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The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman, Jr.

Part 5 out of 7

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unarmed. The Mad Wolf had taken a fancy to a fine horse belonging to
another Indian, who was called the Tall Bear; and anxious to get the
animal into his possession, he made the owner a present of another
horse nearly equal in value. According to the customs of the Dakota,
the acceptance of this gift involved a sort of obligation to make an
equitable return; and the Tall Bear well understood that the other
had in view the obtaining of his favorite buffalo horse. He however
accepted the present without a word of thanks, and having picketed
the horse before his lodge, he suffered day after day to pass without
making the expected return. The Mad Wolf grew impatient and angry;
and at last, seeing that his bounty was not likely to produce the
desired return, he resolved to reclaim it. So this evening, as soon
as the village was encamped, he went to the lodge of the Tall Bear,
seized upon the horse that he had given him, and led him away. At
this the Tall Bear broke into one of those fits of sullen rage not
uncommon among the Indians. He ran up to the unfortunate horse, and
gave him three mortals stabs with his knife. Quick as lightning the
Mad Wolf drew his bow to its utmost tension, and held the arrow
quivering close to the breast of his adversary. The Tall Bear, as
the Indians who were near him said, stood with his bloody knife in
his hand, facing the assailant with the utmost calmness. Some of his
friends and relatives, seeing his danger, ran hastily to his
assistance. The remaining three Arrow-Breakers, on the other hand,
came to the aid of their associate. Many of their friends joined
them, the war-cry was raised on a sudden, and the tumult became

The "soldiers," who lent their timely aid in putting it down, are by
far the most important executive functionaries in an Indian village.
The office is one of considerable honor, being confided only to men
of courage and repute. They derive their authority from the old men
and chief warriors of the village, who elect them in councils
occasionally convened for the purpose, and thus can exercise a degree
of authority which no one else in the village would dare to assume.
While very few Ogallalla chiefs could venture without instant
jeopardy of their lives to strike or lay hands upon the meanest of
their people, the "soldiers" in the discharge of their appropriate
functions, have full license to make use of these and similar acts of



We traveled eastward for two days, and then the gloomy ridges of the
Black Hills rose up before us. The village passed along for some
miles beneath their declivities, trailing out to a great length over
the arid prairie, or winding at times among small detached hills or
distorted shapes. Turning sharply to the left, we entered a wide
defile of the mountains, down the bottom of which a brook came
winding, lined with tall grass and dense copses, amid which were
hidden many beaver dams and lodges. We passed along between two
lines of high precipices and rocks, piled in utter disorder one upon
another, and with scarcely a tree, a bush, or a clump of grass to
veil their nakedness. The restless Indian boys were wandering along
their edges and clambering up and down their rugged sides, and
sometimes a group of them would stand on the verge of a cliff and
look down on the array as it passed in review beneath them. As we
advanced, the passage grew more narrow; then it suddenly expanded
into a round grassy meadow, completely encompassed by mountains; and
here the families stopped as they came up in turn, and the camp rose
like magic.

The lodges were hardly erected when, with their usual precipitation,
the Indians set about accomplishing the object that had brought them
there; that is, the obtaining poles for supporting their new lodges.
Half the population, men, women and boys, mounted their horses and
set out for the interior of the mountains. As they rode at full
gallop over the shingly rocks and into the dark opening of the defile
beyond, I thought I had never read or dreamed of a more strange or
picturesque cavalcade. We passed between precipices more than a
thousand feet high, sharp and splintering at the tops, their sides
beetling over the defile or descending in abrupt declivities,
bristling with black fir trees. On our left they rose close to us
like a wall, but on the right a winding brook with a narrow strip of
marshy soil intervened. The stream was clogged with old beaver dams,
and spread frequently into wide pools. There were thick bushes and
many dead and blasted trees along its course, though frequently
nothing remained but stumps cut close to the ground by the beaver,
and marked with the sharp chisel-like teeth of those indefatigable
laborers. Sometimes we were driving among trees, and then emerging
upon open spots, over which, Indian-like, all galloped at full speed.
As Pauline bounded over the rocks I felt her saddle-girth slipping,
and alighted to draw it tighter; when the whole array swept past me
in a moment, the women with their gaudy ornaments tinkling as they
rode, the men whooping, and laughing, and lashing forward their
horses. Two black-tailed deer bounded away among the rocks; Raymond
shot at them from horseback; the sharp report of his rifle was
answered by another equally sharp from the opposing cliffs, and then
the echoes, leaping in rapid succession from side to side, died away
rattling far amid the mountains.

After having ridden in this manner for six or eight miles, the
appearance of the scene began to change, and all the declivities
around us were covered with forests of tall, slender pine trees. The
Indians began to fall off to the right and left, and dispersed with
their hatchets and knives among these woods, to cut the poles which
they had come to seek. Soon I was left almost alone; but in the deep
stillness of those lonely mountains, the stroke of hatchets and the
sound of voices might be heard from far and near.

Reynal, who imitated the Indians in their habits as well as the worst
features of their character, had killed buffalo enough to make a
lodge for himself and his squaw, and now he was eager to get the
poles necessary to complete it. He asked me to let Raymond go with
him and assist in the work. I assented, and the two men immediately
entered the thickest part of the wood. Having left my horse in
Raymond's keeping, I began to climb the mountain. I was weak and
weary and made slow progress, often pausing to rest, but after an
hour had elapsed, I gained a height, whence the little valley out of
which I had climbed seemed like a deep, dark gulf, though the
inaccessible peak of the mountain was still towering to a much
greater distance above. Objects familiar from childhood surrounded
me; crags and rocks, a black and sullen brook that gurgled with a
hollow voice deep among the crevices, a wood of mossy distorted trees
and prostrate trunks flung down by age and storms, scattered among
the rocks, or damming the foaming waters of the little brook. The
objects were the same, yet they were thrown into a wilder and more
startling scene, for the black crags and the savage trees assumed a
grim and threatening aspect, and close across the valley the opposing
mountain confronted me, rising from the gulf for thousands of feet,
with its bare pinnacles and its ragged covering of pines. Yet the
scene was not without its milder features. As I ascended, I found
frequent little grassy terraces, and there was one of these close at
hand, across which the brook was stealing, beneath the shade of
scattered trees that seemed artificially planted. Here I made a
welcome discovery, no other than a bed of strawberries, with their
white flowers and their red fruit, close nestled among the grass by
the side of the brook, and I sat down by them, hailing them as old
acquaintances; for among those lonely and perilous mountains they
awakened delicious associations of the gardens and peaceful homes of
far-distant New England.

Yet wild as they were, these mountains were thickly peopled. As I
climbed farther, I found the broad dusty paths made by the elk, as
they filed across the mountainside. The grass on all the terraces
was trampled down by deer; there were numerous tracks of wolves, and
in some of the rougher and more precipitous parts of the ascent, I
found foot-prints different from any that I had ever seen, and which
I took to be those of the Rocky Mountain sheep. I sat down upon a
rock; there was a perfect stillness. No wind was stirring, and not
even an insect could be heard. I recollected the danger of becoming
lost in such a place, and therefore I fixed my eye upon one of the
tallest pinnacles of the opposite mountain. It rose sheer upright
from the woods below, and by an extraordinary freak of nature
sustained aloft on its very summit a large loose rock. Such a
landmark could never be mistaken, and feeling once more secure, I
began again to move forward. A white wolf jumped up from among some
bushes, and leaped clumsily away; but he stopped for a moment, and
turned back his keen eye and his grim bristling muzzle. I longed to
take his scalp and carry it back with me, as an appropriate trophy of
the Black Hills, but before I could fire, he was gone among the
rocks. Soon I heard a rustling sound, with a cracking of twigs at a
little distance, and saw moving above the tall bushes the branching
antlers of an elk. I was in the midst of a hunter's paradise.

Such are the Black Hills, as I found them in July; but they wear a
different garb when winter sets in, when the broad boughs of the fir
tree are bent to the ground by the load of snow, and the dark
mountains are whitened with it. At that season the mountain-
trappers, returned from their autumn expeditions, often build their
rude cabins in the midst of these solitudes, and live in abundance
and luxury on the game that harbors there. I have heard them relate,
how with their tawny mistresses, and perhaps a few young Indian
companions, they have spent months in total seclusion. They would
dig pitfalls, and set traps for the white wolves, the sables, and the
martens, and though through the whole night the awful chorus of the
wolves would resound from the frozen mountains around them, yet
within their massive walls of logs they would lie in careless ease
and comfort before the blazing fire, and in the morning shoot the elk
and the deer from their very door.



The camp was full of the newly-cut lodge-poles; some, already
prepared, were stacked together, white and glistening, to dry and
harden in the sun; others were lying on the ground, and the squaws,
the boys, and even some of the warriors were busily at work peeling
off the bark and paring them with their knives to the proper
dimensions. Most of the hides obtained at the last camp were dressed
and scraped thin enough for use, and many of the squaws were engaged
in fitting them together and sewing them with sinews, to form the
coverings for the lodges. Men were wandering among the bushes that
lined the brook along the margin of the camp, cutting sticks of red
willow, or shongsasha, the bark of which, mixed with tobacco, they
use for smoking. Reynal's squaw was hard at work with her awl and
buffalo sinews upon her lodge, while her proprietor, having just
finished an enormous breakfast of meat, was smoking a social pipe
along with Raymond and myself. He proposed at length that we should
go out on a hunt. "Go to the Big Crow's lodge," said he, "and get
your rifle. I'll bet the gray Wyandotte pony against your mare that
we start an elk or a black-tailed deer, or likely as not, a bighorn,
before we are two miles out of camp. I'll take my squaw's old yellow
horse; you can't whip her more than four miles an hour, but she is as
good for the mountains as a mule."

I mounted the black mule which Raymond usually rode. She was a very
fine and powerful animal, gentle and manageable enough by nature; but
of late her temper had been soured by misfortune. About a week
before I had chanced to offend some one of the Indians, who out of
revenge went secretly into the meadow and gave her a severe stab in
the haunch with his knife. The wound, though partially healed, still
galled her extremely, and made her even more perverse and obstinate
than the rest of her species.

The morning was a glorious one, and I was in better health than I had
been at any time for the last two months. Though a strong frame and
well compacted sinews had borne me through hitherto, it was long
since I had been in a condition to feel the exhilaration of the fresh
mountain wind and the gay sunshine that brightened the crags and
trees. We left the little valley and ascended a rocky hollow in the
mountain. Very soon we were out of sight of the camp, and of every
living thing, man, beast, bird, or insect. I had never before,
except on foot, passed over such execrable ground, and I desire never
to repeat the experiment. The black mule grew indignant, and even
the redoubtable yellow horse stumbled every moment, and kept groaning
to himself as he cut his feet and legs among the sharp rocks.

It was a scene of silence and desolation. Little was visible except
beetling crags and the bare shingly sides of the mountains, relieved
by scarcely a trace of vegetation. At length, however, we came upon
a forest tract, and had no sooner done so than we heartily wished
ourselves back among the rocks again; for we were on a steep descent,
among trees so thick that we could see scarcely a rod in any

If one is anxious to place himself in a situation where the hazardous
and the ludicrous are combined in about equal proportions, let him
get upon a vicious mule, with a snaffle bit, and try to drive her
through the woods down a slope of 45 degrees. Let him have on a long
rifle, a buckskin frock with long fringes, and a head of long hair.
These latter appendages will be caught every moment and twitched away
in small portions by the twigs, which will also whip him smartly
across the face, while the large branches above thump him on the
head. His mule, if she be a true one, will alternately stop short
and dive violently forward, and his position upon her back will be
somewhat diversified and extraordinary. At one time he will clasp
her affectionately, to avoid the blow of a bough overhead; at
another, he will throw himself back and fling his knee forward
against the side of her neck, to keep it from being crushed between
the rough bark of a tree and the equally unyielding ribs of the
animal herself. Reynal was cursing incessantly during the whole way
down. Neither of us had the remotest idea where we were going; and
though I have seen rough riding, I shall always retain an evil
recollection of that five minutes' scramble.

At last we left our troubles behind us, emerging into the channel of
a brook that circled along the foot of the descent; and here, turning
joyfully to the left, we rode in luxury and ease over the white
pebbles and the rippling water, shaded from the glaring sun by an
overarching green transparency. These halcyon moments were of short
duration. The friendly brook, turning sharply to one side, went
brawling and foaming down the rocky hill into an abyss, which, as far
as we could discern, had no bottom; so once more we betook ourselves
to the detested woods. When next we came forth from their dancing
shadow and sunlight, we found ourselves standing in the broad glare
of day, on a high jutting point of the mountain. Before us stretched
a long, wide, desert valley, winding away far amid the mountains. No
civilized eye but mine had ever looked upon that virgin waste.
Reynal was gazing intently; he began to speak at last:

"Many a time, when I was with the Indians, I have been hunting for
gold all through the Black Hills. There's plenty of it here; you may
be certain of that. I have dreamed about it fifty times, and I never
dreamed yet but what it came true. Look over yonder at those black
rocks piled up against that other big rock. Don't it look as if
there might be something there? It won't do for a white man to be
rummagmg too much about these mountains; the Indians say they are
full of bad spirits; and I believe myself that it's no good luck to
be hunting about here after gold. Well, for all that, I would like
to have one of these fellows up here, from down below, to go about
with his witch-hazel rod, and I'll guarantee that it would not be
long before he would light on a gold mine. Never mind; we'll let the
gold alone for to-day. Look at those trees down below us in the
hollow; we'll go down there, and I reckon we'll get a black-tailed

But Reynal's predictions were not verified. We passed mountain after
mountain, and valley after valley; we explored deep ravines; yet
still to my companion's vexation and evident surprise, no game could
be found. So, in the absence of better, we resolved to go out on the
plains and look for an antelope. With this view we began to pass
down a narrow valley, the bottom of which was covered with the stiff
wild-sage bushes and marked with deep paths, made by the buffalo,
who, for some inexplicable reason, are accustomed to penetrate, in
their long grave processions, deep among the gorges of these sterile

Reynal's eye was ranging incessantly among the rocks and along the
edges of the black precipices, in hopes of discovering the mountain
sheep peering down upon us in fancied security from that giddy
elevation. Nothing was visible for some time. At length we both
detected something in motion near the foot of one of the mountains,
and in a moment afterward a black-tailed deer, with his spreading
antlers, stood gazing at us from the top of a rock, and then, slowly
turning away, disappeared behind it. In an instant Reynal was out of
his saddle, and running toward the spot. I, being too weak to
follow, sat holding his horse and waiting the result. I lost sight
of him, then heard the report of his rifle, deadened among the rocks,
and finally saw him reappear, with a surly look that plainly betrayed
his ill success. Again we moved forward down the long valley, when
soon after we came full upon what seemed a wide and very shallow
ditch, incrusted at the bottom with white clay, dried and cracked in
the sun. Under this fair outside, Reynal's eye detected the signs of
lurking mischief. He called me to stop, and then alighting, picked
up a stone and threw it into the ditch. To my utter amazement it
fell with a dull splash, breaking at once through the thin crust, and
spattering round the hole a yellowish creamy fluid, into which it
sank and disappeared. A stick, five or six feet long lay on the
ground, and with this we sounded the insidious abyss close to its
edge. It was just possible to touch the bottom. Places like this
are numerous among the Rocky Mountains. The buffalo, in his blind
and heedless walk, often plunges into them unawares. Down he sinks;
one snort of terror, one convulsive struggle, and the slime calmly
flows above his shaggy head, the languid undulations of its sleek and
placid surface alone betraying how the powerful monster writhes in
his death-throes below.

We found after some trouble a point where we could pass the abyss,
and now the valley began to open upon the plains which spread to the
horizon before us. On one of their distant swells we discerned three
or four black specks, which Reynal pronounced to be buffalo.

"Come," said he, "we must get one of them. My squaw wants more
sinews to finish her lodge with, and I want some glue myself."

He immediately put the yellow horse at such a gallop as he was
capable of executing, while I set spurs to the mule, who soon far
outran her plebeian rival. When we had galloped a mile or more, a
large rabbit, by ill luck, sprang up just under the feet of the mule,
who bounded violently aside in full career. Weakened as I was, I was
flung forcibly to the ground, and my rifle, falling close to my head,
went off with a shock. Its sharp spiteful report rang for some
moments in my ear. Being slightly stunned, I lay for an instant
motionless, and Reynal, supposing me to be shot, rode up and began to
curse the mule. Soon recovering myself, I rose, picked up the rifle
and anxiously examined it. It was badly injured. The stock was
cracked, and the main screw broken, so that the lock had to be tied
in its place with a string; yet happily it was not rendered totally
unserviceable. I wiped it out, reloaded it, and handing it to
Reynal, who meanwhile had caught the mule and led her up to me, I
mounted again. No sooner had I done so, than the brute began to rear
and plunge with extreme violence; but being now well prepared for
her, and free from incumbrance, I soon reduced her to submission.
Then taking the rifle again from Reynal, we galloped forward as

We were now free of the mountain and riding far out on the broad
prairie. The buffalo were still some two miles in advance of us.
When we came near them, we stopped where a gentle swell of the plain
concealed us from their view, and while I held his horse Reynal ran
forward with his rifle, till I lost sight of him beyond the rising
ground. A few minutes elapsed; I heard the report of his piece, and
saw the buffalo running away at full speed on the right, and
immediately after, the hunter himself unsuccessful as before, came up
and mounted his horse in excessive ill-humor. He cursed the Black
Hills and the buffalo, swore that he was a good hunter, which indeed
was true, and that he had never been out before among those mountains
without killing two or three deer at least.

We now turned toward the distant encampment. As we rode along,
antelope in considerable numbers were flying lightly in all
directions over the plain, but not one of them would stand and be
shot at. When we reached the foot of the mountain ridge that lay
between us and the village, we were too impatient to take the smooth
and circuitous route; so turning short to the left, we drove our
wearied animals directly upward among the rocks. Still more antelope
were leaping about among these flinty hillsides. Each of us shot at
one, though from a great distance, and each missed his mark. At
length we reached the summit of the last ridge. Looking down, we saw
the bustling camp in the valley at our feet, and ingloriously
descended to it. As we rode among the lodges, the Indians looked in
vain for the fresh meat that should have hung behind our saddles, and
the squaws uttered various suppressed ejaculations, to the great
indignation of Reynal. Our mortification was increased when we rode
up to his lodge. Here we saw his young Indian relative, the Hail-
Storm, his light graceful figure on the ground in an easy attitude,
while with his friend the Rabbit, who sat by his side, he was making
an abundant meal from a wooden bowl of wasna, which the squaw had
placed between them. Near him lay the fresh skin of a female elk,
which he had just killed among the mountains, only a mile or two from
the camp. No doubt the boy's heart was elated with triumph, but he
betrayed no sign of it. He even seemed totally unconscious of our
approach, and his handsome face had all the tranquillity of Indian
self-control; a self-control which prevents the exhibition of
emotion, without restraining the emotion itself. It was about two
months since I had known the Hail-Storm, and within that time his
character had remarkably developed. When I first saw him, he was
just emerging from the habits and feelings of the boy into the
ambition of the hunter and warrior. He had lately killed his first
deer, and this had excited his aspirations after distinction. Since
that time he had been continually in search of game, and no young
hunter in the village had been so active or so fortunate as he. It
will perhaps be remembered how fearlessly he attacked the buffalo
bull, as we were moving toward our camp at the Medicine-Bow Mountain.
All this success had produced a marked change in his character. As I
first remembered him he always shunned the society of the young
squaws, and was extremely bashful and sheepish in their presence; but
now, in the confidence of his own reputation, he began to assume the
airs and the arts of a man of gallantry. He wore his red blanket
dashingly over his left shoulder, painted his cheeks every day with
vermilion, and hung pendants of shells in his ears. If I observed
aright, he met with very good success in his new pursuits; still the
Hail-Storm had much to accomplish before he attained the full
standing of a warrior. Gallantly as he began to bear himself among
the women and girls, he still was timid and abashed in the presence
of the chiefs and old men; for he had never yet killed a man, or
stricken the dead body of an enemy in battle. I have no doubt that
the handsome smooth-faced boy burned with keen desire to flash his
maiden scalping-knife, and I would not have encamped alone with him
without watching his movements with a distrustful eye.

His elder brother, the Horse, was of a different character. He was
nothing but a lazy dandy. He knew very well how to hunt, but
preferred to live by the hunting of others. He had no appetite for
distinction, and the Hail-Storm, though a few years younger than he,
already surpassed him in reputation. He had a dark and ugly face,
and he passed a great part of his time in adorning it with vermilion,
and contemplating it by means of a little pocket looking-glass which
I gave him. As for the rest of the day, he divided it between eating
and sleeping, and sitting in the sun on the outside of a lodge. Here
he would remain for hour after hour, arrayed in all his finery, with
an old dragoon's sword in his hand, and evidently flattering himself
that he was the center of attraction to the eyes of the surrounding
squaws. Yet he sat looking straight forward with a face of the
utmost gravity, as if wrapped in profound meditation, and it was only
by the occasional sidelong glances which he shot at his supposed
admirers that one could detect the true course of his thoughts.

Both he and his brother may represent a class in the Indian
community; neither should the Hail-Storm's friend, the Rabbit, be
passed by without notice. The Hail-Storm and he were inseparable;
they ate, slept, and hunted together, and shared with one another
almost all that they possessed. If there be anything that deserves
to be called romantic in the Indian character, it is to be sought for
in friendships such as this, which are quite common among many of the
prairie tribes.

Slowly, hour after hour, that weary afternoon dragged away. I lay in
Reynal's lodge, overcome by the listless torpor that pervaded the
whole encampment. The day's work was finished, or if it were not,
the inhabitants had resolved not to finish it at all, and all were
dozing quietly within the shelter of the lodges. A profound
lethargy, the very spirit of indolence, seemed to have sunk upon the
village. Now and then I could hear the low laughter of some girl
from within a neighboring lodge, or the small shrill voices of a few
restless children, who alone were moving in the deserted area. The
spirit of the place infected me; I could not even think
consecutively; I was fit only for musing and reverie, when at last,
like the rest, I fell asleep.

When evening came and the fires were lighted round the lodges, a
select family circle convened in the neighborhood of Reynal's
domicile. It was composed entirely of his squaw's relatives, a mean
and ignoble clan, among whom none but the Hail-Storm held forth any
promise of future distinction. Even his protests were rendered not a
little dubious by the character of the family, less however from any
principle of aristocratic distinction than from the want of powerful
supporters to assist him in his undertakings, and help to avenge his
quarrels. Raymond and I sat down along with them. There were eight
or ten men gathered around the fire, together with about as many
women, old and young, some of whom were tolerably good-looking. As
the pipe passed round among the men, a lively conversation went
forward, more merry than delicate, and at length two or three of the
elder women (for the girls were somewhat diffident and bashful) began
to assail Raymond with various pungent witticisms. Some of the men
took part and an old squaw concluded by bestowing on him a ludicrous
nick name, at which a general laugh followed at his expense. Raymond
grinned and giggled, and made several futile attempts at repartee.
Knowing the impolicy and even danger of suffering myself to be placed
in a ludicrous light among the Indians, I maintained a rigid
inflexible countenance, and wholly escaped their sallies.

In the morning I found, to my great disgust, that the camp was to
retain its position for another day. I dreaded its languor and
monotony, and to escape it, I set out to explore the surrounding
mountains. I was accompanied by a faithful friend, my rifle, the
only friend indeed on whose prompt assistance in time of trouble I
could implicitly rely. Most of the Indians in the village, it is
true, professed good-will toward the whites, but the experience of
others and my own observation had taught me the extreme folly of
confidence, and the utter impossibility of foreseeing to what sudden
acts the strange unbridled impulses of an Indian may urge him. When
among this people danger is never so near as when you are unprepared
for it, never so remote as when you are armed and on the alert to
meet it any moment. Nothing offers so strong a temptation to their
ferocious instincts as the appearance of timidity, weakness, or

Many deep and gloomy gorges, choked with trees and bushes, opened
from the sides of the hills, which were shaggy with forests wherever
the rocks permitted vegetation to spring. A great number of Indians
were stalking along the edges of the woods, and boys were whooping
and laughing on the mountain-sides, practicing eye and hand, and
indulging their destructive propensities by following birds and small
animals and killing them with their little bows and arrows. There
was one glen, stretching up between steep cliffs far into the bosom
of the mountain. I began to ascend along its bottom, pushing my way
onward among the rocks, trees, and bushes that obstructed it. A
slender thread of water trickled along its center, which since
issuing from the heart of its native rock could scarcely have been
warmed or gladdened by a ray of sunshine. After advancing for some
time, I conceived myself to be entirely alone; but coming to a part
of the glen in a great measure free of trees and undergrowth, I saw
at some distance the black head and red shoulders of an Indian among
the bushes above. The reader need not prepare himself for a
startling adventure, for I have none to relate. The head and
shoulders belonged to Mene-Seela, my best friend in the village. As
I had approached noiselessly with my moccasined feet, the old man was
quite unconscious of my presence; and turning to a point where I
could gain an unobstructed view of him, I saw him seated alone,
immovable as a statue, among the rocks and trees. His face was
turned upward, and his eyes seemed riveted on a pine tree springing
from a cleft in the precipice above. The crest of the pine was
swaying to and fro in the wind, and its long limbs waved slowly up
and down, as if the tree had life. Looking for a while at the old
man, I was satisfied that he was engaged in an act of worship or
prayer, or communion of some kind with a supernatural being. I
longed to penetrate his thoughts, but I could do nothing more than
conjecture and speculate. I knew that though the intellect of an
Indian can embrace the idea of an all-wise, all-powerful Spirit, the
supreme Ruler of the universe, yet his mind will not always ascend
into communion with a being that seems to him so vast, remote, and
incomprehensible; and when danger threatens, when his hopes are
broken, when the black wing of sorrow overshadows him, he is prone to
turn for relief to some inferior agency, less removed from the
ordinary scope of his faculties. He has a guardian spirit, on whom
he relies for succor and guidance. To him all nature is instinct
with mystic influence. Among those mountains not a wild beast was
prowling, a bird singing, or a leaf fluttering, that might not tend
to direct his destiny or give warning of what was in store for him;
and he watches the world of nature around him as the astrologer
watches the stars. So closely is he linked with it that his guardian
spirit, no unsubstantial creation of the fancy, is usually embodied
in the form of some living thing--a bear, a wolf, an eagle, or a
serpent; and Mene-Seela, as he gazed intently on the old pine tree,
might believe it to inshrine the fancied guide and protector of his

Whatever was passing in the mind of the old man, it was no part of
sense or of delicacy to disturb him. Silently retracing my
footsteps, I descended the glen until I came to a point where I could
climb the steep precipices that shut it in, and gain the side of the
mountain. Looking up, I saw a tall peak rising among the woods.
Something impelled me to climb; I had not felt for many a day such
strength and elasticity of limb. An hour and a half of slow and
often intermittent labor brought me to the very summit; and emerging
from the dark shadows of the rocks and pines, I stepped forth into
the light, and walking along the sunny verge of a precipice, seated
myself on its extreme point. Looking between the mountain peaks to
the westward, the pale blue prairie was stretching to the farthest
horizon like a serene and tranquil ocean. The surrounding mountains
were in themselves sufficiently striking and impressive, but this
contrast gave redoubled effect to their stern features.



When I took leave of Shaw at La Bonte's Camp, I promised that I would
meet him at Fort Laramie on the 1st of August. That day, according
to my reckoning, was now close at hand. It was impossible, at best,
to fulfill my engagement exactly, and my meeting with him must have
been postponed until many days after the appointed time, had not the
plans of the Indians very well coincided with my own. They too,
intended to pass the mountains and move toward the fort. To do so at
this point was impossible, because there was no opening; and in order
to find a passage we were obliged to go twelve or fourteen miles
southward. Late in the afternoon the camp got in motion, defiling
back through the mountains along the same narrow passage by which
they had entered. I rode in company with three or four young Indians
at the rear, and the moving swarm stretched before me, in the ruddy
light of sunset, or in the deep shadow of the mountains far beyond my
sight. It was an ill-omened spot they chose to encamp upon. When
they were there just a year before, a war party of ten men, led by
The Whirlwind's son, had gone out against the enemy, and not one had
ever returned. This was the immediate cause of this season's warlike
preparations. I was not a little astonished when I came to the camp,
at the confusion of horrible sounds with which it was filled; howls,
shrieks, and wailings were heard from all the women present, many of
whom not content with this exhibition of grief for the loss of their
friends and relatives, were gashing their legs deeply with knives. A
warrior in the village, who had lost a brother in the expedition;
chose another mode of displaying his sorrow. The Indians, who,
though often rapacious, are utterly devoid of avarice, are accustomed
in times of mourning, or on other solemn occasions, to give away the
whole of their possessions, and reduce themselves to nakedness and
want. The warrior in question led his two best horses into the
center of the village, and gave them away to his friends; upon which
songs and acclamations in praise of his generosity mingled with the
cries of the women.

On the next morning we entered once more among the mountains. There
was nothing in their appearance either grand or picturesque, though
they were desolate to the last degree, being mere piles of black and
broken rocks, without trees or vegetation of any kind. As we passed
among them along a wide valley, I noticed Raymond riding by the side
of a younger squaw, to whom he was addressing various insinuating
compliments. All the old squaws in the neighborhood watched his
proceedings in great admiration, and the girl herself would turn
aside her head and laugh. Just then the old mule thought proper to
display her vicious pranks; she began to rear and plunge most
furiously. Raymond was an excellent rider, and at first he stuck
fast in his seat; but the moment after, I saw the mule's hind-legs
flourishing in the air, and my unlucky follower pitching head
foremost over her ears. There was a burst of screams and laughter
from all the women, in which his mistress herself took part, and
Raymond was instantly assailed by such a shower of witticisms, that
he was glad to ride forward out of hearing.

Not long after, as I rode near him, I heard him shouting to me. He
was pointing toward a detached rocky hill that stood in the middle of
the valley before us, and from behind it a long file of elk came out
at full speed and entered an opening in the side of the mountain.
They had scarcely disappeared when whoops and exclamations came from
fifty voices around me. The young men leaped from their horses,
flung down their heavy buffalo robes, and ran at full speed toward
the foot of the nearest mountain. Reynal also broke away at a gallop
in the same direction, "Come on! come on!" he called to us. "Do you
see that band of bighorn up yonder? If there's one of them, there's
a hundred!"

In fact, near the summit of the mountain, I could see a large number
of small white objects, moving rapidly upward among the precipices,
while others were filing along its rocky profile. Anxious to see the
sport, I galloped forward, and entering a passage in the side of the
mountain, ascended the loose rocks as far as my horse could carry me.
Here I fastened her to an old pine tree that stood alone, scorching
in the sun. At that moment Raymond called to me from the right that
another band of sheep was close at hand in that direction. I ran up
to the top of the opening, which gave me a full view into the rocky
gorge beyond; and here I plainly saw some fifty or sixty sheep,
almost within rifle-shot, clattering upward among the rocks, and
endeavoring, after their usual custom, to reach the highest point.
The naked Indians bounded up lightly in pursuit. In a moment the
game and hunters disappeared. Nothing could be seen or heard but the
occasional report of a gun, more and more distant, reverberating
among the rocks.

I turned to descend, and as I did so I could see the valley below
alive with Indians passing rapidly through it, on horseback and on
foot. A little farther on, all were stopping as they came up; the
camp was preparing, and the lodges rising. I descended to this spot,
and soon after Reynal and Raymond returned. They bore between them a
sheep which they had pelted to death with stones from the edge of a
ravine, along the bottom of which it was attempting to escape. One
by one the hunters came dropping in; yet such is the activity of the
Rocky Mountain sheep that, although sixty or seventy men were out in
pursuit, not more than half a dozen animals were killed. Of these
only one was a full-grown male. He had a pair of horns twisted like
a ram's, the dimensions of which were almost beyond belief. I have
seen among the Indians ladles with long handles, capable of
containing more than a quart, cut from such horns.

There is something peculiarly interesting in the character and habits
of the mountain sheep, whose chosen retreats are above the region of
vegetation and storms, and who leap among the giddy precipices of
their aerial home as actively as the antelope skims over the prairies

Through the whole of the next morning we were moving forward, among
the hills. On the following day the heights gathered around us, and
the passage of the mountains began in earnest. Before the village
left its camping ground, I set forward in company with the Eagle-
Feather, a man of powerful frame, but of bad and sinister face. His
son, a light-limbed boy, rode with us, and another Indian, named the
Panther, was also of the party. Leaving the village out of sight
behind us, we rode together up a rocky defile. After a while,
however, the Eagle-Feather discovered in the distance some appearance
of game, and set off with his son in pursuit of it, while I went
forward with the Panther. This was a mere NOM DE GUERRE; for, like
many Indians, he concealed his real name out of some superstitious
notion. He was a very noble looking fellow. As he suffered his
ornamented buffalo robe to fall into folds about his loins, his
stately and graceful figure was fully displayed; and while he sat his
horse in an easy attitude, the long feathers of the prairie cock
fluttering from the crown of his head, he seemed the very model of a
wild prairie-rider. He had not the same features as those of other
Indians. Unless his handsome face greatly belied him, he was free
from the jealousy, suspicion, and malignant cunning of his people.
For the most part, a civilized white man can discover but very few
points of sympathy between his own nature and that of an Indian.
With every disposition to do justice to their good qualities, he must
be conscious that an impassable gulf lies between him and his red
brethren of the prairie. Nay, so alien to himself do they appear
that, having breathed for a few months or a few weeks the air of this
region, he begins to look upon them as a troublesome and dangerous
species of wild beast, and, if expedient, he could shoot them with as
little compunction as they themselves would experience after
performing the same office upon him. Yet, in the countenance of the
Panther, I gladly read that there were at least some points of
sympathy between him and me. We were excellent friends, and as we
rode forward together through rocky passages, deep dells, and little
barren plains, he occupied himself very zealously in teaching me the
Dakota language. After a while, we came to a little grassy recess,
where some gooseberry bushes were growing at the foot of a rock; and
these offered such temptation to my companion, that he gave over his
instruction, and stopped so long to gather the fruit that before we
were in motion again the van of the village came in view. An old
woman appeared, leading down her pack horse among the rocks above.
Savage after savage followed, and the little dell was soon crowded
with the throng.

That morning's march was one not easily to be forgotten. It led us
through a sublime waste, a wilderness of mountains and pine forests,
over which the spirit of loneliness and silence seemed brooding.
Above and below little could be seen but the same dark green foliage.
It overspread the valleys, and the mountains were clothed with it
from the black rocks that crowned their summits to the impetuous
streams that circled round their base. Scenery like this, it might
seem, could have no very cheering effect on the mind of a sick man
(for to-day my disease had again assailed me) in the midst of a horde
of savages; but if the reader has ever wandered, with a true hunter's
spirit, among the forests of Maine, or the more picturesque solitudes
of the Adirondack Mountains, he will understand how the somber woods
and mountains around me might have awakened any other feelings than
those of gloom. In truth they recalled gladdening recollections of
similar scenes in a distant and far different land. After we had
been advancing for several hours through passages always narrow,
often obstructed and difficult, I saw at a little distance on our
right a narrow opening between two high wooded precipices. All
within seemed darkness and mystery. In the mood in which I found
myself something strongly impelled me to enter. Passing over the
intervening space I guided my horse through the rocky portal, and as
I did so instinctively drew the covering from my rifle, half
expecting that some unknown evil lay in ambush within those dreary
recesses. The place was shut in among tall cliffs, and so deeply
shadowed by a host of old pine trees that, though the sun shone
bright on the side of the mountain, nothing but a dim twilight could
penetrate within. As far as I could see it had no tenants except a
few hawks and owls, who, dismayed at my intrusion, flapped hoarsely
away among the shaggy branches. I moved forward, determined to
explore the mystery to the bottom, and soon became involved among the
pines. The genius of the place exercised a strange influence upon my
mind. Its faculties were stimulated into extraordinary activity, and
as I passed along many half-forgotten incidents, and the images of
persons and things far distant, rose rapidly before me with
surprising distinctness. In that perilous wilderness, eight hundred
miles removed beyond the faintest vestige of civilization, the scenes
of another hemisphere, the seat of ancient refinement, passed before
me more like a succession of vivid paintings than any mere dreams of
the fancy. I saw the church of St. Peter's illumined on the evening
of Easter Day, the whole majestic pile, from the cross to the
foundation stone, penciled in fire and shedding a radiance, like the
serene light of the moon, on the sea of upturned faces below. I saw
the peak of Mount Etna towering above its inky mantle of clouds and
lightly curling its wreaths of milk-white smoke against the soft sky
flushed with the Sicilian sunset. I saw also the gloomy vaulted
passages and the narrow cells of the Passionist convent where I once
had sojourned for a few days with the fanatical monks, its pale,
stern inmates in their robes of black, and the grated window from
whence I could look out, a forbidden indulgence, upon the melancholy
Coliseum and the crumbling ruins of the Etennal City. The mighty
glaciers of the Splugen too rose before me, gleaming in the sun like
polished silver, and those terrible solitudes, the birthplace of the
Rhine, where bursting from the bowels of its native mountains, it
lashes and foams down the rocky abyss into the little valley of
Andeer. These recollections, and many more, crowded upon me, until
remembering that it was hardly wise to remain long in such a place, I
mounted again and retraced my steps. Issuing from between the rocks
I saw a few rods before me the men, women, and children, dogs and
horses, still filing slowly across the little glen. A bare round
hill rose directly above them. I rode to the top, and from this
point I could look down on the savage procession as it passed just
beneath my feet, and far on the left I could see its thin and broken
line, visible only at intervals, stretching away for miles among the
mountains. On the farthest ridge horsemen were still descending like
mere specks in the distance.

I remained on the hill until all had passed, and then, descending,
followed after them. A little farther on I found a very small
meadow, set deeply among steep mountains; and here the whole village
had encamped. The little spot was crowded with the confused and
disorderly host. Some of the lodges were already completely
prepared, or the squaws perhaps were busy in drawing the heavy
coverings of skin over the bare poles. Others were as yet mere
skeletons, while others still--poles, covering, and all--lay
scattered in complete disorder on the ground among buffalo robes,
bales of meat, domestic utensils, harness, and weapons. Squaws were
screaming to one another, horses rearing and plunging dogs yelping,
eager to be disburdened of their loads, while the fluttering of
feathers and the gleam of barbaric ornaments added liveliness to the
scene. The small children ran about amid the crowd, while many of
the boys were scrambling among the overhanging rocks, and standing,
with their little bows in their hands, looking down upon a restless
throng. In contrast with the general confusion, a circle of old men
and warriors sat in the midst, smoking in profound indifference and
tranquillity. The disorder at length subsided. The horses were
driven away to feed along the adjacent valley, and the camp assumed
an air of listless repose. It was scarcely past noon; a vast white
canopy of smoke from a burning forest to the eastward overhung the
place, and partially obscured the sun; yet the heat was almost
insupportable. The lodges stood crowded together without order in
the narrow space. Each was a perfect hothouse, within which the lazy
proprietor lay sleeping. The camp was silent as death. Nothing
stirred except now and then an old woman passing from lodge to lodge.
The girls and young men sat together in groups under the pine trees
upon the surrounding heights. The dogs lay panting on the ground,
too lazy even to growl at the white man. At the entrance of the
meadow there was a cold spring among the rocks, completely
overshadowed by tall trees and dense undergrowth. In this cold and
shady retreat a number of girls were assembled, sitting together on
rocks and fallen logs, discussing the latest gossip of the village,
or laughing and throwing water with their hands at the intruding
Meneaska. The minutes seemed lengthened into hours. I lay for a
long time under a tree, studying the Ogallalla tongue, with the
zealous instructions of my friend the Panther. When we were both
tired of this I went and lay down by the side of a deep, clear pool
formed by the water of the spring. A shoal of little fishes of about
a pin's length were playing in it, sporting together, as it seemed,
very amicably; but on closer observation, I saw that they were
engaged in a cannibal warfare among themselves. Now and then a small
one would fall a victim, and immediately disappear down the maw of
his voracious conqueror. Every moment, however, the tyrant of the
pool, a monster about three inches long, with staring goggle eyes,
would slowly issue forth with quivering fins and tail from under the
shelving bank. The small fry at this would suspend their
hostilities, and scatter in a panic at the appearance of overwhelming

"Soft-hearted philanthropists," thought I, "may sigh long for their
peaceful millennium; for from minnows up to men, life is an incessant

Evening approached at last, the tall mountain-tops around were still
gay and bright in sunshine, while our deep glen was completely
shadowed. I left the camp and ascended a neighboring hill, whose
rocky summit commanded a wide view over the surrounding wilderness.
The sun was still glaring through the stiff pines on the ridge of the
western mountain. In a moment he was gone, and as the landscape
rapidly darkened, I turned again toward the village. As I descended
the hill, the howling of wolves and the barking of foxes came up out
of the dim woods from far and near. The camp was glowing with a
multitude of fires, and alive with dusky naked figures, whose tall
shadows flitted among the surroundings crags.

I found a circle of smokers seated in their usual place; that is, on
the ground before the lodge of a certain warrior, who seemed to be
generally known for his social qualities. I sat down to smoke a
parting pipe with my savage friends. That day was the 1st of August,
on which I had promised to meet Shaw at Fort Laramie. The Fort was
less than two days' journey distant, and that my friend need not
suffer anxiety on my account, I resolved to push forward as rapidly
as possible to the place of meeting. I went to look after the Hail-
Storm, and having found him, I offered him a handful of hawks'-bells
and a paper of vermilion, on condition that he would guide me in the
morning through the mountains within sight of Laramie Creek.

The Hail-Storm ejaculated "How!" and accepted the gift. Nothing more
was said on either side; the matter was settled, and I lay down to
sleep in Kongra-Tonga's lodge.

Long before daylight Raymond shook me by the shoulder.

"Everything is ready," he said.

I went out. The morning was chill, damp, and dark; and the whole
camp seemed asleep. The Hail-Storm sat on horseback before the
lodge, and my mare Pauline and the mule which Raymond rode were
picketed near it. We saddled and made our other arrangements for the
journey, but before these were completed the camp began to stir, and
the lodge-coverings fluttered and rustled as the squaws pulled them
down in preparation for departure. Just as the light began to appear
we left the ground, passing up through a narrow opening among the
rocks which led eastward out of the meadow. Gaining the top of this
passage, I turned round and sat looking back upon the camp, dimly
visible in the gray light of the morning. All was alive with the
bustle of preparation. I turned away, half unwilling to take a final
leave of my savage associates. We turned to the right, passing among
the rocks and pine trees so dark that for a while we could scarcely
see our way. The country in front was wild and broken, half hill,
half plain, partly open and partly covered with woods of pine and
oak. Barriers of lofty mountains encompassed it; the woods were
fresh and cool in the early morning; the peaks of the mountains were
wreathed with mist, and sluggish vapors were entangled among the
forests upon their sides. At length the black pinnacle of the
tallest mountain was tipped with gold by the rising sun. About that
time the Hail-Storm, who rode in front gave a low exclamation. Some
large animal leaped up from among the bushes, and an elk, as I
thought, his horns thrown back over his neck, darted past us across
the open space, and bounded like a mad thing away among the adjoining
pines. Raymond was soon out of his saddle, but before he could fire,
the animal was full two hundred yards distant. The ball struck its
mark, though much too low for mortal effect. The elk, however,
wheeled in its flight, and ran at full speed among the trees, nearly
at right angles to his former course. I fired and broke his
shoulder; still he moved on, limping down into the neighboring woody
hollow, whither the young Indian followed and killed him. When we
reached the spot we discovered him to be no elk, but a black-tailed
deer, an animal nearly twice the size of the common deer, and quite
unknown to the East. We began to cut him up; the reports of the
rifles had reached the ears of the Indians, and before our task was
finished several of them came to the spot. Leaving the hide of the
deer to the Hail-Storm, we hung as much of the meat as we wanted
behind our saddles, left the rest to the Indians, and resumed our
journey. Meanwhile the village was on its way, and had gone so far
that to get in advance of it was impossible. Therefore we directed
our course so as to strike its line of march at the nearest point.
In a short time, through the dark trunks of the pines, we could see
the figures of the Indians as they passed. Once more we were among
them. They were moving with even more than their usual
precipitation, crowded close together in a narrow pass between rocks
and old pine trees. We were on the eastern descent of the mountain,
and soon came to a rough and difficult defile, leading down a very
steep declivity. The whole swarm poured down together, filling the
rocky passageway like some turbulent mountain stream. The mountains
before us were on fire, and had been so for weeks. The view in front
was obscured by a vast dim sea of smoke and vapor, while on either
hand the tall cliffs, bearing aloft their crest of pines, thrust
their heads boldly through it, and the sharp pinnacles and broken
ridges of the mountains beyond them were faintly traceable as through
a veil. The scene in itself was most grand and imposing, but with
the savage multitude, the armed warriors, the naked children, the
gayly appareled girls, pouring impetuously down the heights, it would
have formed a noble subject for a painter, and only the pen of a
Scott could have done it justice in description.

We passed over a burnt tract where the ground was hot beneath the
horses' feet, and between the blazing sides of two mountains. Before
long we had descended to a softer region, where we found a succession
of little valleys watered by a stream, along the borders of which
grew abundance of wild gooseberries and currants, and the children
and many of the men straggled from the line of march to gather them
as we passed along. Descending still farther, the view changed
rapidly. The burning mountains were behind us, and through the open
valleys in front we could see the ocean-like prairie, stretching
beyond the sight. After passing through a line of trees that skirted
the brook, the Indians filed out upon the plains. I was thirsty and
knelt down by the little stream to drink. As I mounted again I very
carelessly left my rifle among the grass, and my thoughts being
otherwise absorbed, I rode for some distance before discovering its
absence. As the reader may conceive, I lost no time in turning about
and galloping back in search of it. Passing the line of Indians, I
watched every warrior as he rode by me at a canter, and at length
discovered my rifle in the hands of one of them, who, on my
approaching to claim it, immediately gave it up. Having no other
means of acknowledging the obligation, I took off one of my spurs and
gave it to him. He was greatly delighted, looking upon it as a
distinguished mark of favor, and immediately held out his foot for me
to buckle it on. As soon as I had done so, he struck it with force
into the side of his horse, who gave a violent leap. The Indian
laughed and spurred harder than before. At this the horse shot away
like an arrow, amid the screams and laughter of the squaws, and the
ejaculations of the men, who exclaimed: "Washtay!--Good!" at the
potent effect of my gift. The Indian had no saddle, and nothing in
place of a bridle except a leather string tied round the horse's jaw.
The animal was of course wholly uncontrollable, and stretched away at
full speed over the prairie, till he and his rider vanished behind a
distant swell. I never saw the man again, but I presume no harm came
to him. An Indian on horseback has more lives than a cat.

The village encamped on a scorching prairie, close to the foot of the
mountains. The beat was most intense and penetrating. The coverings
of the lodges were raised a foot or more from the ground, in order to
procure some circulation of air; and Reynal thought proper to lay
aside his trapper's dress of buckskin and assume the very scanty
costume of an Indian. Thus elegantly attired, he stretched himself
in his lodge on a buffalo robe, alternately cursing the heat and
puffing at the pipe which he and I passed between us. There was
present also a select circle of Indian friends and relatives. A
small boiled puppy was served up as a parting feast, to which was
added, by way of dessert, a wooden bowl of gooseberries, from the

"Look there," said Reynal, pointing out of the opening of his lodge;
"do you see that line of buttes about fifteen miles off? Well, now,
do you see that farthest one, with the white speck on the face of it?
Do you think you ever saw it before?"

"It looks to me," said I, "like the hill that we were camped under
when we were on Laramie Creek, six or eight weeks ago."

"You've hit it," answered Reynal.

"Go and bring in the animals, Raymond," said I: "we'll camp there to-
night, and start for the Fort in the morning."

The mare and the mule were soon before the lodge. We saddled them,
and in the meantime a number of Indians collected about us. The
virtues of Pauline, my strong, fleet, and hardy little mare, were
well known in camp, and several of the visitors were mounted upon
good horses which they had brought me as presents. I promptly
declined their offers, since accepting them would have involved the
necessity of transferring poor Pauline into their barbarous hands.
We took leave of Reynal, but not of the Indians, who are accustomed
to dispense with such superfluous ceremonies. Leaving the camp we
rode straight over the prairie toward the white-faced bluff, whose
pale ridges swelled gently against the horizon, like a cloud. An
Indian went with us, whose name I forget, though the ugliness of his
face and the ghastly width of his mouth dwell vividly in my
recollection. The antelope were numerous, but we did not heed them.
We rode directly toward our destination, over the arid plains and
barren hills, until, late in the afternoon, half spent with heat,
thirst, and fatigue, we saw a gladdening sight; the long line of
trees and the deep gulf that mark the course of Laramie Creek.
Passing through the growth of huge dilapidated old cottonwood trees
that bordered the creek, we rode across to the other side.

The rapid and foaming waters were filled with fish playing and
splashing in the shallows. As we gained the farther bank, our horses
turned eagerly to drink, and we, kneeling on the sand, followed their
example. We had not gone far before the scene began to grow

"We are getting near home, Raymond," said I.

There stood the Big Tree under which we had encamped so long; there
were the white cliffs that used to look down upon our tent when it
stood at the bend of the creek; there was the meadow in which our
horses had grazed for weeks, and a little farther on, the prairie-dog
village where I had beguiled many a languid hour in persecuting the
unfortunate inhabitants.

"We are going to catch it now," said Raymond, turning his broad,
vacant face up toward the sky.

In truth, the landscape, the cliffs and the meadow, the stream and
the groves were darkening fast. Black masses of cloud were swelling
up in the south, and the thunder was growling ominously.

"We will camp here," I said, pointing to a dense grove of trees lower
down the stream. Raymond and I turned toward it, but the Indian
stopped and called earnestly after us. When we demanded what was the
matter, he said that the ghosts of two warriors were always among
those trees, and that if we slept there, they would scream and throw
stones at us all night, and perhaps steal our horses before morning.
Thinking it as well to humor him, we left behind us the haunt of
these extraordinary ghosts, and passed on toward Chugwater, riding at
full gallop, for the big drops began to patter down. Soon we came in
sight of the poplar saplings that grew about the mouth of the little
stream. We leaped to the ground, threw off our saddles, turned our
horses loose, and drawing our knives, began to slash among the bushes
to cut twigs and branches for making a shelter against the rain.
Bending down the taller saplings as they grew, we piled the young
shoots upon them; and thus made a convenient penthouse, but all our
labor was useless. The storm scarcely touched us. Half a mile on
our right the rain was pouring down like a cataract, and the thunder
roared over the prairie like a battery of cannon; while we by good
fortune received only a few heavy drops from the skirt of the passing
cloud. The weather cleared and the sun set gloriously. Sitting
close under our leafy canopy, we proceeded to discuss a substantial
meal of wasna which Weah-Washtay had given me. The Indian had
brought with him his pipe and a bag of shongsasha; so before lying
down to sleep, we sat for some time smoking together. Previously,
however, our wide-mouthed friend had taken the precaution of
carefully examining the neighborhood. He reported that eight men,
counting them on his fingers, had been encamped there not long
before. Bisonette, Paul Dorion, Antoine Le Rouge, Richardson, and
four others, whose names he could not tell. All this proved strictly
correct. By what instinct he had arrived at such accurate
conclusions, I am utterly at a loss to divine.

It was still quite dark when I awoke and called Raymond. The Indian
was already gone, having chosen to go on before us to the Fort.
Setting out after him, we rode for some time in complete darkness,
and when the sun at length rose, glowing like a fiery ball of copper,
we were ten miles distant from the Fort. At length, from the broken
summit of a tall sandy bluff we could see Fort Laramie, miles before
us, standing by the side of the stream like a little gray speck in
the midst of the bounding desolation. I stopped my horse, and sat
for a moment looking down upon it. It seemed to me the very center
of comfort and civilization. We were not long in approaching it, for
we rode at speed the greater part of the way. Laramie Creek still
intervened between us and the friendly walls. Entering the water at
the point where we had struck upon the bank, we raised our feet to
the saddle behind us, and thus, kneeling as it were on horseback,
passed dry-shod through the swift current. As we rode up the bank, a
number of men appeared in the gateway. Three of them came forward to
meet us. In a moment I distinguished Shaw; Henry Chatillon followed
with his face of manly simplicity and frankness, and Delorier came
last, with a broad grin of welcome. The meeting was not on either
side one of mere ceremony. For my own part, the change was a most
agreeable one from the society of savages and men little better than
savages, to that of my gallant and high-minded companion and our
noble-hearted guide. My appearance was equally gratifying to Shaw,
who was beginning to entertain some very uncomfortable surmises
concerning me.

Bordeaux greeted me very cordially, and shouted to the cook. This
functionary was a new acquisition, having lately come from Fort
Pierre with the trading wagons. Whatever skill he might have
boasted, he had not the most promising materials to exercise it upon.
He set before me, however, a breakfast of biscuit, coffee, and salt
pork. It seemed like a new phase of existence, to be seated once
more on a bench, with a knife and fork, a plate and teacup, and
something resembling a table before me. The coffee seemed delicious,
and the bread was a most welcome novelty, since for three weeks I had
eaten scarcely anything but meat, and that for the most part without
salt. The meal also had the relish of good company, for opposite to
me sat Shaw in elegant dishabille. If one is anxious thoroughly to
appreciate the value of a congenial companion, he has only to spend a
few weeks by himself in an Ogallalla village. And if he can contrive
to add to his seclusion a debilitating and somewhat critical illness,
his perceptions upon this subject will be rendered considerably more

Shaw had been upward of two weeks at the Fort. I found him
established in his old quarters, a large apartment usually occupied
by the absent bourgeois. In one corner was a soft and luxuriant pile
of excellent buffalo robes, and here I lay down. Shaw brought me
three books.

"Here," said he, "is your Shakespeare and Byron, and here is the Old
Testament, which has as much poetry in it as the other two put

I chose the worst of the three, and for the greater part of that day
lay on the buffalo robes, fairly reveling in the creations of that
resplendent genius which has achieved no more signal triumph than
that of half beguiling us to forget the pitiful and unmanly character
of its possessor.



On the day of my arrival at Fort Laramie, Shaw and I were lounging on
two buffalo robes in the large apartment hospitably assigned to us;
Henry Chatillon also was present, busy about the harness and weapons,
which had been brought into the room, and two or three Indians were
crouching on the floor, eyeing us with their fixed, unwavering gaze.

"I have been well off here," said Shaw, "in all respects but one;
there is no good shongsasha to be had for love or money."

I gave him a small leather bag containing some of excellent quality,
which I had brought from the Black Hills.

"Now, Henry," said he, "hand me Papin's chopping-board, or give it to
that Indian, and let him cut the mixture; they understand it better
than any white man."

The Indian, without saying a word, mixed the bark and the tobacco in
due proportions, filled the pipe and lighted it. This done, my
companion and I proceeded to deliberate on our future course of
proceeding; first, however, Shaw acquainted me with some incidents
which had occurred at the fort during my absence.

About a week previous four men had arrived from beyond the mountains;
Sublette, Reddick, and two others. Just before reaching the Fort
they had met a large party of Indians, chiefly young men. All of
them belonged to the village of our old friend Smoke, who, with his
whole band of adherents, professed the greatest friendship for the
whites. The travelers therefore approached, and began to converse
without the least suspicion. Suddenly, however, their bridles were
violently seized and they were ordered to dismount. Instead of
complying, they struck their horses with full force, and broke away
from the Indians. As they galloped off they heard a yell behind
them, mixed with a burst of derisive laughter, and the reports of
several guns. None of them were hurt though Reddick's bridle rein
was cut by a bullet within an inch of his hand. After this taste of
Indian hostility they felt for the moment no disposition to encounter
further risks. They intended to pursue the route southward along the
foot of the mountains to Bent's Fort; and as our plans coincided with
theirs, they proposed to join forces. Finding, however, that I did
not return, they grew impatient of inaction, forgot their late
escape, and set out without us, promising to wait our arrival at
Bent's Fort. From thence we were to make the long journey to the
settlements in company, as the path was not a little dangerous, being
infested by hostile Pawnees and Comanches.

We expected, on reaching Bent's Fort, to find there still another re-
enforcement. A young Kentuckian of the true Kentucky blood,
generous, impetuous, and a gentleman withal, had come out to the
mountains with Russel's party of California emigrants. One of his
chief objects, as he gave out, was to kill an Indian; an exploit
which he afterwards succeeded in achieving, much to the jeopardy of
ourselves and others who had to pass through the country of the dead
Pawnee's enraged relatives. Having become disgusted with his
emigrant associates he left them, and had some time before set out
with a party of companions for the head of the Arkansas. He sent us
previously a letter, intimating that he would wait until we arrived
at Bent's Fort, and accompany us thence to the settlements. When,
however, he came to the Fort, he found there a party of forty men
about to make the homeward journey. He wisely preferred to avail
himself of so strong an escort. Mr. Sublette and his companions also
set out, in order to overtake this company; so that on reaching
Bent's Fort, some six weeks after, we found ourselves deserted by our
allies and thrown once more upon our own resources.

But I am anticipating. When, before leaving the settlement we had
made inquiries concerning this part of the country of General Kearny,
Mr. Mackenzie, Captain Wyeth, and others well acquainted with it,
they had all advised us by no means to attempt this southward journey
with fewer than fifteen or twenty men. The danger consists in the
chance of encountering Indian war parties. Sometimes throughout the
whole length of the journey (a distance of 350 miles) one does not
meet a single human being; frequently, however, the route is beset by
Arapahoes and other unfriendly tribes; in which case the scalp of the
adventurer is in imminent peril. As to the escort of fifteen or
twenty men, such a force of whites could at that time scarcely be
collected by the whole country; and had the case been otherwise, the
expense of securing them, together with the necessary number of
horses, would have been extremely heavy. We had resolved, however,
upon pursuing this southward course. There were, indeed, two other
routes from Fort Laramie; but both of these were less interesting,
and neither was free from danger. Being unable therefore to procure
the fifteen or twenty men recommended, we determined to set out with
those we had already in our employ, Henry Chatillon, Delorier, and
Raymond. The men themselves made no objection, nor would they have
made any had the journey been more dangerous; for Henry was without
fear, and the other two without thought.

Shaw and I were much better fitted for this mode of traveling than we
had been on betaking ourselves to the prairies for the first time a
few months before. The daily routine had ceased to be a novelty.
All the details of the journey and the camp had become familiar to
us. We had seen life under a new aspect; the human biped had been
reduced to his primitive condition. We had lived without law to
protect, a roof to shelter, or garment of cloth to cover us. One of
us at least had been without bread, and without salt to season his
food. Our idea of what is indispensable to human existence and
enjoyment had been wonderfully curtailed, and a horse, a rifle, and a
knife seemed to make up the whole of life's necessaries. For these
once obtained, together with the skill to use them, all else that is
essential would follow in their train, and a host of luxuries
besides. One other lesson our short prairie experience had taught
us; that of profound contentment in the present, and utter contempt
for what the future might bring forth.

These principles established, we prepared to leave Fort Laramie. On
the fourth day of August, early in the afternoon, we bade a final
adieu to its hospitable gateway. Again Shaw and I were riding side
by side on the prairie. For the first fifty miles we had companions
with us; Troche, a little trapper, and Rouville, a nondescript in the
employ of the Fur Company, who were going to join the trader
Bisonette at his encampment near the head of Horse Creek. We rode
only six or eight miles that afternoon before we came to a little
brook traversing the barren prairie. All along its course grew
copses of young wild-cherry trees, loaded with ripe fruit, and almost
concealing the gliding thread of water with their dense growth, while
on each side rose swells of rich green grass. Here we encamped; and
being much too indolent to pitch our tent, we flung our saddles on
the ground, spread a pair of buffalo robes, lay down upon them, and
began to smoke. Meanwhile, Delorier busied himself with his hissing
frying-pan, and Raymond stood guard over the band of grazing horses.
Delorier had an active assistant in Rouville, who professed great
skill in the culinary art, and seizing upon a fork, began to lend his
zealous aid in making ready supper. Indeed, according to his own
belief, Rouville was a man of universal knowledge, and he lost no
opportunity to display his manifold accomplishments. He had been a
circus-rider at St. Louis, and once he rode round Fort Laramie on his
head, to the utter bewilderment of all the Indians. He was also
noted as the wit of the Fort; and as he had considerable humor and
abundant vivacity, he contributed more that night to the liveliness
of the camp than all the rest of the party put together. At one
instant he would be kneeling by Delorier, instructing him in the true
method of frying antelope steaks, then he would come and seat himself
at our side, dilating upon the orthodox fashion of braiding up a
horse's tail, telling apocryphal stories how he had killed a buffalo
bull with a knife, having first cut off his tail when at full speed,
or relating whimsical anecdotes of the bourgeois Papin. At last he
snatched up a volume of Shakespeare that was lying on the grass, and
halted and stumbled through a line or two to prove that he could
read. He went gamboling about the camp, chattering like some
frolicsome ape; and whatever he was doing at one moment, the
presumption was a sure one that he would not be doing it the next.
His companion Troche sat silently on the grass, not speaking a word,
but keeping a vigilant eye on a very ugly little Utah squaw, of whom
he was extremely jealous.

On the next day we traveled farther, crossing the wide sterile basin
called Goche's Hole. Toward night we became involved among deep
ravines; and being also unable to find water, our journey was
protracted to a very late hour. On the next morning we had to pass a
long line of bluffs, whose raw sides, wrought upon by rains and
storms, were of a ghastly whiteness most oppressive to the sight. As
we ascended a gap in these hills, the way was marked by huge foot-
prints, like those of a human giant. They were the track of the
grizzly bear; and on the previous day also we had seen abundance of
them along the dry channels of the streams we had passed.
Immediately after this we were crossing a barren plain, spreading in
long and gentle undulations to the horizon. Though the sun was
bright, there was a light haze in the atmosphere. The distant hills
assumed strange, distorted forms, and the edge of the horizon was
continually changing its aspect. Shaw and I were riding together,
and Henry Chatillon was alone, a few rods before us; he stopped his
horse suddenly, and turning round with the peculiar eager and earnest
expression which he always wore when excited, he called to us to come
forward. We galloped to his side. Henry pointed toward a black
speck on the gray swell of the prairie, apparently about a mile off.
"It must be a bear," said he; "come, now, we shall all have some
sport. Better fun to fight him than to fight an old buffalo bull;
grizzly bear so strong and smart."

So we all galloped forward together, prepared for a hard fight; for
these bears, though clumsy in appearance and extremely large, are
incredibly fierce and active. The swell of the prairie concealed the
black object from our view. Immediately after it appeared again.
But now it seemed quite near to us; and as we looked at it in
astonishment, it suddenly separated into two parts, each of which
took wing and flew away. We stopped our horses and looked round at
Henry, whose face exhibited a curious mixture of mirth and
mortification. His hawk's eye had been so completely deceived by the
peculiar atmosphere that he had mistaken two large crows at the
distance of fifty rods for a grizzly bear a mile off. To the
journey's end Henry never heard the last of the grizzly bear with

In the afternoon we came to the foot of a considerable hill. As we
ascended it Rouville began to ask questions concerning our conditions
and prospects at home, and Shaw was edifying him with a minute
account of an imaginary wife and child, to which he listened with
implicit faith. Reaching the top of the hill we saw the windings of
Horse Creek on the plains below us, and a little on the left we could
distinguish the camp of Bisonette among the trees and copses along
the course of the stream. Rouville's face assumed just then a most
ludicrously blank expression. We inquired what was the matter, when
it appeared that Bisonette had sent him from this place to Fort
Laramie with the sole object of bringing back a supply of tobacco.
Our rattle-brain friend, from the time of his reaching the Fort up to
the present moment, had entirely forgotten the object of his journey,
and had ridden a dangerous hundred miles for nothing. Descending to
Horse Creek we forded it, and on the opposite bank a solitary Indian
sat on horseback under a tree. He said nothing, but turned and led
the way toward the camp. Bisonette had made choice of an admirable
position. The stream, with its thick growth of trees, inclosed on
three sides a wide green meadow, where about forty Dakota lodges were
pitched in a circle, and beyond them half a dozen lodges of the
friendly Cheyenne. Bisonette himself lived in the Indian manner.
Riding up to his lodge, we found him seated at the head of it,
surrounded by various appliances of comfort not common on the
prairie. His squaw was near him, and rosy children were scrambling
about in printed-calico gowns; Paul Dorion also, with his leathery
face and old white capote, was seated in the lodge, together with
Antoine Le Rouge, a half-breed Pawnee, Sibille, a trader, and several
other white men.

"It will do you no harm," said Bisonette, "to stay here with us for a
day or two, before you start for the Pueblo."

We accepted the invitation, and pitched our tent on a rising ground
above the camp and close to the edge of the trees. Bisonette soon
invited us to a feast, and we suffered abundance of the same sort of
attention from his Indian associates. The reader may possibly
recollect that when I joined the Indian village, beyond the Black
Hills, I found that a few families were absent, having declined to
pass the mountains along with the rest. The Indians in Bisonette's
camp consisted of these very families, and many of them came to me
that evening to inquire after their relatives and friends. They were
not a little mortified to learn that while they, from their own
timidity and indolence, were almost in a starving condition, the rest
of the village had provided their lodges for the next season, laid in
a great stock of provisions, and were living in abundance and luxury.
Bisonette's companions had been sustaining themselves for some time
on wild cherries, which the squaws pounded up, stones and all, and
spread on buffalo robes, to dry in the sun; they were then eaten
without further preparation, or used as an ingredient in various
delectable compounds.

On the next day the camp was in commotion with a new arrival. A
single Indian had come with his family the whole way from the
Arkansas. As he passed among the lodges he put on an expression of
unusual dignity and importance, and gave out that he had brought
great news to tell the whites. Soon after the squaws had erected his
lodge, he sent his little son to invite all the white men, and all
the most distinguished Indians, to a feast. The guests arrived and
sat wedged together, shoulder to shoulder, within the hot and
suffocating lodge. The Stabber, for that was our entertainer's name,
had killed an old buffalo bull on his way. This veteran's boiled
tripe, tougher than leather, formed the main item of the repast. For
the rest, it consisted of wild cherries and grease boiled together in
a large copper kettle. The feast was distributed, and for a moment
all was silent, strenuous exertion; then each guest, with one or two
exceptions, however, turned his wooden dish bottom upward to prove
that he had done full justice to his entertainer's hospitality. The
Stabber next produced his chopping board, on which he prepared the
mixture for smoking, and filled several pipes, which circulated among
the company. This done, he seated himself upright on his couch, and
began with much gesticulation to tell his story. I will not repeat
his childish jargon. It was so entangled, like the greater part of
an Indian's stories, with absurd and contradictory details, that it
was almost impossible to disengage from it a single particle of
truth. All that we could gather was the following:

He had been on the Arkansas, and there he had seen six great war
parties of whites. He had never believed before that the whole world
contained half so many white men. They all had large horses, long
knives, and short rifles, and some of them were attired alike in the
most splendid war dresses he had ever seen. From this account it was
clear that bodies of dragoons and perhaps also of volunteer cavalry
had been passing up the Arkansas. The Stabber had also seen a great
many of the white lodges of the Meneaska, drawn by their long-horned
buffalo. These could be nothing else than covered ox-wagons used no
doubt in transporting stores for the troops. Soon after seeing this,
our host had met an Indian who had lately come from among the
Comanches. The latter had told him that all the Mexicans had gone
out to a great buffalo hunt. That the Americans had hid themselves
in a ravine. When the Mexicans had shot away all their arrows, the
Americans had fired their guns, raised their war-whoop, rushed out,
and killed them all. We could only infer from this that war had been
declared with Mexico, and a battle fought in which the Americans were
victorious. When, some weeks after, we arrived at the Pueblo, we
heard of General Kearny's march up the Arkansas and of General
Taylor's victories at Matamoras.

As the sun was setting that evening a great crowd gathered on the
plain by the side of our tent, to try the speed of their horses.
These were of every shape, size, and color. Some came from
California, some from the States, some from among the mountains, and
some from the wild bands of the prairie. They were of every hue--
white, black, red, and gray, or mottled and clouded with a strange
variety of colors. They all had a wild and startled look, very
different from the staid and sober aspect of a well-bred city steed.
Those most noted for swiftness and spirit were decorated with eagle-
feathers dangling from their manes and tails. Fifty or sixty Dakotas
were present, wrapped from head to foot in their heavy robes of
whitened hide. There were also a considerable number of the
Cheyenne, many of whom wore gaudy Mexican ponchos swathed around
their shoulders, but leaving the right arm bare. Mingled among the
crowd of Indians were a number of Canadians, chiefly in the employ of
Bisonette; men, whose home is in the wilderness, and who love the
camp fire better than the domestic hearth. They are contented and
happy in the midst of hardship, privation, and danger. Their
cheerfulness and gayety is irrepressible, and no people on earth
understand better how "to daff the world aside and bid it pass."
Besides these, were two or three half-breeds, a race of rather
extraordinary composition, being according to the common saying half
Indian, half white man, and half devil. Antoine Le Rouge was the
most conspicuous among them, with his loose pantaloons and his
fluttering calico skirt. A handkerchief was bound round his head to
confine his black snaky hair, and his small eyes twinkled beneath it,
with a mischievous luster. He had a fine cream-colored horse whose
speed he must needs try along with the rest. So he threw off the
rude high-peaked saddle, and substituting a piece of buffalo robe,
leaped lightly into his seat. The space was cleared, the word was
given, and he and his Indian rival darted out like lightning from
among the crowd, each stretching forward over his horse's neck and
plying his heavy Indian whip with might and main. A moment, and both
were lost in the gloom; but Antoine soon came riding back victorious,
exultingly patting the neck of his quivering and panting horse.

About midnight, as I lay asleep, wrapped in a buffalo robe on the
ground by the side of our cart, Raymond came up and woke me.
Something he said, was going forward which I would like to see.
Looking down into camp I saw, on the farther side of it, a great
number of Indians gathered around a fire, the bright glare of which
made them visible through the thick darkness; while from the midst of
them proceeded a loud, measured chant which would have killed
Paganini outright, broken occasionally by a burst of sharp yells. I
gathered the robe around me, for the night was cold, and walked down
to the spot. The dark throng of Indians was so dense that they
almost intercepted the light of the flame. As I was pushing among
them with but little ceremony, a chief interposed himself, and I was
given to understand that a white man must not approach the scene of
their solemnities too closely. By passing round to the other side,
where there was a little opening in the crowd, I could see clearly
what was going forward, without intruding my unhallowed presence into
the inner circle. The society of the "Strong Hearts" were engaged in
one of their dances. The Strong Hearts are a warlike association,
comprising men of both the Dakota and Cheyenne nations, and entirely
composed, or supposed to be so, of young braves of the highest
mettle. Its fundamental principle is the admirable one of never
retreating from any enterprise once commenced. All these Indian
associations have a tutelary spirit. That of the Strong Hearts is
embodied in the fox, an animal which a white man would hardly have
selected for a similar purpose, though his subtle and cautious
character agrees well enough with an Indian's notions of what is
honorable in warfare. The dancers were circling round and round the
fire, each figure brightly illumined at one moment by the yellow
light, and at the next drawn in blackest shadow as it passed between
the flame and the spectator. They would imitate with the most
ludicrous exactness the motions and the voice of their sly patron the
fox. Then a startling yell would be given. Many other warriors
would leap into the ring, and with faces upturned toward the starless
sky, they would all stamp, and whoop, and brandish their weapons like
so many frantic devils.

Until the next afternoon we were still remaining with Bisonette. My
companion and I with our three attendants then left his camp for the
Pueblo, a distance of three hundred miles, and we supposed the
journey would occupy about a fortnight. During this time we all
earnestly hoped that we might not meet a single human being, for
should we encounter any, they would in all probability be enemies,
ferocious robbers and murderers, in whose eyes our rifles would be
our only passports. For the first two days nothing worth mentioning
took place. On the third morning, however, an untoward incident
occurred. We were encamped by the side of a little brook in an
extensive hollow of the plain. Delorier was up long before daylight,
and before he began to prepare breakfast he turned loose all the
horses, as in duty bound. There was a cold mist clinging close to
the ground, and by the time the rest of us were awake the animals
were invisible. It was only after a long and anxious search that we
could discover by their tracks the direction they had taken. They
had all set off for Fort Laramie, following the guidance of a
mutinous old mule, and though many of them were hobbled they had
driven three miles before they could be overtaken and driven back.

For the following two or three days we were passing over an arid
desert. The only vegetation was a few tufts of short grass, dried
and shriveled by the heat. There was an abundance of strange insects
and reptiles. Huge crickets, black and bottle green, and wingless
grasshoppers of the most extravagant dimensions, were tumbling about
our horses' feet, and lizards without numbers were darting like
lightning among the tufts of grass. The most curious animal,
however, was that commonly called the horned frog. I caught one of
them and consigned him to the care of Delorier, who tied him up in a
moccasin. About a month after this I examined the prisoner's
condition, and finding him still lively and active, I provided him
with a cage of buffalo hide, which was hung up in the cart. In this
manner he arrived safely at the settlements. From thence he traveled
the whole way to Boston packed closely in a trunk, being regaled with
fresh air regularly every night. When he reached his destination he
was deposited under a glass case, where he sat for some months in
great tranquillity and composure, alternately dilating and
contracting his white throat to the admiration of his visitors. At
length, one morning, about the middle of winter, he gave up the
ghost. His death was attributed to starvation, a very probable
conclusion, since for six months he had taken no food whatever,
though the sympathy of his juvenile admirers had tempted his palate
with a great variety of delicacies. We found also animals of a
somewhat larger growth. The number of prairie dogs was absolutely
astounding. Frequently the hard and dry prairie would be thickly
covered, for many miles together, with the little mounds which they
make around the mouth of their burrows, and small squeaking voices
yelping at us as we passed along. The noses of the inhabitants would
be just visible at the mouth of their holes, but no sooner was their
curiosity satisfied than they would instantly vanish. Some of the
bolder dogs--though in fact they are no dogs at all, but little
marmots rather smaller than a rabbit--would sit yelping at us on the
top of their mounds, jerking their tails emphatically with every
shrill cry they uttered. As the danger grew nearer they would wheel
about, toss their heels into the air, and dive in a twinkling down
into their burrows. Toward sunset, and especially if rain were
threatening, the whole community would make their appearance above
ground. We would see them gathered in large knots around the burrow
of some favorite citizen. There they would all sit erect, their
tails spread out on the ground, and their paws hanging down before
their white breasts, chattering and squeaking with the utmost
vivacity upon some topic of common interest, while the proprietor of
the burrow, with his head just visible on the top of his mound, would
sit looking down with a complacent countenance on the enjoyment of
his guests. Meanwhile, others would be running about from burrow to
burrow, as if on some errand of the last importance to their
subterranean commonwealth. The snakes were apparently the prairie
dog's worst enemies, at least I think too well of the latter to
suppose that they associate on friendly terms with these slimy
intruders, who may be seen at all times basking among their holes,
into which they always retreat when disturbed. Small owls, with wise
and grave countenances, also make their abode with the prairie dogs,
though on what terms they live together I could never ascertain. The
manners and customs, the political and domestic economy of these
little marmots is worthy of closer attention than one is able to give
when pushing by forced marches through their country, with his
thoughts engrossed by objects of greater moment.

On the fifth day after leaving Bisonette's camp we saw late in the
afternoon what we supposed to be a considerable stream, but on our
approaching it we found to our mortification nothing but a dry bed of
sand into which all the water had sunk and disappeared. We
separated, some riding in one direction and some in another along its
course. Still we found no traces of water, not even so much as a wet
spot in the sand. The old cotton-wood trees that grew along the
bank, lamentably abused by lightning and tempest, were withering with
the drought, and on the dead limbs, at the summit of the tallest,
half a dozen crows were hoarsely cawing like birds of evil omen as
they were. We had no alternative but to keep on. There was no water
nearer than the South Fork of the Platte, about ten miles distant.
We moved forward, angry and silent, over a desert as flat as the
outspread ocean.

The sky had been obscured since the morning by thin mists and vapors,
but now vast piles of clouds were gathered together in the west.
They rose to a great height above the horizon, and looking up toward
them I distinguished one mass darker than the rest and of a peculiar
conical form. I happened to look again and still could see it as
before. At some moments it was dimly seen, at others its outline was
sharp and distinct; but while the clouds around it were shifting,
changing, and dissolving away, it still towered aloft in the midst of
them, fixed and immovable. It must, thought I, be the summit of a
mountain, and yet its heights staggered me. My conclusion was right,
however. It was Long's Peak, once believed to be one of the highest
of the Rocky Mountain chain, though more recent discoveries have
proved the contrary. The thickening gloom soon hid it from view and
we never saw it again, for on the following day and for some time
after, the air was so full of mist that the view of distant objects
was entirely intercepted.

It grew very late. Turning from our direct course we made for the
river at its nearest point, though in the utter darkness it was not
easy to direct our way with much precision. Raymond rode on one side
and Henry on the other. We could hear each of them shouting that he
had come upon a deep ravine. We steered at random between Scylla and
Charybdis, and soon after became, as it seemed, inextricably involved
with deep chasms all around us, while the darkness was such that we
could not see a rod in any direction. We partially extricated
ourselves by scrambling, cart and all, through a shallow ravine. We
came next to a steep descent down which we plunged without well
knowing what was at the bottom. There was a great crackling of
sticks and dry twigs. Over our heads were certain large shadowy
objects, and in front something like the faint gleaming of a dark
sheet of water. Raymond ran his horse against a tree; Henry
alighted, and feeling on the ground declared that there was grass
enough for the horses. Before taking off his saddle each man led his
own horses down to the water in the best way he could. Then
picketing two or three of the evil-disposed we turned the rest loose
and lay down among the dry sticks to sleep. In the morning we found
ourselves close to the South Fork of the Platte on a spot surrounded
by bushes and rank grass. Compensating ourselves with a hearty
breakfast for the ill fare of the previous night, we set forward
again on our journey. When only two or three rods from the camp I
saw Shaw stop his mule, level his gun, and after a long aim fire at
some object in the grass. Delorier next jumped forward and began to
dance about, belaboring the unseen enemy with a whip. Then he
stooped down and drew out of the grass by the neck an enormous
rattlesnake, with his head completely shattered by Shaw's bullet. As
Delorier held him out at arm's length with an exulting grin his tail,
which still kept slowly writhing about, almost touched the ground,
and the body in the largest part was as thick as a stout man's arm.
He had fourteen rattles, but the end of his tail was blunted, as if
he could once have boasted of many more. From this time till we
reached the Pueblo we killed at least four or five of these snakes
every day as they lay coiled and rattling on the hot sand. Shaw was
the St. Patrick of the party, and whenever he or any one else killed
a snake he always pulled off his tail and stored it away in his
bullet-pouch, which was soon crammed with an edifying collection of
rattles, great and small. Delorier, with his whip, also came in for
a share of the praise. A day or two after this he triumphantly
produced a small snake about a span and a half long, with one infant
rattle at the end of his tail.

We forded the South Fork of the Platte. On its farther bank were the
traces of a very large camp of Arapahoes. The ashes of some three
hundred fires were visible among the scattered trees, together with
the remains of sweating lodges, and all the other appurtenances of a
permanent camp. The place however had been for some months deserted.
A few miles farther on we found more recent signs of Indians; the
trail of two or three lodges, which had evidently passed the day
before, where every foot-print was perfectly distinct in the dry,
dusty soil. We noticed in particular the track of one moccasin, upon
the sole of which its economical proprietor had placed a large patch.
These signs gave us but little uneasiness, as the number of the
warriors scarcely exceeded that of our own party. At noon we rested
under the walls of a large fort, built in these solitudes some years
since by M. St. Vrain. It was now abandoned and fast falling into
ruin. The walls of unbaked bricks were cracked from top to bottom.
Our horses recoiled in terror from the neglected entrance, where the
heavy gates were torn from their hinges and flung down. The area
within was overgrown with weeds, and the long ranges of apartments,
once occupied by the motley concourse of traders, Canadians, and
squaws, were now miserably dilapidated. Twelve miles further on,
near the spot where we encamped, were the remains of still another
fort, standing in melancholy desertion and neglect.

Early on the following morning we made a startling discovery. We
passed close by a large deserted encampment of Arapahoes. There were
about fifty fires still smouldering on the ground, and it was evident
from numerous signs that the Indians must have left the place within
two hours of our reaching it. Their trail crossed our own at right
angles, and led in the direction of a line of hills half a mile on
our left. There were women and children in the party, which would
have greatly diminished the danger of encountering them. Henry
Chatillon examined the encampment and the trail with a very
professional and businesslike air.

"Supposing we had met them, Henry?" said I.

"Why," said he, "we hold out our hands to them, and give them all
we've got; they take away everything, and then I believe they no kill
us. Perhaps," added he, looking up with a quiet, unchanged face,
"perhaps we no let them rob us. Maybe before they come near, we have
a chance to get into a ravine, or under the bank of the river; then,
you know, we fight them."

About noon on that day we reached Cherry Creek. Here was a great
abundance of wild cherries, plums, gooseberries, and currants. The
stream, however, like most of the others which we passed, was dried
up with the heat, and we had to dig holes in the sand to find water
for ourselves and our horses. Two days after, we left the banks of
the creek which we had been following for some time, and began to
cross the high dividing ridge which separates the waters of the
Platte from those of the Arkansas. The scenery was altogether
changed. In place of the burning plains we were passing now through
rough and savage glens and among hills crowned with a dreary growth
of pines. We encamped among these solitudes on the night of the 16th
of August. A tempest was threatening. The sun went down among
volumes of jet-black cloud, edged with a bloody red. But in spite of
these portentous signs, we neglected to put up the tent, and being
extremely fatigued, lay down on the ground and fell asleep. The
storm broke about midnight, and we erected the tent amid darkness and
confusion. In the morning all was fair again, and Pike's Peak, white
with snow, was towering above the wilderness afar off.

We pushed through an extensive tract of pine woods. Large black
squirrels were leaping among the branches. From the farther edge of
this forest we saw the prairie again, hollowed out before us into a
vast basin, and about a mile in front we could discern a little black
speck moving upon its surface. It could be nothing but a buffalo.
Henry primed his rifle afresh and galloped forward. To the left of
the animal was a low rocky mound, of which Henry availed himself in
making his approach. After a short time we heard the faint report of
the rifle. The bull, mortally wounded from a distance of nearly
three hundred yards, ran wildly round and round in a circle. Shaw
and I then galloped forward, and passing him as he ran, foaming with
rage and pain, we discharged our pistols into his side. Once or
twice he rushed furiously upon us, but his strength was rapidly
exhausted. Down he fell on his knees. For one instant he glared up
at his enemies with burning eyes through his black tangled mane, and
then rolled over on his side. Though gaunt and thin, he was larger
and heavier than the largest ox. Foam and blood flew together from
his nostrils as he lay bellowing and pawing the ground, tearing up
grass and earth with his hoofs. His sides rose and fell like a vast
pair of bellows, the blood spouting up in jets from the bullet-holes.
Suddenly his glaring eyes became like a lifeless jelly. He lay
motionless on the ground. Henry stooped over him, and making an
incision with his knife, pronounced the meat too rank and tough for
use; so, disappointed in our hopes of an addition to our stock of
provisions, we rode away and left the carcass to the wolves.

In the afternoon we saw the mountains rising like a gigantic wall at
no great distance on our right. "Des sauvages! des sauvages!"
exclaimed Delorier, looking round with a frightened face, and
pointing with his whip toward the foot of the mountains. In fact, we
could see at a distance a number of little black specks, like
horsemen in rapid motion. Henry Chatillon, with Shaw and myself,
galloped toward them to reconnoiter, when to our amusement we saw the
supposed Arapahoes resolved into the black tops of some pine trees
which grew along a ravine. The summits of these pines, just visible
above the verge of the prairie, and seeming to move as we ourselves
were advancing, looked exactly like a line of horsemen.

We encamped among ravines and hollows, through which a little brook
was foaming angrily. Before sunrise in the morning the snow-covered
mountains were beautifully tinged with a delicate rose color. A
noble spectacle awaited us as we moved forward. Six or eight miles
on our right, Pike's Peak and his giant brethren rose out of the
level prairie, as if springing from the bed of the ocean. From their
summits down to the plain below they were involved in a mantle of
clouds, in restless motion, as if urged by strong winds. For one
instant some snowy peak, towering in awful solitude, would be
disclosed to view. As the clouds broke along the mountain, we could
see the dreary forests, the tremendous precipices, the white patches
of snow, the gulfs and chasms as black as night, all revealed for an
instant, and then disappearing from the view. One could not but
recall the stanza of "Childe Harold":

Morn dawns, and with it stern Albania's hills,
Dark Suli's rocks, and Pindus' inland peak,
Robed half in mist, bedewed with snowy rills,
Array'd in many a dun and purple streak,
Arise; and, as the clouds along them break,
Disclose the dwelling of the mountaineer:
Here roams the wolf, the eagle whets his beak,
Birds, beasts of prey, and wilder men appear,
And gathering storms around convulse the closing year.

Every line save one of this description was more than verified here.
There were no "dwellings of the mountaineer" among these heights.
Fierce savages, restlessly wandering through summer and winter, alone
invade them. "Their hand is against every man, and every man's hand
against them."

On the day after, we had left the mountains at some distance. A
black cloud descended upon them, and a tremendous explosion of
thunder followed, reverberating among the precipices. In a few
moments everything grew black and the rain poured down like a
cataract. We got under an old cotton-wood tree which stood by the
side of a stream, and waited there till the rage of the torrent had

The clouds opened at the point where they first had gathered, and the
whole sublime congregation of mountains was bathed at once in warm
sunshine. They seemed more like some luxurious vision of Eastern
romance than like a reality of that wilderness; all were melted
together into a soft delicious blue, as voluptuous as the sky of
Naples or the transparent sea that washes the sunny cliffs of Capri.
On the left the whole sky was still of an inky blackness; but two
concentric rainbows stood in brilliant relief against it, while far
in front the ragged cloud still streamed before the wind, and the
retreating thunder muttered angrily.

Through that afternoon and the next morning we were passing down the
banks of the stream called La Fontaine qui Bouille, from the boiling
spring whose waters flow into it. When we stopped at noon, we were
within six or eight miles of the Pueblo. Setting out again, we found
by the fresh tracks that a horseman had just been out to reconnoiter
us; he had circled half round the camp, and then galloped back full
speed for the Pueblo. What made him so shy of us we could not
conceive. After an hour's ride we reached the edge of a hill, from
which a welcome sight greeted us. The Arkansas ran along the valley
below, among woods and groves, and closely nestled in the midst of
wide cornfields and green meadows where cattle were grazing rose the
low mud walls of the Pueblo.



We approached the gate of the Pueblo. It was a wretched species of
fort of most primitive construction, being nothing more than a large
square inclosure, surrounded by a wall of mud, miserably cracked and
dilapidated. The slender pickets that surmounted it were half broken
down, and the gate dangled on its wooden hinges so loosely, that to
open or shut it seemed likely to fling it down altogether. Two or
three squalid Mexicans, with their broad hats, and their vile faces
overgrown with hair, were lounging about the bank of the river in
front of it. They disappeared as they saw us approach; and as we
rode up to the gate a light active little figure came out to meet us.
It was our old friend Richard. He had come from Fort Laramie on a
trading expedition to Taos; but finding, when he reached the Pueblo,
that the war would prevent his going farther, he was quietly waiting
till the conquest of the country should allow him to proceed. He
seemed to consider himself bound to do the honors of the place.
Shaking us warmly by the hands, he led the way into the area.

Here we saw his large Santa Fe wagons standing together. A few
squaws and Spanish women, and a few Mexicans, as mean and miserable
as the place itself, were lazily sauntering about. Richard conducted
us to the state apartment of the Pueblo, a small mud room, very
neatly finished, considering the material, and garnished with a
crucifix, a looking-glass, a picture of the Virgin, and a rusty horse
pistol. There were no chairs, but instead of them a number of chests
and boxes ranged about the room. There was another room beyond, less
sumptuously decorated, and here three or four Spanish girls, one of
them very pretty, were baking cakes at a mud fireplace in the corner.
They brought out a poncho, which they spread upon the floor by way of
table-cloth. A supper, which seemed to us luxurious, was soon laid
out upon it, and folded buffalo robes were placed around it to
receive the guests. Two or three Americans, besides ourselves, were
present. We sat down Turkish fashion, and began to inquire the news.
Richard told us that, about three weeks before, General Kearny's army
had left Bent's Fort to march against Santa Fe; that when last heard
from they were approaching the mountainous defiles that led to the
city. One of the Americans produced a dingy newspaper, containing an
account of the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. While we
were discussing these matters, the doorway was darkened by a tall,
shambling fellow, who stood with his hands in his pockets taking a
leisurely survey of the premises before he entered. He wore brown
homespun pantaloons, much too short for his legs, and a pistol and
bowie knife stuck in his belt. His head and one eye were enveloped
in a huge bandage of white linen. Having completed his observations,
he came slouching in and sat down on a chest. Eight or ten more of
the same stamp followed, and very coolly arranging themselves about
the room, began to stare at the company. Shaw and I looked at each
other. We were forcibly reminded of the Oregon emigrants, though
these unwelcome visitors had a certain glitter of the eye, and a
compression of the lips, which distinguished them from our old
acquaintances of the prairie. They began to catechise us at once,
inquiring whence we had come, what we meant to do next, and what were
our future prospects in life.

The man with the bandaged head had met with an untoward accident a
few days before. He was going down to the river to bring water, and
was pushing through the young willows which covered the low ground,
when he came unawares upon a grizzly bear, which, having just eaten a
buffalo bull, had lain down to sleep off the meal. The bear rose on
his hind legs, and gave the intruder such a blow with his paw that he
laid his forehead entirely bare, clawed off the front of his scalp,
and narrowly missed one of his eyes. Fortunately he was not in a
very pugnacious mood, being surfeited with his late meal. The man's
companions, who were close behind, raised a shout and the bear walked
away, crushing down the willows in his leisurely retreat.

These men belonged to a party of Mormons, who, out of a well-grounded
fear of the other emigrants, had postponed leaving the settlements
until all the rest were gone. On account of this delay they did not
reach Fort Laramie until it was too late to continue their journey to
California. Hearing that there was good land at the head of the
Arkansas, they crossed over under the guidance of Richard, and were
now preparing to spend the winter at a spot about half a mile from
the Pueblo.

When we took leave of Richard, it was near sunset. Passing out of
the gate, we could look down the little valley of the Arkansas; a
beautiful scene, and doubly so to our eyes, so long accustomed to
deserts and mountains. Tall woods lined the river, with green
meadows on either hand; and high bluffs, quietly basking in the
sunlight, flanked the narrow valley. A Mexican on horseback was
driving a herd of cattle toward the gate, and our little white tent,
which the men had pitched under a large tree in the meadow, made a
very pleasing feature in the scene. When we reached it, we found
that Richard had sent a Mexican to bring us an abundant supply of
green corn and vegetables, and invite us to help ourselves to
whatever we wished from the fields around the Pueblo.

The inhabitants were in daily apprehensions of an inroad from more
formidable consumers than ourselves. Every year at the time when the
corn begins to ripen, the Arapahoes, to the number of several
thousands, come and encamp around the Pueblo. The handful of white
men, who are entirely at the mercy of this swarm of barbarians,
choose to make a merit of necessity; they come forward very
cordially, shake them by the hand, and intimate that the harvest is
entirely at their disposal. The Arapahoes take them at their word,
help themselves most liberally, and usually turn their horses into
the cornfields afterward. They have the foresight, however, to leave
enough of the crops untouched to serve as an inducement for planting
the fields again for their benefit in the next spring.

The human race in this part of the world is separated into three
divisions, arranged in the order of their merits; white men, Indians,
and Mexicans; to the latter of whom the honorable title of "whites"
is by no means conceded.

In spite of the warm sunset of that evening the next morning was a
dreary and cheerless one. It rained steadily, clouds resting upon
the very treetops. We crossed the river to visit the Mormon
settlement. As we passed through the water, several trappers on
horseback entered it from the other side. Their buckskin frocks were
soaked through by the rain, and clung fast to their limbs with a most
clammy and uncomfortable look. The water was trickling down their
faces, and dropping from the ends of their rifles, and from the traps
which each carried at the pommel of his saddle. Horses and all, they
had a most disconsolate and woebegone appearance, which we could not
help laughing at, forgetting how often we ourselves had been in a
similar plight.

After half an hour's riding we saw the white wagons of the Mormons
drawn up among the trees. Axes were sounding, trees were falling,
and log-huts going up along the edge of the woods and upon the
adjoining meadow. As we came up the Mormons left their work and
seated themselves on the timber around us, when they began earnestly
to discuss points of theology, complain of the ill-usage they had
received from the "Gentiles," and sound a lamentation over the loss
of their great temple at Nauvoo. After remaining with them an hour
we rode back to our camp, happy that the settlements had been
delivered from the presence of such blind and desperate fanatics.

On the morning after this we left the Pueblo for Bent's Fort. The
conduct of Raymond had lately been less satisfactory than before, and
we had discharged him as soon as we arrived at the former place; so
that the party, ourselves included, was now reduced to four. There
was some uncertainty as to our future course. The trail between
Bent's Fort and the settlements, a distance computed at six hundred
miles, was at this time in a dangerous state; for since the passage
of General Kearny's army, great numbers of hostile Indians, chiefly
Pawnees and Comanches, had gathered about some parts of it. A little
after this time they became so numerous and audacious, that scarcely
a single party, however large, passed between the fort and the
frontier without some token of their hostility. The newspapers of
the time sufficiently display this state of things. Many men were
killed, and great numbers of horses and mules carried off. Not long
since I met with the gentleman, who, during the autumn, came from
Santa Fe to Bent's Fort, when he found a party of seventy men, who
thought themselves too weak to go down to the settlements alone, and
were waiting there for a re-enforcement. Though this excessive
timidity fully proves the ignorance and credulity of the men, it may
also evince the state of alarm which prevailed in the country. When
we were there in the month of August, the danger had not become so
great. There was nothing very attractive in the neighborhood. We
supposed, moreover, that we might wait there half the winter without
finding any party to go down with us; for Mr. Sublette and the others
whom we had relied upon had, as Richard told us, already left Bent's
Fort. Thus far on our journey Fortune had kindly befriended us. We
resolved therefore to take advantage of her gracious mood and
trusting for a continuance of her favors, to set out with Henry and
Delorier, and run the gauntlet of the Indians in the best way we

Bent's Fort stands on the river, about seventy-five miles below the
Pueblo. At noon of the third day we arrived within three or four
miles of it, pitched our tent under a tree, hung our looking-glasses
against its trunk and having made our primitive toilet, rode toward
the fort. We soon came in sight of it, for it is visible from a
considerable distance, standing with its high clay walls in the midst
of the scorching plains. It seemed as if a swarm of locusts had
invaded the country. The grass for miles around was cropped close by
the horses of General Kearny's soldiery. When we came to the fort,
we found that not only had the horses eaten up the grass, but their
owners had made away with the stores of the little trading post; so
that we had great difficulty in procuring the few articles which we
required for our homeward journey. The army was gone, the life and
bustle passed away, and the fort was a scene of dull and lazy
tranquillity. A few invalid officers and soldiers sauntered about
the area, which was oppressively hot; for the glaring sun was
reflected down upon it from the high white walls around. The
proprietors were absent, and we were received by Mr. Holt, who had
been left in charge of the fort. He invited us to dinner, where, to
our admiration, we found a table laid with a white cloth, with
castors in the center and chairs placed around it. This unwonted
repast concluded, we rode back to our camp.

Here, as we lay smoking round the fire after supper, we saw through
the dusk three men approaching from the direction of the fort. They
rode up and seated themselves near us on the ground. The foremost
was a tall, well-formed man, with a face and manner such as inspire
confidence at once. He wore a broad hat of felt, slouching and
tattered, and the rest of his attire consisted of a frock and
leggings of buckskin, rubbed with the yellow clay found among the
mountains. At the heel of one of his moccasins was buckled a huge
iron spur, with a rowel five or six inches in diameter. His horse,
who stood quietly looking over his head, had a rude Mexican saddle,

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