natter-list_"--_An alarm_--_A surprise and a capture_.
We must now return to the camp where Walter Cameron still guarded the
goods, and the men pursued their trapping avocations.
Here seven of the horses had been killed in one night by wolves while
grazing in a plain close to the camp, and on the night following a
horse that had strayed was also torn to pieces and devoured. The
prompt and daring manner in which this had been done convinced the
trader that white wolves had unfortunately scented them out, and he
set several traps in the hope of capturing them.
White wolves are quite distinct from the ordinary wolves that prowl
through woods and plains in large packs. They are much larger,
weighing sometimes as much as a hundred and thirty pounds; but they
are comparatively scarce, and move about alone, or in small bands of
three or four. Their strength is enormous, and they are so fierce that
they do not hesitate, upon occasions, to attack man himself. Their
method of killing horses is very deliberate. Two wolves generally
undertake the cold-blooded murder. They approach their victim with the
most innocent-looking and frolicsome gambols, lying down and rolling
about, and frisking presently, until the horse becomes a little
accustomed to them. Then one approaches right in front, the other
in rear, still frisking playfully, until they think themselves near
enough, when they make a simultaneous rush. The wolf which approaches
in rear is the true assailant; the rush of the other is a mere feint.
Then both fasten on the poor horse's haunches, and never let go till
the sinews are cut and he is rolling on his side.
The horse makes comparatively little struggle in this deadly assault;
he seems paralyzed, and soon falls to rise no more.
Cameron set his traps towards evening in a circle with a bait in the
centre, and then retired to rest. Next morning he called Joe Blunt,
and the two went off together.
"It is strange that these rascally white wolves should be so bold when
the smaller kinds are so cowardly," remarked Cameron, as they walked
"So 'tis," replied Joe; "but I've seed them other chaps bold enough
too in the prairie when they were in large packs and starvin'."
"I believe the small wolves follow the big fellows, and help them to
eat what they kill, though they generally sit round and look on at the
"Hist!" exclaimed Joe, cocking his gun; "there he is, an' no mistake."
There he was, undoubtedly. A wolf of the largest size with one of his
feet in the trap. He was a terrible-looking object, for, besides his
immense size and naturally ferocious aspect, his white hair bristled
on end and was all covered with streaks and spots of blood from his
bloody jaws. In his efforts to escape he had bitten the trap until he
had broken his teeth and lacerated his gums, so that his appearance
was hideous in the extreme. And when the two men came up he struggled
with all his might to fly at them.
Cameron and Joe stood looking at him in a sort of wondering
"We'd better put a ball in him," suggested Joe after a time. "Mayhap
the chain won't stand sich tugs long."
"True, Joe; if it break, we might get an ugly nip before we killed
So saying Cameron fired into the wolf's head and killed it. It was
found, on examination, that four wolves had been in the traps, but the
rest had escaped. Two of them, however, had gnawed off their paws and
left them lying in the traps.
After this the big wolves did not trouble them again. The same
afternoon a bear-hunt was undertaken, which well-nigh cost one of the
Iroquois his life. It happened thus:--
While Cameron and Joe were away after the white wolves, Henri came
floundering into camp tossing his arms like a maniac, and shouting
that "seven bars wos be down in de bush close by!" It chanced that
this was an idle day with most of the men, so they all leaped on their
horses, and taking guns and knives sallied forth to give battle to the
Arrived at the scene of action, they found the seven bears busily
engaged in digging up roots, so the men separated in order to surround
them, and then closed in. The place was partly open and partly covered
with thick bushes into which a horseman could not penetrate.
The moment the bears got wind of what was going forward they made off
as fast as possible, and then commenced a scene of firing, galloping,
and yelling that defies description! Four out of the seven were shot
before they gained the bushes; the other three were wounded, but made
good their retreat. As their places of shelter, however, were like
islands in the plain, they had no chance of escaping.
The horsemen now dismounted and dashed recklessly into the bushes,
where they soon discovered and killed two of the bears; the third was
not found for some time. At last an Iroquois came upon it so suddenly
that he had not time to point his gun before the bear sprang upon him
and struck him to the earth, where it held him down.
Instantly the place was surrounded by eager men; but the bushes were
so thick, and the fallen trees among which the bear stood were so
numerous, that they could not use their guns without running the risk
of shooting their companion. Most of them drew their knives and seemed
about to rush on the bear with these; but the monster's aspect, as it
glared around, was so terrible that they held back for a moment in
At this moment Henri, who had been at some distance engaged in the
killing of one of the other bears, came rushing forward after his own
peculiar manner. "Ah! fat is eet--hay? de bar no go under yit?"
Just then his eye fell on the wounded Iroquois with the bear above
him, and he uttered a yell so intense in tone that the bear himself
seemed to feel that something decisive was about to be done at last.
Henri did not pause, but with a flying dash he sprang like a spread
eagle, arms and legs extended, right into the bear's bosom. At the
same moment he sent his long hunting-knife down into its heart. But
Bruin is proverbially hard to kill, and although mortally wounded, he
had strength enough to open his jaws and close them on Henri's neck.
There was a cry of horror, and at the same moment a volley was fired
at the bear's head; for the trappers felt that it was better to risk
shooting their comrades than see them killed before their eyes.
Fortunately the bullets took effect, and tumbled him over at once
without doing damage to either of the men, although several of the
balls just grazed Henri's temple and carried off his cap.
Although uninjured by the shot, the poor Iroquois had not escaped
scathless from the paw of the bear. His scalp was torn almost off, and
hung down over his eyes, while blood streamed down his face. He was
conveyed by his comrades to the camp, where he lay two days in a state
of insensibility, at the end of which time he revived and recovered
daily. Afterwards when the camp moved he had to be carried; but in
the course of two months he was as well as ever, and quite as fond of
Among other trophies of this hunt there were two deer and a buffalo,
which last had probably strayed from the herd. Four or five Iroquois
were round this animal whetting their knives for the purpose of
cutting it up when Henri passed, so he turned aside to watch them
perform the operation, quite regardless of the fact that his neck
and face were covered with blood which flowed from one or two small
punctures made by the bear.
The Indians began by taking off the skin, which certainly did not
occupy them more than five minutes. Then they cut up the meat and made
a pack of it, and cut out the tongue, which is somewhat troublesome,
as that member requires to be cut out from under the jaw of the
animal, and not through the natural opening of the mouth. One of the
fore legs was cut off at the knee joint, and this was used as a hammer
with which to break the skull for the purpose of taking out the
brains, these being used in the process of dressing and softening the
animal's skin. An axe would have been of advantage to break the skull,
but in the hurry of rushing to the attack the Indians had forgotten
their axes; so they adopted the common fashion of using the buffalo's
hoof as a hammer, the shank being the handle. The whole operation of
flaying, cutting up, and packing the meat did not occupy more than
twenty minutes. Before leaving the ground these expert butchers
treated themselves to a little of the marrow and warm liver in a raw
Cameron and Joe walked up to the group while they were indulging in
this little feast.
"Well, I've often seen that eaten, but I never could do it myself,"
remarked the former. "No!" cried Joe in surprise; "now that's oncommon
cur'us. I've _lived_ on raw liver an' marrow-bones for two or three
days at a time, when we wos chased by the Camanchee Injuns an' didn't
dare to make a fire; an' it's ra'al good, it is. Won't ye try it
Cameron shook his head.
"No, thankee; I'll not refuse when I can't help it, but until then
I'll remain in happy ignorance of how good it is."
"Well, it _is_ strange how some folk can't abide anything in the meat
way they ha'n't bin used to. D'ye know I've actually knowed men from
the cities as wouldn't eat a bit o' horseflesh for love or money.
Would ye believe it?"
"I can well believe that, Joe, for I have met with such persons
myself; in fact, they are rather numerous. What are you chuckling at,
"Chucklin'? If ye mean be that 'larfin in to myself,' it's because I'm
thinkin' o' a chap as once comed out to the prairies."
"Let us walk back to the camp, Joe, and you can tell me about him as
we go along."
"I think," continued Joe, "he comed from Washington, but I never could
make out right whether he wos a Government man or not. Anyhow, he wos
a pheelosopher--a natter-list I think he call his-self--"
"A naturalist," suggested Cameron.
"Ay, that wos more like it. Well, he wos about six feet two in his
moccasins, an' as thin as a ramrod, an' as blind as a bat--leastways
he had weak eyes an' wore green spectacles. He had on a gray shootin'
coat an' trousers an' vest an' cap, with rid whiskers an' a long nose
as rid at the point as the whiskers wos."
"Well, this gentleman engaged me an' another hunter to go a trip with
him into the prairies, so off we sot one fine day on three hosses,
with our blankets at our backs--we wos to depend on the rifle for
victuals. At first I thought the natter-list one o' the cruellest
beggars as iver went on two long legs, for he used to go about
everywhere pokin' pins through all the beetles an' flies an' creepin'
things he could sot eyes on, an' stuck them in a box. But he told me
he comed here a-purpose to git as many o' them as he could; so says I,
'If that's it, I'll fill yer box in no time.'
"'Will ye?' says he, quite pleased like.
"'I will,' says I, an' galloped off to a place as was filled wi' all
sorts o' crawlin' things. So I sets to work, an' whenever I seed a
thing crawlin' I sot my fut on it an' crushed it, an' soon filled my
breast pocket. I cotched a lot o' butterflies too, an' stuffed them
into my shot-pouch, an' went back in an hour or two an' showed him the
lot. He put on his green spectacles an' looked at them as if he'd seen
"'My good man,' says he, 'you've crushed them all to pieces!'
"'They'll taste as good for all that,' says I; for somehow I'd taken't
in me head that he'd heard o' the way the Injuns make soup o' the
grasshoppers, an' wos wantin' to try his hand at a new dish!
"He laughed when I said this, an' told me he wos collectin' them to
take home to be _looked_ at. But that's not wot I was goin' to tell ye
about him," continued Joe; "I wos goin' to tell ye how we made him eat
horseflesh. He carried a revolver, too, this natter-list did, to load
wi' shot as small as dust a'most, an' shoot little birds with. I've
seed him miss birds only three feet away with it. An' one day he drew
it all of a suddent an' let fly at a big bum-bee that wos passin',
yellin' out that it wos the finest wot he had iver seed. He missed the
bee, of coorse, 'cause it wos a flyin' shot, he said, but he sent the
whole charge right into Martin's back--Martin was my comrade's name.
By good luck Martin had on a thick leather coat, so the shot niver got
the length o' his skin."
"One day I noticed that the natter-list had stuffed small corks into
the muzzles of all the six barrels of his revolver. I wondered what
they wos for, but he wos al'ays doin' sich queer things that I
soon forgot it. 'Maybe,' thought I, jist before it went out o' my
mind--'maybe he thinks that'll stop the pistol from goin' off by
accident;' for ye must know he'd let it off three times the first day
by accident, an' well-nigh blowed off his leg the last time, only
the shot lodged in the back o' a big toad he'd jist stuffed into his
breeches pocket. Well, soon after we shot a buffalo bull, so when it
fell, off he jumps from his horse an' runs up to it. So did I, for I
wasn't sure the beast was dead, an' I had jist got up when it rose an'
rushed at the natter-list.
"'Out o' the way,' I yelled, for my rifle was empty; but he didn't
move, so I rushed for'ard an' drew the pistol out o' his belt and let
fly in the bull's ribs jist as it ran the poor man down. Martin came
up that moment an' put a ball through its heart, an' then we went to
pick up the natter-list. He came to in a little, an' the first thing
he said was, 'Where's my revolver?' When I gave it to him he looked
at it, an' said with a solemcholy shake o' the head, 'There's a whole
barrel-full lost!' It turned out that he had taken to usin' the
barrels for bottles to hold things in, but he forgot to draw the
charges, so sure enough I had fired a charge o' bum-bees an' beetles
an' small shot into the buffalo!
"But that's not what I wos goin' to tell ye yit. We corned to a part
o' the plains where we wos well-nigh starved for want o' game, an' the
natter-list got so thin that ye could a'most see through him, so I
offered to kill my horse, an' cut it up for meat; but you niver saw
sich a face he made. 'I'd rather die first,' says he, 'than eat it;'
so we didn't kill it. But that very day Martin got a shot at a wild
horse an' killed it. The natter-list was down in the bed o' a creek at
the time gropin' for creepers, an' he didn't see it.
"'He'll niver eat it,' says Martin.
"'That's true,' says I.
"'Let's tell him it's a buffalo,' says he.
"'That would be tellin' a lie,' says I.
"So we stood lookin' at each other, not knowin' what to do.
"'I'll tell ye what,' cries Martin; 'we'll cut it up, and take the
meat into camp an' cook it without _sayin' a word_.'
"'Done,' says I, 'that's it;' for ye must know the poor critter wos no
judge o' meat. He couldn't tell one kind from another, an' he niver
axed questions. In fact he niver a'most spoke to us all the trip.
Well, we cut up the horse, an' carried the flesh an' marrowbones into
camp, takin' care to leave the hoofs an' skin behind, an' sot to work
an' roasted steaks an' marrowbones."
"When the natter-list came back ye should ha' seen the joyful face he
put on when he smelt the grub, for he was all but starved out, poor
"'What have we got here?' cried he, rubbin' his hands an' sittin'
"'Steaks an' marrow-bones,' says Martin."
"'Capital!' says he. 'I'm _so_ hungry.'"
"So he fell to work like a wolf. I niver seed a man pitch into
anything like as that natter-list did into that horseflesh."
"'These are first-rate marrow-bones,' says he, squintin' with one eye
down the shin-bone o' the hind leg to see if it was quite empty."
"'Yes, sir, they is,' answered Martin, as grave as a judge."
"'Take another, sir,' says I."
"'No, thankee,' says he with a sigh, for he didn't like to leave off."
"Well, we lived for a week on horseflesh, an' first-rate livin' it
wos; then we fell in with buffalo, an' niver ran short again till we
got to the settlements, when he paid us our money an' shook hands,
sayin' we'd had a nice trip, an' he wished us well. Jist as we wos
partin' I said, says I, 'D'ye know what it wos we lived on for a week
arter we wos well-nigh starved in the prairies?'"
"'What,' says he, 'when we got yon capital marrowbones?'"
"'The same,' says I. 'Yon wos _horse_ flesh,' says I; 'an' I think
ye'll surely niver say again that it isn't first-rate livin'.'"
"'Ye're jokin',' says he, turnin' pale."
"'It's true, sir; as true as ye're standin' there.'"
"Well, would ye believe it, he turned--that natter-list did--as sick
as a dog on the spot wot he wos standin' on, an' didn't taste meat
again for three days!"
Shortly after the conclusion of Joe's story they reached the camp,
and here they found the women and children flying about in a state of
terror, and the few men who had been left in charge arming themselves
in the greatest haste.
"Hallo! something wrong here," cried Cameron, hastening forward,
followed by Joe. "What has happened, eh?"
"Injuns comin', monsieur; look dere," answered a trapper, pointing
down the valley.
"Arm and mount at once, and come to the front of the camp," cried
Cameron in a tone of voice that silenced every other, and turned
confusion into order.
The cause of all this outcry was a cloud of dust seen far down the
valley, which was raised by a band of mounted Indians who approached
the camp at full speed. Their numbers could not be made out, but they
were a sufficiently formidable band to cause much anxiety to
Cameron, whose men, at the time, were scattered to the various
trapping-grounds, and only ten chanced to be within call of the camp.
However, with these ten he determined to show a bold front to the
savages, whether they came as friends or foes. He therefore ordered
the women and children within the citadel formed of the goods and
packs of furs piled upon each other, which point of retreat was to
be defended to the last extremity. Then galloping to the front he
collected his men and swept down the valley at full speed. In a few
minutes they were near enough to observe that the enemy only numbered
four Indians, who were driving a band of about a hundred horses before
them, and so busy were they in keeping the troop together that Cameron
and his men were close upon them before they were observed.
It was too late to escape. Joe Blunt and Henri had already swept round
and cut off their retreat. In this extremity the Indians slipped from
the backs of their steeds and darted into the bushes, where they were
safe from pursuit, at least on horseback, while the trappers got
behind the horses and drove them towards the camp.
At this moment one of the horses sprang ahead of the others and made
for the mountain, with its mane and tail flying wildly in the breeze.
"Marrow-bones and buttons!" shouted one of the men, "there goes Dick
"So it am!" cried Henri, and dashed off in pursuit, followed by Joe
and two others.
"Why, these are our own horses," said Cameron in surprise, as they
drove them into a corner of the hills from which they could not
This was true, but it was only half the truth, for, besides their own
horses, they had secured upwards of seventy Indian steeds; a most
acceptable addition to their stud, which, owing to casualties and
wolves, had been diminishing too much of late. The fact was that the
Indians who had captured the horses belonging to Pierre and his party
were a small band of robbers who had travelled, as was afterwards
learned, a considerable distance from the south, stealing horses from
various tribes as they went along. As we have seen, in an evil hour
they fell in with Pierre's party and carried off their steeds, which
they drove to a pass leading from one valley to the other. Here they
united them with the main band of their ill-gotten gains, and while
the greater number of the robbers descended farther into the plains in
search of more booty, four of them were sent into the mountains with
the horses already procured. These four, utterly ignorant of the
presence of white men in the valley, drove their charge, as we have
seen, almost into the camp.
Cameron immediately organized a party to go out in search of Pierre
and his companions, about whose fate he became intensely anxious,
and in the course of half-an-hour as many men as he could spare with
safety were despatched in the direction of the Blue Mountains.
_Charlie's adventures with savages and bears_--_Trapping life_.
It is one thing to chase a horse; it is another thing to catch it.
Little consideration and less sagacity are required to convince us of
the truth of that fact.
The reader may perhaps venture to think this rather a trifling fact.
We are not so sure of that. In this world of fancies, to have _any_
fact incontestably proved and established is a comfort, and whatever
is a source of comfort to mankind is worthy of notice. Surely our
reader won't deny that! Perhaps he will, so we can only console
ourself with the remark that there are people in this world who would
deny _anything_--who would deny that there was a nose on their face if
you said there was!
Well, to return to the point, which was the chase of a horse in the
abstract; from which we will rapidly diverge to the chase of Dick
Varley's horse in particular. This noble charger, having been ridden
by savages until all his old fire and blood and mettle were worked up
to a red heat, no sooner discovered that he was pursued than he gave
a snort of defiance, which he accompanied with a frantic shake of his
mane and a fling of contempt in addition to a magnificent wave of his
tail. Then he thundered up the valley at a pace which would speedily
have left Joe Blunt and Henri out of sight behind if--ay! that's the
word, _if_! What a word that _if_ is! what a world of _if's_ we live
in! There never was anything that wouldn't have been something else
_if_ something hadn't intervened to prevent it! Yes, we repeat Charlie
would have left his two friends miles and miles behind in what is
called "no time," _if_ he had not run straight into a gorge which was
surrounded by inaccessible precipices, and out of which there was no
exit except by the entrance, which was immediately barred by Henri,
while Joe advanced to catch the run-away.
For two hours at least did Joe Blunt essay to catch Charlie, and
during that space of time he utterly failed The horse seemed to have
made up his mind for what is vulgarly termed "a lark."
"It won't do, Henri," said Joe, advancing towards his companion, and
wiping his forehead with the cuff of his leathern coat; "I can't catch
him. The wind's a'most blowed out o' me body."
"Dat am vexatiable," replied Henri, in a tone of commiseration.
"S'pose I wos make try?"
"In that case I s'pose ye would fail. But go ahead, an' do what ye
can. I'll hold yer horse."
So Henri began by a rush and a flourish of legs and arms that nearly
frightened the horse out of his wits. For half-an-hour he went through
all the complications of running and twisting of which he was capable,
without success, when Joe Blunt suddenly uttered a stentorian yell
that rooted him to the spot on which he stood.
To account for this, we must explain that in the heights of the Rocky
Mountains vast accumulations of snow take place among the crevices and
gorges during winter. Such of these masses as form on steep slopes
are loosened by occasional thaws, and are precipitated in the form of
avalanches into the valleys below, carrying trees and stones along
with them in their thundering descent. In the gloomy gorge where
Dick's horse had taken refuge the precipices were so steep that many
avalanches had occurred, as was evident from the mounds of heaped snow
that lay at the foot of most of them. Neither stones nor trees were
carried down here, however, for the cliffs were nearly perpendicular,
and the snow slipping over their edges had fallen on the grass below.
Such an avalanche was now about to take place, and it was this that
caused Joe to utter his cry of alarm and warning.
Henri and the horse were directly under the cliff over which it was
about to be hurled, the latter close to the wall of rock, the other at
some distance away from it.
Joe cried again, "Back, Henri! back _vite_!" when the mass _flowed
over_ and fell with a roar like prolonged thunder. Henri sprang back
in time to save his life, though he was knocked down and almost
stunned; but poor Charlie was completely buried under the avalanche,
which now presented the appearance of a _hill_ of snow.
The instant Henri recovered sufficiently, Joe and he mounted their
horses and galloped back to the camp as fast as possible.
Meanwhile, another spectator stepped forward upon the scene they had
left, and surveyed the snow hill with a critical eye. This was no less
than a grizzly bear, which had, unobserved, been a spectator, and
which immediately proceeded to dig into the mound, with the purpose,
no doubt, of disentombing the carcass of the horse for purposes of his
While he was thus actively engaged the two hunters reached the camp,
where they found that Pierre and his party had just arrived. The men
sent out in search of them had scarcely advanced a mile when they
found them trudging back to the camp in a very disconsolate manner.
But all their sorrows were put to flight on hearing of the curious way
in which the horses had been returned to them with interest.
Scarcely had Dick Varley, however, congratulated himself on the
recovery of his gallant steed, when he was thrown into despair by the
sudden arrival of Joe with the tidings of the catastrophe we have just
Of course there was a general rush to the rescue. Only a few men were
ordered to remain to guard the camp, while the remainder mounted their
horses and galloped towards the gorge where Charlie had been entombed.
On arriving, they found that Bruin had worked with such laudable zeal
that nothing but the tip of his tail was seen sticking out of the hole
which he had dug. The hunters could not refrain from laughing as they
sprang to the ground, and standing in a semicircle in front of the
hole, prepared to fire. But Crusoe resolved to have the honour of
leading the assault. He seized fast hold of Bruin's flank, and caused
his teeth to meet therein. Caleb backed out at once and turned round,
but before he could recover from his surprise a dozen bullets pierced
his heart and brain.
"Now, lads," cried Cameron, setting to work with a large wooden
shovel, "work like niggers. If there's any life left in the horse,
it'll soon be smothered out unless we set him free."
The men needed no urging, however. They worked as if their lives
depended on their exertions. Dick Varley, in particular, laboured like
a young Hercules, and Henri hurled masses of snow about in a most
surprising manner. Crusoe, too, entered heartily into the spirit of
the work, and, scraping with his forepaws, sent such a continuous
shower of snow behind him that he was speedily lost to view in a hole
of his own excavating. In the course of half-an-hour a cavern was dug
in the mound almost close up to the cliff, and the men were beginning
to look about for the crushed body of Dick's steed, when an