Part 5 out of 5
exclamation from Henri attracted their attention.
"Ha! mes ami, here am be one hole."
The truth of this could not be doubted, for the eccentric trapper had
thrust his shovel through the wall of snow into what appeared to be a
cavern beyond, and immediately followed up his remark by thrusting in
his head and shoulders. He drew them out in a few seconds, with a look
of intense amazement.
"Voila! Joe Blunt. Look in dere, and you shall see fat you vill
"Why, it's the horse, I do b'lieve!" cried Joe. "Go ahead, lads!"
So saying, he resumed his shovelling vigorously, and in a few minutes
the hole was opened up sufficiently to enable a man to enter. Dick
sprang in, and there stood Charlie close beside the cliff, looking
as sedate and, unconcerned as if all that had been going on had no
reference to him whatever.
The cause of his safety was simple enough. The precipice beside which
he stood when the avalanche occurred overhung its base at that point
considerably, so that when the snow descended a clear space of several
feet wide was left all along its base. Here Charlie had remained in
perfect comfort until his friends dug him out.
Congratulating themselves not a little on having saved the charger and
bagged a grizzly bear, the trappers remounted, and returned to the
For some time after this nothing worthy of particular note occurred.
The trapping operations went on prosperously and without interruption
from the Indians, who seemed to have left the locality altogether.
During this period, Dick, and Crusoe, and Charlie had many excursions
together, and the silver rifle full many a time sent death to the
heart of bear, and elk, and buffalo; while, indirectly, it sent joy
to the heart of man, woman, and child in camp, in the shape of juicy
steaks and marrow-bones. Joe and Henri devoted themselves almost
exclusively to trapping beaver, in which pursuit they were so
successful that they speedily became wealthy men, according to
backwood notions of wealth.
With the beaver that they caught they purchased from Cameron's store
powder and shot enough for a long hunting expedition, and a couple
of spare horses to carry their packs. They also purchased a large
assortment of such goods and trinkets as would prove acceptable to
Indians, and supplied themselves with new blankets, and a few pairs of
strong moccasins, of which they stood much in need.
Thus they went on from day to day, until symptoms of the approach of
winter warned them that it was time to return to the Mustang Valley.
About this time an event occurred which totally changed the aspect
of affairs in these remote valleys of the Rocky Mountains, and
precipitated the departure of our four friends, Dick, Joe, Henri, and
Crusoe. This was the sudden arrival of a whole tribe of Indians.
As their advent was somewhat remarkable, we shall devote to it the
commencement of a new chapter.
_Savage sports--Living cataracts--An alarm--Indians and their
doings--The stampede--Charlie again_.
One day Dick Varley was out on a solitary hunting expedition near the
rocky gorge where his horse had received temporary burial a week or
two before. Crusoe was with him, of course. Dick had tied Charlie to a
tree, and was sunning himself on the edge of a cliff, from the top of
which he had a fine view of the valley and the rugged precipices that
hemmed it in.
Just in front of the spot on which he sat, the precipices on the
opposite side of the gorge rose to a considerable height above him, so
that their ragged outlines were drawn sharply across the clear sky.
Dick was gazing in dreamy silence at the jutting rocks and dark
caverns, and speculating on the probable number of bears that dwelt
there, when a slight degree of restlessness on the part of Crusoe
"What is't, pup?" said he, laying his hand on the dog's broad back.
Crusoe looked the answer, "I don't know, Dick, but it's _something_,
you may depend upon it, else I would not have disturbed you."
Dick lifted his rifle from the ground, and laid it in the hollow of
his left arm.
"There must be something in the wind," remarked Dick.
As wind is known to be composed of two distinct gases, Crusoe felt
perfectly safe in replying "Yes" with his tail. Immediately after he
added, "Hallo! did you hear that?" with his ears.
Dick did hear it, and sprang hastily to his feet, as a sound like, yet
unlike, distant thunder came faintly down upon the breeze. In a few
seconds the sound increased to a roar in which was mingled the wild
cries of men. Neither Dick nor Crusoe moved, for the sounds came from
behind the heights in front of them, and they felt that the only way
to solve the question, "What can the sounds be?" was to wait till the
sounds should solve it themselves.
Suddenly the muffled sounds gave place to the distinct bellowing of
cattle, the clatter of innumerable hoofs, and the yells of savage men,
while at the same moment the edges of the opposite cliffs became alive
with Indians and buffaloes rushing about in frantic haste--the former
almost mad with savage excitement, the latter with blind rage and
On reaching the edge of the dizzy precipice, the buffaloes turned
abruptly and tossed their ponderous heads as they coursed along the
edge. Yet a few of them, unable to check their headlong course, fell
over, and were dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Such falls, Dick
observed, were hailed with shouts of delight by the Indians, whose
sole object evidently was to enjoy the sport of driving the terrified
animals over the precipice. The wily savages had chosen their ground
well for this purpose.
The cliff immediately opposite to Dick Varley was a huge projection
from the precipice that hemmed in the gorge, a species of cape or
promontory several hundred yards wide at the base, and narrowing
abruptly to a point. The sides of this wedge-shaped projection were
quite perpendicular--indeed, in some places the top overhung the
base--and they were at least three hundred feet high. Broken and
jagged rocks, of that peculiarly chaotic character which probably
suggested the name to this part of the great American chain, projected
from and were scattered all round the cliffs. Over these the Indians,
whose numbers increased every moment, strove to drive the luckless
herd of buffaloes that had chanced to fall in their way. The task was
easy. The unsuspecting animals, of which there were hundreds,
rushed in a dense mass upon the cape referred to. On they came with
irresistible impetuosity, bellowing furiously, while their hoofs
thundered on the turf with the muffled continuous roar of a distant
but mighty cataract; the Indians, meanwhile, urging them on by hideous
yells and frantic gestures.
The advance-guard came bounding madly to the edge of the precipice.
Here they stopped short, and gazed affrighted at the gulf below. It
was but for a moment. The irresistible momentum of the flying mass
behind pushed them over. Down they came, absolutely a living cataract,
upon the rocks below. Some struck on the projecting rocks in the
descent, and their bodies were dashed almost in pieces, while their
blood spurted out in showers. Others leaped from rock to rock with
awful bounds, until, losing their foothold, they fell headlong;
while others descended sheer down into the sweltering mass that lay
shattered at the base of the cliffs.
Dick Varley and his dog remained rooted to the rock, as they gazed at
the sickening sight, as if petrified. Scarce fifty of that noble herd
of buffaloes escaped the awful leap, but they escaped only to fall
before the arrows of their ruthless pursuers. Dick had often heard of
this tendency of the Indians, where buffaloes were very numerous, to
drive them over precipices in mere wanton sport and cruelty, but
he had never seen it until now, and the sight filled his soul with
horror. It was not until the din and tumult of the perishing herd and
the shrill yells of the Indians had almost died away that he turned to
quit the spot. But the instant he did so another shout was raised. The
savages had observed him, and were seen galloping along the cliffs
towards the head of the gorge, with the obvious intention of gaining
the other side and capturing him. Dick sprang on Charlie's back, and
the next instant was flying down the valley towards the camp.
He did not, however, fear being overtaken, for the gorge could not be
crossed, and the way round the head of it was long and rugged; but he
was anxious to alarm the camp as quickly as possible, so that they
might have time to call in the more distant trappers and make
preparations for defence.
"Where away now, youngster?" inquired Cameron, emerging from his tent
as Dick, taking the brook that flowed in front at a flying leap, came
crashing through the bushes into the midst of the fur-packs at full
"Injuns!" ejaculated Dick, reining up, and vaulting out of the saddle.
"Hundreds of 'em. Fiends incarnate every one!"
"Are they near?"
"Yes; an hour'll bring them down on us. Are Joe and Henri far from
"At Ten-mile Creek," replied Cameron with an expression of bitterness,
as he caught up his gun and shouted to several men, who hurried up on
seeing our hero burst into camp.
"Ten-mile Creek!" muttered Dick. "I'll bring 'em in, though," he
continued, glancing at several of the camp horses that grazed close at
In another moment he was on Charlie's back, the line of one of the
best horses was in his hand, and almost before Cameron knew what he
was about he was flying down the valley like the wind. Charlie often
stretched out at full speed to please his young master, but seldom
had he been urged forward as he was upon this occasion. The led horse
being light and wild, kept well up, and in a marvellously short space
of time they were at Ten-mile Creek.
"Hallo, Dick, wot's to do?" inquired Joe Blunt, who was up to his
knees in the water setting a trap at the moment his friend galloped
"Injuns! Where's Henri?" demanded Dick.
"At the head o' the dam there."
Dick was off in a moment, and almost instantly returned with Henri
galloping beside him.
No word was spoken. In time of action these men did not waste words.
During Dick's momentary absence, Joe Blunt had caught up his rifle and
examined the priming, so that when Dick pulled up beside him he merely
laid his hand on the saddle, saying, "All right!" as he vaulted on
Charlie's back behind his young companion. In another moment they were
away at full speed. The mustang seemed to feel that unwonted exertions
were required of him. Double weighted though he was, he kept well up
with the other horse, and in less than two hours after Dick's leaving
the camp the three hunters came in sight of it.
Meanwhile Cameron had collected nearly all his forces and put his
camp in a state of defence before the Indians arrived, which they did
suddenly, and, as usual, at full gallop, to the amount of at least
two hundred. They did not at first seem disposed to hold friendly
intercourse with the trappers, but assembled in a semicircle round the
camp in a menacing attitude, while one of their chiefs stepped forward
to hold a palaver. For some time the conversation on both sides was
polite enough, but by degrees the Indian chief assumed an imperious
tone, and demanded gifts from the trappers, taking care to enforce
his request by hinting that thousands of his countrymen were not far
distant. Cameron stoutly refused, and the palaver threatened to come
to an abrupt and unpleasant termination just at the time that Dick and
his friends appeared on the scene of action.
The brook was cleared at a bound; the three hunters leaped from their
steeds and sprang to the front with a degree of energy that had a
visible effect on the savages; and Cameron, seizing the moment,
proposed that the two parties should smoke a pipe and hold a council.
The Indians agreed, and in a few minutes they were engaged in animated
and friendly intercourse. The speeches were long, and the compliments
paid on either side were inflated, and, we fear, undeserved; but the
result of the interview was, that Cameron made the Indians a present
of tobacco and a few trinkets, and sent them back to their friends to
tell them that he was willing to trade with them.
Next day the whole tribe arrived in the valley, and pitched their
deerskin tents on the plain opposite to the camp of the white men.
Their numbers far exceeded Cameron's expectation, and it was with some
anxiety that he proceeded to strengthen his fortifications as much as
circumstances and the nature of the ground would admit.
The Indian camp, which numbered upwards of a thousand souls, was
arranged with great regularity, and was divided into three distinct
sections, each section being composed of a separate tribe. The Great
Snake nation at that time embraced three tribes or divisions--namely,
the Shirry-dikas, or dog-eaters; the War-are-ree-kas, or fish-eaters;
and the Banattees, or robbers. These were the most numerous and
powerful Indians on the west side of the Rocky Mountains. The
Shirry-dikas dwelt in the plains, and hunted the buffaloes; dressed
well; were cleanly; rich in horses; bold, independent, and good
warriors. The War-are-ree-kas lived chiefly by fishing, and were found
on the banks of the rivers and lakes throughout the country. They were
more corpulent, slovenly, and indolent than the Shirry-dikas, and more
peaceful. The Banattees, as we have before mentioned, were the robbers
of the mountains. They were a wild and contemptible race, and at
enmity with every one. In summer they went about nearly naked. In
winter they clothed themselves in the skins of rabbits and wolves.
Being excellent mimics, they could imitate the howling of wolves, the
neighing of horses, and the cries of birds, by which means they could
approach travellers, rob them, and then fly to their rocky fastnesses
in the mountains, where pursuit was vain.
Such were the men who now assembled in front of the camp of the
fur-traders, and Cameron soon found that the news of his presence in
the country had spread far and wide among the natives, bringing them
to the neighbourhood of his camp in immense crowds, so that during the
next few days their numbers increased to thousands.
Several long palavers quickly ensued between the red men and the
white, and the two great chiefs who seemed to hold despotic rule
over the assembled tribes were extremely favourable to the idea of
universal peace which was propounded to them. In several set speeches
of great length and very considerable power, these natural orators
explained their willingness to enter into amicable relations with all
the surrounding nations, as well as with the white men.
"But," said Pee-eye-em, the chief of the Shirry-dikas, a man above
six feet high, and of immense muscular strength--"but my tribe cannot
answer for the Banattees, who are robbers, and cannot be punished,
because they dwell in scattered families among the mountains. The
Banattees are bad; they cannot be trusted."
None of the Banattees were present at the council when this was said;
and if they had been it would have mattered little, for they were
neither fierce nor courageous, although bold enough in their own
haunts to murder and rob the unwary.
The second chief did not quite agree with Pee-eye-em. He said that it
was impossible for them to make peace with their natural enemies, the
Peigans and the Blackfeet on the east side of the mountains. It was
very desirable, he admitted; but neither of these tribes would consent
to it, he felt sure.
Upon this Joe Blunt rose and said, "The great chief of the
War-are-ree-kas is wise, and knows that enemies cannot be reconciled
unless deputies are sent to make proposals of peace."
"The Pale-face does not know the Blackfeet," answered the chief. "Who
will go into the lands of the Blackfeet? My young men have been sent
once and again, and their scalps are now fringes to the leggings of
their enemies. The War-are-ree-kas do not cross the mountains but for
the purpose of making war."
"The chief speaks truth," returned Joe; "yet there are three men round
the council fire who will go to the Blackfeet and the Peigans with
messages of peace from the Snakes if they wish it."
Joe pointed to himself, Henri, and Dick as he spoke, and added, "We
three do not belong to the camp of the fur-traders; we only, lodge
with them for a time. The Great Chief of the white men has sent us to
make peace with the Red-men, and to tell them that he desires to trade
with them--to exchange hatchets, and guns, and blankets for furs."
This declaration interested the two chiefs greatly, and after a good
deal of discussion they agreed to take advantage of Joe Blunt's offer;
and appoint him as a deputy to the court of their enemies. Having
arranged these matters to their satisfaction, Cameron bestowed a red
flag and a blue surtout with brass buttons on each of the chiefs, and
a variety of smaller articles on the other members of the council, and
sent them away in a particularly amiable frame of mind.
Pee-eye-em burst the blue surtout at the shoulders and elbows in
putting it on, as it was much too small for his gigantic frame;
but never having seen such an article of apparel before, he either
regarded this as the natural and proper consequence of putting it on,
or was totally indifferent to it, for he merely looked at the rents
with a smile of satisfaction, while his squaw surreptitiously cut off
the two back buttons and thrust them into her bosom.
By the time the council closed the night was far advanced, and a
bright moon was shedding a flood of soft light over the picturesque
and busy scene.
"I'll go to the Injun camp," said Joe to Walter Cameron, as the chiefs
rose to depart. "The season's far enough advanced already; it's time
to be off; and if I'm to speak for the Redskins in the Blackfeet
Council, I'd need to know what to say."
"Please yourself, Master Blunt," answered Cameron. "I like your
company and that of your friends, and if it suited you I would be
glad to take you along with us to the coast of the Pacific; but your
mission among the Indians is a good one, and I'll help it on all I
can.--I suppose you will go also?" he added, turning to Dick Varley,
who was still seated beside the council fire caressing Crusoe.
"Wherever Joe goes, I go," answered Dick.
Crusoe's tail, ears, and eyes demonstrated high approval of the
sentiment involved in this speech.
"And your friend Henri?"
"He goes too," answered Joe. "It's as well that the Redskins should
see the three o' us before we start for the east side o' the
mountains.--Ho, Henri! come here, lad."
Henri obeyed, and in a few seconds the three friends crossed the
brook to the Indian camp, and were guided to the principal lodge by
Pee-eye-em. Here a great council was held, and the proposed attempt
at negotiations for peace with their ancient enemies fully discussed.
While they were thus engaged, and just as Pee-eye-em had, in the
energy of an enthusiastic peroration, burst the blue surtout _almost_
up to the collar, a distant rushing sound was heard, which caused
every man to spring to his feet, run out of the tent, and seize his
"What can it be, Joe?" whispered Dick as they stood at the tent door
leaning on their rifles, and listening intently.
"Dun'no'," answered Joe shortly.
Most of the numerous fires of the camp had gone out, but the bright
moon revealed the dusky forms of thousands of Indians, whom the
unwonted sound had startled, moving rapidly about.
The mystery was soon explained. The Indian camp was pitched on an open
plain of several miles in extent, which took a sudden bend half-a-mile
distant, where a spur of the mountains shut out the farther end of
the valley from view. From beyond this point the dull rumbling sound
proceeded. Suddenly there was a roar as if a mighty cataract had been
let loose upon the scene. At the same moment a countless herd of wild
horses came thundering round the base of the mountain and swept over
the plain straight towards the Indian camp.
"A stampede!" cried Joe, springing to the assistance of Pee-eye-em,
whose favourite horses were picketed near the tent.
On they came like a living torrent, and the thunder of a thousand
hoofs was soon mingled with the howling of hundreds of dogs in the
camp, and the yelling of Indians, as they vainly endeavoured to
restrain the rising excitement of their steeds. Henri and Dick stood
rooted to the ground, gazing in silent wonder at the fierce and
uncontrollable gallop of the thousands of panic-stricken horses that
bore down upon the camp with the tumultuous violence of a mighty
As the maddened troop drew nigh, the camp horses began to snort and
tremble violently, and when the rush of the wild steeds was almost
upon them, they became ungovernable with terror, broke their halters
and hobbles, and dashed wildly about. To add to the confusion at that
moment, a cloud passed over the moon and threw the whole scene into
deep obscurity. Blind with terror, which was probably increased by the
din of their own mad flight, the galloping troop came on, and with a
sound like the continuous roar of thunder that for an instant drowned
the yell of dog and man they burst upon the camp, trampling over
packs and skins, and dried meat, etc., in their headlong speed, and
overturning several of the smaller tents. In another moment they swept
out upon the plain beyond, and were soon lost in the darkness of the
night, while the yelping of dogs, as they vainly pursued them, mingled
and gradually died away with the distant thunder of their retreat.
This was a _stampede_, one of the most extraordinary scenes that can
be witnessed in the western wilderness.
"Lend a hand, Henri," shouted Joe, who was struggling with a powerful
horse. "Wot's comed over yer brains, man? This brute'll git off if you
don't look sharp."
Dick and Henri both answered to the summons, and they succeeded in
throwing the struggling animal on its side and holding it down
until its excitement was somewhat abated. Pee-eye-em had also been
successful in securing his favourite hunter: but nearly every other
horse belonging to the camp had broken loose and joined the whirlwind
gallop. But they gradually dropped out, and before morning the most of
them were secured by their owners. As there were at least two thousand
horses and an equal number of dogs in the part of the Indian camp
which had been thus overrun by the wild mustangs, the turmoil, as may
be imagined, was prodigious! Yet, strange to say, no accident of a
serious nature occurred beyond the loss of several chargers.
In the midst of this exciting scene there was one heart which beat
with a nervous vehemence that well-nigh burst it. This was the heart
of Dick Varley's horse, Charlie. Well known to him was that distant
rumbling sound that floated on the night air into the fur-traders'
camp, where he was picketed close to Cameron's tent. Many a time had
he heard the approach of such a wild troop, and often, in days not
long gone by, had his shrill neigh rung out as he joined and led
the panic-stricken band. He was first to hear the sound, and by his
restive actions to draw the attention of the fur-traders to it. As a
precautionary measure they all sprang up and stood by their horses to
soothe them, but as a brook with a belt of bushes and quarter of a
mile of plain intervened between their camp and the mustangs as they
flew past, they had little or no trouble in restraining them. Not
so, however, with Charlie. At the very moment that his master was
congratulating himself on the supposed security of his position, he
wrenched the halter from the hand of him who held it, burst through
the barrier of felled trees that had been thrown round the camp,
cleared the brook at a bound, and with a wild hilarious neigh resumed
his old place in the ranks of the free-born mustangs of the prairie.
Little did Dick think, when the flood of horses swept past him, that
his own good steed was there, rejoicing in his recovered liberty. But
Crusoe knew it. Ay, the wind had borne down the information to his
acute nose before the living storm burst upon the camp; and when
Charlie rushed past, with the long tough halter trailing at his heels,
Crusoe sprang to his side, seized the end of the halter with his
teeth, and galloped off along with him.
It was a long gallop and a tough one, but Crusoe held on, for it was a
settled principle in his mind _never_ to give in. At first the check
upon Charlie's speed was imperceptible, but by degrees the weight of
the gigantic dog began to tell, and after a time they fell a little
to the rear; then by good fortune the troop passed through a mass of
underwood, and the line getting entangled brought their mad career
forcibly to a close; the mustangs passed on, and the two friends were
left to keep each other company in the dark.
How long they would have remained thus is uncertain, for neither
of them had sagacity enough to undo a complicated entanglement.
Fortunately, however, in his energetic tugs at the line, Crusoe's
sharp teeth partially severed it, and a sudden start on the part of
Charlie caused it to part. Before he could escape, Crusoe again seized
the end of it, and led him slowly but steadily back to the Indian
camp, never halting or turning aside until he had placed the line in
Dick Varley's hand.
"Hallo, pup! where have ye bin? How did ye bring him here?" exclaimed
Dick, as he gazed in amazement at his foam-covered horse.
Crusoe wagged his tail, as if to say, "Be thankful that you've got
him, Dick, my boy, and don't ask questions that you know I can't
"He must ha' broke loose and jined the stampede," remarked Joe, coming
out of the chief's tent at the moment; "but tie him up, Dick, and come
in, for we want to settle about startin' to-morrow or nixt day."
Having fastened Charlie to a stake, and ordered Crusoe to watch him,
Dick re-entered the tent where the council had reassembled, and where
Pee-eye-em--having, in the recent struggle, split the blue surtout
completely up to the collar, so that his backbone was visible
throughout the greater part of its length--was holding forth in
eloquent strains on the subject of peace in general and peace with the
Blackfeet, the ancient enemies of the Shirry-dikas, in particular.
_Plans and prospects--Dick becomes home-sick, and Henri
metaphysical--Indians attack the camp--A blow-up._
On the following day the Indians gave themselves up to unlimited
feasting, in consequence of the arrival of a large body of hunters
with an immense supply of buffalo meat. It was a regular day of
rejoicing. Upwards of six hundred buffaloes had been killed and as the
supply of meat before their arrival had been ample, the camp was now
overflowing with plenty.
Feasts were given by the chiefs, and the medicine men went about the
camp uttering loud cries, which were meant to express gratitude to the
Great Spirit for the bountiful supply of food. They also carried a
portion of meat to the aged and infirm who were unable to hunt for
themselves, and had no young men in their family circle to hunt for
This arrival of the hunters was a fortunate circumstance, as it put
the Indians in great good-humour, and inclined them to hold friendly
intercourse with the trappers, who for some time continued to drive a
brisk trade in furs. Having no market for the disposal of their furs,
the Indians of course had more than they knew what to do with, and
were therefore glad to exchange those of the most beautiful and
valuable kind for a mere trifle, so that the trappers laid aside their
traps for a time and devoted themselves to traffic.
Meanwhile Joe Blunt and his friends made preparations for their return
"Ye see," remarked Joe to Henri and Dick, as they sat beside the fire
in Pee-eye-em's lodge, and feasted on a potful of grasshopper soup,
which the great chief's squaw had just placed before them--"ye see, my
calc'lations is as follows. Wot with trappin' beavers and huntin', we
three ha' made enough to set us up, an it likes us, in the Mustang
"Ha!" interrupted Dick, remitting for a few seconds the use of his
teeth in order to exercise his tongue--ha! Joe, but it don't like
_me_! What, give up a hunter's life and become a farmer? I should
"Bon!" ejaculated Henri, but whether the remark had reference to the
grasshopper soup or the sentiment we cannot tell.
"Well," continued Joe, commencing to devour a large buffalo steak with
a hunter's appetite, "ye'll please yourselves, lads, as to that; but
as I wos sayin', we've got a powerful lot o' furs, an' a big pack o'
odds and ends for the Injuns we chance to meet with by the way, an'
powder and lead to last us a twelvemonth, besides five good horses to
carry us an' our packs over the plains; so if it's agreeable to you, I
mean to make a bee-line for the Mustang Valley. We're pretty sure to
meet with Blackfeet on the way, and if we do we'll try to make peace
between them an' the Snakes. I 'xpect it'll be pretty well on for six
weeks afore we git to home, so we'll start to-morrow."
"Dat is fat vill do ver' vell," said Henri; "vill you please donnez me
one petit morsel of steak."
"I'm ready for anything, Joe," cried Dick; "you are leader. Just point
the way, and I'll answer for two o' us followin' ye--eh! won't we,
"We will," remarked the dog quietly.
"How comes it," inquired Dick, "that these Indians don't care for our
"They like their own better, I s'pose," answered Joe; "most all the
western Injuns do. They make it o' the dried leaves o' the shumack
and the inner bark o' the red-willow, chopped very small an' mixed
together. They call this stuff _kinnekinnik_; but they like to mix
about a fourth o' our tobacco with it, so Pee-eye-em tells me, an'
he's a good judge. The amount that red-skinned mortal smokes _is_
"What are they doin' yonder?" inquired Dick, pointing to a group of
men who had been feasting for some time past in front of a tent within
sight of our trio.
"Goin' to sing, I think," replied Joe.
As he spoke six young warriors were seen to work their bodies about
in a very remarkable way, and give utterance to still more remarkable
sounds, which gradually increased until the singers burst out into
that terrific yell, or war-whoop, for which American savages have long
been famous. Its effect would have been appalling to unaccustomed
ears. Then they allowed their voices to die away in soft, plaintive
tones, while their action corresponded thereto. Suddenly the furious
style was revived, and the men wrought themselves into a condition
little short of madness, while their yells rang wildly through the
camp. This was too much for ordinary canine nature to withstand, so
all the dogs in the neighbourhood joined in the horrible chorus.
Crusoe had long since learned to treat the eccentricities of Indians
and their curs with dignified contempt. He paid no attention to this
serenade, but lay sleeping by the fire until Dick and his companions
rose to take leave of their host and return to the camp of the
fur-traders. The remainder of that night was spent in making
preparations for setting forth on the morrow; and when, at gray dawn,
Dick and Crusoe lay down to snatch a few hours' repose, the yells and
howling in the Snake camp were going on as vigorously as ever.
The sun had arisen, and his beams were just tipping the summits of the
Rocky Mountains, causing the snowy peaks to glitter like flame, and
the deep ravines and gorges to look sombre and mysterious by contrast,
when Dick and Joe and Henri mounted their gallant steeds, and, with
Crusoe gambolling before, and the two pack-horses trotting by their
side, turned their faces eastward, and bade adieu to the Indian camp.
Crusoe was in great spirits. He was perfectly well aware that he and
his companions were on their way home, and testified his satisfaction
by bursts of scampering over the hills and valleys. Doubtless he
thought of Dick Varley's cottage, and of Dick's mild, kind-hearted
mother. Undoubtedly, too, he thought of his own mother, Fan, and
felt a glow of filial affection as he did so. Of this we feel quite
certain. He would have been unworthy the title of hero if he hadn't.
Perchance he thought of Grumps, but of this we are not quite so sure.
We rather think, upon the whole, that he did.
Dick, too, let his thoughts run away in the direction of _home_.
Sweet word! Those who have never left it cannot, by any effort of
imagination, realize the full import of the word "home." Dick was a
bold hunter; but he was young, and this was his first long expedition.
Oftentimes, when sleeping under the trees and gazing dreamily up
through the branches at the stars, had he thought of home, until
his longing heart began to yearn to return. He repelled such tender
feelings, however, when they became too strong, deeming them unmanly,
and sought to turn his mind to the excitements of the chase; but
latterly his efforts were in vain. He became thoroughly home-sick, and
while admitting the fact to himself, he endeavoured to conceal it from
his comrades. He thought that he was successful in this attempt. Poor
Dick Varley! as yet he was sadly ignorant of human nature. Henri knew
it, and Joe Blunt knew it. Even Crusoe knew that something was wrong
with his master, although he could not exactly make out what it was.
But Crusoe made memoranda in the note-book of his memory. He jotted
down the peculiar phases of his master's new disease with the care and
minute exactness of a physician, and, we doubt not, ultimately
added the knowledge of the symptoms of home-sickness to his already
well-filled stores of erudition.
It was not till they had set out on their homeward journey that
Dick Varley's spirits revived, and it was not till they reached the
beautiful prairies on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and
galloped over the greensward towards the Mustang Valley, that Dick
ventured to tell Joe Blunt what his feelings had been.
"D'ye know, Joe," he said confidentially, reining up his gallant steed
after a sharp gallop--"d'ye know I've bin feelin' awful low for some
"I know it, lad," answered Joe, with a quiet smile, in which there
was a dash of something that implied he knew more than he chose to
Dick felt surprised, but he continued, "I wonder what it could have
bin. I never felt so before."
"'Twas home-sickness, boy," returned Joe.
"How d'ye know that?"
"The same way as how I know most things--by experience an'
obsarvation. I've bin home-sick myself once, but it was long, long
Dick felt much relieved at this candid confession by such a bronzed
veteran, and, the chords of sympathy having been struck, he opened up
his heart at once, to the evident delight of Henri, who, among other
curious partialities, was extremely fond of listening to and taking
part in conversations that bordered on the metaphysical, and were hard
to be understood. Most conversations that were not connected with
eating and hunting were of this nature to Henri.
"Hom'-sik," he cried, "veech mean bein' sik of hom'! Hah! dat is fat I
am always be, ven I goes hout on de expedition. Oui, vraiment."
"I always packs up," continued Joe, paying no attention to Henri's
remark--"I always packs up an' sets off for home when I gits
home-sick. It's the best cure; an' when hunters are young like
you, Dick, it's the only cure. I've knowed fellers a'most die o'
home-sickness, an' I'm told they _do_ go under altogether sometimes."
"Go onder!" exclaimed Henri; "oui, I vas all but die myself ven I
fust try to git away from hom'. If I have not git away, I not be here
Henri's idea of home-sickness was so totally opposed to theirs that
his comrades only laughed, and refrained from attempting to set him
"The fust time I wos took bad with it wos in a country somethin' like
that," said Joe, pointing to the wide stretch of undulating prairie,
dotted with clusters of trees and meandering streamlets, that lay
before them. "I had bin out about two months, an' was makin' a good
thing of it, for game wos plenty, when I began to think somehow more
than usual o' home. My mother wos alive then."
Joe's voice sank to a deep, solemn tone as he said this, and for a few
minutes he rode on in silence.
"Well, it grew worse and worse. I dreamed o' home all night an'
thought of it all day, till I began to shoot bad, an' my comrades wos
gittin' tired o' me; so says I to them one night, says I, 'I give out,
lads; I'll make tracks for the settlement to-morrow.' They tried to
laugh me out of it at first, but it was no go, so I packed up, bid
them good-day, an' sot off alone on a trip o' five hundred miles. The
very first mile o' the way back I began to mend, and before two days I
wos all right again."
Joe was interrupted at this point by the sudden appearance of a
solitary horseman on the brow of an eminence not half-a-mile distant.
The three friends instantly drove their pack-horses behind a clump of
trees; but not in time to escape the vigilant eye of the Red-man, who
uttered a loud shout, which brought up a band of his comrades at full
"Remember, Henri," cried Joe Blunt, "our errand is one of _peace_."
The caution was needed, for in the confusion of the moment Henri was
making preparation to sell his life as dearly as possible. Before
another word could be uttered, they were surrounded by a troop of
about twenty yelling Blackfeet Indians. They were, fortunately, not a
war party, and, still more fortunately, they were peaceably disposed,
and listened to the preliminary address of Joe Blunt with exemplary
patience; after which the two parties encamped on the spot, the
council fire was lighted, and every preparation made for a long
We will not trouble the reader with the details of what was said on
this occasion. The party of Indians was a small one, and no chief of
any importance was attached to it. Suffice it to say that the pacific
overtures made by Joe were well received, the trifling gifts made
thereafter were still better received, and they separated with mutual
expressions of good-will.
Several other bands which were afterwards met with were equally
friendly, and only one war party was seen. Joe's quick eye observed
it in time to enable them to retire unseen behind the shelter of some
trees, where they remained until the Indian warriors were out of
The next party they met with, however, were more difficult to manage,
and, unfortunately, blood was shed on both sides before our travellers
It was at the close of a beautiful day that a war party of Blackfeet
were seen riding along a ridge on the horizon. It chanced that the
prairie at this place was almost destitute of trees or shrubs large
enough to conceal the horses. By dashing down the grassy wave into
the hollow between the two undulations, and dismounting, Joe hoped to
elude the savages, so he gave the word; but at the same moment a shout
from the Indians told that they were discovered.
"Look sharp, lads! throw down the packs on the highest point of the
ridge," cried Joe, undoing the lashings, seizing one of the bales of
goods, and hurrying to the top of the undulation with it; "we must
keep them at arm's-length, boys--be alive! War parties are not to be
Dick and Henri seconded Joe's efforts so ably that in the course of
two minutes the horses were unloaded, the packs piled in the form of a
wall in front of a broken piece of ground, the horses picketed close
beside them, and our three travellers peeping over the edge, with
their rifles cocked, while the savages--about thirty in number--came
sweeping down towards them.
"I'll try to git them to palaver," said Joe Blunt; "but keep yer eye
on 'em, Dick, an' if they behave ill, shoot the _horse_ o' the leadin'
chief. I'll throw up my left hand, as a signal. Mind, lad, don't hit
human flesh till my second signal is given, and see that Henri don't
draw till I git back to ye."
So saying, Joe sprang lightly over the slight parapet of their little
fortress, and ran swiftly out, unarmed, towards the Indians. In a
few seconds he was close up with them, and in another moment was
surrounded. At first the savages brandished their spears and rode
round the solitary man, yelling like fiends, as if they wished to
intimidate him; but as Joe stood like a statue, with his arms crossed,
and a grave expression of contempt on his countenance, they quickly
desisted, and, drawing near, asked him where he came from, and what he
was doing there.
Joe's story was soon told; but instead of replying, they began to
shout vociferously, and evidently meant mischief.
"If the Blackfeet are afraid to speak to the Pale-face, he will go
back to his braves," said Joe, passing suddenly between two of the
warriors and taking a few steps towards the camp.
Instantly every bow was bent, and it seemed as if our bold hunter were
about to be pierced by a score of arrows, when he turned round and
cried,--"The Blackfeet must not advance a single step. The first that
moves his _horse_ shall die. The second that moves _himself_ shall
To this the Blackfeet chief replied scornfully, "The Pale-face talks
with a big mouth. We do not believe his words. The Snakes are liars;
we will make no peace with them."
While he was yet speaking, Joe threw up his hand; there was a loud
report, and the noble horse of the savage chief lay struggling in
death agony on the ground.
The use of the rifle, as we have before hinted, was little known at
this period among the Indians of the far west, and many had never
heard the dreaded report before, although all were aware, from
hearsay, of its fatal power. The fall of the chief's horse, therefore,
quite paralyzed them for a few moments, and they had not recovered
from their surprise when a second report was heard, a bullet whistled
past, and a second horse fell. At the same moment there was a loud
explosion in the camp of the Pale-faces, a white cloud enveloped it,
and from the midst of this a loud shriek was heard, as Dick, Henri,
and Crusoe bounded over the packs with frantic gestures.
At this the gaping savages wheeled their steeds round, the dismounted
horsemen sprang on behind two of their comrades, and the whole band
dashed away over the plains as if they were chased by evil spirits.
Meanwhile Joe hastened towards his comrades in a state of great
anxiety, for he knew at once that one of the powder-horns must have
been accidentally blown up.
"No damage done, boys, I hope?" he cried on coming up.
"Damage!" cried Henri, holding his hands tight over his face. "Oh!
oui, great damage--moche damage; me two eyes be blowed out of dere
"Not quite so bad as that, I hope," said Dick, who was very slightly
singed, and forgot his own hurts in anxiety about his comrade. "Let me
"My eye!" exclaimed Joe Blunt, while a broad grin overspread his
countenance, "ye've not improved yer looks, Henri."
This was true. The worthy hunter's hair was singed to such an extent
that his entire countenance presented the appearance of a universal
frizzle. Fortunately the skin, although much blackened, was quite
uninjured--a fact which, when he ascertained it beyond a doubt,
afforded so much satisfaction to Henri that he capered about shouting
with delight, as if some piece of good fortune had befallen him.
The accident had happened in consequence of Henri having omitted to
replace the stopper of his powder-horn, and when, in his anxiety for
Joe, he fired at random amongst the Indians, despite Dick's entreaties
to wait, a spark communicated with the powder-horn and blew him up.
Dick and Crusoe were only a little singed, but the former was not
disposed to quarrel with an accident which had sent their enemies so
promptly to the right-about.
This band followed them for some nights, in the hope of being able to
steal their horses while they slept; but they were not brave enough to
venture a second time within range of the death-dealing rifle.
_Dangers of the prairie_--_Our travellers attacked by Indians, and
delivered in a remarkable manner_.
There are periods in the life of almost all men A when misfortunes
seem to crowd upon them in rapid succession, when they escape from
one danger only to encounter another, and when, to use a well-known
expression, they succeed in leaping out of the frying-pan at the
expense of plunging into the fire.
So was it with our three friends upon this occasion. They were
scarcely rid of the Blackfeet, who found them too watchful to be
caught napping, when, about daybreak one morning, they encountered a
roving band of Camanchee Indians, who wore such a warlike aspect that
Joe deemed it prudent to avoid them if possible.
"They don't see us yit, I guess," said Joe, as he and his companions
drove the horses into a hollow between the grassy waves of the
prairie, "an' if we only can escape their sharp eyes till we're in
yonder clump o' willows, we're safe enough."
"But why don't you ride up to them, Joe," inquired Dick, "and make
peace between them and the Pale-faces, as you ha' done with other
"Because it's o' no use to risk our scalps for the chance o' makin'
peace wi' a rovin' war party. Keep yer head down, Henri! If they git
only a sight o' the top o' yer cap, they'll be down on us like a
breeze o' wind."
"Ha! let dem come!" said Henri.
"They'll come without askin' yer leave," remarked Joe, dryly.
Notwithstanding his defiant expression, Henri had sufficient prudence
to induce him to bend his head and shoulders, and in a few minutes
they reached the shelter of the willows unseen by the savages. At
least so thought Henri, Joe was not quite sure about it, and Dick
hoped for the best.
In the course of half-an-hour the last of the Camanchees was seen to
hover for a second on the horizon, like a speck of black against the
sky, and then to disappear.
Immediately the three hunters vaulted on their steeds and resumed
their journey; but before that evening closed they had sad evidence of
the savage nature of the band from which they had escaped. On passing
the brow of a slight eminence, Dick, who rode first, observed that
Crusoe stopped and snuffed the breeze in an anxious, inquiring manner.
"What is't, pup?" said Dick, drawing up, for he knew that his faithful
dog never gave a false alarm.
Crusoe replied by a short, uncertain bark, and then bounding forward,
disappeared behind a little wooded knoll. In another moment a long,
dismal howl floated over the plains. There was a mystery about the
dog's conduct which, coupled with his melancholy cry, struck the
travellers with a superstitious feeling of dread, as they sat looking
at each other in surprise.
"Come, let's clear it up," cried Joe Blunt, shaking the reins of his
steed, and galloping forward. A few strides brought them to the other
side of the knoll, where, scattered upon the torn and bloody turf,
they discovered the scalped and mangled remains of about twenty or
thirty human beings. Their skulls had been cleft by the tomahawk and
their breasts pierced by the scalping-knife, and from the position in
which many of them lay it was evident that they had been slain while
Joe's brow flushed and his lips became tightly compressed as he
muttered between his set teeth, "Their skins are white."
A short examination sufficed to show that the men who had thus been
barbarously murdered while they slept had been a band of trappers or
hunters, but what their errand had been, or whence they came, they
could not discover.
Everything of value had been carried off, and all the scalps had been
taken. Most of the bodies, although much mutilated, lay in a posture
that led our hunters to believe they had been killed while asleep; but
one or two were cut almost to pieces, and from the blood-bespattered
and trampled sward around, it seemed as if they had struggled long and
fiercely for life. Whether or not any of the savages had been slain,
it was impossible to tell, for if such had been the case, their
comrades, doubtless, had carried away their bodies.
That they had been slaughtered by the party of Camanchees who had been
seen at daybreak was quite clear to Joe; but his burning desire to
revenge the death of the white men had to be stifled, as his party was
Long afterwards it was discovered that this was a band of trappers
who, like those mentioned at the beginning of this volume, had set out
to avenge the death of a comrade; but God, who has retained the right
of vengeance in his own hand, saw fit to frustrate their purpose, by
giving them into the hands of the savages whom they had set forth to
As it was impossible to bury so many bodies, the travellers resumed
their journey, and left them to bleach there in the wilderness; but
they rode the whole of that day almost without uttering a word.
Meanwhile the Camanchees, who had observed the trio, and had ridden
away at first for the purpose of deceiving them into the belief that
they had passed unobserved, doubled on their track, and took a long
sweep in order to keep out of sight until they could approach under
the shelter of a belt of woodland towards which the travellers now
The Indians adopted this course instead of the easier method of
simply pursuing so weak a party, because the plains at this part were
bordered by a long stretch of forest into which the hunters could have
plunged, and rendered pursuit more difficult, if not almost useless.
The detour thus taken was so extensive that the shades of evening were
beginning to descend before they could put their plan into execution.
The forest lay about a mile to the right of our hunters, like some
dark mainland, of which the prairie was the sea and the scattered
clumps of wood the islands.
"There's no lack o' game here," said Dick Varley, pointing to a herd
of buffaloes which rose at their approach and fled away towards the
"I think we'll ha' thunder soon," remarked Joe. "I never feel it
onnatteral hot like this without lookin' out for a plump."
"Ha! den ve better look hout for one goot tree to get b'low,"
suggested Henri. "Voila!" he added, pointing with his finger towards
the plain; "dere am a lot of wild hosses."
A troop of about thirty wild horses appeared, as he spoke, on the brow
of a ridge, and advanced slowly towards them.
"Hist!" exclaimed Joe, reining up; "hold on, lads. Wild horses! my
rifle to a pop-gun there's wilder men on t'other side o' them."
"What mean you, Joe?" inquired Dick, riding close up.
"D'ye see the little lumps on the shoulder o' each horse?" said Joe.
"Them's Injun's _feet_; an' if we don't want to lose our scalps we'd
better make for the forest."
Joe proved himself to be in earnest by wheeling round and making
straight for the thick wood as fast as his horse could run. The others
followed, driving the pack-horses before them.
The effect of this sudden movement on the so-called "wild horses"
was very remarkable, and to one unacquainted with the habits of the
Camanchee Indians must have appeared almost supernatural. In the
twinkling of an eye every steed had a rider on its back, and before
the hunters had taken five strides in the direction of the forest, the
whole band were in hot pursuit, yelling like furies.
The manner in which these Indians accomplish this feat is very
singular, and implies great activity and strength of muscle on the
part of the savages.
The Camanchees are low in stature, and usually are rather corpulent.
In their movements on foot they are heavy and ungraceful, and they
are, on the whole, a slovenly and unattractive race of men. But the
instant they mount their horses they seem to be entirely changed, and
surprise the spectator with the ease and elegance of their movements.
Their great and distinctive peculiarity as horsemen is the power they
have acquired of throwing themselves suddenly on either side of their
horse's body, and clinging on in such a way that no part of them is
visible from the other side save the foot by which they cling. In this
manner they approach their enemies at full gallop, and, without rising
again to the saddle, discharge their arrows at them over the horses'
backs, or even under their necks.
This apparently magical feat is accomplished by means of a halter of
horse-hair, which is passed round under the neck of the horse and both
ends braided into the mane, on the withers, thus forming a loop which
hangs under the neck and against the breast. This being caught by the
hand, makes a sling, into which the elbow falls, taking the weight
of the body on the middle of the upper arm. Into this loop the rider
drops suddenly and fearlessly, leaving his heel to hang over the
horse's back to steady him, and also to restore him to his seat when
By this stratagem the Indians had approached on the present occasion
almost within rifle range before they were discovered, and it required
the utmost speed of the hunters' horses to enable them to avoid
being overtaken. One of the Indians, who was better mounted than his
fellows, gained on the fugitives so much that he came within arrow
range, but reserved his shaft until they were close on the margin of
the wood, when, being almost alongside of Henri, he fitted an arrow to
his bow. Henri's eye was upon him, however. Letting go the line of the
pack-horse which he was leading, he threw forward his rifle; but at
the same moment the savage disappeared behind his horse, and an arrow
whizzed past the hunter's ear.
Henri fired at the horse, which dropped instantly, hurling the
astonished Camanchee upon the ground, where he lay for some time
insensible. In a few seconds pursued and pursuers entered the wood,
where both had to advance with caution, in order to avoid being swept
off by the overhanging branches of the trees.
Meanwhile the sultry heat of which Joe had formerly spoken increased
considerably, and a rumbling noise, as if of distant thunder, was
heard; but the flying hunters paid no attention to it, for the led
horses gave them so much trouble, and retarded their flight so much,
that the Indians were gradually and visibly gaining on them.
"We'll ha' to let the packs go," said Joe, somewhat bitterly, as he
looked over his shoulder. "Our scalps'll pay for't, if we don't."
Henri uttered a peculiar and significant _hiss_ between his teeth, as
he said, "P'r'aps ve better stop and fight!"
Dick said nothing, being resolved to do exactly what Joe Blunt bid
him; and Crusoe, for reasons best known to himself, also said nothing,
but bounded along beside his master's horse, casting an occasional
glance upwards to catch any signal that might be given.
They had passed over a considerable space of ground, and were
forcing their way at the imminent hazard of their necks through a
densely-clothed part of the wood, when the sound above referred to
increased, attracting the attention of both parties. In a few seconds
the air was filled with a steady and continuous rumbling sound, like
the noise of a distant cataract. Pursuers and fugitives drew rein
instinctively, and came to a dead stand; while the rumbling increased
to a roar, and evidently approached them rapidly, though as yet
nothing to cause it could be seen, except that there was a dense, dark
cloud overspreading the sky to the southward. The air was oppressively
still and hot.
"What can it be?" inquired Dick, looking at Joe, who was gazing with
an expression of wonder, not unmixed with concern, at the southern
"Dun'no', boy. I've bin more in the woods than in the clearin' in my
day, but I niver heerd the likes o' that."
"It am like t'ondre," said Henri; "mais it nevair do stop."
This was true. The sound was similar to continuous, uninterrupted
thunder. On it came with a magnificent roar that shook the very earth,
and revealed itself at last in the shape of a mighty whirlwind. In a
moment the distant woods bent before it, and fell like grass before
the scythe. It was a whirling hurricane, accompanied by a deluge of
rain such as none of the party had ever before witnessed. Steadily,
fiercely, irresistibly it bore down upon them, while the crash of
falling, snapping, and uprooting trees mingled with the dire artillery
of that sweeping storm like the musketry on a battle-field.
"Follow me, lads!" shouted Joe, turning his horse and dashing at full
speed towards a rocky eminence that offered shelter. But shelter
was not needed. The storm was clearly defined. Its limits were
as distinctly marked by its Creator as if it had been a living
intelligence sent forth to put a belt of desolation round the world;
and, although the edge of devastation was not five hundred yards from
the rock behind which the hunters were stationed, only a few drops of
ice-cold rain fell upon them.
It passed directly between the Camanchee Indians and their intended
victims, placing between them a barrier which it would have taken days
to cut through. The storm blew for an hour, then it travelled onward
in its might, and was lost in the distance. Whence it came and whither
it went none could tell, but far as the eye could see on either hand
an avenue a quarter of a mile wide was cut through the forest. It had
levelled everything with the dust; the very grass was beaten flat; the
trees were torn, shivered, snapped across, and crushed; and the earth
itself in many places was ploughed up and furrowed with deep scars.
The chaos was indescribable, and it is probable that centuries will
not quite obliterate the work of that single hour.
While it lasted, Joe and his comrades remained speechless and
awe-stricken. When it passed, no Indians were to be seen. So our
hunters remounted their steeds, and, with feelings of gratitude to
God for having delivered them alike from savage foes and from the
destructive power of the whirlwind, resumed their journey towards the
_Anxious fears followed by a joyful surprise--Safe home at last, and
One fine afternoon, a few weeks after the storm of which we have given
an account in the last chapter, old Mrs. Varley was seated beside her
own chimney corner in the little cottage by the lake, gazing at the
glowing logs with the earnest expression of one whose thoughts were
far away. Her kind face was paler than usual, and her hands rested
idly on her knee, grasping the knitting-wires to which was attached a
On a stool near to her sat young Marston, the lad to whom, on the day
of the shooting-match, Dick Varley had given his old rifle. The boy
had an anxious look about him, as he lifted his eyes from time to time
to the widow's face.
"Did ye say, my boy, that they were _all_ killed?" inquired Mrs.
Varley, awaking from her reverie with a deep sigh.
"Every one," replied Marston. "Jim Scraggs, who brought the news, said
they wos all lying dead with their scalps off. They wos a party o'
Mrs. Varley sighed again, and her face assumed an expression of
anxious pain as she thought of her son Dick being exposed to a similar
fate. Mrs. Varley was not given to nervous fears, but as she listened
to the boy's recital of the slaughter of a party of white men, news
of which had just reached the valley, her heart sank, and she prayed
inwardly to Him who is the husband of the widow that her dear one
might be protected from the ruthless hand of the savage.
After a short pause, during which young Marston fidgeted about and
looked concerned, as if he had something to say which he would fain
leave unsaid, Mrs. Varley continued,--
"Was it far off where the bloody deed was done?"
"Yes; three weeks off, I believe. And Jim Scraggs said that he found
a knife that looked like the one wot belonged to--to--" the lad
"To whom, my boy? Why don't ye go on?"
"To your son Dick."
The widow's hands dropped by her side, and she would have fallen had
not Marston caught her.
"O mother dear, don't take on like that!" he cried, smoothing down the
widow's hair as her head rested on his breast.
For some time Mrs. Varley suffered the boy to fondle her in silence,
while her breast laboured with anxious dread.
"Tell me all," she said at last, recovering a little. "Did Jim
"No," answered the boy. "He looked at all the bodies, but did not find
his; so he sent me over here to tell ye that p'r'aps he's escaped."
Mrs. Varley breathed more freely, and earnestly thanked God; but her
fears soon returned when she thought of his being a prisoner, and
recalled the tales of terrible cruelty often related of the savages.
While she was still engaged in closely questioning the lad, Jim
Scraggs himself entered the cottage, and endeavoured in a gruff sort
of way to reassure the widow.
"Ye see, mistress," he said, "Dick is an oncommon tough customer, an'
if he could only git fifty yards' start, there's not an Injun in the
West as could git hold o' him agin; so don't be takin' on."
"But what if he's been taken prisoner?" said the widow.
"Ay, that's jest wot I've comed about. Ye see it's not onlikely he's
bin took; so about thirty o' the lads o' the valley are ready jest now
to start away and give the red riptiles chase, an' I come to tell ye;
so keep up heart, mistress."
With this parting word of comfort, Jim withdrew, and Marston soon
followed, leaving the widow to weep and pray in solitude.
Meanwhile an animated scene was going on near the block-house. Here
thirty of the young hunters of the Mustang Valley were assembled,
actively engaged in supplying themselves with powder and lead, and
tightening their girths, preparatory to setting out in pursuit of the
Indians who had murdered the white men; while hundreds of boys and
girls, and not a few matrons, crowded round and listened to the
conversation, and to the deep threats of vengeance that were uttered
ever and anon by the younger men.
Major Hope, too, was among them. The worthy major, unable to restrain
his roving propensities, determined to revisit the Mustang Valley, and
had arrived only two days before.
Backwoodsmen's preparations are usually of the shortest and simplest.
In a few minutes the cavalcade was ready, and away they went towards
the prairies, with the bold major at their head. But their journey was
destined to come to an abrupt and unexpected close. A couple of hours'
gallop brought them to the edge of one of those open plains which
sometimes break up the woodland near the verge of the great prairies.
It stretched out like a green lake towards the horizon, on which, just
as the band of horsemen reached it, the sun was descending in a blaze
With a shout of enthusiasm, several of the younger members of the
party sprang forward into the plain at a gallop; but the shout was
mingled with one of a different tone from the older men.
"Hist!--hallo!--hold on, ye catamounts! There's Injuns ahead!"
The whole band came to a sudden halt at this cry, and watched eagerly,
and for some time in silence, the motions of a small party of horsemen
who were seen in the far distance, like black specks on the golden
"They come this way, I think," said Major Hope, after gazing
steadfastly at them for some minutes.
Several of the old hands signified their assent to this suggestion by
a grunt, although to unaccustomed eyes the objects in question looked
more like crows than horsemen, and their motion was for some time
"I sees pack-horses among them," cried young Marston in an excited
tone; "an' there's three riders; but there's som'thin' else, only wot
it be I can't tell."
"Ye've sharp eyes, younker," remarked one of the men, "an' I do
b'lieve ye're right."
Presently the horsemen approached, and soon there was a brisk fire of
guessing as to who they could be. It was evident that the strangers
observed the cavalcade of white men, and regarded them as friends, for
they did not check the headlong speed at which they approached. In a
few minutes they were clearly made out to be a party of three horsemen
driving pack-horses before them, and _somethin_' which some of the
hunters guessed was a buffalo calf.
Young Marston guessed too, but his guess was different. Moreover, it
was uttered with a yell that would have done credit to the fiercest
of all the savages. "Crusoe!" he shouted, while at the same moment he
brought his whip heavily down on the flank of his little horse, and
sprang over the prairie like an arrow.
One of the approaching horsemen was far ahead of his comrades, and
seemed as if encircled with the flying and voluminous mane of his
"Ha! ho!" gasped Marston in a low tone to himself, as he flew along.
"Crusoe! I'd know ye, dog, among a thousand! A buffalo calf! Ha! git
on with ye!"
This last part of the remark was addressed to his horse, and was
followed by a whack that increased the pace considerably.
The space between two such riders was soon devoured.
"Hallo! Dick--Dick Varley!"
"Eh! why, Marston, my boy!"
The friends reined up so suddenly that one might have fancied they had
met like the knights of old in the shock of mortal conflict.
"Is't yerself, Dick Varley?"
Dick held out his hand, and his eyes glistened, but he could not find
Marston seized it, and pushing his horse close up, vaulted nimbly off
and alighted on Charlie's back behind his friend.
"Off ye go, Dick! I'll take ye to yer mother."
Without reply, Dick shook the reins, and in another minute was in the
midst of the hunters.
To the numberless questions that were put to him he only waited to
shout aloud, "We're all safe! They'll tell ye all about it," he added,
pointing to his comrades, who were now close at hand; and then,
dashing onward, made straight for home, with little Marston clinging
to his waist like a monkey.
Charlie was fresh, and so was Crusoe, so you may be sure it was not
long before they all drew up opposite the door of the widow's cottage.
Before Dick could dismount, Marston had slipped off, and was already
in the kitchen.
"Here's Dick, mother!"
The boy was an orphan, and loved the widow so much that he had come at
last to call her mother.
Before another word could be uttered, Dick Varley was in the room.
Marston immediately stepped out and softly shut the door. Reader, we
shall not open it!
Having shut the door, as we have said, Marston ran down to the edge of
the lake and yelled with delight--usually terminating each paroxysm
with the Indian war-whoop, with which he was well acquainted. Then he
danced, and then he sat down on a rock, and became suddenly aware that
there were other hearts there, close beside him, as glad as his own.
Another mother of the Mustang Valley was rejoicing over a long-lost
Crusoe and his mother Fan were scampering round each other in a manner
that evinced powerfully the strength of their mutual affection.
Talk of holding converse! Every hair on Crusoe's body, every motion
of his limbs, was eloquent with silent language. He gazed into his
mother's mild eyes as if he would read her inmost soul (supposing that
she had one). He turned his head to every possible angle, and cocked
his ears to every conceivable elevation, and rubbed his nose against
Fan's, and barked softly, in every imaginable degree of modulation,
and varied these proceedings by bounding away at full speed over the
rocks of the beach, and in among the bushes and out again, but always
circling round and round Fan, and keeping her in view!
It was a sight worth seeing, and young Marston sat down on a rock,
deliberately and enthusiastically, to gloat over it. But perhaps the
most remarkable part of it has not yet been referred to. There was yet
another heart there that was glad--exceeding glad that day. It was a
little one too, but it was big for the body that held it. Grumps was
there, and all that Grumps did was to sit on his haunches and stare at
Fan and Crusoe, and wag his tail as well as he could in so awkward a
position! Grumps was evidently bewildered with delight, and had lost
nearly all power to express it. Crusoe's conduct towards him, too, was
not calculated to clear his faculties. Every time he chanced to pass
near Grumps in his elephantine gambols, he gave him a passing touch
with his nose, which always knocked him head over heels; whereat
Grumps invariably got up quickly and wagged his tail with additional
energy. Before the feelings of those canine friends were calmed, they
were all three ruffled into a state of comparative exhaustion.
Then young Marston called Crusoe to him, and Crusoe, obedient to the
voice of friendship, went.
"Are you happy, my dog?"
"You're a stupid fellow to ask such a question; however it's an
amiable one. Yes, I am."
"What do _you_ want, ye small bundle o' hair?"
This was addressed to Grumps, who came forward innocently, and sat
down to listen to the conversation.
On being thus sternly questioned the little dog put down its
ears flat, and hung its head, looking up at the same time with a
deprecatory look, as if to say, "Oh dear, I beg pardon. I--I only want
to sit near Crusoe, please; but if you wish it, I'll go away, sad and
lonely, with my tail _very_ much between my legs; indeed I will, only
say the word, but--but I'd _rather_ stay if I might."
"Poor bundle!" said Marston, patting its head, "you can stay then.
Hooray! Crusoe, are you happy, I say? Does your heart bound in you
like a cannon ball that wants to find its way out, and can't, eh?"
Crusoe put his snout against Marston's cheek, and in the excess of
his joy the lad threw his arms round the dog's neck and hugged it
vigorously--a piece of impulsive affection which that noble animal
bore with characteristic meekness, and which Grumps regarded with
_Rejoicings_--_The feast at the block-house_--_Grumps and Crusoe come
out strong_--The closing scene_.
The day of Dick's arrival with his companions was a great day in the
annals of the Mustang Valley, and Major Hope resolved to celebrate it
by an impromptu festival at the old block-house; for many hearts in
the valley had been made glad that day, and he knew full well that,
under such circumstances, some safety-valve must be devised for the
escape of overflowing excitement.
A messenger was sent round to invite the population to assemble
without delay in front of the block-house. With backwoods-like
celerity the summons was obeyed; men, women, and children hurried
towards the central point, wondering, yet more than half suspecting,
what was the major's object in calling them together.
They were not long in doubt. The first sight that presented itself,
as they came trooping up the slope in front of the log-hut, was an
ox roasting whole before a gigantic bonfire. Tables were being
extemporized on the broad level plot in front of the gate. Other fires
there were, of smaller dimensions, on which sundry steaming pots were
placed, and various joints of wild horse, bear, and venison roasted,
and sent forth a savoury odour as well as a pleasant hissing noise.
The inhabitants of the block-house were self-taught brewers, and the
result of their recent labours now stood displayed in a row of goodly
casks of beer--the only beverage with which the dwellers in these
far-off regions were wont to regale themselves.
The whole scene, as the cooks moved actively about upon the lawn, and
children romped round the fires, and settlers came flocking through
the forests, might have recalled the revelry of merry England in the
olden time, though the costumes of the far west were perhaps somewhat
different from those of old England.
No one of all the band assembled there on that day of rejoicing
required to ask what it was all about. Had any one been in doubt for a
moment, a glance at the centre of the crowd assembled round the gate
of the western fortress would have quickly enlightened him. For there
stood Dick Varley, and his mild-looking mother, and his loving dog
Crusoe. There, too, stood Joe Blunt, like a bronzed warrior returned
from the fight, turning from one to another as question poured in upon
question almost too rapidly to permit of a reply. There, too, stood
Henri, making enthusiastic speeches to whoever chose to listen to
him--now glaring at the crowd with clenched fists and growling voice,
as he told of how Joe and he had been tied hand and foot, and lashed
to poles, and buried in leaves, and threatened with a slow death by
torture; at other times bursting into a hilarious laugh as he held
forth on the predicament of Mahtawa, when that wily chief was treed
by Crusoe in the prairie. Young Marston was there, too, hanging about
Dick, whom he loved as a brother and regarded as a perfect hero.
Grumps, too, was there, and Fan. Do you think, reader, that Grumps
looked at any one but Crusoe? If you do, you are mistaken. Grumps
on that day became a regular, an incorrigible, utter, and perfect
nuisance to everybody--not excepting himself, poor beast! Grumps was
a dog of one idea, and that idea was Crusoe. Out of that great idea
there grew one little secondary idea, and that idea was that the only
joy on earth worth mentioning was to sit on his haunches, exactly
six inches from Crusoe's nose, and gaze steadfastly into his face.
Wherever Crusoe went Grumps went. If Crusoe stopped, Grumps was
down before him in an instant. If Crusoe bounded away, which in the
exuberance of his spirits he often did, Grumps was after him like a
bundle of mad hair. He was in everybody's way, in Crusoe's way, and
being, so to speak, "beside himself," was also in his own way. If
people trod upon him accidentally, which they often did, Grumps
uttered a solitary heart-rending yell proportioned in intensity to the
excruciating nature of the torture he endured, then instantly resumed
his position and his fascinated stare. Crusoe generally held his head
up, and gazed over his little friend at what was going on around him;
but if for a moment he permitted his eye to rest on the countenance of
Grumps, that creature's tail became suddenly imbued with an amount of
wriggling vitality that seemed to threaten its separation from the
It was really quite interesting to watch this unblushing, and
disinterested, and utterly reckless display of affection on the part
of Grumps, and the amiable way in which Crusoe put up with it. We
say put up with it advisedly, because it must have been a very great
inconvenience to him, seeing that if he attempted to move, his
satellite moved in front of him, so that his only way of escaping
temporarily was by jumping over Grumps's head.
Grumps was everywhere all day. Nobody, almost, escaped trampling on
part of him. He tumbled over everything, into everything, and against
everything. He knocked himself, singed himself, and scalded himself,
and in fact forgot himself altogether; and when, late that night,
Crusoe went with Dick into his mother's cottage, and the door
was shut, Grumps stretched his ruffled, battered, ill-used, and
dishevelled little body down on the door-step, thrust his nose against
the opening below the door, and lay in humble contentment all night,
for he knew that Crusoe was there.
Of course such an occasion could not pass without a shooting-match.
Rifles were brought out after the feast was over, just before the sun
went down into its bed on the western prairies, and "the nail" was
soon surrounded by bullets, tipped by Joe Blunt and Jim Scraggs, and
of course driven home by Dick Varley, whose "silver rifle" had now
become in its owner's hand a never-failing weapon. Races, too, were
started, and here again Dick stood pre-eminent; and when night
spread her dark mantle over the scene, the two best fiddlers in the
settlement were placed on empty beer-casks, and some danced by the
light of the monster fires, while others listened to Joe Blunt as
he recounted their adventures on the prairies and among the Rocky
There were sweethearts, and wives, and lovers at the feast, but we
question if any heart there was so full of love, and admiration, and
gratitude, as that of the Widow Varley as she watched her son Dick
throughout that merry evening.
* * * * *
Years rolled by, and the Mustang Valley prospered. Missionaries went
there, and a little church was built, and to the blessings of a
fertile land were added the far greater blessings of Christian light
and knowledge. One sad blow fell on the Widow Varley's heart. Her only
brother, Daniel Hood, was murdered by the Indians. Deeply and long she
mourned, and it required all Dick's efforts and those of the pastor of
the settlement to comfort her. But from the first the widow's heart
was sustained by the loving Hand that dealt the blow, and when time
blunted the keen edge of her feelings her face became as sweet and
mild, though not so lightsome, as before.
Joe Blunt and Henri became leading men in the councils of the Mustang
Valley; but Dick Varley preferred the woods, although, as long as his
mother lived, he hovered round her cottage--going off sometimes for a
day, sometimes for a week, but never longer. After her head was laid
in the dust, Dick took altogether to the woods, with Crusoe and
Charlie, the wild horse, as his only companions, and his mother's
Bible in the breast of his hunting-shirt. And soon Dick, the bold
hunter, and his dog Crusoe became renowned in the frontier settlements
from the banks of the Yellowstone River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Many a grizzly bear did the famous "silver rifle" lay low, and many a
wild, exciting chase and adventure did Dick go through; but during
his occasional visits to the Mustang Valley he was wont to say to Joe
Blunt and Henri--with whom he always sojourned--that "nothin' he
ever felt or saw came up to his _first_ grand dash over the western
prairies into the heart of the Rocky Mountains." And in saying this,
with enthusiasm in his eye and voice, Dick invariably appealed to, and
received a ready affirmative glance from, his early companion and his
faithful loving friend, the dog Crusoe.