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by Robert Michael Ballantyne

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Title: The Dog Crusoe and His Master
       A Story of Adventure in the Western Prairies

Author: Robert Michael Ballantyne

Release Date: February 4, 2004 [EBook #10929]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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Produced by Dave Morgan, Bradley Norton and PG Distributed Proofreaders





Crusoe/image002.jpg

THE DOG CRUSOE



AND

HIS MASTER

A Story of Adventure in the Western Prairies

By

Robert Michael Ballantyne

Author of "The Coral Island," "The Young Fur-Traders," "Ungava,"

"The Gorilla-Hunters," "The World of Ice,"

"Martin Rattler."

Etc.

1894

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

The backwoods settlement--Crusoe's parentage and early history--The
agonizing pains and sorrows of his puppyhood, and other interesting
matters
.

CHAPTER II.

A shooting-match and its consequences--New friends introduced to
the reader--Crusoe and his mother change masters
.

CHAPTER III.

Speculative remarks with which the reader may or may not agree--An
old woman--Hopes and wishes commingled with hard facts--The dog
Crusoe's education begun
.

CHAPTER IV.

Our hero enlarged upon--Grumps.

CHAPTER V.

A mission of peace--Unexpected joys--Dick and Crusoe set off for
the land of the Redskins, and meet with adventures by the way as a
matter of course--in the wild woods
.

CHAPTER VI.

The great prairies of the far west--A remarkable colony discovered,
and a miserable night endured
.

CHAPTER VII.

The "wallering" peculiarities of buffalo bulls--The first buffalo
hunt
and its consequences--Crusoe comes to the rescue--Pawnees
discovered--A monster buffalo hunt--Joe acts the part of
ambassador
.

CHAPTER VIII.

Dick and his friends visit the Indians and see many
wonders--Crusoe,
too, experiences a few surprises, and teaches Indian dogs a lesson--An
Indian dandy--A foot-race
.

CHAPTER IX.

Crusoe acts a conspicuous and humane part--A friend gained--A great
feast
.

CHAPTER X.

Perplexities--Our hunters plan their escape--Unexpected
interruption--The tables turned--Crusoe mounts guard--The escape
.

CHAPTER XI.

Evening meditations and morning reflections--Buffaloes, badgers,
antelopes, and accidents--An old bull and the wolves--"Mad
tails"--Henri floored,
etc
.

CHAPTER XII.

Wanderings on the prairie--A war party--Chased by Indians--A bold
leap for life
.

CHAPTER XIII.

Escape from Indians--A discovery--Alone in the desert.

CHAPTER XIV.

Crusoe's return, and his private adventures among the Indians--Dick
at a very low ebb--Crusoe saves him
.

CHAPTER XV.

Health and happiness return--Incidents of the journey--A buffalo
shot--A wild horse "creased"--Dick's battle with a mustang
.

CHAPTER XVI.

Dick becomes a horse tamer--Resumes his journey--Charlie's
doings--Misfortunes which lead to, but do not terminate in, the Rocky
Mountains--A grizzly bear
.

CHAPTER XVII.

Dick's first fight with a grizzly--Adventure with a deer--A
surprise
.

CHAPTER XVIII.

A surprise, and a piece of good news--The fur-traders--Crusoe
proved, and the Peigans pursued>.


CHAPTER XIX.

Adventures with the Peigans--Crusoe does good service as a
discoverer--The savages outwitted--The rescue
.

CHAPTER XX.

New plans--Our travellers join the fur-traders, and see many
strange things--A curious fight--A narrow escape, and a
prisoner taken
.

CHAPTER XXI.

Wolves attack the horses, and Cameron circumvents the wolves--A
bear-hunt, in which Henri shines conspicuous--Joe and the
"Natter-list"--An alarm--A surprise and a capture
.

CHAPTER XXII.

Charlie's adventures with savages and bears--Trapping life.

CHAPTER XXIII.

Savage sports--Living cataracts--An alarm--Indians and their
doings--The stampede--Charlie again
.

CHAPTER XXIV.

Plans and prospects--Dick becomes home-sick, and Henri
metaphysical--The Indians attack the camp--A blow-up
.

CHAPTER XXV.

Dangers of the prairie--Our travellers attacked by Indians, and
delivered in a remarkable manner
.

CHAPTER XXVI.

Anxious fears followed by a joyful surprise--Safe home at last, and
happy hearts
.

CHAPTER XXVII.

Rejoicings--The feast at the block-house--Grumps and Crusoe come
out strong--The closing scene
.



THE DOG CRUSOE.





CHAPTER I.




The backwoods settlement--Crusoe's parentage, and early
history--The agonizing pains and sorrows of his puppyhood,
and other interesting matters
.

The dog Crusoe was once a pup. Now do not,
courteous reader, toss your head contemptuously,
and exclaim, "Of course he was; I could have told you
that." You know very well that you have often seen a
man above six feet high, broad and powerful as a lion,
with a bronzed shaggy visage and the stern glance of an
eagle, of whom you have said, or thought, or heard others
say, "It is scarcely possible to believe that such a man
was once a squalling baby." If you had seen our hero
in all the strength and majesty of full-grown doghood,
you would have experienced a vague sort of surprise
had we told you--as we now repeat--that the dog
Crusoe was once a pup--a soft, round, sprawling,
squeaking pup, as fat as a tallow candle, and as blind
as a bat.

But we draw particular attention to the fact of
Crusoe's having once been a pup, because in connection
with the days of his puppyhood there hangs a tale.

This peculiar dog may thus be said to have had two
tails--one in connection with his body, the other with
his career. This tale, though short, is very harrowing,
and as it is intimately connected with Crusoe's subsequent
history we will relate it here. But before doing
so we must beg our reader to accompany us beyond the
civilized portions of the United States of America--beyond
the frontier settlements of the "far west," into
those wild prairies which are watered by the great
Missouri River--the Father of Waters--and his numerous
tributaries.

Here dwell the Pawnees, the Sioux, the Delawarers,
the Crows, the Blackfeet, and many other tribes of Red
Indians, who are gradually retreating step by step towards
the Rocky Mountains as the advancing white
man cuts down their trees and ploughs up their prairies.
Here, too, dwell the wild horse and the wild ass, the
deer, the buffalo, and the badger; all, men and brutes
alike, wild as the power of untamed and ungovernable
passion can make them, and free as the wind that
sweeps over their mighty plains.

There is a romantic and exquisitely beautiful spot on
the banks of one of the tributaries above referred
to--long stretch of mingled woodland and meadow, with
a magnificent lake lying like a gem in its green bosom--which
goes by the name of the Mustang Valley.
This remote vale, even at the present day, is but thinly
peopled by white men, and is still a frontier settlement
round which the wolf and the bear prowl curiously,
and from which the startled deer bounds terrified away.
At the period of which we write the valley had just
been taken possession of by several families of squatters,
who, tired of the turmoil and the squabbles of the then
frontier settlements, had pushed boldly into the far
west to seek a new home for themselves, where they
could have "elbow room," regardless alike of the
dangers they might encounter in unknown lands and of
the Redskins who dwelt there.

The squatters were well armed with axes, rifles, and
ammunition. Most of the women were used to dangers
and alarms, and placed implicit reliance in the power
of their fathers, husbands, and brothers to protect them;
and well they might, for a bolder set of stalwart men
than these backwoodsmen never trod the wilderness.
Each had been trained to the use of the rifle and the
axe from infancy, and many of them had spent so much
of their lives in the woods that they were more than a
match for the Indian in his own peculiar pursuits of
hunting and war. When the squatters first issued from
the woods bordering the valley, an immense herd of
wild horses or mustangs were browsing on the plain.
These no sooner beheld the cavalcade of white men
than, uttering a wild neigh, they tossed their flowing
manes in the breeze and dashed away like a whirlwind.
This incident procured the valley its name.

The new-comers gave one satisfied glance at their
future home, and then set to work to erect log huts
forthwith. Soon the axe was heard ringing through
the forests, and tree after tree fell to the ground, while
the occasional sharp ring of a rifle told that the hunters
were catering successfully for the camp. In course of
time the Mustang Valley began to assume the aspect of
a thriving settlement, with cottages and waving fields
clustered together in the midst of it.

Of course the savages soon found it out and paid it
occasional visits. These dark-skinned tenants of the
woods brought furs of wild animals with them, which
they exchanged with the white men for knives, and
beads, and baubles and trinkets of brass and tin. But
they hated the "Pale-faces" with bitter hatred, because
their encroachments had at this time materially curtailed
the extent of their hunting-grounds, and nothing
but the numbers and known courage of the squatters
prevented these savages from butchering and scalping
them all.

The leader of this band of pioneers was a Major
Hope, a gentleman whose love for nature in its wildest
aspects determined him to exchange barrack life for a
life in the woods. The major was a first-rate shot, a
bold, fearless man, and an enthusiastic naturalist. He
was past the prime of life, and being a bachelor, was
unencumbered with a family. His first act on reaching
the site of the new settlement was to commence the
erection of a block-house, to which the people might
retire in case of a general attack by the Indians.

In this block-house Major Hope took up his abode
as the guardian of the settlement. And here the dog
Crusoe was born; here he sprawled in the early morn
of life; here he leaped, and yelped, and wagged his
shaggy tail in the excessive glee of puppyhood; and
from the wooden portals of this block-house he bounded
forth to the chase in all the fire, and strength, and
majesty of full-grown doghood.

Crusoe's father and mother were magnificent Newfoundlanders.
There was no doubt as to their being of
the genuine breed, for Major Hope had received them
as a parting gift from a brother officer, who had brought
them both from Newfoundland itself. The father's
name was Crusoe, the mother's name was Fan. Why
the father had been so called no one could tell. The
man from whom Major Hope's friend had obtained the
pair was a poor, illiterate fisherman, who had never
heard of the celebrated "Robinson" in all his life. All
he knew was that Fan had been named after his own
wife. As for Crusoe, he had got him from a friend,
who had got him from another friend, whose cousin had
received him as a marriage-gift from a friend of his;
and that each had said to the other that the dog's name
was "Crusoe," without reasons being asked or given on
either side. On arriving at New York the major's
friend, as we have said, made him a present of the dogs.
Not being much of a dog fancier, he soon tired of old
Crusoe, and gave him away to a gentleman, who took
him down to Florida, and that was the end of him. He
was never heard of more.

When Crusoe, junior, was born, he was born, of
course, without a name. That was given to him afterwards
in honour of his father. He was also born in
company with a brother and two sisters, all of whom
drowned themselves accidentally, in the first month of
their existence, by falling into the river which flowed
past the block-house--a calamity which occurred,
doubtless, in consequence of their having gone out without
their mother's leave. Little Crusoe was with his
brother and sisters at the time, and fell in along with
them, but was saved from sharing their fate by his
mother, who, seeing what had happened, dashed with
an agonized howl into the water, and, seizing him in
her mouth, brought him ashore in a half-drowned condition.
She afterwards brought the others ashore one
by one, but the poor little things were dead.

And now we come to the harrowing part of our tale,
for the proper understanding of which the foregoing
dissertation was needful.

One beautiful afternoon, in that charming season of
the American year called the Indian summer, there
came a family of Sioux Indians to the Mustang Valley,
and pitched their tent close to the block-house. A
young hunter stood leaning against the gate-post of the
palisades, watching the movements of the Indians, who,
having just finished a long "palaver" or talk with
Major Hope, were now in the act of preparing supper.
A fire had been kindled on the greensward in front of
the tent, and above it stood a tripod, from which depended
a large tin camp-kettle. Over this hung an ill-favoured
Indian woman, or squaw, who, besides attending
to the contents of the pot, bestowed sundry cuffs and
kicks upon her little child, which sat near to her playing
with several Indian curs that gambolled round the fire.
The master of the family and his two sons reclined on
buffalo robes, smoking their stone pipes or calumets in
silence. There was nothing peculiar in their appearance.
Their faces were neither dignified nor coarse in
expression, but wore an aspect of stupid apathy, which
formed a striking contrast to the countenance of the
young hunter, who seemed an amused spectator of their
proceedings.

The youth referred to was very unlike, in many
respects, to what we are accustomed to suppose a backwoods
hunter should be. He did not possess that quiet
gravity and staid demeanour which often characterize
these men. True, he was tall and strongly made, but
no one would have called him stalwart, and his frame
indicated grace and agility rather than strength. But
the point about him which rendered him different from
his companions was his bounding, irrepressible flow of
spirits, strangely coupled with an intense love of solitary
wandering in the woods. None seemed so well fitted
for social enjoyment as he; none laughed so heartily, or
expressed such glee in his mischief-loving eye; yet for
days together he went off alone into the forest, and
wandered where his fancy led him, as grave and silent
as an Indian warrior.

After all, there was nothing mysterious in this. The
boy followed implicitly the dictates of nature within
him. He was amiable, straightforward, sanguine, and
intensely earnest. When he laughed, he let it out, as
sailors have it, "with a will." When there was good
cause to be grave, no power on earth could make him
smile. We have called him boy, but in truth he was
about that uncertain period of life when a youth is said
to be neither a man nor a boy. His face was good-looking
(every earnest, candid face is) and masculine;
his hair was reddish-brown and his eye bright-blue.
He was costumed in the deerskin cap, leggings, moccasins,
and leathern shirt common to the western hunter.
"You seem tickled wi' the Injuns, Dick Varley,"
said a man who at that moment issued from the blockhouse.

"That's just what I am, Joe Blunt," replied the
youth, turning with a broad grin to his companion.

"Have a care, lad; do not laugh at 'em too much.
They soon take offence; an' them Redskins never forgive."

"But I'm only laughing at the baby," returned the
youth, pointing to the child, which, with a mixture of
boldness and timidity, was playing with a pup, wrinkling
up its fat visage into a smile when its playmate
rushed away in sport, and opening wide its jet-black
eyes in grave anxiety as the pup returned at full gallop.

"It 'ud make an owl laugh," continued young Varley,
"to see such a queer pictur' o' itself."

He paused suddenly, and a dark frown covered his
face as he saw the Indian woman stoop quickly down,
catch the pup by its hind-leg with one hand, seize a
heavy piece of wood with the other, and strike it several
violent blows on the throat. Without taking the
trouble to kill the poor animal outright, the savage then
held its still writhing body over the fire in order to
singe off the hair before putting it into the pot to be
cooked.

The cruel act drew young Varley's attention more
closely to the pup, and it flashed across his mind that
this could be no other than young Crusoe, which neither
he nor his companion had before seen, although they had
often heard others speak of and describe it.

Had the little creature been one of the unfortunate
Indian curs, the two hunters would probably have
turned from the sickening sight with disgust, feeling
that, however much they might dislike such cruelty,
it would be of no use attempting to interfere with
Indian usages. But the instant the idea that it was
Crusoe occurred to Varley he uttered a yell of anger,
and sprang towards the woman with a bound that
caused the three Indians to leap to their feet and grasp
their tomahawks.

Blunt did not move from the gate, but threw forward
his rifle with a careless motion, but an expressive glance,
that caused the Indians to resume their seats and pipes
with an emphatic "Wah!" of disgust at having been
startled out of their propriety by a trifle; while Dick
Varley snatched poor Crusoe from his dangerous and
painful position, scowled angrily in the woman's face,
and turning on his heel, walked up to the house, holding
the pup tenderly in his arms.

Joe Blunt gazed after his friend with a grave, solemn
expression of countenance till he disappeared; then he
looked at the ground, and shook his head.

Joe was one of the regular out-and-out backwoods
hunters, both in appearance and in fact--broad, tall,
massive, lion-like; gifted with the hunting, stalking,
running, and trail-following powers of the savage, and
with a superabundance of the shooting and fighting
powers, the daring, and dash of the Anglo-Saxon. He
was grave, too--seldom smiled, and rarely laughed.
His expression almost at all times was a compound of
seriousness and good-humour. With the rifle he was
a good, steady shot, but by no means a "crack"
one. His ball never failed to hit, but it often failed
to kill.

After meditating a few seconds, Joe Blunt again
shook his head, and muttered to himself, "The boy's
bold enough, but he's too reckless for a hunter. There
was no need for that yell, now--none at all."

Having uttered this sagacious remark, he threw his
rifle into the hollow of his left arm, turned round, and
strode off with a long, slow step towards his own cottage.

Blunt was an American by birth, but of Irish extraction,
and to an attentive ear there was a faint echo of the
brogue in his tone, which seemed to have been handed
down to him as a threadbare and almost worn-out heirloom.

Poor Crusoe was singed almost naked. His wretched
tail seemed little better than a piece of wire filed off to
a point, and he vented his misery in piteous squeaks as
the sympathetic Varley confided him tenderly to the
care of his mother. How Fan managed to cure him no
one can tell, but cure him she did, for, in the course of
a few weeks, Crusoe was as well and sleek and fat as
ever.

Crusoe/image001.jpg

CHAPTER II.




A shooting-match and its consequences--New friends
introduced to the reader
--Crusoe and his mother
change masters
.

Shortly after the incident narrated in the last
chapter the squatters of the Mustang Valley lost
their leader. Major Hope suddenly announced his intention
of quitting the settlement and returning to the
civilized world. Private matters, he said, required his
presence there--matters which he did not choose to
speak of, but which would prevent his returning again
to reside among them. Go he must, and, being a man
of determination, go he did; but before going he distributed
all his goods and chattels among the settlers.
He even gave away his rifle, and Fan and Crusoe.
These last, however, he resolved should go together;
and as they were well worth having, he announced that
he would give them to the best shot in the valley. He
stipulated that the winner should escort him to the
nearest settlement eastward, after which he might return
with the rifle on his shoulder.

Accordingly, a long level piece of ground on the
river's bank, with a perpendicular cliff at the end of
it, was selected as the shooting-ground, and, on the
appointed day, at the appointed hour, the competitors
began to assemble.

"Well, lad, first as usual," exclaimed Joe Blunt, as he
reached the ground and found Dick Varley there before
him.

"I've bin here more than an hour lookin' for a new
kind o' flower that Jack Morgan told me he'd seen.
And I've found it too. Look here; did you ever see
one like it before?"

Blunt leaned his rifle against a tree, and carefully
examined the flower.

"Why, yes, I've seed a-many o' them up about the
Rocky Mountains, but never one here-away. It seems
to have gone lost itself. The last I seed, if I remimber
rightly, wos near the head-waters o' the Yellowstone
River, it wos--jest where I shot a grizzly bar."

"Was that the bar that gave you the wipe on the
cheek?" asked Varley, forgetting the flower in his
interest about the bear.

"It wos. I put six balls in that bar's carcass, and
stuck my knife into its heart ten times, afore it gave
out; an' it nearly ripped the shirt off my back afore I
wos done with it."

"I would give my rifle to get a chance at a grizzly!"
exclaimed Varley, with a sudden burst of enthusiasm.

"Whoever got it wouldn't have much to brag of," remarked
a burly young backwoodsman, as he joined them.

His remark was true, for poor Dick's weapon was
but a sorry affair. It missed fire, and it hung fire; and
even when it did fire, it remained a matter of doubt in
its owner's mind whether the slight deviations from
the direct line made by his bullets were the result of
his or its bad shooting.

Further comment upon it was checked by the arrival
of a dozen or more hunters on the scene of action.
They were a sturdy set of bronzed, bold, fearless men,
and one felt, on looking at them, that they would prove
more than a match for several hundreds of Indians in
open fight. A few minutes after, the major himself
came on the ground with the prize rifle on his shoulder,
and Fan and Crusoe at his heels--the latter tumbling,
scrambling, and yelping after its mother, fat and clumsy,
and happy as possible, having evidently quite forgotten
that it had been nearly roasted alive only a few weeks
before.

Immediately all eyes were on the rifle, and its merits
were discussed with animation.

And well did it deserve discussion, for such a piece
had never before been seen on the western frontier. It
was shorter in the barrel and larger in the bore than
the weapons chiefly in vogue at that time, and, besides
being of beautiful workmanship, was silver-mounted.
But the grand peculiarity about it, and that which
afterwards rendered it the mystery of mysteries to the
savages, was that it had two sets of locks--one percussion,
the other flint--so that, when caps failed, by
taking off the one set of locks and affixing the others,
it was converted into a flint rifle. The major, however,
took care never to run short of caps, so that the flint
locks were merely held as a reserve in case of need.

"Now, lads," cried Major Hope, stepping up to the
point whence they were to shoot, "remember the terms.
He who first drives the nail obtains the rifle, Fan, and
her pup, and accompanies me to the nearest settlement.
Each man shoots with his own gun, and draws lots for
the chance."

"Agreed," cried the men.

"Well, then, wipe your guns and draw lots. Henri
will fix the nail. Here it is."

The individual who stepped, or rather plunged forward
to receive the nail was a rare and remarkable
specimen of mankind. Like his comrades, he was half
a farmer and half a hunter. Like them, too, he was
clad in deerskin, and was tall and strong--nay, more,
he was gigantic. But, unlike them, he was clumsy,
awkward, loose-jointed, and a bad shot. Nevertheless
Henri was an immense favourite in the settlement, for
his good-humour knew no bounds. No one ever saw
him frown. Even when fighting with the savages, as
he was sometimes compelled to do in self-defence, he
went at them with a sort of jovial rage that was almost
laughable. Inconsiderate recklessness was one of his
chief characteristics, so that his comrades were rather
afraid of him on the war-trail or in the hunt, where
caution and frequently soundless motion were essential
to success or safety. But when Henri had a comrade
at his side to check him he was safe enough, being
humble-minded and obedient. Men used to say he
must have been born under a lucky star, for, notwithstanding
his natural inaptitude for all sorts of backwoods
life, he managed to scramble through everything
with safety, often with success, and sometimes with
credit.

To see Henri stalk a deer was worth a long day's
journey. Joe Blunt used to say he was "all jints
together, from the top of his head to the sole of his
moccasin." He threw his immense form into the most
inconceivable contortions, and slowly wound his way,
sometimes on hands and knees, sometimes flat, through
bush and brake, as if there was not a bone in his body,
and without the slightest noise. This sort of work was
so much against his plunging nature that he took long
to learn it; but when, through hard practice and the loss
of many a fine deer, he came at length to break himself
in to it, he gradually progressed to perfection, and
ultimately became the best stalker in the valley. This,
and this alone, enabled him to procure game, for, being
short-sighted, he could hit nothing beyond fifty yards,
except a buffalo or a barn-door.

Yet that same lithe body, which seemed as though
totally unhinged, could no more be bent, when the
muscles were strung, than an iron post. No one
wrestled with Henri unless he wished to have his back
broken. Few could equal and none could beat him
at running or leaping except Dick Varley. When
Henri ran a race even Joe Blunt laughed outright, for
arms and legs went like independent flails. When he
leaped, he hurled himself into space with a degree of
violence that seemed to insure a somersault; yet he
always came down with a crash on his feet. Plunging
was Henri's forte. He generally lounged about the
settlement when unoccupied, with his hands behind his
back, apparently in a reverie, and when called on to act,
he seemed to fancy he must have lost time, and could
only make up for it by plunging. This habit got him
into many awkward scrapes, but his herculean power
as often got him out of them. He was a French-Canadian,
and a particularly bad speaker of the English
language.

We offer no apology for this elaborate introduction
of Henri, for he was as good-hearted a fellow as ever
lived, and deserves special notice.

But to return. The sort of rifle practice called
"driving the nail," by which this match was to be
decided, was, and we believe still is, common among the
hunters of the far west. It consisted in this: an
ordinary large-headed nail was driven a short way into
a plank or a tree, and the hunters, standing at a distance
of fifty yards or so, fired at it until they succeeded in
driving it home. On the present occasion the major
resolved to test their shooting by making the distance
seventy yards.

Some of the older men shook their heads.

"It's too far," said one; "ye might as well try to
snuff the nose o' a mosquito."

"Jim Scraggs is the only man as'll hit that," said
another.

The man referred to was a long, lank, lantern-jawed
fellow, with a cross-grained expression of countenance.
He used the long, heavy Kentucky rifle, which, from
the ball being little larger than a pea, was called a pea-rifle.
Jim was no favourite, and had been named
Scraggs by his companions on account of his appearance.

In a few minutes the lots were drawn, and the
shooting began. Each hunter wiped out the barrel of
his piece with his ramrod as he stepped forward; then,
placing a ball in the palm of his left hand, he drew the
stopper of his powder-horn with his teeth, and poured
out as much powder as sufficed to cover the bullet.
This was the regular measure among them. Little
time was lost in firing, for these men did not "hang"
on their aim. The point of the rifle was slowly raised
to the object, and the instant the sight covered it the
ball sped to its mark. In a few minutes the nail was
encircled by bullet holes, scarcely two of which were
more than an inch distant from the mark, and one--fired
by Joe Blunt--entered the tree close beside it.

"Ah, Joe!" said the major, "I thought you would
have carried off the prize."

"So did not I, sir," returned Blunt, with a shake of
his head. "Had it a-bin a half-dollar at a hundred
yards, I'd ha' done better, but I never could hit the nail.
It's too small to see."

"That's cos ye've got no eyes," remarked Jim Scraggs,
with a sneer, as he stepped forward.

All tongues were now hushed, for the expected
champion was about to fire. The sharp crack of the
rifle was followed by a shout, for Jim had hit the nail-head
on the edge, and part of the bullet stuck to it.

"That wins if there's no better," said the major,
scarce able to conceal his disappointment. "Who comes
next?"

To this question Henri answered by stepping up to
the line, straddling his legs, and executing preliminary
movements with his rifle, that seemed to indicate an
intention on his part to throw the weapon bodily at the
mark. He was received with a shout of mingled laughter
and applause. After gazing steadily at the mark for
a few seconds, a broad grin overspread his countenance,
and looking round at his companions, he
said,--"Ha! mes boys, I can-not behold de nail at all!"

"Can ye 'behold' the tree?" shouted a voice, when
the laugh that followed this announcement had somewhat
abated.

"Oh! oui," replied Henri quite coolly; "I can see
him, an' a goot small bit of de forest beyond."

"Fire at it, then. If ye hit the tree ye desarve the
rifle--leastways ye ought to get the pup."

Henri grinned again, and fired instantly, without
taking aim.

The shot was followed by an exclamation of surprise,
for the bullet was found close beside the nail.

"It's more be good luck than good shootin'," remarked
Jim Scraggs.

"Possiblement," answered Henri modestly, as he retreated
to the rear and wiped out his rifle; "mais I
have kill most of my deer by dat same goot luck."

"Bravo, Henri!" said Major Hope as he passed;
"you deserve to win, anyhow. Who's next?"

"Dick Varley," cried several voices; "where's Varley?
Come on, youngster, an' take yer shot."

The youth came forward with evident reluctance.
"It's of no manner o' use," he whispered to Joe Blunt
as he passed, "I can't depend on my old gun."

"Never give in," whispered Blunt, encouragingly.

Poor Varley's want of confidence in his rifle was
merited, for, on pulling the trigger, the faithless lock
missed fire.

"Lend him another gun," cried several voices.

"'Gainst rules laid down by Major Hope," said
Scraggs.

"Well, so it is; try again."

Varley did try again, and so successfully, too, that
the ball hit the nail on the head, leaving a portion of
the lead sticking to its edge.

Of course this was greeted with a cheer, and a loud
dispute began as to which was the better shot of the
two.

"There are others to shoot yet," cried the major.
"Make way. Look out."

The men fell back, and the few hunters who had not
yet fired took their shots, but without coming nearer
the mark.

It was now agreed that Jim Scraggs and Dick Varley,
being the two best shots, should try over again, and it
was also agreed that Dick should have the use of Blunt's
rifle. Lots were again drawn for the first shot, and it
fell to Dick, who immediately stepped out, aimed somewhat
hastily, and fired.

"Hit again!" shouted those who had run forward to
examine the mark. "Half the bullet cut off by the
nail head!"

Some of the more enthusiastic of Dick's friends
cheered lustily, but the most of the hunters were grave
and silent, for they knew Jim's powers, and felt that he
would certainly do his best. Jim now stepped up to
the line, and, looking earnestly at the mark, threw forward
his rifle.

At that moment our friend Crusoe, tired of tormenting
his mother, waddled stupidly and innocently
into the midst of the crowd of men, and in so doing
received Henri's heel and the full weight of his elephantine
body on its fore paw. The horrible and electric
yell that instantly issued from his agonized throat could
only be compared, as Joe Blunt expressed it, "to the
last dyin' screech o' a bustin' steam biler!" We cannot
say that the effect was startling, for these backwoodsmen
had been born and bred in the midst of alarms,
and were so used to them that a "bustin' steam biler"
itself, unless it had blown them fairly off their legs,
would not have startled them. But the effect, such as
it was, was sufficient to disconcert the aim of Jim
Scraggs, who fired at the same instant, and missed the
nail by a hair's-breadth.

'Turning round in towering wrath, Scraggs aimed a
kick at the poor pup, which, had it taken effect, would
certainly have terminated the innocent existence of that
remarkable dog on the spot; but quick as lightning
Henri interposed the butt of his rifle, and Jim's shin
met it with a violence that caused him to howl with
rage and pain.

"Oh! pardon me, broder," cried Henri, shrinking
back, with the drollest expression of mingled pity and
glee.

Jim's discretion, on this occasion, was superior to his
valour; he turned away with a coarse expression of
anger and left the ground.

Meanwhile the major handed the silver rifle to young
Varley. "It couldn't have fallen into better hands," he
said. "You'll do it credit, lad, I know that full well;
and let me assure you it will never play you false.
Only keep it clean, don't overcharge it, aim true, and it
will never miss the mark."

While the hunters crowded round Dick to congratulate
him and examine the piece, he stood with a mingled
feeling of bashfulness and delight at his unexpected good
fortune. Recovering himself suddenly, he seized his old
rifle, and dropping quietly to the outskirts of the crowd,
while the men were still busy handling and discussing
the merits of the prize, went up, unobserved, to a boy
of about thirteen years of age, and touched him on the
shoulder.

"Here, Marston, you know I often said ye should
have the old rifle when I was rich enough to get a new
one. Take it now, lad. It's come to ye sooner than
either o' us expected."

"Dick," said the boy, grasping his friend's hand
warmly, "ye're true as heart of oak. It's good of 'ee;
that's a fact."

"Not a bit, boy; it costs me nothin' to give away an
old gun that I've no use for, an's worth little, but it
makes me right glad to have the chance to do it."

Marston had longed for a rifle ever since he could
walk; but his prospects of obtaining one were very poor
indeed at that time, and it is a question whether he did
not at that moment experience as much joy in handling
the old piece as his friend felt in shouldering the prize.

A difficulty now occurred which had not before been
thought of. This was no less than the absolute refusal
of Dick Varley's canine property to follow him. Fan
had no idea of changing masters without her consent
being asked or her inclination being consulted.

"You'll have to tie her up for a while, I fear," said
the major.

"No fear," answered the youth. "Dog natur's like
human natur'!"

Saying this he seized Crusoe by the neck, stuffed
him comfortably into the bosom of his hunting-shirt,
and walked rapidly away with the prize rifle on his
shoulder.

Fan had not bargained for this. She stood irresolute,
gazing now to the right and now to the left, as the
major retired in one direction and Dick with Crusoe in
another. Suddenly Crusoe, who, although comfortable
in body, was ill at ease in spirit, gave utterance to a
melancholy howl. The mother's love instantly prevailed.
For one moment she pricked up her ears at the sound,
and then, lowering them, trotted quietly after her new
master, and followed him to his cottage on the margin
of the lake.



CHAPTER III.




Speculative remarks with which the reader may or may not agree--An
old woman--Hopes and wishes commingled with hard facts--The dog
Crusoe's education begun
.

It is pleasant to look upon a serene, quiet, humble
face. On such a face did Richard Varley look
every night when he entered his mother's cottage. Mrs.
Varley was a widow, and she had followed the fortunes
of her brother, Daniel Hood, ever since the death of her
husband. Love for her only brother induced her to
forsake the peaceful village of Maryland and enter upon
the wild life of a backwoods settlement. Dick's mother
was thin, and old, and wrinkled, but her face was
stamped with a species of beauty which never
fades--the beauty of a loving look. Ah! the brow of snow
and the peach-bloom cheek may snare the heart of man
for a time, but the loving look alone can forge that
adamantine chain that time, age, eternity shall never
break.

Mistake us not, reader, and bear with us if we attempt
to analyze this look which characterized Mrs. Varley.
A rare diamond is worth stopping to glance at, even
when one is in a hurry. The brightest jewel in the
human heart is worth a thought or two. By a loving
look we do not mean a look of love bestowed on a
beloved object. That is common enough; and thankful
should we be that it is so common in a world that's
overfull of hatred. Still less do we mean that smile
and look of intense affection with which some people--good
people too--greet friend and foe alike, and by
which effort to work out their beau ideal of the expression
of Christian love they do signally damage their
cause, by saddening the serious and repelling the gay.
Much less do we mean that perpetual smile of good-will
which argues more of personal comfort and self-love
than anything else. No; the loving look we speak of
is as often grave as gay. Its character depends very
much on the face through which it beams. And it
cannot be counterfeited. Its ring defies imitation. Like
the clouded sun of April, it can pierce through tears of
sorrow; like the noontide sun of summer, it can blaze
in warm smiles; like the northern lights of winter, it
can gleam in depths of woe;--but it is always the same,
modified, doubtless, and rendered more or less patent to
others, according to the natural amiability of him or her
who bestows it. No one can put it on; still less can
any one put it off. Its range is universal; it embraces
all mankind, though, of course, it is intensified on a few
favoured objects; its seat is in the depths of a renewed
heart, and its foundation lies in love to God.

Young Varley's mother lived in a cottage which was
of the smallest possible dimensions consistent with comfort.
It was made of logs, as, indeed, were all the other
cottages in the valley. The door was in the centre, and
a passage from it to the back of the dwelling divided it
into two rooms. One of these was sub-divided by a
thin partition, the inner room being Mrs. Varley's bedroom,
the outer Dick's. Daniel Hood's dormitory was
a corner of the kitchen, which apartment served also as
a parlour.

The rooms were lighted by two windows, one on each
side of the door, which gave to the house the appearance
of having a nose and two eyes. Houses of this kind
have literally got a sort of expression on--if we may
use the word--their countenances. Square windows
give the appearance of easy-going placidity; longish
ones, that of surprise. Mrs. Varley's was a surprise
cottage; and this was in keeping with the scene in
which it stood, for the clear lake in front, studded with
islands, and the distant hills beyond, composed a scene
so surprisingly beautiful that it never failed to call forth
an expression of astonished admiration from every new
visitor to the Mustang Valley.

"My boy," exclaimed Mrs. Varley, as her son entered
the cottage with a bound, "why so hurried to-day?
Deary me! where got you the grand gun?"

"Won it, mother!"

"Won it, my son?"

"Ay, won it, mother. Druve the nail almost, and
would ha' druve it altogether had I bin more used to
Joe Blunt's rifle."

Mrs. Varley's heart beat high, and her face flushed
with pride as she gazed at her son, who laid the rifle on
the table for her inspection, while he rattled off an
animated and somewhat disjointed account of the
match.

"Deary me! now that was good, that was cliver.
But what's that scraping at the door?"

"Oh! that's Fan; I forgot her. Here! here! Fan!
Come in, good dog," he cried, rising and opening the
door.

Fan entered and stopped short, evidently uncomfortable.

"My boy, what do ye with the major's dog?"

"Won her too, mother!"

"Won her, my son?"

"Ay, won her, and the pup too; see, here it is!" and
he plucked Crusoe from his bosom.

Crusoe having found his position to be one of great
comfort had fallen into a profound slumber, and on
being thus unceremoniously awakened he gave forth a
yelp of discontent that brought Fan in a state of frantic
sympathy to his side.

"There you are, Fan; take it to a corner and make
yourself at home.--Ay, that's right, mother, give her
somethin' to eat; she's hungry, I know by the look o'
her eye."

"Deary me, Dick!" said Mrs. Varley, who now proceeded
to spread the youth's mid-day meal before him,
"did ye drive the nail three times?"

"No, only once, and that not parfetly. Brought 'em
all down at one shot--rifle, Fan, an' pup!"

"Well, well, now that was cliver; but--." Here the
old woman paused and looked grave.

"But what, mother?"

"You'll be wantin' to go off to the mountains now, I
fear me, boy."

"Wantin' now!" exclaimed the youth earnestly; "I'm
always wantin'. I've bin wantin' ever since I could
walk; but I won't go till you let me, mother, that I
won't!" And he struck the table with his fist so forcibly
that the platters rung again.

"You're a good boy, Dick; but you're too young yit
to ventur' among the Redskins."

"An' yit, if I don't ventur' young, I'd better not ventur'
at all. You know, mother dear, I don't want to
leave you; but I was born to be a hunter, and everybody
in them parts is a hunter, and I can't hunt in the
kitchen you know, mother!"

At this point the conversation was interrupted by a
sound that caused young Varley to spring up and seize
his rifle, and Fan to show her teeth and growl.

"Hist, mother! that's like horses' hoofs," he whispered,
opening the door and gazing intently in the
direction whence the sound came.

Louder and louder it came, until an opening in the
forest showed the advancing cavalcade to be a party of
white men. In another moment they were in full view--a
band of about thirty horsemen, clad in the leathern
costume and armed with the long rifle of the far west.
Some wore portions of the gaudy Indian dress, which
gave to them a brilliant, dashing look. They came on
straight for the block-house, and saluted the Varleys
with a jovial cheer as they swept past at full speed.
Dick returned the cheer with compound interest, and
calling out, "They're trappers, mother; I'll be back in an
hour," bounded off like a deer through the woods, taking
a short cut in order to reach the block-house before
them. He succeeded, for, just as he arrived at the
house, the cavalcade wheeled round the bend in the
river, dashed up the slope, and came to a sudden halt
on the green. Vaulting from their foaming steeds they
tied them to the stockades of the little fortress, which
they entered in a body.

Hot haste was in every motion of these men. They
were trappers, they said, on their way to the Rocky
Mountains to hunt and trade furs. But one of their
number had been treacherously murdered and scalped
by a Pawnee chief, and they resolved to revenge his
death by an attack on one of the Pawnee villages. They
would teach these "red reptiles" to respect white men,
they would, come of it what might; and they had
turned aside here to procure an additional supply of
powder and lead.

In vain did the major endeavour to dissuade these
reckless men from their purpose. They scoffed at the
idea of returning good for evil, and insisted on being
supplied. The log hut was a store as well as a place of
defence, and as they offered to pay for it there was no
refusing their request--at least so the major thought.
The ammunition was therefore given to them, and in
half-an-hour they were away again at full gallop over
the plains on their mission of vengeance. "Vengeance
is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." But these men
knew not what God said, because they never read his
Word and did not own his sway.

Young Varley's enthusiasm was considerably damped
when he learned the errand on which the trappers were
bent. From that time forward he gave up all desire
to visit the mountains in company with such men, but
he still retained an intense longing to roam at large
among their rocky fastnesses and gallop out upon the
wide prairies.

Meanwhile he dutifully tended his mother's cattle and
sheep, and contented himself with an occasional deer-hunt
in the neighbouring forests. He devoted himself
also to the training of his dog Crusoe--an operation
which at first cost him many a deep sigh.

Every one has heard of the sagacity and almost reasoning
capabilities of the Newfoundland dog. Indeed, some
have even gone the length of saying that what is called
instinct in these animals is neither more nor less than
reason. And in truth many of the noble, heroic, and
sagacious deeds that have actually been performed by
Newfoundland dogs incline us almost to believe that,
like man, they are gifted with reasoning powers.

But every one does not know the trouble and patience
that is required in order to get a juvenile dog to understand
what its master means when he is endeavouring
to instruct it.

Crusoe's first lesson was an interesting but not a very
successful one. We may remark here that Dick Varley
had presented Fan to his mother to be her watch-dog,
resolving to devote all his powers to the training of the
pup. We may also remark, in reference to Crusoe's
appearance (and we did not remark it sooner, chiefly
because up to this period in his eventful history he was
little better than a ball of fat and hair), that his coat
was mingled jet-black and pure white, and remarkably
glossy, curly, and thick.

A week after the shooting-match Crusoe's education
began. Having fed him for that period with his own
hand, in order to gain his affection, Dick took him out
one sunny forenoon to the margin of the lake to give
him his first lesson.

And here again we must pause to remark that,
although a dog's heart is generally gained in the first
instance through his mouth, yet, after it is thoroughly
gained, his affection is noble and disinterested. He can
scarcely be driven from his master's side by blows; and
even when thus harshly repelled, is always ready, on the
shortest notice and with the slightest encouragement, to
make it up again.

Well; Dick Varley began by calling out, "Crusoe!
Crusoe! come here, pup."

Of course Crusoe knew his name by this time, for it
had been so often used as a prelude to his meals that
he naturally expected a feed whenever he heard it.
This portal to his brain had already been open for
some days; but all the other doors were fast locked,
and it required a great deal of careful picking to open
them.

"Now, Crusoe, come here."

Crusoe bounded clumsily to his master's side, cocked
his ears, and wagged his tail,--so far his education was
perfect. We say he bounded clumsily, for it must be
remembered that he was still a very young pup, with
soft, flabby muscles.

"Now, I'm goin' to begin yer edication, pup; think
o' that."

Whether Crusoe thought of that or not we cannot
say, but he looked up in his master's face as he spoke,
cocked his ears very high, and turned his head slowly
to one side, until it could not turn any farther in that
direction; then he turned it as much to the other side;
whereat his master burst into an uncontrollable fit of
laughter, and Crusoe immediately began barking vociferously.

"Come, come," said Dick, suddenly checking his mirth,
"we mustn't play, pup, we must work."

Drawing a leathern mitten from his belt, the youth
held it to Crusoe's nose, and then threw it a yard away,
at the same time exclaiming in a loud, distinct tone,
"Fetch it."

Crusoe entered at once into the spirit of this part of
his training; he dashed gleefully at the mitten, and
proceeded to worry it with intense gratification. As
for "Fetch it," he neither understood the words nor
cared a straw about them.

Dick Varley rose immediately, and rescuing the
mitten, resumed his seat on a rock.

"Come here, Crusoe," he repeated.

"Oh! certainly, by all means," said Crusoe--no! he
didn't exactly say it, but really he looked these words
so
evidently that we think it right to let them stand as
they are written. If he could have finished the sentence,
he would certainly have said, "Go on with that game
over again, old boy; it's quite to my taste--the jolliest
thing in life, I assure you!" At least, if we may not
positively assert that he would have said that, no one
else can absolutely affirm that he wouldn't.

Well, Dick Varley did do it over again, and Crusoe
worried the mitten over again, utterly regardless of
"Fetch it."

Then they did it again, and again, and again, but
without the slightest apparent advancement in the path
of canine knowledge; and then they went home.

During all this trying operation Dick Varley never
once betrayed the slightest feeling of irritability or impatience.
He did not expect success at first; he was
not therefore disappointed at failure.

Next day he had him out again--and the next--and
the next--and the next again, with the like unfavourable result. In
short,
it seemed at last as if Crusoe's
mind had been deeply imbued with the idea that he
had been born expressly for the purpose of worrying
that mitten, and he meant to fulfil his destiny to the
letter.

Young Varley had taken several small pieces of meat
in his pocket each day, with the intention of rewarding
Crusoe when he should at length be prevailed on to
fetch the mitten; but as Crusoe was not aware of the
treat that awaited him, of course the mitten never was
"fetched."

At last Dick Varley saw that this system would never
do, so he changed his tactics, and the next morning gave
Crusoe no breakfast, but took him out at the usual hour
to go through his lesson. This new course of conduct
seemed to perplex Crusoe not a little, for on his way
down to the beach he paused frequently and looked
back at the cottage, and then expressively up at his
master's face. But the master was inexorable; he went
on, and Crusoe followed, for true love had now taken
possession of the pup's young heart, and he preferred his
master's company to food.

Varley now began by letting the learner smell a piece
of meat, which he eagerly sought to devour, but was
prevented, to his immense disgust. Then the mitten
was thrown as heretofore, and Crusoe made a few steps
towards it, but being in no mood for play he turned
back.

"Fetch it," said the teacher.

"I won't," replied the learner mutely, by means of
that expressive sign--not doing it.

Hereupon Dick Varley rose, took up the mitten, and
put it into the pup's mouth. Then, retiring a couple of
yards, he held out the piece of meat and said, "Fetch it."

Crusoe instantly spat out the glove and bounded
towards the meat--once more to be disappointed.

This was done a second time, and Crusoe came forward
with the mitten in his mouth. It seemed as if it
had been done accidentally, for he dropped it before
coming quite up. If so, it was a fortunate accident,
for it served as the tiny fulcrum on which to place the
point of that mighty lever which was destined ere long
to raise him to the pinnacle of canine erudition. Dick
Varley immediately lavished upon him the tenderest
caresses and gave him a lump of meat. But he quickly
tried it again lest he should lose the lesson. The dog
evidently felt that if he did not fetch that mitten he
should have no meat or caresses. In order, however,
to make sure that there was no mistake, Dick laid the
mitten down beside the pup, instead of putting it into
his mouth, and, retiring a few paces, cried, "Fetch it."


Crusoe looked uncertain for a moment, then he picked
up the mitten and laid it at his master's feet. The
lesson was learned at last! Dick Varley tumbled all
the meat out of his pocket on the ground, and, while
Crusoe made a hearty breakfast, he sat down on a rock
and whistled with glee at having fairly picked the lock,
and opened another door into one of the many chambers
of his dog's intellect.



CHAPTER IV.




Our hero enlarged upon--Grumps.


Two years passed away. The Mustang Valley settlement
advanced prosperously, despite one or two
attacks made upon it by the savages, who were, however,
firmly repelled. Dick Varley had now become a man,
and his pup Crusoe had become a full-grown dog. The
"silver rifle," as Dick's weapon had come to be named,
was well known among the hunters and the Redskins of
the border-lands, and in Dick's hands its bullets were as
deadly as its owner's eye was quick and true.

Crusoe's education, too, had been completed. Faithfully
and patiently had his young master trained his
mind, until he fitted him to be a meet companion in the
hunt. To "carry" and "fetch" were now but trifling
portions of the dog's accomplishments. He could dive
a fathom deep in the lake and bring up any article that
might have been dropped or thrown in. His swimming
powers were marvellous, and so powerful were his
muscles that he seemed to spurn the water while passing
through it, with his broad chest high out of the
curling wave, at a speed that neither man nor beast
could keep up with for a moment. His intellect now
was sharp and quick as a needle; he never required a
second bidding. When Dick went out hunting, he
used frequently to drop a mitten or a powder-horn unknown
to the dog, and after walking miles away from
it, would stop short and look down into the mild, gentle
face of his companion.

"Crusoe," he said, in the same quiet tones with
which he would have addressed a human friend, "I've
dropped my mitten; go fetch it, pup." Dick continued
to call it "pup" from habit.

One glance of intelligence passed from Crusoe's eye,
and in a moment he was away at full gallop, nor did
he rest until the lost article was lying at his master's
feet. Dick was loath to try how far back on his track
Crusoe would run if desired. He had often gone back
five and six miles at a stretch; but his powers did not
stop here. He could carry articles back to the spot
from which they had been taken and leave them there.
He could head the game that his master was pursuing
and turn it back; and he would guard any object he
was desired to "watch" with unflinching constancy.
But it would occupy too much space and time to
enumerate all Crusoe's qualities and powers. His
biography will unfold them.

In personal appearance he was majestic, having
grown to an immense size even for a Newfoundland.
Had his visage been at all wolfish in character, his
aspect would have been terrible. But he possessed in
an eminent degree that mild, humble expression of face
peculiar to his race. When roused or excited, and
especially when bounding through the forest with the
chase in view, he was absolutely magnificent. At other
times his gait was slow, and he seemed to prefer a quiet
walk with Dick Varley to anything else under the sun.
But when Dick was inclined to be boisterous, Crusoe's
tail and ears rose at a moment's notice, and he was
ready for anything. Moreover, he obeyed commands
instantly and implicitly. In this respect he put to
shame most of the boys of the settlement, who were by
no means famed for their habits of prompt obedience.

Crusoe's eye was constantly watching the face of his
master. When Dick said "Go" he went, when he said
"Come" he came. If he had been in the midst of an
excited bound at the throat of a stag, and Dick had
called out, "Down, Crusoe," he would have sunk to the
earth like a stone. No doubt it took many months of
training to bring the dog to this state of perfection,
but Dick accomplished it by patience, perseverance, and
love.

Besides all this, Crusoe could speak! He spoke by
means of the dog's dumb alphabet in a way that defies
description. He conversed, so to speak, with his extremities--his head
and
his tail. But his eyes, his soft
brown eyes, were the chief medium of communication.
If ever the language of the eyes was carried to perfection,
it was exhibited in the person of Crusoe. But,
indeed, it would be difficult to say which part of his expressive
face expressed most--the cocked ears of expectation,
the drooped ears of sorrow; the bright, full eye
of joy, the half-closed eye of contentment, and the
frowning eye of indignation accompanied with a slight,
a very slight pucker of the nose and a gleam of dazzling
ivory--ha! no enemy ever saw this last piece of
canine language without a full appreciation of what it
meant. Then as to the tail--the modulations of meaning
in the varied wag of that expressive member--oh!
it's useless to attempt description. Mortal man cannot
conceive of the delicate shades of sentiment expressible
by a dog's tail, unless he has studied the subject--the
wag, the waggle, the cock, the droop, the slope, the
wriggle! Away with description--it is impotent and
valueless here!

As we have said, Crusoe was meek and mild. He
had been bitten, on the sly, by half the ill-natured curs
in the settlement, and had only shown his teeth in return.
He had no enmities--though several enemies--and
he had a thousand friends, particularly among the
ranks of the weak and the persecuted, whom he always
protected and avenged when opportunity offered. A
single instance of this kind will serve to show his character.

One day Dick and Crusoe were sitting on a rock beside
the lake--the same identical rock near which, when
a pup, the latter had received his first lesson. They
were conversing as usual, for Dick had elicited such a
fund of intelligence from the dog's mind, and had injected
such wealth of wisdom into it, that he felt convinced
it understood every word he said.

"This is capital weather, Crusoe; ain't it, pup?"

Crusoe made a motion with his head which was
quite as significant as a nod.

"Ha! my pup, I wish that you and I might go and
have a slap at the grizzly bars, and a look at the Rocky
Mountains. Wouldn't it be nuts, pup?"

Crusoe looked dubious.

"What, you don't agree with me! Now tell me,
pup, wouldn't ye like to grip a bar?"

Still Crusoe looked dubious, but made a gentle motion
with his tail, as though he would have said, "I've seen
neither Rocky Mountains nor grizzly bars, and know
nothin' about 'em, but I'm open to conviction."

"You're a brave pup," rejoined Dick, stroking the
dog's huge head affectionately. "I wouldn't give you
for ten times your weight in golden dollars--if there
be sich things."

Crusoe made no reply whatever to this. He regarded
it as a truism unworthy of notice; he evidently felt that
a comparison between love and dollars was preposterous.

At this point in the conversation a little dog with a
lame leg hobbled to the edge of the rocks in front of
the spot where Dick was seated, and looked down into
the water, which was deep there. Whether it did so
for the purpose of admiring its very plain visage in the
liquid mirror, or finding out what was going on among
the fish, we cannot say, as it never told us; but at that
moment a big, clumsy, savage-looking dog rushed out
from the neighbouring thicket and began to worry it.

"Punish him, Crusoe," said Dick quickly.

Crusoe made one bound that a lion might have been
proud of, and seizing the aggressor by the back, lifted
him off his legs and held him, howling, in the air--at
the same time casting a look towards his master for
further instructions.

"Pitch him in," said Dick, making a sign with his
hand.

Crusoe turned and quietly dropped the dog into the
lake. Having regarded his struggles there for a few
moments with grave severity of countenance, he walked
slowly back and sat down beside his master.

The little dog made good its retreat as fast as three
legs would carry it; and the surly dog, having swum
ashore, retired sulkily, with his tail very much between
his legs.

Little wonder, then, that Crusoe was beloved by
great and small among the well-disposed of the canine
tribe of the Mustang Valley.

But Crusoe was not a mere machine. When not
actively engaged in Dick Varley's service, he busied
himself with private little matters of his own. He
undertook modest little excursions into the woods or
along the margin of the lake, sometimes alone, but
more frequently with a little friend whose whole heart
and being seemed to be swallowed up in admiration of
his big companion. Whether Crusoe botanized or
geologized on these excursions we will not venture to
say. Assuredly he seemed as though he did both, for
he poked his nose into every bush and tuft of moss,
and turned over the stones, and dug holes in the ground--and,
in short, if he did not understand these sciences,
he behaved very much as if he did. Certainly he
knew as much about them as many of the human
species do.

In these walks he never took the slightest notice of
Grumps (that was the little dog's name), but Grumps
made up for this by taking excessive notice of him.
When Crusoe stopped, Grumps stopped and sat down
to look at him. When Crusoe trotted on, Grumps
trotted on too. When Crusoe examined a bush, Grumps
sat down to watch him; and when he dug a hole,
Grumps looked into it to see what was there. Grumps
never helped him; his sole delight was in looking on.
They didn't converse much, these two dogs. To be in
each other's company seemed to be happiness enough--at
least Grumps thought so.

There was one point at which Grumps stopped short,
however, and ceased to follow his friend, and that was
when he rushed headlong into the lake and disported
himself for an hour at a time in its cool waters. Crusoe
was, both by nature and training, a splendid water-dog.
Grumps, on the contrary, held water in abhorrence; so
he sat on the shore of the lake disconsolate when his
friend was bathing, and waited till he came out. The
only time when Grumps was thoroughly nonplussed
was when Dick Varley's whistle sounded faintly in the
far distance. Then Crusoe would prick up his ears
and stretch out at full gallop, clearing ditch, and fence,
and brake with his strong elastic bound, and leaving
Grumps to patter after him as fast as his four-inch
legs would carry him. Poor Grumps usually arrived at
the village to find both dog and master gone, and would
betake himself to his own dwelling, there to lie down
and sleep, and dream, perchance, of rambles and gambols
with his gigantic friend.



CHAPTER V.




A mission of peace--Unexpected joys--Dick and Crusoe set off for
the land of the Redskins, and meet with adventures by the
way as a matter of course--Night in the wild woods
.


One day the inhabitants of Mustang Valley were
thrown into considerable excitement by the
arrival of an officer of the United States army and a
small escort of cavalry. They went direct to the blockhouse,
which, since Major Hope's departure, had become
the residence of Joe Blunt--that worthy having, by
general consent, been deemed the fittest man in the
settlement to fill the major's place.

Soon it began to be noised abroad that the strangers
had been sent by Government to endeavour to bring
about, if possible, a more friendly state of feeling between
the Whites and the Indians by means of presents,
and promises, and fair speeches.

The party remained all night in the block-house, and
ere long it was reported that Joe Blunt had been requested,
and had consented, to be the leader and chief
of a party of three men who should visit the neighbouring
tribes of Indians to the west and north of the
valley as Government agents. Joe's knowledge of two
or three different Indian dialects, and his well-known
sagacity, rendered him a most fitting messenger on such
an errand. It was also whispered that Joe was to have
the choosing of his comrades in this mission, and many
were the opinions expressed and guesses made as to who
would be chosen.

That same evening Dick Varley was sitting in his
mother's kitchen cleaning his rifle. His mother was
preparing supper, and talking quietly about the obstinacy
of a particular hen that had taken to laying her
eggs in places where they could not be found. Fan
was coiled up in a corner sound asleep, and Crusoe was
sitting at one side of the fire looking on at things in
general.

"I wonder," remarked Mrs. Varley, as she spread the
table with a pure white napkin--"I wonder what the
sodgers are doin' wi' Joe Blunt."

As often happens when an individual is mentioned,
the worthy referred to opened the door at that moment
and stepped into the room.

"Good e'en t'ye, dame," said the stout hunter, doffing
his cap, and resting his rifle in a corner, while Dick
rose and placed a chair for him.

"The same to you, Master Blunt," answered the widow;
"you've jist comed in good time for a cut o' venison."

"Thanks, mistress; I s'pose we're beholden to the
silver rifle for that."

"To the hand that aimed it, rather," suggested the
widow.

"Nay, then, say raither to the dog that turned it,"
said Dick Varley. "But for Crusoe, that buck would
ha' bin couched in the woods this night."

"Oh! if it comes to that," retorted Joe, "I'd lay it
to the door o' Fan, for if she'd niver bin born nother
would Crusoe. But it's good an' tender meat, whativer
ways ye got it. Howsiver, I've other things to talk
about jist now. Them sodgers that are eatin' buffalo
tongues up at the block-house as if they'd niver ate meat
before, and didn't hope to eat again for a twelvemonth--"

"Ay, what o' them?" interrupted Mrs. Varley; "I've
bin wonderin' what was their errand."

"Of coorse ye wos, Dame Varley, and I've comed
here a purpis to tell ye. They want me to go to the
Redskins to make peace between them and us; and
they've brought a lot o' goods to make them presents
withal--beads, an' knives, an' lookin'-glasses, an' vermilion
paint, an' sich like, jist as much as'll be a light
load for one horse--for, ye see, nothin' can be done wi'
the Redskins without gifts."

"'Tis a blessed mission," said the widow; "I wish it
may succeed. D'ye think ye'll go?"

"Go? ay, that will I."

"I only wish they'd made the offer to me," said Dick
with a sigh.

"An' so they do make the offer, lad. They've gin
me leave to choose the two men I'm to take with me,
and I've corned straight to ask you. Ay or no, for we
must up an' away by break o' day to-morrow."

Mrs. Varley started. "So soon?" she said, with a
look of anxiety.

"Ay; the Pawnees are at the Yellow Creek jist at
this time, but I've heerd they're 'bout to break up
camp an' away west; so we'll need to use haste."

"May I go, mother?" asked Dick, with a look of
anxiety.

There was evidently a conflict in the widow's breast,
but it quickly ceased.

"Yes, my boy," she said in her own low, quiet voice;
"and God go with ye. I knew the time must come
soon, an' I thank him that your first visit to the Redskins
will be on an errand o' peace. 'Blessed are the
peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of
God.'"

Dick grasped his mother's hand and pressed it to his
cheek in silence. At the same moment Crusoe, seeing
that the deeper feelings of his master were touched, and
deeming it his duty to sympathize, rose up and thrust
his nose against him.

"Ah, pup," cried the young man hastily, "you must
go too.--Of course Crusoe goes, Joe Blunt?"

"Hum! I don't know that. There's no dependin' on
a dog to keep his tongue quiet in times o' danger."

"Believe me," exclaimed Dick, flashing with enthusiasm,
"Crusoe's more trustworthy than I am myself.
If ye can trust the master, ye're safe to trust the pup."

"Well, lad, ye may be right. We'll take him."

"Thanks, Joe. And who else goes with us?"

"I've' bin castin' that in my mind for some time, an'
I've fixed to take Henri. He's not the safest man in
the valley, but he's the truest, that's a fact. And now,
youngster, get yer horse an' rifle ready, and come to the
block-house at daybreak to-morrow.--Good luck to ye,
mistress, till we meet agin."

Joe Blunt rose, and taking up his rifle--without
which he scarcely ever moved a foot from his own door--left
the cottage with rapid strides.

"My son," said Mrs. Varley, kissing Dick's cheek as
he resumed his seat, "put this in the little pocket I
made for it in your hunting-shirt."


She handed him a small pocket Bible.

"Dear mother," he said, as he placed the book carefully
within the breast of his coat, "the Redskin that
takes that from me must take my scalp first. But
don't fear for me. You've often said the Lord would
protect me. So he will, mother, for sure it's an errand
o' peace."

"Ay that's it, that's it," murmured the widow in a
half-soliloquy.

Dick Varley spent that night in converse with his
mother, and next morning at daybreak he was at the
place of meeting, mounted on his sturdy little horse,
with the "silver rifle" on his shoulder and Crusoe by
his side.

"That's right, lad, that's right. Nothin' like keepin'
yer time," said Joe, as he led out a pack-horse from the
gate of the block-house, while his own charger was held
ready saddled by a man named Daniel Brand, who had
been appointed to the charge of the block-house in his
absence.

"Where's Henri?--oh, here he comes!" exclaimed
Dick, as the hunter referred to came thundering up
the slope at a charge, on a horse that resembled its
rider in size and not a little in clumsiness of appearance.

"Ah! mes boy. Him is a goot one to go," cried

Henri, remarking Dick's smile as he pulled up. "No
hoss on de plain can beat dis one, surement."

"Now then, Henri, lend a hand to fix this pack; we've
no time to palaver."

By this time they were joined by several of the
soldiers and a few hunters who had come to see them
start.

"Remember, Joe," said one, "if you don't come back
in three months we'll all come out in a band to seek you."

"If we don't come back in less than that time, what's
left o' us won't be worth seekin' for," said Joe, tightening
the girth of his saddle.

"Put a bit in yer own mouth, Henri," cried another,
as the Canadian arranged his steed's bridle; "yell need
it more than yer horse when ye git 'mong the red
reptiles."

"Vraiment, if mon mout' needs one bit, yours will
need one padlock."

"Now, lads, mount!" cried Joe Blunt as he vaulted
into the saddle.

Dick Varley sprang lightly on his horse, and Henri
made a rush at his steed and hurled his huge frame
across its back with a violence that ought to have
brought it to the ground; but the tall, raw-boned, broad-chested
roan was accustomed to the eccentricities of its
master, and stood the shock bravely. Being appointed
to lead the pack-horse, Henri seized its halter. Then
the three cavaliers shook their reins, and, waving their
hands to their comrades, they sprang into the woods at
full gallop, and laid their course for the "far west."

For some time they galloped side by side in silence,
each occupied with his own thoughts, Crusoe keeping
close beside his master's horse. The two elder hunters
evidently ruminated on the object of their mission and
the prospects of success, for their countenances were
grave and their eyes cast on the ground. Dick Varley,
too, thought upon the Red-men, but his musings were
deeply tinged with the bright hues of a first adventure.
The mountains, the plains, the Indians, the bears, the
buffaloes, and a thousand other objects, danced wildly
before his mind's eye, and his blood careered through
his veins and flushed his forehead as he thought of
what he should see and do, and felt the elastic vigour
of youth respond in sympathy to the light spring of
his active little steed. He was a lover of nature, too,
and his flashing eyes glanced observantly from side to
side as they swept along--sometimes through glades
of forest trees, sometimes through belts of more open
ground and shrubbery; anon by the margin of a stream
or along the shores of a little lake, and often over short
stretches of flowering prairie-land--while the firm,
elastic turf sent up a muffled sound from the tramp of
their mettlesome chargers. It was a scene of wild,
luxuriant beauty, that might almost (one could fancy)
have drawn involuntary homage to its bountiful Creator
from the lips even of an infidel.

After a time Joe Blunt reined up, and they proceeded
at an easy ambling pace. Joe and his friend Henri
were so used to these beautiful scenes that they had
long ceased to be enthusiastically affected by them,
though they never ceased to delight in them.

"I hope," said Joe, "that them sodgers'll go their
ways soon. I've no notion o' them chaps when they're
left at a place wi' nothin' to do but whittle sticks."

"Why, Joe!" exclaimed Dick Varley in a tone of
surprise, "I thought you were admirin' the beautiful
face o' nature all this time, and ye're only thinkin' about
the sodgers. Now, that's strange!"

"Not so strange after all, lad," answered Joe. "When
a man's used to a thing, he gits to admire an' enjoy it
without speakin' much about it. But it is true, boy,
that mankind gits in coorse o' time to think little o'
the blissin's he's used to."

"Oui, c'est vrai!" murmured Henri emphatically.

"Well, Joe Blunt, it may be so, but I'm thankful
I'm not used to this sort o' thing yet," exclaimed
Varley. "Let's have another gallop--so ho! come
along, Crusoe!" shouted the youth as he shook his reins
and flew over a long stretch of prairie on which at that
moment they entered.

Joe smiled as he followed his enthusiastic companion,
but after a short run he pulled up.

"Hold on, youngster," he cried; "ye must larn to do
as ye're bid, lad. It's trouble enough to be among wild
Injuns and wild buffaloes, as I hope soon to be, without
havin' wild comrades to look after."

Dick laughed, and reined in his panting horse. "I'll
be as obedient as Crusoe," he said, "and no one can
beat him."

"Besides," continued Joe, "the horses won't travel
far if we begin by runnin' all the wind out o'
them."

"Wah!" exclaimed Henri, as the led horse became
restive; "I think we must give to him de pack-hoss for
to lead, eh?"

"Not a bad notion, Henri. We'll make that the
penalty of runnin' off again; so look out, Master Dick."

"I'm down," replied Dick, with a modest air, "obedient
as a baby, and won't run off again--till--the
next time. By the way, Joe, how many days' provisions
did ye bring?"

"Two. That's 'nough to carry us to the Great
Prairie, which is three weeks distant from this. Our
own good rifles must make up the difference, and keep
us when we get there."

"And s'pose we neither find deer nor buffalo," suggested
Dick.

"I s'pose we'll have to starve."

"Dat is cumfer'able to tink upon," remarked Henri.

"More comfortable to think o' than to undergo," said
Dick; "but I s'pose there's little chance o' that."

"Well, not much," replied Joe Blunt, patting his
horse's neck, "but d'ye see, lad, ye niver can count for
sartin on anythin'. The deer and buffalo ought to be
thick in them plains at this time--and when the buffalo
are thick they covers the plains till ye can hardly see
the end o' them; but, ye see, sometimes the rascally
Redskins takes it into their heads to burn the prairies,
and sometimes ye find the place that should ha' bin
black wi' buffalo, black as a coal wi' fire for miles an'
miles on end. At other times the Redskins go huntin'
in 'ticlur places, and sweeps them clean o' every hoof
that don't git away. Sometimes, too, the animals seems
to take a scunner at a place, and keeps out o' the way.
But one way or another men gin' rally manage to
scramble through."

"Look yonder, Joe," exclaimed Dick, pointing to the
summit of a distant ridge, where a small black object
was seen moving against the sky, "that's a deer, ain't
it?"

Joe shaded his eyes with his hand, and gazed earnestly
at the object in question. "Ye're right, boy; and by
good luck we've got the wind of him. Cut in an' take
your chance now. There's a long strip o' wood as'll
let ye git close to him."

Before the sentence was well finished Dick and
Crusoe were off at full gallop. For a few hundred
yards they coursed along the bottom of a hollow; then
turning to the right they entered the strip of wood, and
in a few minutes gained the edge of it. Here Dick
dismounted.

"You can't help me here, Crusoe. Stay where you
are, pup, and hold my horse."

Crusoe seized the end of the line, which was fastened
to the horse's nose, in his mouth, and lay down on
a hillock of moss, submissively placing his chin on his
forepaws, and watching his master as he stepped noiselessly
through the wood. In a few minutes Dick
emerged from among the trees, and creeping from bush
to bush, succeeded in getting to within six hundred
yards of the deer, which was a beautiful little antelope.
Beyond the bush behind which he now crouched all was
bare open ground, without a shrub or a hillock large
enough to conceal the hunter. There was a slight undulation
in the ground, however, which enabled him to
advance about fifty yards farther, by means of lying
down quite flat and working himself forward like a serpent.
Farther than this he could not move without
being seen by the antelope, which browsed on the ridge
before him in fancied security. The distance was too
great even for a long shot; but Dick knew of a weak
point in this little creature's nature which enabled him
to accomplish his purpose--a weak point which it shares
in common with animals of a higher order--namely,
curiosity.

The little antelope of the North American prairies is
intensely curious about everything that it does not
quite understand, and will not rest satisfied until it has
endeavoured to clear up the mystery. Availing himself
of this propensity, Dick did what both Indians and
hunters are accustomed to do on these occasions--he
put a piece of rag on the end of his ramrod, and keeping
his person concealed and perfectly still, waved this
miniature flag in the air. The antelope noticed it at
once, and, pricking up its ears, began to advance, timidly
and slowly, step by step, to see what remarkable phenomenon
it could be. In a few seconds the flag was
lowered, a sharp crack followed, and the antelope fell
dead upon the plain.

"Ha, boy! that's a good supper, anyhow," cried Joe,
as he galloped up and dismounted.

"Goot! dat is better nor dried meat," added Henri.
"Give him to me; I will put him on my hoss, vich is
strongar dan yourn. But ver is your hoss?"

"He'll be here in a minute," replied Dick, putting his
fingers to his mouth and giving forth a shrill whistle.

The instant Crusoe heard the sound he made a savage
and apparently uncalled-for dash at the horse's heels.
This wild act, so contrary to the dog's gentle nature, was
a mere piece of acting. He knew that the horse would
not advance without getting a fright, so he gave him
one in this way, which sent him off at a gallop. Crusoe
followed close at his heels, so as to bring the line alongside
of the nag's body, and thereby prevent its getting
entangled; but despite his best efforts the horse got on
one side of a tree and he on the other, so he wisely let
go his hold of the line, and waited till more open ground
enabled him to catch it again. Then he hung heavily
back, gradually checked the horse's speed, and finally
trotted him up to his master's side.

"'Tis a cliver cur, good sooth," exclaimed Joe Blunt
in surprise.

"Ah, Joe! you haven't seen much of Crusoe yet.
He's as good as a man any day. I've done little else
but train him for two years gone by, and he can do
most anything but shoot--he can't handle the rifle
nohow."

"Ha! then, I tink perhaps hims could if he wos try,"
said Henri, plunging on to his horse with a laugh, and
arranging the carcass of the antelope across the pommel
of his saddle.

Thus they hunted and galloped, and trotted and
ambled on through wood and plain all day, until the
sun began to descend below the tree-tops of the bluffs
on the west. Then Joe Blunt looked about him for a
place on which to camp, and finally fixed on a spot
under the shadow of a noble birch by the margin of a
little stream. The carpet of grass on its banks was soft
like green velvet, and the rippling waters of the brook
were clear as crystal--very different from the muddy
Missouri into which it flowed.

While Dick Varley felled and cut up firewood, Henri
unpacked the horses and turned them loose to graze,
and Joe kindled the fire and prepared venison steaks
and hot tea for supper.

In excursions of this kind it is customary to "hobble"
the horses--that is, to tie their fore-legs together, so
that they cannot run either fast or far, but are free
enough to amble about with a clumsy sort of hop in
search of food. This is deemed a sufficient check on
their tendency to roam, although some of the knowing
horses sometimes learn to hop so fast with their hobbles
as to give their owners much trouble to recapture them.
But when out in the prairies where Indians are known
or supposed to be in the neighbourhood, the horses are
picketed by means of a pin or stake attached to the
ends of their long lariats, as well as hobbled; for Indians
deem it no disgrace to steal or tell lies, though
they think it disgraceful to be found out in doing either.
And so expert are these dark-skinned natives of the
western prairies, that they will creep into the midst of
an enemy's camp, cut the lariats and hobbles of several
horses, spring suddenly on their backs, and gallop away.

They not only steal from white men, but tribes that
are at enmity steal from each other, and the boldness
with which they do this is most remarkable. When
Indians are travelling in a country where enemies are
prowling, they guard their camps at night with jealous
care. The horses in particular are both hobbled and
picketed, and sentries are posted all round the camp.
Yet, in spite of these precautions, hostile Indians manage
to elude the sentries and creep into the camp. When a
thief thus succeeds in effecting an entrance, his chief
danger is past. He rises boldly to his feet, and wrapping
his blanket or buffalo robe round him, he walks up
and down as if he were a member of the tribe. At the
same time he dexterously cuts the lariats of such horses
as he observes are not hobbled. He dare not stoop to
cut the hobbles, as the action would be observed, and
suspicion would be instantly aroused. He then leaps
on the best horse he can find, and uttering a terrific
war-whoop darts away into the plains, driving the loosened
horses before him.

No such dark thieves were supposed to be near the
camp under the birch-tree, however, so Joe, and Dick,
and Henri ate their supper in comfort, and let their
horses browse at will on the rich pasturage.

A bright ruddy fire was soon kindled, which created,
as it were, a little ball of light in the midst of surrounding
darkness for the special use of our hardy hunters.
Within this magic circle all was warm, comfortable, and
cheery; outside all was dark, and cold, and dreary by
contrast.

When the substantial part of supper was disposed of,
tea and pipes were introduced, and conversation began
to flow. Then the three saddles were placed in a row;
each hunter wrapped himself in his blanket, and pillowing
his head on his saddle, stretched his feet towards
the fire and went to sleep, with his loaded rifle by his
side and his hunting-knife handy in his belt. Crusoe
mounted guard by stretching himself out couchant at
Dick Varley's side. The faithful dog slept lightly, and
never moved all night; but had any one observed him
closely he would have seen that every fitful flame that
burst from the sinking fire, every unusual puff of wind,
and every motion of the horses that fed or rested hard
by, had the effect of revealing a speck of glittering
white in Crusoe's watchful eye.



CHAPTER VI.




The great prairies of the far west--A remarkable colony
discovered, and a miserable night endured
.

Of all the hours of the night or day the hour that
succeeds the dawn is the purest, the most joyous,
and the best. At least so think we, and so think hundreds
and thousands of the human family. And so
thought Dick Varley, as he sprang suddenly into a
sitting posture next morning, and threw his arms with
an exulting feeling of delight round the neck of Crusoe,
who instantly sat up to greet him.

This was an unusual piece of enthusiasm on the part
of Dick; but the dog received it with marked satisfaction,
rubbed his big hairy cheek against that of his
young master, and arose from his sedentary position in
order to afford free scope for the use of his tail.

"Ho! Joe Blunt! Henri! Up, boys, up! The sun
will have the start o' us. I'll catch the nags."

So saying Dick bounded away into the woods, with
Crusoe gambolling joyously at his heels. Dick soon
caught his own horse, and Crusoe caught Joe's. Then
the former mounted and quickly brought in the other
two.

Returning to the camp he found everything packed
and ready to strap on the back of the pack-horse.
"That's the way to do it, lad," cried Joe. "Here,
Henri, look alive and git yer beast ready. I do believe
ye're goin' to take another snooze!"

Henri was indeed, at that moment, indulging in a
gigantic stretch and a cavernous yawn; but he finished
both hastily, and rushed at his poor horse as if he intended
to slay it on the spot. He only threw the saddle
on its back, however, and then threw himself on the
saddle.

"Now then, all ready?"

"Ay"--"Oui, yis!"

And away they went at full stretch again on their
journey.

Thus day after day they travelled, and night after
night they laid them down to sleep under the trees of
the forest, until at length they reached the edge of the
Great Prairie.

It was a great, a memorable day in the life of Dick
Varley, that on which he first beheld the prairie--the
vast boundless prairie. He had heard of it, talked of
it, dreamed about it, but he had never--no, he had
never realized it. 'Tis always thus. Our conceptions
of things that we have not seen are almost invariably
wrong. Dick's eyes glittered, and his heart swelled, and
his cheeks flushed, and his breath came thick and quick.

"There it is," he gasped, as the great rolling plain
broke suddenly on his enraptured gaze; "that's it--oh!--"

Dick uttered a yell that would have done credit to
the fiercest chief of the Pawnees, and being unable to
utter another word, he swung his cap in the air and
sprang like an arrow from a bow over the mighty ocean
of grass. The sun had just risen to send a flood of
golden glory over the scene, the horses were fresh, so
the elder hunters, gladdened by the beauty of all around
them, and inspired by the irresistible enthusiasm of
their young companion, gave the reins to the horses and
flew after him. It was a glorious gallop, that first
headlong dash over the boundless prairie of the "far
west."

The prairies have often been compared, most justly,
to the ocean. There is the same wide circle of space
bounded on all sides by the horizon; there is the same
swell, or undulation, or succession of long low unbroken
waves that marks the ocean when it is calm; they are
canopied by the same pure sky, and swept by the same
untrammelled breezes. There are islands, too--clumps
of trees and willow-bushes--which rise out of this
grassy ocean to break and relieve its uniformity; and
these vary in size and numbers as do the isles of ocean,
being numerous in some places, while in others they are
so scarce that the traveller does not meet one in a long
day's journey. Thousands of beautiful flowers decked
the greensward, and numbers of little birds hopped
about among them.

"Now, lads," said Joe Blunt, reining up, "our troubles
begin to-day."

"Our troubles?--our joys, you mean!" exclaimed
Dick Varley.

"P'r'aps I don't mean nothin' o' the sort," retorted
Joe. "Man wos never intended to swaller his joys
without a strong mixtur' o' troubles. I s'pose he couldn't stand 'em
pure.
Ye see we've got to the prairie now--"

"One blind hoss might see dat!" interrupted Henri.

"An' we may or may not diskiver buffalo. An'
water's scarce, too, so we'll need to look out for it pretty
sharp, I guess, else we'll lose our horses, in which case
we may as well give out at once. Besides, there's
rattlesnakes about in sandy places, we'll ha' to look out
for them; an' there's badger holes, we'll need to look
sharp for them lest the horses put their feet in 'em; an'
there's Injuns, who'll look out pretty sharp for us if
they once get wind that we're in them parts."

"Oui, yis, mes boys; and there's rain, and tunder, and
lightin'," added Henri, pointing to a dark cloud which
was seen rising on the horizon ahead of them.

"It'll be rain," remarked Joe; "but there's no thunder
in the air jist now. We'll make for yonder clump
o' bushes and lay by till it's past."

Turning a little to the right of the course they had
been following, the hunters galloped along one of the
hollows between the prairie waves before mentioned, in
the direction of a clump of willows. Before reaching
it, however, they passed over a bleak and barren plain
where there was neither flower nor bird. Here they
were suddenly arrested by a most extraordinary sight--at
least it was so to Dick Varley, who had never seen
the like before. This was a colony of what Joe called
"prairie-dogs." On first beholding them Crusoe uttered
a sort of half growl, half bark of surprise, cocked his
tail and ears, and instantly prepared to charge; but he
glanced up at his master first for permission. Observing
that his finger and his look commanded "silence," he
dropped his tail at once and stepped to the rear. He
did not, however, cease to regard the prairie-dogs with
intense curiosity.

These remarkable little creatures have been egregiously
misnamed by the hunters of the west, for they
bear not the slightest resemblance to dogs, either in formation
or habits. They are, in fact, the marmot, and in
size are little larger than squirrels, which animals they
resemble in some degree. They burrow under the light
soil, and throw it up in mounds like moles.

Thousands of them were running about among their
dwellings when Dick first beheld them; but the moment
they caught sight of the horsemen rising over the ridge
they set up a tremendous hubbub of consternation.
Each little beast instantly mounted guard on the top of
his house, and prepared, as it were, "to receive cavalry."

The most ludicrous thing about them was that, although
the most timid and cowardly creatures in the
world, they seemed the most impertinent things that
ever lived! Knowing that their holes afforded them a
perfectly safe retreat, they sat close beside them; and as
the hunters slowly approached, they elevated their heads,
wagged their little tails, showed their teeth, and chattered
at them like monkeys. The nearer they came the
more angry and furious did the prairie-dogs become,
until Dick Varley almost fell off his horse with suppressed
laughter. They let the hunters come close up,
waxing louder and louder in their wrath; but the instant
a hand was raised to throw a stone or point a
gun, a thousand little heads dived into a thousand holes,
and a thousand little tails wriggled for an instant in
the air--then a dead silence reigned over the deserted
scene.

"Bien, them's have dive into de bo'-els of de eart',"
said Henri with a broad grin.

Presently a thousand noses appeared, and nervously
disappeared, like the wink of an eye. Then they appeared
again, and a thousand pair of eyes followed.
Instantly, like Jack in the box, they were all on the top
of their hillocks again, chattering and wagging their
little tails as vigorously as ever. You could not say
that you saw them jump out of their holes. Suddenly,
as if by magic, they were out; then Dick tossed up his
arms, and suddenly, as if by magic, they were gone!

Their number was incredible, and their cities were
full of riotous activity. What their occupations were
the hunters could not ascertain, but it was perfectly
evident that they visited a great deal and gossiped
tremendously, for they ran about from house to house,
and sat chatting in groups; but it was also observed
that they never went far from their own houses. Each
seemed to have a circle of acquaintance in the immediate
neighbourhood of his own residence, to which in case of
sudden danger he always fled.

But another thing about these prairie-dogs (perhaps,
considering their size, we should call them prairie-doggies), another
thing
about them, we say, was that
each doggie lived with an owl, or, more correctly, an
owl lived with each doggie! This is such an extraordinary
fact that we could scarce hope that men would
believe us, were our statement not supported by dozens
of trustworthy travellers who have visited and written
about these regions. The whole plain was covered with
these owls. Each hole seemed to be the residence of an
owl and a doggie, and these incongruous couples lived
together apparently in perfect harmony.

We have not been able to ascertain from travellers
why the owls have gone to live with these doggies, so
we beg humbly to offer our own private opinion to the
reader. We assume, then, that owls find it absolutely
needful to have holes. Probably prairie-owls cannot dig
holes for themselves. Having discovered, however, a
race of little creatures that could, they very likely determined
to take forcible possession of the holes made
by them. Finding, no doubt, that when they did so
the doggies were too timid to object, and discovering,
moreover, that they were sweet, innocent little creatures,
the owls resolved to take them into partnership,
and so the thing was settled--that's how it came about,
no doubt of it!

There is a report that rattlesnakes live in these holes
also; but we cannot certify our reader of the truth of
this. Still it is well to be acquainted with a report that
is current among the men of the backwoods. If it be
true, we are of opinion that the doggie's family is the
most miscellaneous and remarkable on the face of--or,
as Henri said, in the bo'-els of the earth.

Dick and his friends were so deeply absorbed in
watching these curious little creatures that they did not
observe the rapid spread of the black clouds over the
sky. A few heavy drops of rain now warned them to
seek shelter, so wheeling round they dashed off at full
speed for the clump of willows, which they gained just
as the rain began to descend in torrents.

"Now, lads, do it slick. Off packs and saddles," cried
Joe Blunt, jumping from his horse. "I'll make a hut
for ye, right off."

"A hut, Joe! what sort o' hut can ye make here?"
inquired Dick.

"Ye'll see, boy, in a minute."

"Ach! lend me a hand here, Dick; de bockle am
tight as de hoss's own skin. Ah! dere all right."

"Hallo! what's this?" exclaimed Dick, as Crusoe
advanced with something in his mouth. "I declare, it's
a bird o' some sort."

"A prairie-hen," remarked Joe, as Crusoe laid the
bird at Dick's feet; "capital for supper."

"Ah! dat chien is superb! goot dog. Come here, I
vill clap you."

But Crusoe refused to be caressed. Meanwhile, Joe
and Dick formed a sort of beehive-looking hut by
bending down the stems of a tall bush and thrusting
their points into the ground. Over this they threw the
largest buffalo robe, and placed another on the ground
below it, on which they laid their packs of goods.
These they further secured against wet by placing
several robes over them and a skin of parchment. Then
they sat down on this pile to rest, and consider what
should be done next.

"'Tis a bad look-out," said Joe, shaking his head.

"I fear it is," replied Dick in a melancholy tone.

Henri said nothing, but he sighed deeply on looking
up at the sky, which was now of a uniform watery gray,
while black clouds drove athwart it. The rain was
pouring in torrents, and the wind began to sweep it in
broad sheets over the plains, and under their slight covering,
so that in a short time they were wet to the skin.
The horses stood meekly beside them, with their tails
and heads equally pendulous; and Crusoe sat before his
master, looking at him with an expression that seemed
to say, "Couldn't you put a stop to this if you were to
try?"

"This'll never do. I'll try to git up a fire," said
Dick, jumping up in desperation.

"Ye may save yerself the trouble," remarked Joe
dryly--at least as dryly as was possible in the circumstances.

However, Dick did try, but he failed signally. Everything
was soaked and saturated. There were no large
trees; most of the bushes were green, and the dead ones
were soaked. The coverings were slobbery, the skins
they sat on were slobbery, the earth itself was slobbery;
so Dick threw his blanket (which was also slobbery)
round his shoulders, and sat down beside his companions
to grin and bear it. As for Joe and Henri, they were
old hands and accustomed to such circumstances. From
the first they had resigned themselves to their fate, and
wrapping their wet blankets round them sat down, side
by side, wisely to endure the evils that they could not
cure.

There is an old rhyme, by whom composed we know
not, and it matters little, which runs thus,--

/*
"For every evil under the sun
There is a remedy--or there's none.
*/
/*
If there is--try and find it;
If there isn't--never mind it!"
*/

There is deep wisdom here in small compass. The
principle involved deserves to be heartily recommended.
Dick never heard of the lines, but he knew the principle
well, so he began to "never mind it" by sitting down
beside his companions and whistling vociferously. As
the wind rendered this a difficult feat, he took to singing
instead. After that he said, "Let's eat a bite, Joe,
and then go to bed."

"Be all means," said Joe, who produced a mass of
dried deer's meat from a wallet.

"It's cold grub," said Dick, "and tough."

But the hunters' teeth were sharp and strong, so they
ate a hearty supper and washed it down with a drink
of rain water collected from a pool on the top of their
hut. They now tried to sleep, for the night was advancing,
and it was so dark that they could scarce see
their hands when held up before their faces. They sat
back to back, and thus, in the form of a tripod, began
to snooze. Joe's and Henri's seasoned frames would
have remained stiff as posts till morning; but Dick's
body was young and pliant, so he hadn't been asleep a
few seconds when he fell forward into the mud and
effectually awakened the others. Joe gave a grunt,
and Henri exclaimed, "Hah!" but Dick was too sleepy
and miserable to say anything. Crusoe, however, rose
up to show his sympathy, and laid his wet head on his
master's knee as he resumed his place. This catastrophe
happened three times in the space of an hour, and by
the third time they were all awakened up so thoroughly
that they gave up the attempt to sleep, and amused
each other by recounting their hunting experiences and
telling stories. So engrossed did they become that day
broke sooner than they had expected, and just in proportion
as the gray light of dawn rose higher into the
eastern sky did the spirits of these weary men rise
within their soaking bodies.



CHAPTER VII.




The "wallering" peculiarities of buffalo bulls--The first buffalo
hunt and its consequences--Crusoe comes to the rescue--Pawnees
discovered--A monster buffalo hunt--Joe acts the part of ambassador
.

Fortunately the day that succeeded the dreary
night described in the last chapter was warm
and magnificent. The sun rose in a blaze of splendour,
and filled the atmosphere with steam from the moist
earth.

The unfortunates in the wet camp were not slow to
avail themselves of his cheering rays. They hung up
everything on the bushes to dry, and by dint of extreme
patience and cutting out the comparatively dry hearts
of several pieces of wood, they lighted a fire and boiled
some rain-water, which was soon converted into soup.
This, and the exercise necessary for the performance of
these several duties, warmed and partially dried them;
so that when they once more mounted their steeds and
rode away, they were in a state of comparative comfort
and in excellent spirits. The only annoyance was the
clouds of mosquitoes and large flies that assailed men
and horses whenever they checked their speed.

"I tell ye wot it is," said Joe Blunt, one fine morning
about a week after they had begun to cross the prairie,
"it's my 'pinion that we'll come on buffaloes soon. Them
tracks are fresh, an' yonder's one o' their wallers that's
bin used not long agone."

"I'll go have a look at it," cried Dick, trotting away
as he spoke.

Everything in these vast prairies was new to Dick
Varley, and he was kept in a constant state of excitement
during the first week or two of his journey. It
is true he was quite familiar with the names and habits
of all the animals that dwelt there; for many a time and
oft had he listened to the "yarns" of the hunters and
trappers of the Mustang Valley, when they returned
laden with rich furs from their periodical hunting expeditions.
But this knowledge of his only served to
whet his curiosity and his desire to see the denizens of
the prairies with his own eyes; and now that his wish
was accomplished, it greatly increased the pleasures of
his journey.

Dick had just reached the "wallow" referred to by
Joe Blunt, and had reined up his steed to observe it
leisurely, when a faint hissing sound reached his ear.
Looking quickly back, he observed his two companions
crouching on the necks of their horses, and slowly descending
into a hollow of the prairie in front of them,
as if they wished to bring the rising ground between
them and some object in advance. Dick instantly followed
their example, and was soon at their heels.

"Ye needn't look at the waller," whispered Joe, "for
a' tother side o' the ridge there's a bull wallerin'."

"Ye don't mean it!" exclaimed Dick, as they all dismounted
and picketed their horses to the plain.
"Oui," said Henri, tumbling off his horse, while a
broad grin overspread his good-natured countenance,
"it is one fact! One buffalo bull be wollerin' like a
enormerous hog. Also, dere be t'ousands o' buffaloes
farder on."

"Can ye trust yer dog keepin' back?" inquired Joe,
with a dubious glance at Crusoe.

"Trust him! Ay, I wish I was as sure o' myself."

"Look to yer primin', then, an' we'll have tongues
and marrow bones for supper to-night, I'se warrant.
Hist! down on yer knees and go softly. We might
ha' run them down on horseback, but it's bad to wind
yer beasts on a trip like this, if ye can help it; an' it's
about as easy to stalk them. Leastways, we'll try.
Lift yer head slowly, Dick, an' don't show more nor the
half o't above the ridge."

Dick elevated his head as directed, and the scene that
met his view was indeed well calculated to send an
electric shock to the heart of an ardent sportsman.
The vast plain beyond was absolutely blackened with
countless herds of buffaloes, which were browsing on
the rich grass. They were still so far distant that their
bellowing, and the trampling of their myriad hoofs, only
reached the hunters like a faint murmur on the breeze.
In the immediate foreground, however, there was a
group of about half-a-dozen buffalo cows feeding quietly,
and in the midst of them an enormous old bull was
enjoying himself in his wallow. The animals, towards
which our hunters now crept with murderous intent,
are the fiercest and the most ponderous of the ruminating
inhabitants of the western wilderness. The name of
buffalo, however, is not correct. The animal is the bison,
and bears no resemblance whatever to the buffalo proper;
but as the hunters of the far west, and, indeed,
travellers generally, have adopted the misnomer, we bow
to the authority of custom and adopt it too.

Buffaloes roam in countless thousands all over the
North American prairies, from the Hudson Bay Territories,
north of Canada, to the shores of the Gulf of
Mexico.

The advance of white men to the west has driven
them to the prairies between the Missouri and the Rocky
Mountains, and has somewhat diminished their numbers;
but even thus diminished, they are still innumerable in
the more distant plains. Their colour is dark brown,
but it varies a good deal with the seasons. The hair
or fur, from its great length in winter and spring and
exposure to the weather, turns quite light; but when
the winter coat is shed off, the new growth is a beautiful
dark brown, almost approaching to jet-black. In
form the buffalo somewhat resembles the ox, but its
head and shoulders are much larger, and are covered
with a profusion of long shaggy hair which adds greatly
to the fierce aspect of the animal. It has a large hump
on the shoulder, and its fore-quarters are much larger,
in proportion, than the hind-quarters. The horns are
short and thick, the hoofs are cloven, and the tail is
short, with a tuft of hair at the extremity.

It is scarcely possible to conceive a wilder or more
ferocious and terrible monster than a buffalo bull. He
often grows to the enormous weight of two thousand
pounds. His lion-like mane falls in shaggy confusion
quite over his head and shoulders, down to the ground.
When he is wounded he becomes imbued with the spirit
of a tiger: he stamps, bellows, roars, and foams forth
his rage with glaring eyes and steaming nostrils, and
charges furiously at man and horse with utter recklessness.
Fortunately, however, he is not naturally pugnacious,
and can be easily thrown into a sudden panic.
Moreover, the peculiar position of his eye renders this
creature not so terrible as he would otherwise be to the
hunter. Owing to the stiff structure of the neck, and
the sunken, downward-looking eyeball, the buffalo cannot,
without an effort, see beyond the direct line of
vision presented to the habitual carriage of his head.
When, therefore, he is wounded, and charges, he does so
in a straight line, so that his pursuer can leap easily
out of his way. The pace of the buffalo is clumsy, and
apparently slow, yet, when chased, he dashes away over
the plains in blind blundering terror, at a rate that
leaves all but good horses far behind. He cannot keep
the pace up, however, and is usually soon overtaken.
Were the buffalo capable of the same alert and agile
motions of head and eye peculiar to the deer or wild
horse, in addition to his "bovine rage," he would be the
most formidable brute on earth. There is no object,
perhaps, so terrible as the headlong advance of a herd
of these animals when thoroughly aroused by terror.
They care not for their necks. All danger in front is
forgotten, or not seen, in the terror of that from which
they fly. No thundering cataract is more tremendously
irresistible than the black bellowing torrent which sometimes
pours through the narrow defiles of the Rocky
Mountains, or sweeps like a roaring flood over the
trembling plains.

The wallowing, to which we have referred, is a luxury
usually indulged in during the hot months of summer,
when the buffaloes are tormented by flies, and heat, and
drought. At this season they seek the low grounds in
the prairies where there is a little stagnant water lying
amongst the grass, and the ground underneath, being
saturated, is soft. The leader of the herd, a shaggy old
bull, usually takes upon himself to prepare the wallow.

It was a rugged monster of the largest size that did
so on the present occasion, to the intense delight of
Dick Varley, who begged Joe to lie still and watch the
operation before trying to shoot one of the buffalo
cows. Joe consented with a nod, and the four spectators--for
Crusoe was as much taken up with the
proceedings as any of them--crouched in the grass, and
looked on.

Coming up to the swampy spot, the old bull gave a
grunt of satisfaction, and going down on one knee,
plunged his short thick horns into the mud, tore it up,
and cast it aside. Having repeated this several times,
he plunged his head in, and brought it forth saturated
with dirty water and bedaubed with lumps of mud,
through which his fierce eyes gazed, with a ludicrous
expression of astonishment, straight in the direction of
the hunters, as if he meant to say, "I've done it that
time, and no mistake!" The other buffaloes seemed to
think so too, for they came up and looked on with an
expression that seemed to say, "Well done, old fellow;
try that again!"


The old fellow did try it again, and again, and again,
plunging, and ramming, and tearing up the earth, until
he formed an excavation large enough to contain his
huge body. In this bath he laid himself comfortably
down, and began to roll and wallow about until he
mixed up a trough full of thin soft mud, which
completely covered him. When he came out of the
hole there was scarcely an atom of his former self
visible!

The coat of mud thus put on by bulls is usually permitted
by them to dry, and is not finally got rid of
until long after, when oft-repeated rollings on the grass
and washings by rain at length clear it away.

When the old bull vacated this delectable bath,
another bull, scarcely if at all less ferocious-looking,
stepped forward to take his turn; but he was interrupted
by a volley from the hunters, which scattered
the animals right and left, and sent the mighty herds
in the distance flying over the prairie in wild terror.
The very turmoil of their own mad flight added to their
panic, and the continuous thunder of their hoofs was
heard until the last of them disappeared on the horizon.
The family party which had been fired at, however, did
not escape so well, Joe's rifle wounded a fat young
cow, and Dick Varley brought it down. Henri had
done his best, but as the animals were too far distant
for his limited vision, he missed the cow he fired at, and
hit the young bull whose bath had been interrupted.
The others scattered and fled.

"Well done, Dick," exclaimed Joe Blunt, as they all
ran up to the cow that had fallen. "Your first shot at
the buffalo was a good un. Come, now, an' I'll show ye
how to cut it up an' carry off the tit-bits."

"Ah, mon dear ole bull!" exclaimed Henri, gazing
after the animal which he had wounded, and which was
now limping slowly away. "You is not worth goin'
after. Farewell--adieu."

"He'll be tough enough, I warrant," said Joe; "an'
we've more meat here nor we can lift."

"But wouldn't it be as well to put the poor brute
out o' pain?" suggested Dick.

"Oh, he'll die soon enough," replied Joe, tucking up
his sleeves and drawing his long hunting-knife.

Dick, however, was not satisfied with this way of
looking at it. Saying that he would be back in a few
minutes, he reloaded his rifle, and calling Crusoe to his
side, walked quickly after the wounded bull, which was
now hid from view in a hollow of the plain.

In a few minutes he came in sight of it, and ran
forward with his rifle in readiness.

"Down, Crusoe," he whispered; "wait for me here."

Crusoe crouched in the grass instantly, and Dick
advanced. As he came on, the bull observed him, and
turned round bellowing with rage and pain to receive
him. The aspect of the brute on a near view was so
terrible that Dick involuntarily stopped too, and gazed
with a mingled feeling of wonder and awe, while it
bristled with passion, and blood-streaked foam dropped
from its open jaws, and its eyes glared furiously.
Seeing that Dick did not advance, the bull charged him
with a terrific roar; but the youth had firm nerves,
and although the rush of such a savage creature at full
speed was calculated to try the courage of any man,
especially one who had never seen a buffalo bull before,
Dick did not lose presence of mind. He remembered
the many stories he had listened to of this very thing
that was now happening; so, crushing down his excitement
as well as he could, he cocked his rifle and
awaited the charge. He knew that it was of no use to
fire at the head of the advancing foe, as the thickness
of the skull, together with the matted hair on the forehead,
rendered it impervious to a bullet.

When the bull was within a yard of him he leaped
lightly to one side and it passed. Just as it did so,
Dick aimed at its heart and fired, but his knowledge of
the creature's anatomy was not yet correct. The ball
entered the shoulder too high, and the bull, checking
himself as well as he could in his headlong rush, turned
round and made at Dick again.

The failure, coupled with the excitement, proved too
much for Dick; he could not resist discharging his
second barrel at the brute's head as it came on. He
might as well have fired at a brick wall. It shook its
shaggy front, and with a hideous bellow thundered forward.
Again Dick sprang to one side, but in doing so
a tuft of grass or a stone caught his foot, and he fell
heavily to the ground.

Up to this point Crusoe's admirable training had
nailed him to the spot where he had been left, although
the twitching of every fibre in his body and a low continuous
whine showed how gladly he would have hailed
permission to join in the combat; but the instant he
saw his master down, and the buffalo turning to charge
again, he sprang forward with a roar that would have
done credit to his bovine enemy, and seized him by the
nose. So vigorous was the rush that he well-nigh
pulled the bull down on its side. One toss of its head,
however, sent Crusoe high into the air; but it accomplished
this feat at the expense of its nose, which was
torn and lacerated by the dog's teeth.

Scarcely had Crusoe touched the ground, which he
did with a sounding thump, than he sprang up and
flew at his adversary again. This time, however, he
adopted the plan of barking furiously and biting by
rapid yet terrible snaps as he found opportunity, thus
keeping the bull entirely engrossed, and affording Dick
an opportunity of reloading his rifle, which he was not
slow to do. Dick then stepped close up, and while the
two combatants were roaring in each other's faces, he
shot the buffalo through the heart. It fell to the earth
with a deep groan.

Crusoe's rage instantly vanished on beholding this,
and he seemed to be filled with tumultuous joy at his
master's escape, for he gambolled round him, and whined
and fawned upon him in a manner that could not be
misunderstood.

"Good dog; thank'ee, my pup," said Dick, patting
Crusoe's head as he stooped to brush the dust from his
leggings. "I don't know what would ha' become o' me
but for your help, Crusoe."

Crusoe turned his head a little to one side, wagged
his tail, and looked at Dick with an expression that
said quite plainly, "I'd die for you, I would--not
once, or twice, but ten times, fifty times if need be--and
that not merely to save your life, but even to
please you."

There is no doubt whatever that Crusoe felt something
of this sort. The love of a Newfoundland dog to
its master is beyond calculation or expression. He who
once gains such love carries the dog's life in his hand.
But let him who reads note well, and remember that
there is only one coin that can purchase such love, and
that is kindness. The coin, too, must be genuine. Kindness
merely expressed will not do, it must be felt.

"Hallo, boy, ye've bin i' the wars!" exclaimed Joe,
raising himself from his task as Dick and Crusoe returned.

"You look more like it than I do," retorted Dick,
laughing.

This was true, for cutting up a buffalo carcass with
no other instrument than a large knife is no easy
matter. Yet western hunters and Indians can do it
without cleaver or saw, in a way that would surprise
a civilized butcher not a little. Joe was covered with
blood up to the elbows. His hair, happening to have
a knack of getting into his eyes, had been so often
brushed off with bloody hands, that his whole visage
was speckled with gore, and his dress was by no means
immaculate.

While Dick related his adventure, or mis-adventure,
with the bull, Joe and Henri completed the cutting out
of the most delicate portions of the buffalo--namely,
the hump on its shoulder--which is a choice piece,
much finer than the best beef--and the tongue, and
a few other parts. The tongues of buffaloes are superior
to those of domestic cattle. When all was ready
the meat was slung across the back of the pack-horse;
and the party, remounting their horses, continued their
journey, having first cleansed themselves as well as they
could in the rather dirty waters of an old wallow.

"See," said Henri, turning to Dick and pointing to a
circular spot of green as they rode along, "that is one
old dry waller."

"Ay," remarked Joe; "after the waller dries, it becomes
a ring o' greener grass than the rest o' the plain,
as ye see. Tis said the first hunters used to wonder
greatly at these myster'ous circles, and they invented
all sorts o' stories to account for 'em. Some said they
wos fairy-rings, but at last they comed to know they
wos nothin' more nor less than places where buffaloes
wos used to waller in. It's often seemed to me that if
we knowed the raisons o' things, we wouldn't be so
much puzzled wi' them as we are."

The truth of this last remark was so self-evident
and incontrovertible that it elicited no reply, and the
three friends rode on for a considerable time in silence.

It was now past noon, and they were thinking of
calling a halt for a short rest to the horses and a pipe
to themselves, when Joe was heard to give vent to one
of those peculiar hisses that always accompanied either
a surprise or a caution. In the present case it indicated
both.

"What now, Joe?"

"Injuns!" ejaculated Joe.

"Eh! fat you say? Ou is dey?"

Crusoe at this moment uttered a low growl. Ever
since the day he had been partially roasted he had
maintained a rooted antipathy to Red-men. Joe immediately
dismounted, and placing his ear to the ground
listened intently. It is a curious fact that by placing
the ear close to the ground sounds can be heard distinctly
which could not be heard at all if the listener
were to maintain an erect position.

"They're arter the buffalo," said Joe, rising, "an' I
think it's likely they're a band o' Pawnees. Listen an'
ye'll hear their shouts quite plain."

Dick and Henri immediately lay down and placed
their ears to the ground.

"Now, me hear noting," said Henri, jumping up, "but
me ear is like me eyes--ver' short-sighted."

"I do hear something," said Dick as he got up, "but
the beating o' my own heart makes row enough to spoil
my hearin'."

Joe Blunt smiled. "Ah! lad, ye're young, an' yer
blood's too hot yet; but bide a bit--you'll cool down
soon. I wos like you once. Now, lads, what think
ye we should do?"

"You know best, Joe."

"Oui, nodoubtedly.'

"Then wot I advise is that we gallop to the broken
sand hillocks ye see yonder, get behind them, an' take
a peep at the Redskins. If they are Pawnees, we'll go
up to them at once; if not, we'll hold a council o' war
on the spot."

Having arranged this, they mounted and hastened
towards the hillocks in question, which they reached
after ten minutes' gallop at full stretch. The sandy
mounds afforded them concealment, and enabled them
to watch the proceedings of the savages in the plain
below. The scene was the most curious and exciting
that can be conceived. The centre of the plain before
them was crowded with hundreds of buffaloes, which
were dashing about in the most frantic state of alarm.
To whatever point they galloped they were met by
yelling savages on horseback, who could not have
been fewer in numbers than a thousand, all being
armed with lance, bow, and quiver, and mounted on
active little horses. The Indians had completely surrounded
the herd of buffaloes, and were now advancing
steadily towards them, gradually narrowing the circle,
and whenever the terrified animals endeavoured to
break through the line, they rushed to that particular
spot in a body, and scared them back again into the
centre.

Thus they advanced until they closed in on their
prey and formed an unbroken circle round them, whilst
the poor brutes kept eddying and surging to and fro
in a confused mass, hooking and climbing upon each
other, and bellowing furiously. Suddenly the horsemen
made a rush, and the work of destruction began.
The tremendous turmoil raised a cloud of dust that
obscured the field in some places, and hid it from our
hunters' view. Some of the Indians galloped round
and round the circle, sending their arrows whizzing up
to the feathers in the sides of the fattest cows. Others
dashed fearlessly into the midst of the black heaving
mass, and, with their long lances, pierced dozens of
them to the heart. In many instances the buffaloes,
infuriated by wounds, turned fiercely on their assailants
and gored the horses to death, in which cases the men
had to trust to their nimble legs for safety. Sometimes
a horse got jammed in the centre of the swaying
mass, and could neither advance nor retreat. Then
the savage rider leaped upon the buffaloes' backs, and
springing from one to another, like an acrobat, gained
the outer edge of the circle; not failing, however, in his
strange flight, to pierce with his lance several of the
fattest of his stepping-stones as he sped along.

A few of the herd succeeded in escaping from the
blood and dust of this desperate battle, and made off
over the plains; but they were quickly overtaken, and
the lance or the arrow brought them down on the green
turf. Many of the dismounted riders were chased by
bulls; but they stepped lightly to one side, and, as the
animals passed, drove their arrows deep into their sides.
Thus the tumultuous war went on, amid thundering
tread, and yell, and bellow, till the green plain was
transformed into a sea of blood and mire, and every
buffalo of the herd was laid low.

It is not to be supposed that such reckless warfare
is invariably waged without damage to the savages.
Many were the wounds and bruises received that day,
and not a few bones were broken, but happily no lives
were lost.

"Now, lads, now's our time. A bold and fearless
look's the best at all times. Don't look as if ye
doubted their friendship; and mind, wotever ye do,
don't use yer arms. Follow me."

Saying this, Joe Blunt leaped on his horse, and,
bounding over the ridge at full speed, galloped headlong
across the plain.

The savages observed the strangers instantly, and a
loud yell announced the fact as they assembled from
all parts of the field brandishing their bows and spears.
Joe's quick eye soon distinguished their chief, towards
whom he galloped, still at full speed, till within a yard
or two of his horse's head; then he reined up suddenly.
So rapidly did Joe and his comrades approach, and so
instantaneously did they pull up, that their steeds were
thrown almost on their haunches.

The Indian chief did not move a muscle. He was
a tall, powerful savage, almost naked, and mounted on
a coal-black charger, which he sat with the ease of a
man accustomed to ride from infancy. He was, indeed,
a splendid-looking savage, but his face wore a dark
frown, for, although he and his band had visited the
settlements and trafficked with the fur-traders on the
Missouri, he did not love the "Pale-faces," whom he
regarded as intruders on the hunting-grounds of his
fathers, and the peace that existed between them at
that time was of a very fragile character. Indeed, it
was deemed by the traders impossible to travel through
the Indian country at that period except in strong force,
and it was the very boldness of the present attempt that
secured to our hunters anything like a civil reception.

Joe, who could speak the Pawnee tongue fluently,
began by explaining the object of his visit, and spoke
of the presents which he had brought for the great
chief; but it was evident that his words made little
impression. As he discoursed to them the savages crowded round the
little party, and began to handle and examine their dresses and
weapons with a degree of rudeness that caused Joe considerable
anxiety.

"Mahtawa believes that the heart of the Pale-face
is true," said the savage, when Joe paused, "but he
does not choose to make peace. The Pale-faces are
grasping. They never rest. They turn their eyes to
the great mountains and say, 'There we will stop.'
But even there they will not stop. They are never
satisfied; Mahtawa knows them well."

This speech sank like a death-knell into the hearts
of the hunters, for they knew that if the savages refused
to make peace, they would scalp them all and appropriate
their goods. To make things worse, a dark-visaged
Indian suddenly caught hold of Henri's rifle,
and, ere he was aware, had plucked it from his hand.
The blood rushed to the gigantic hunter's forehead, and
he was on the point of springing at the man, when Joe
said in a deep quiet voice,--

"Be still, Henri. You will but hasten death."

At this moment there was a movement in the outskirts
of the circle of horsemen, and another chief rode
into the midst of them. He was evidently higher in
rank than Mahtawa, for he spoke authoritatively to the
crowd, and stepped in before him. The hunters drew
little comfort from the appearance of his face, however,
for it scowled upon them. He was not so powerful
a man as Mahtawa, but he was more gracefully
formed, and had a more noble and commanding countenance.

"Have the Pale-faces no wigwams on the great river
that they should come to spy out the lands of the
Pawnee?" he demanded.

"We have not come to spy your country," answered
Joe, raising himself proudly as he spoke, and taking off
his cap. "We have come with a message from the great
chief of the Pale-faces, who lives in the village far
beyond the great river where the sun rises. He says,
Why should the Pale-face and the Red-man fight?
They are brothers. The same Manitou[*] watches over
both. The Pale-faces have more beads, and guns, and
blankets, and knives, and vermilion than they require;
they wish to give some of these things for the skins
and furs which the Red-man does not know what to
do with. The great chief of the Pale-faces has sent me
to say, Why should we fight? let us smoke the pipe of
peace."

At the mention of beads and blankets the face of the
wily chief brightened for a moment. Then he said
sternly,--

"The heart of the Pale-face is not true. He has
come here to trade for himself. San-it-sa-rish has eyes
that can see; they are not shut. Are not these your
goods?" The chief pointed to the pack-horse as he spoke.

"Trappers do not take their goods into the heart
of an enemy's camp," returned Joe. "San-it-sa-rish is
wise, and will understand this. These are gifts to the
chief of the Pawnees. There are more awaiting him
when the pipe of peace is smoked. I have said. What
message shall we take back to the great chief of the
Pale-faces?"

[Footnote *: The Indian name for God.]

San-it-sa-rish was evidently mollified.

"The hunting-field is not the council tent," he said.
"The Pale-faces will go with us to our village."

Of course Joe was too glad to agree to this proposal,
but he now deemed it politic to display a little firmness.

"We cannot go till our rifle is restored. It will not
do to go back and tell the great chief of the Pale-faces
that the Pawnees are thieves."

The chief frowned angrily.

"The Pawnees are true; they are not thieves. They
choose to look at the rifle of the Pale-face. It shall be
returned."

The rifle was instantly restored, and then our hunters
rode off with the Indians towards their camp. On the
way they met hundreds of women and children going
to the scene of the great hunt, for it was their special
duty to cut up the meat and carry it into camp. The
men, considering that they had done quite enough in
killing it, returned to smoke and eat away the fatigues
of the chase.

As they rode along, Dick Varley observed that some
of the "braves," as Indian warriors are styled, were
eating pieces of the bloody livers of the buffaloes in a
raw state, at which he expressed not a little disgust.

"Ah, boy! you're green yet," remarked Joe Blunt in
an undertone. "Mayhap ye'll be thankful to do that
same yerself some day."

"Well, I'll not refuse to try when it is needful," said
Dick with a laugh; "meanwhile I'm content to see the
Redskins do it, Joe Blunt."



CHAPTER VIII.




Dick and his friends visit the Indians and see many
wonders--Crusoe, too, experiences a few surprises, and teaches
Indian dogs a lesson--An Indian dandy--A foot-race.


The Pawnee village, at which they soon arrived, was
situated in the midst of a most interesting and
picturesque scene.

It occupied an extensive plain which sloped gently
down to a creek,[*] whose winding course was marked
by a broken line of wood, here and there interspersed
with a fine clump of trees, between the trunks of which
the blue waters of a lake sparkled in the distance.
Hundreds of tents or "lodges" of buffalo-skins covered
the ground, and thousands of Indians--men, women,
and children--moved about the busy scene. Some
were sitting in their lodges, lazily smoking their pipes.
But these were chiefly old and infirm veterans, for all
the young men had gone to the hunt which we have just
described. The women were stooping over their fires,
busily preparing maize and meat for their husbands
and brothers; while myriads of little brown and naked
children romped about everywhere, filling the air with
their yells and screams, which were only equalled, if not
surpassed, by the yelping dogs that seemed innumerable.

[Footnote *: In America small rivers or rivulets are termed "creeks."]

Far as the eye could reach were seen scattered herds
of horses. These were tended by little boys who were
totally destitute of clothing, and who seemed to enjoy
with infinite zest the pastime of shooting-practice with
little bows and arrows. No wonder that these Indians
become expert bowmen. There were urchins there,
scarce two feet high, with round bullets of bodies and
short spindle-shanks, who could knock blackbirds off
the trees at every shot, and cut the heads off the taller
flowers with perfect certainty! There was much need,
too, for the utmost proficiency they could attain, for the
very existence of the Indian tribes of the prairies depends
on their success in hunting the buffalo.

There are hundreds and thousands of North American
savages who would undoubtedly perish, and their tribes
become extinct, if the buffaloes were to leave the prairies
or die out. Yet, although animals are absolutely essential
to their existence, they pursue and slay them with
improvident recklessness, sometimes killing hundreds of
them merely for the sake of the sport, the tongues, and
the marrow bones. In the bloody hunt described in the
last chapter, however, the slaughter of so many was not
wanton, because the village that had to be supplied with
food was large, and, just previous to the hunt, they had
been living on somewhat reduced allowance. Even the
blackbirds shot by the brown-bodied urchins before mentioned
had been thankfully put into the pot. Thus
precarious is the supply of food among the Red-men,
who on one day are starving, and the next are revelling
in superabundance.

But to return to our story. At one end of this village
the creek sprang over a ledge of rock in a low cascade
and opened out into a beautiful lake, the bosom
of which was studded with small islands. Here were
thousands of those smaller species of wild water-fowl
which were either too brave or too foolish to be scared
away by the noise of the camp. And here, too, dozens
of children were sporting on the beach, or paddling
about in their light bark canoes.

"Isn't it strange," remarked Dick to Henri, as they
passed among the tents towards the centre of the village--"isn't
it strange that them Injuns should be so
fond o' fightin', when they've got all they can want--a
fine country, lots o' buffalo, an', as far as I can see,
happy homes?"

"Oui, it is remarkaibel, vraiment. Bot dey do more
love war to peace. Dey loves to be excit-ed, I s'pose."

"Humph! One would think the hunt we seed a little
agone would be excitement enough. But, I say, that
must he the chiefs tent, by the look o't."

Dick was right. The horsemen pulled up and dismounted
opposite the principal chief's tent, which was
a larger and more elegant structure than the others.
Meanwhile an immense concourse of women, children,
and dogs gathered round the strangers, and while the
latter yelped their dislike to white men, the former
chattered continuously, as they discussed the appearance
of the strangers and their errand, which latter soon
became known. An end was put to this by San-it-sa-rish
desiring the hunters to enter the tent, and spreading
a buffalo robe for them to sit on. Two braves
carried in their packs, and then led away their horses.

All this time Crusoe had kept as close as possible to
his master's side, feeling extremely uncomfortable in the
midst of such a strange crowd, the more especially that
the ill-looking Indian curs gave him expressive looks
of hatred, and exhibited some desire to rush upon him
in a body, so that he had to keep a sharp look-out
all round him. When therefore Dick entered the tent,
Crusoe endeavoured to do so along with him; but he
was met by a blow on the nose from an old squaw, who
scolded him in a shrill voice and bade him begone.

Either our hero's knowledge of the Indian language
was insufficient to enable him to understand the order,
or he had resolved not to obey it, for instead of retreating,
he drew a deep gurgling breath, curled his nose,
and displayed a row of teeth that caused the old woman
to draw back in alarm. Crusoe's was a forgiving spirit.
The instant that opposition ceased he forgot the injury,
and was meekly advancing, when Dick held up his
finger.

"Go outside, pup, and wait."

Crusoe's tail drooped; with a deep sigh he turned
and left the tent. He took up a position near the entrance,
however, and sat down resignedly. So meek,
indeed, did the poor dog look that six mangy-looking
curs felt their dastardly hearts emboldened to make a
rush at him with boisterous yells.

Crusoe did not rise. He did not even condescend to
turn his head toward them; but he looked at them out
of the corner of his dark eye, wrinkled--very slightly--the
skin of his nose, exhibited two beautiful fangs,
and gave utterance to a soft remark, that might be described as quiet,
deep-toned gurgling. It wasn't much,
but it was more than enough for the valiant six, who
paused and snarled violently.

It was a peculiar trait of Crusoe's gentle nature that,
the moment any danger ceased, he resumed his expression
of nonchalant gravity. The expression on this
occasion was misunderstood, however; and as about two
dozen additional yelping dogs had joined the ranks of
the enemy, they advanced in close order to the attack.

Crusoe still sat quiet, and kept his head high; but he
looked at them again, and exhibited four fangs for their
inspection. Among the pack there was one Indian dog
of large size--almost as large as Crusoe himself--which
kept well in the rear, and apparently urged the lesser
dogs on. The little dogs didn't object, for little dogs
are generally the most pugnacious. At this big dog
Crusoe directed a pointed glance, but said nothing.
Meanwhile a particularly small and vicious cur, with a
mere rag of a tail, crept round by the back of the tent,
and coming upon Crusoe in rear, snapped at his tail
sharply, and then fled shrieking with terror and surprise,
no doubt, at its own temerity.

Crusoe did not bark; he seldom barked; he usually
either said nothing, or gave utterance to a prolonged
roar of indignation of the most terrible character, with
barks, as it were, mingled through it. It somewhat
resembled that peculiar and well-known species of thunder,
the prolonged roll of which is marked at short
intervals in its course by cannon-like cracks. It was
a continuous, but, so to speak, knotted roar.

On receiving the snap, Crusoe gave forth the roar
with a majesty and power that scattered the pugnacious
front rank of the enemy to the winds. Those that still
remained, half stupified, he leaped over with a huge
bound, and alighted, fangs first, on the back of the big
dog. There was one hideous yell, a muffled scramble of
an instant's duration, and the big dog lay dead upon
the plain!

It was an awful thing to do, but Crusoe evidently
felt that the peculiar circumstances of the case required
that an example should be made; and to say truth, all
things considered, we cannot blame him. The news
must have been carried at once through the canine portion
of the camp, for Crusoe was never interfered with
again after that.

Dick witnessed this little incident; but he observed
that the Indian chief cared not a straw about it, and as
his dog returned quietly and sat down in its old place
he took no notice of it either, but continued to listen
to the explanations which Joe gave to the chief, of the
desire of the Pale-faces to be friends with the Red-men.

Joe's eloquence would have done little for him on
this occasion had his hands been empty, but he followed
it up by opening one of his packs and displaying the
glittering contents before the equally glittering eyes of
the chief and his squaws.

"These," said Joe, "are the gifts that the great chief
of the Pale-faces sends to the great chief of the Pawnees.
And he bids me say that there are many more things in
his stores which will be traded for skins with the Red-men,
when they visit him; and he also says that if the
Pawnees will not steal horses any more from the Pale-faces, they shall
receive gifts of knives, and guns, and
powder, and blankets every year."

"Wah!" grunted the chief; "it is good. The great
chief is wise. We will smoke the pipe of peace."

The things that afforded so much satisfaction to San-it-sa-rish
were the veriest trifles. Penny looking-glasses
in yellow gilt tin frames, beads of various colours, needles,
cheap scissors and knives, vermilion paint, and coarse
scarlet cloth, etc. They were of priceless value, however,
in the estimation of the savages, who delighted to
adorn themselves with leggings made from the cloth,
beautifully worked with beads by their own ingenious
women. They were thankful, too, for knives even of
the commonest description, having none but bone ones
of their own; and they gloried in daubing their faces
with intermingled streaks of charcoal and vermilion.
To gaze at their visages, when thus treated, in the little
penny looking-glasses is their summit of delight!

Joe presented the chief with a portion of these coveted
goods, and tied up the remainder. We may remark
here that the only thing which prevented the savages
from taking possession of the whole at once, without
asking permission, was the promise of the annual gifts,
which they knew would not be forthcoming were any
evil to befall the deputies of the Pale-faces. Nevertheless,
it cost them a severe struggle to restrain their
hands on this occasion, and Joe and his companions felt
that they would have to play their part well in order
to fulfil their mission with safety and credit.

"The Pale-faces may go now and talk with the
braves," said San-it-sa-rish, after carefully examining
everything that was given to him; "a council will be
called soon, and we will smoke the pipe of peace."

Accepting this permission to retire, the hunters immediately
left the tent; and being now at liberty to do
what they pleased, they amused themselves by wandering
about the village.

"He's a cute chap that," remarked Joe, with a sarcastic
smile; "I don't feel quite easy about gettin' away.
He'll bother the life out o' us to get all the goods we've
got, and, ye see, as we've other tribes to visit, we must
give away as little as we can here."

"Ha! you is right," said Henri; "dat fellow's eyes
twinkle at de knives and tings like two stars."

"Fire-flies, ye should say. Stars are too soft an'
beautiful to compare to the eyes o' yon savage," said
Dick, laughing. "I wish we were well away from
them. That rascal Mahtawa is an ugly customer."

"True, lad," returned Joe; "had he bin the great
chief our scalps had bin dryin' in the smoke o' a Pawnee
wigwam afore now. What now, lad?"

Joe's question was put in consequence of a gleeful
smile that overspread the countenance of Dick Varley,
who replied by pointing to a wigwam towards which
they were approaching.

"Oh! that's only a dandy," exclaimed Joe. "There's
lots o' them in every Injun camp. They're fit for
nothin' but dress, poor contemptible critters."

Joe accompanied his remark with a sneer, for of all
pitiable objects he regarded an unmanly man as the
most despicable. He consented, however, to sit down
on a grassy bank and watch the proceedings of this
Indian dandy, who had just seated himself in front of
his wigwam for the purpose of making his toilet.

He began it by greasing his whole person carefully
and smoothly over with buffalo fat, until he shone like
a patent leather boot; then he rubbed himself almost
dry, leaving the skin sleek and glossy. Having proceeded
thus far, he took up a small mirror, a few inches
in diameter, which he or some other member of the tribe
must have procured during one of their few excursions
to the trading-forts of the Pale-faces, and examined himself,
as well as he could, in so limited a space. Next,
he took a little vermilion from a small parcel and
rubbed it over his face until it presented the somewhat
demoniac appearance of a fiery red. He also drew a
broad red score along the crown of his head, which was
closely shaved, with the exception of the usual tuft or
scalplock on the top. This scalplock stood bristling
straight up a few inches, and then curved over and
hung down his back about two feet. Immense care and
attention was bestowed on this lock. He smoothed it,
greased it, and plaited it into the form of a pigtail.
Another application was here made to the glass, and the
result was evidently satisfactory, to judge from the
beaming smile that played on his features. But, not
content with the general effect, he tried the effect of
expression--frowned
portentously, scowled savagely, gaped
hideously, and grinned horribly a ghastly smile.

Then our dandy fitted into his ears, which were
bored in several places, sundry ornaments, such as rings,
wampum, etc., and hung several strings of beads round
his neck. Besides these he affixed one or two ornaments
to his arms, wrists, and ankles, and touched in a
few effects with vermilion on the shoulders and breast.
After this, and a few more glances at the glass, he put
on a pair of beautiful moccasins, which, besides being
richly wrought with beads, were soft as chamois leather
and fitted his feet like gloves. A pair of leggings of
scarlet cloth were drawn on, attached to a waist-belt,
and bound below the knee with broad garters of variegated
bead-work.

It was some time before this Adonis was quite satisfied
with himself. He retouched the paint on his shoulders
several times, and modified the glare of that on his
wide-mouthed, high-cheek-boned visage, before he could
tear himself away; but at last he did so, and throwing
a large piece of scarlet cloth over his shoulders, he thrust
his looking-glass under his belt, and proceeded to mount
his palfrey, which was held in readiness near to the
tent door by one of his wives. The horse was really a
fine animal, and seemed worthy of a more warlike
master. His shoulders, too, were striped with red paint,
and feathers were intertwined with his mane and tail, while
the bridle was decorated with various jingling ornaments.

Vaulting upon his steed, with a large fan of wild
goose and turkey feathers in one hand, and a whip
dangling at the wrist of the other, this incomparable
dandy sallied forth for a promenade--that being his
chief delight when there was no buffalo hunting to be
done. Other men who were not dandies sharpened
their knives, smoked, feasted, and mended their spears
and arrows at such seasons of leisure, or played at
athletic games.
"Let's follow my buck," said Joe Blunt.

"Oui. Come 'long," replied Henri, striding after the
rider at a pace that almost compelled his comrades
to run.

"Hold on!" cried Dick, laughing; "we don't want
to keep him company. A distant view is quite enough
o' sich a chap as that."

"Mais you forgit I cannot see far."

"So much the better," remarked Joe; "it's my
opinion we've seen enough o' him. Ah! he's goin' to
look on at the games. Them's worth lookin' at."

The games to which Joe referred were taking place
on a green level plain close to the creek, and a little
above the waterfall before referred to. Some of the
Indians were horse-racing, some jumping, and others
wrestling; but the game which proved most attractive
was throwing the javelin, in which several of the young
braves were engaged.

This game is played by two competitors, each armed
with a dart, in an arena about fifty yards long. One
of the players has a hoop of six inches in diameter.
At a signal they start off on foot at full speed, and on
reaching the middle of the arena the Indian with the
hoop rolls it along before them, and each does his best
to send a javelin through the hoop before the other.
He who succeeds counts so many points; if both miss,
the nearest to the hoop is allowed to count, but not so
much as if he had "ringed" it. The Indians are very
fond of this game, and will play at it under a broiling
sun for hours together. But a good deal of the interest
attaching to it is owing to the fact that they make it a
means of gambling. Indians are inveterate gamblers,
and will sometimes go on until they lose horses, bows,
blankets, robes, and, in short, their whole personal
property. The consequences are, as might be expected,
that fierce and bloody quarrels sometimes arise in which
life is often lost.

"Try your hand at that," said Henri to Dick.

"By all means," cried Dick, handing his rifle to his
friend, and springing into the ring enthusiastically.

A general shout of applause greeted the Pale-face,
who threw off' his coat and tightened his belt, while, a
young Indian presented him with a dart.

"Now, see that ye do us credit, lad," said Joe.

"I'll try," answered Dick.

In a moment they were off. The young Indian
rolled away the hoop, and Dick threw his dart with
such vigour that it went deep into the ground, but
missed the hoop by a foot at least. The young Indian's
first dart went through the centre.

"Ha!" exclaimed Joe Blunt to the Indians near him,
"the lad's not used to that game; try him at a race.
Bring out your best brave--he whose bound is like the
hunted deer."

We need scarcely remind the reader that Joe spoke
in the Indian language, and that the above is a correct
rendering of the sense of what he said.

The name of Tarwicadia, or the little chief, immediately
passed from lip to lip, and in a few minutes an
Indian, a little below the medium size, bounded into
the arena with an indiarubber-like elasticity that caused
a shade of anxiety to pass over Joe's face.

"Ah, boy!" he whispered, "I'm afeard you'll find
him a tough customer."

"That's just what I want," replied Dick. "He's
supple enough, but he wants muscle in the thigh.
We'll make it a long heat."

"Right, lad, ye're right."

Joe now proceeded to arrange the conditions of the
race with the chiefs around him. It was fixed that the
distance to be run should be a mile, so that the race
would be one of two miles, out and back. Moreover,
the competitors were to run without any clothes, except
a belt and a small piece of cloth round the loins. This
to the Indians was nothing, for they seldom wore more
in warm weather; but Dick would have preferred to
keep on part of his dress. The laws of the course,
however, would not permit of this, so he stripped and
stood forth, the beau-ideal of a well-formed, agile man.
He was greatly superior in size to his antagonist, and
more muscular, the savage being slender and extremely
lithe and springy.

"Ha! I will run too," shouted Henri, bouncing forward
with clumsy energy, and throwing off his coat
just as they were going to start.

The savages smiled at this unexpected burst, and
made no objection, considering the thing in the light of
a joke.

The signal was given, and away they went. Oh! it
would have done you good to have seen the way in
which Henri manoeuvred his limbs on this celebrated
occasion! He went over the ground with huge elephantine
bounds, runs, and jumps. He could not have been
said to have one style of running; he had a dozen
styles, all of which came into play in the course of half
as many minutes. The other two ran like the wind;
yet although Henri appeared to be going heavily over
the ground, he kept up with them to the turning-point.
As for Dick, it became evident in the first few minutes
that he could outstrip his antagonist with ease, and
was hanging back a little all the time. He shot ahead
like an arrow when they came about half-way back,
and it was clear that the real interest of the race was
to lie in the competition between Henri and Tarwicadia.

Before they were two-thirds of the way back, Dick
walked in to the winning-point, and turned to watch
the others. Henri's wind was about gone, for he exerted
himself with such violence that he wasted half
his strength. The Indian, on the contrary, was comparatively
fresh, but he was not so fleet as his antagonist,
whose tremendous strides carried him over the
ground at an incredible pace. On they came neck and
neck, till close on the score that marked the winning-point.
Here the value of enthusiasm came out strongly
in the case of Henri. He felt that he could not gain
an inch on Tarwicadia to save his life, but just as he
came up he observed the anxious faces of his comrades
and the half-sneering countenances of the savages. His
heart thumped against his ribs, every muscle thrilled
with a gush of conflicting feelings, and he hurled himself
over the score like a cannon shot, full six inches
ahead of the little chief!

But the thing did not by any means end here. Tarwicadia
pulled up the instant he had passed. Not so
our Canadian. Such a clumsy and colossal frame was
not to be checked in a moment. The crowd of Indians
opened up to let him pass, but unfortunately a small
tent that stood in the way was not so obliging. Into
it he went, head foremost, like a shell, carried away the
corner post with his shoulder, and brought the whole
affair down about his own ears and those of its inmates,
among whom were several children and two or three
dogs. It required some time to extricate them all from
the ruins, but when this was effected it was found that
no serious damage had been done to life or limb.



CHAPTER IX.




Crusoe acts a conspicuous and humane part--A friend
gained
--A great feast.

When the foot-race was concluded the three
hunters hung about looking on at the various
games for some time, and then strolled towards the lake.

"Ye may be thankful yer neck's whole," said Joe,
grinning, as Henri rubbed his shoulder with a rueful
look. "An' we'll have to send that Injun and his family
a knife and some beads to make up for the fright they
got."

"Ha! an' fat is to be give to me for my broke
shoulder?"

"Credit, man, credit," said Dick Varley, laughing.

"Credit! fat is dat?"

"Honour and glory, lad, and the praises of them
savages."

"Ha! de praise? more probeebale de ill-vill of de
rascale. I seed dem scowl at me not ver' pritty."

"That's true, Henri; but sich as it is it's all ye'll git."

"I vish," remarked Henri after a pause--"I vish I
could git de vampum belt de leetle chief had on. It
vas superb. Fat place do vampums come from?"

"They're shells--"

"Oui," interrupted Henri; "I know fat dey is. Dey
is shells, and de Injuns tink dem goot monish, mais I
ask you fat place de come from."

"They are thought to be gathered on the shores o'
the Pacific," said Joe. "The Injuns on the west o' the
Rocky Mountains picks them up and exchanges them
wi' the fellows hereaway for horses and skins--so I'm
told."

At this moment there was a wild cry of terror heard
a short distance ahead of them. Rushing forward they
observed an Indian woman flying frantically down the
river's bank towards the waterfall, a hundred yards
above which an object was seen struggling in the water.

"'Tis her child," cried Joe, as the mother's frantic cry
reached his ear. "It'll be over the fall in a minute!
Run, Dick, you're quickest."

They had all started forward at speed, but Dick and
Crusoe were far ahead, and abreast of the spot in a few
seconds.

"Save it, pup," cried Dick, pointing to the child,
which had been caught in an eddy, and was for a few
moments hovering on the edge of the stream that rushed
impetuously towards the fall.

The noble Newfoundland did not require to be told
what to do. It seems a natural instinct in this sagacious
species of dog to save man or beast that chances
to be struggling in the water, and many are the authentic
stories related of Newfoundland dogs saving life in cases
of shipwreck. Indeed, they are regularly trained to the
work in some countries; and nobly, fearlessly, disinterestedly
do they discharge their trust, often in the midst
of appalling dangers. Crusoe sprang from the bank
with such impetus that his broad chest ploughed up the
water like the bow of a boat, and the energetic workings
of his muscles were indicated by the force of each
successive propulsion as he shot ahead.

In a few seconds he reached the child and caught it
by the hair. Then he turned to swim back, but the
stream had got hold of him. Bravely he struggled, and
lifted the child breast-high out of the water in his
powerful efforts to stem the current. In vain. Each
moment he was carried inch by inch down until he was
on the brink of the fall, which, though not high, was a
large body of water and fell with a heavy roar. He
raised himself high out of the stream with the vigour of
his last struggle, and then fell back into the abyss.

By this time the poor mother was in a canoe as close
to the fall as she could with safety approach, and the
little bark danced like a cockle-shell on the turmoil of
waters as she stood with uplifted paddle and staring
eyeballs awaiting the rising of the child.

Crusoe came up almost instantly, but alone, for the
dash over the fall had wrenched the child from his teeth.
He raised himself high up, and looked anxiously round
for a moment. Then he caught sight of a little hand
raised above the boiling flood. In one moment he had
the child again by the hair, and just as the prow of the
Indian woman's canoe touched the shore he brought the
child to land.

Springing towards him, the mother snatched her child
from the flood, and gazed at its death-like face with eyeballs
starting from their sockets. Then she laid her
cheek on its cold breast, and stood like a statue of despair.
There was one slight pulsation of the heart and
a gentle motion of the hand! The child still lived.
Opening up her blanket she laid her little one against
her naked, warm bosom, drew the covering close around
it, and sitting down on the bank wept aloud for joy.

"Come--come 'way quick," cried Henri, hurrying off
to hide the emotion which he could not crush down.

"Ay, she don't need our help now," said Joe, following
his comrade.

As for Crusoe, he walked along by his master's side
with his usual quiet, serene look of good-will towards all
mankind. Doubtless a feeling of gladness at having
saved a human life filled his shaggy breast, for he wagged
his tail gently after each shake of his dripping sides;
but his meek eyes were downcast, save when raised to
receive the welcome and unusually fervent caress. Crusoe
did not know that those three men loved him as
though he had been a brother.

On their way back to the village the hunters were
met by a little boy, who said that a council was to be
held immediately, and their presence was requested.

The council was held in the tent of the principal
chief, towards which all the other chiefs and many of
the noted braves hurried. Like all Indian councils, it
was preceded by smoking the "medicine pipe," and was
followed by speeches from several of the best orators.
The substance of the discourse differed little from what
has been already related in reference to the treaty between
the Pale-faces, and upon the whole it was satisfactory.
But Joe Blunt could not fail to notice that
Mahtawa maintained sullen silence during the whole
course of the meeting.

He observed also that there was a considerable change
in the tone of the meeting when he informed them that
he was bound on a similar errand of peace to several of
the other tribes, especially to one or two tribes which
were the Pawnees' bitter enemies at that time. These
grasping savages having quite made up their minds that
they were to obtain the entire contents of the two bales
of goods, were much mortified on hearing that part was
to go to other Indian tribes. Some of them even hinted
that this would not be allowed, and Joe feared at one
time that things were going to take an unfavourable
turn. The hair of his scalp, as he afterwards said,
"began to lift a little and feel oneasy." But San-it-sa-rish
stood honestly to his word, said that it would be
well that the Pale-faces and the Pawnees should be
brothers, and hoped that they would not forget the
promise of annual presents from the hand of the great
chief who lived in the big village near the rising sun.

Having settled this matter amicably, Joe distributed
among the Indians the proportion of his goods designed
for them; and then they all adjourned to another tent,
where a great feast was prepared for them.

"Are ye hungry?" inquired Joe of Dick as they
walked along.

"Ay, that am I. I feel as if I could eat a buffalo
alive. Why, it's my 'pinion we've tasted nothin' since
daybreak-this mornin'."

"Well, I've often told ye that them Redskins think
it a disgrace to give in eatin' till all that's set before
them at a feast is bolted. We'll ha' to stretch oursel's,
we will."

"I'se got a plenty room," remarked Henri.

"Ye have, but ye'll wish ye had more in a little."

"Bien, I not care!"

In quarter of an hour all the guests invited to this
great "medicine feast" were assembled. No women were
admitted. They never are at Indian feasts.

We may remark in passing that the word "medicine,"
as used among the North American Indians, has a very
much wider signification than it has with us. It is an
almost inexplicable word. When asked, they cannot
give a full or satisfactory explanation of it themselves.
In the general, we may say that whatever is mysterious
is "medicine." Jugglery and conjuring, of a noisy,
mysterious, and, we must add, rather silly nature, is
"medicine," and the juggler is a "medicine man." These
medicine men undertake cures; but they are regular
charlatans, and know nothing whatever of the diseases
they pretend to cure or their remedies. They carry
bags containing sundry relics; these are "medicine bags."
Every brave has his own private medicine bag. Everything
that is incomprehensible, or supposed to be supernatural,
religious, or medical, is "medicine." This feast,
being an unusual one, in honour of strangers, and in
connection with a peculiar and unexpected event, was
"medicine." Even Crusoe, since his gallant conduct in
saving the Indian child, was "medicine;" and Dick
Varley's double-barrelled rifle, which had been an object
of wonder ever since his arrival at the village, was
tremendous "medicine!"

Of course the Indians were arrayed in their best.
Several wore necklaces of the claws of the grizzly bear,
of which they are extremely proud; and a gaudily picturesque
group they were. The chief, however, had
undergone a transformation that well-nigh upset the
gravity of our hunters, and rendered Dick's efforts to
look solemn quite abortive. San-it-sa-rish had once been
to the trading-forts of the Pale-faces, and while there
had received the customary gift of a blue surtout with
brass buttons, and an ordinary hat, such as gentlemen
wear at home. As the coat was a good deal too small
for him, a terrible length of dark, bony wrist appeared
below the cuffs. The waist was too high, and it was
with great difficulty that he managed to button the
garment across his broad chest. Being ignorant of the
nature of a hat, the worthy savage had allowed the
paper and string with which it had been originally
covered to remain on, supposing them to be part and
parcel of the hat; and this, together with the high collar
of the coat, which gave him a crushed-up appearance,
the long black naked legs, and the painted visage, gave
to him a tout ensemble which we can compare to nothing,
as there was nothing in nature comparable to it.

Those guests who assembled first passed their time in
smoking the medicine pipe until the others should arrive,
for so long as a single invited guest is absent the feast
cannot begin. Dignified silence was maintained while
the pipe thus circulated from hand to hand. When the
last guest arrived they began.

The men were seated in two rows, face to face.
Feasts of this kind usually consist of but one species of
food, and on the present occasion it was an enormous
caldron full of maize which had to be devoured. About
fifty sat down to eat a quantity of what may be termed
thick porridge that would have been ample allowance
for a hundred ordinary men. Before commencing, San-it-sa-rish
desired an aged medicine man to make an oration,
which he did fluently and poetically. Its subject
was the praise of the giver of the feast. At the end of
each period there was a general "hou! hou!" of assent--equivalent
to the "hear! hear!" of civilized men.

Other orators then followed, all of whom spoke with
great ease and fluency, and some in the most impassioned
strains, working themselves and their audience up to the
highest pitch of excitement, now shouting with frenzied
violence till their eyes glared from their sockets and the
veins of their foreheads swelled almost to bursting as
they spoke of war and chase, anon breaking into soft
modulated and pleasing tones while they dilated upon
the pleasures of peace and hospitality.

After these had finished, a number of wooden bowls
full of maize porridge were put down between the guests--one
bowl to each couple facing each other. But before
commencing a portion was laid aside and dedicated to
their gods, with various mysterious ceremonies; for here,
as in other places where the gospel is not known, the
poor savages fancied that they could propitiate God with
sacrifices. They had never heard of the "sacrifice of a
broken spirit and a contrite heart." This offering being
made, the feast began in earnest. Not only was it a
rule in this feast that every mouthful should be swallowed
by each guest, however unwilling and unable he
should be to do so, but he who could dispose of it with
greatest speed was deemed the greatest man--at least
on that occasion--while the last to conclude his supper
was looked upon with some degree of contempt!

It seems strange that such a custom should ever have
arisen, and one is not a little puzzled in endeavouring
to guess at the origin of it. There is one fact that
occurs to us as the probable cause. The Indian is, as
we have before hinted, frequently reduced to a state
bordering on starvation, and in a day after he may be
burdened with superabundance of food. He oftentimes
therefore eats as much as he can stuff into his body
when he is blessed with plenty, so as to be the better
able to withstand the attacks of hunger that may possibly
be in store for him. The amount that an Indian
will thus eat at a single meal is incredible. He seems
to have the power of distending himself for the reception
of a quantity that would kill a civilized man.
Children in particular become like tightly inflated little
balloons after a feast, and as they wear no clothing, the
extraordinary rotundity is very obvious, not to say
ridiculous. We conclude therefore that unusual powers
of gormandizing, being useful, come at last to be cultivated
as praiseworthy.

By good fortune Dick and Joe Blunt happened to
have such enormous gluttons as vis-à-vis that the portions
of their respective bowls which they could not
devour were gobbled up for them. By good capacity
and digestion, with no small amount of effort, Henri
managed to dispose of his own share; but he was last of
being done, and fell in the savages' esteem greatly. The
way in which that sticky compost of boiled maize went
down was absolutely amazing. The man opposite Dick,
in particular, was a human boa-constrictor. He well-nigh
suffocated Dick with suppressed laughter. He was
a great raw-boned savage, with a throat of indiarubber,
and went quickly and quietly on swallowing mass after
mass with the solemn gravity of an owl. It mattered
not a straw to him that Dick took comparatively small
mouthfuls, and nearly choked on them too for want of
liquid to wash them down. Had Dick eaten none at all
he would have uncomplainingly disposed of the whole.
Jack the Giant-Killer's feats were nothing to his; and
when at last the bowl was empty, he stopped short like
a machine from which the steam had been suddenly cut
off, and laid down his buffalo horn-spoon without a sigh.

Dick sighed, though with relief and gratitude, when
his bowl was empty.

"I hope I may never have to do it again," said Joe
that night as they wended their way back to the chief's
tent after supper. "I wouldn't be fit for anything for
a week arter it."

Dick could only laugh, for any allusion to the feast
instantly brought back that owl-like gourmand to whom
he was so deeply indebted.

Henri groaned. "Oh! mes boy, I am speechless! I
am ready for bust! Oui--hah! I veesh it vas to-morrow."

Many a time that night did Henri "veesh it vas to-morrow,"
as he lay helpless on his back, looking up
through the roof of the chief's tent at the stars, and
listening enviously to the plethoric snoring of Joe Blunt.

He was entertained, however, during those waking
hours with a serenade such as few civilized ears ever
listen to. This was nothing else than a vocal concert
performed by all the dogs of the village, and as they
amounted to nearly two thousand the orchestra was a
pretty full one.

These wretches howled as if they had all gone mad.
Yet there was "method in their madness;" for they congregated
in a crowd before beginning, and sat down on
their haunches. Then one, which seemed to be the conductor,
raised his snout to the sky and uttered a long,
low, melancholy wail. The others took it up by twos
and threes, until the whole pack had their noses pointing
to the stars and their throats distended to the uttermost,
while a prolonged yell filled the air. Then it sank
gradually, one or two (bad performers probably) making
a yelping attempt to get it up again at the wrong time.
Again the conductor raised his nose, and out it came--full
swing. There was no vociferous barking. It was
simple wolfish howling increased in fervour to an electric
yell, with slight barks running continuously through it
like an obbligato accompaniment.

When Crusoe first heard the unwonted sound he
sprang to his feet, bristled up like a hyena, showed all
his teeth, and bounded out of the tent blazing with indignation
and astonishment. When he found out what
it was he returned quite sleek, and with a look of profound
contempt on his countenance as he resumed his
place by his master's side and went to sleep.



CHAPTER X.




Perplexities--Our hunters plan their
escape
--Unexpected interruption--The tables
turned
--Crusoe mounts guard--The escape.


Dick Varley sat before the fire ruminating. We
do not mean to assert that Dick had been previously
eating grass. By no means. For several days
past he had been mentally subsisting on the remarkable
things that he heard and saw in the Pawnee village,
and wondering how he was to get away without being
scalped. He was now chewing the cud of this intellectual
fare. We therefore repeat emphatically--in case any
reader should have presumed to contradict us--that
Dick Varley sat before the fire ruminating!

Joe Blunt likewise sat by the fire along with him,
ruminating too, and smoking besides. Henri also sat
there smoking, and looking a little the worse of his
late supper.

"I don't like the look o' things," said Joe, blowing
a whiff of smoke slowly from his lips, and watching it
as it ascended into the still air. "That blackguard
Mahtawa is determined not to let us off till he gits all
our goods; an' if he gits them, he may as well take our
scalps too, for we would come poor speed in the prairies
without guns, horses, or goods."

Dick looked at his friend with an expression of concern.
"What's to be done?" said he.


"Ve must escape," answered Henri; but his tone was
not a hopeful one, for he knew the danger of their
position better than Dick.

"Ay, we must escape--at least we must try," said
Joe. "But I'll make one more effort to smooth over
San-it-sa-rish, an' git him to snub that villain Mahtawa."

Just as he spoke the villain in question entered the
tent with a bold, haughty air, and sat down before the
fire in sullen silence. For some minutes no one spoke,
and Henri, who happened at the time to be examining
the locks of Dick's rifle, continued to inspect them with
an appearance of careless indifference that he was far
from feeling.

Now, this rifle of Dick's had become a source of
unceasing wonder to the Indians--wonder which was
greatly increased by the fact that no one could discharge
it but himself. Dick had, during his short stay at the
Pawnee village, amused himself and the savages by exhibiting
his marvellous powers with the "silver rifle."
Since it had been won by him at the memorable match
in the Mustang Valley, it had scarce ever been out of
his hand, so that he had become decidedly the best shot
in the settlement, could "bark" squirrels (that is, hit
the bark of the branch on which a squirrel happened
to be standing, and so kill it by the concussion alone),
and could "drive the nail" every shot. The silver rifle,
as we have said, became "great medicine" to the Red-men
when they saw it kill at a distance which the few
wretched guns they had obtained from the fur-traders
could not even send a spent ball to. The double shot,
too, filled them with wonder and admiration; but that
which they regarded with an almost supernatural feeling
of curiosity was the percussion cap, which, in Dick's
hands, always exploded, but in theirs was utterly useless!

This result was simply owing to the fact that Dick,
after firing, handed the rifle to the Indians without
renewing the cap; so that when they loaded and attempted
to fire, of course it merely snapped. When he
wished again to fire, he adroitly exchanged the old cap
for a new one. He was immensely tickled by the
solemn looks of the Indians at this most incomprehensible
of all "medicines," and kept them for some days
in ignorance of the true cause, intending to reveal it
before he left. But circumstances now arose which
banished all trifling thoughts from his mind.

Mahtawa raised his head suddenly, and said, pointing
to the silver rifle, "Mahtawa wishes to have the two-shotted
medicine gun. He will give his best horse in exchange."

"Mahtawa is liberal," answered Joe; "but the pale-faced
youth cannot part with it. He has far to travel,
and must shoot buffaloes by the way."

"The pale-faced youth shall have a bow and arrows
to shoot the buffalo," rejoined the Indian.

"He cannot use the bow and arrow," answered Joe.
"He has not been trained like the Red-man."

Mahtawa was silent for a few seconds, and his dark
brows frowned more heavily than ever over his eyes.

"The Pale-faces are too bold," he exclaimed, working
himself into a passion. "They are in the power of
Mahtawa. If they will not give the gun he will take
it."

He sprang suddenly to his feet as he spoke, and
snatched the rifle from Henri's hand.

Henri being ignorant of the language had not been
able to understand the foregoing conversation, although
he saw well enough that it was not an agreeable one;
but no sooner did he find himself thus rudely and unexpectedly
deprived of the rifle than he jumped up,
wrenched it in a twinkling from the Indian's grasp, and
hurled him violently out of the tent.

In a moment Mahtawa drew his knife, uttered a
savage yell, and sprang on the reckless hunter, who,
however, caught his wrist, and held it as if in a vice.
The yell brought a dozen warriors instantly to the spot,
and before Dick had time to recover from his astonishment,
Henri was surrounded and pinioned despite his
herculean struggles.

Before Dick could move, Joe Blunt grasped his arm,
and whispered quickly, "Don't rise. You can't help
him. They daren't kill him till San-it-sa-rish agrees."

Though much surprised, Dick obeyed, but it required
all his efforts, both of voice and hand, to control Crusoe,
whose mind was much too honest and straightforward
to understand such subtle pieces of diplomacy, and who
strove to rush to the rescue of his ill-used friend.

When the tumult had partly subsided, Joe Blunt rose
and said,--"Have the Pawnee braves turned traitors that they
draw the knife against those who have smoked with them the pipe of
peace
and eaten their maize? The
Pale-faces are three; the Pawnees are thousands. If
evil has been done, let it be laid before the chief.
Mahtawa wishes to have the medicine gun. Although
we said, No, we could not part with it, he tried to take
it by force. Are we to go back to the great chief of
the Pale-faces and say that the Pawnees are thieves?
Are the Pale-faces henceforth to tell their children when
they steal, 'That is bad; that is like the Pawnee?'
No; this must not be. The rifle shall be restored, and
we will forget this disagreement. Is it not so?"

There was an evident disposition on the part of
many of the Indians, with whom Mahtawa was no favourite,
to applaud this speech; but the wily chief sprang
forward, and, with flashing eyes, sought to turn the
tables.

"The Pale-face speaks with soft words, but his heart
is false. Is he not going to make peace with the enemies
of the Pawnee? Is he not going to take goods to
them, and make them gifts and promises? The Pale-faces
are spies. They come to see the weakness of the
Pawnee camp; but they have found that it is strong.
Shall we suffer the false hearts to escape? Shall they
live? No; we will hang their scalps in our wigwams,
for they have struck a chief, and we will keep all their
goods for our squaws--wah!"

This allusion to keeping all the goods had more effect
on the minds of the vacillating savages than the chief's
eloquence. But a new turn was given to their thoughts
by Joe Blunt remarking in a quiet, almost contemptuous
tone,--

"Mahtawa is not the great chief."

"True, true," they cried, and immediately hurried to
the tent of San-it-sa-rish.

Once again this chief stood between the hunters and
the savages, who wanted but a signal to fall on them.
There was a long palaver, which ended in Henri being
set at liberty and the rifle being restored.

That evening, as the three friends sat beside their
fire eating their supper of boiled maize and buffalo meat,
they laughed and talked as carelessly as ever; but the
gaiety was assumed, for they were at the time planning
their escape from a tribe which, they foresaw, would
not long refrain from carrying out their wishes, and
robbing, perhaps murdering them.

"Ye see," said Joe with a perplexed air, while he
drew a piece of live charcoal from the fire with his
fingers and lighted his pipe--"ye see, there's more difficulties
in the way o' gettin' off than ye think--"

"Oh, nivare mind de difficulties," interrupted Henri,
whose wrath at the treatment he had received had not
yet cooled down. "Ve must jump on de best horses
ve can git hold, shake our fists at de red reptiles, and
go away fast as ve can. De best hoss must vin de
race."

Joe shook his head. "A hundred arrows would be
in our backs before we got twenty yards from the
camp. Besides, we can't tell which are the best horses.
Our own are the best in my 'pinion, but how are we to
git' em?"

"I know who has charge o' them," said Dick. "I
saw them grazing near the tent o' that poor squaw
whose baby was saved by Crusoe. Either her husband
looks after them or some neighbours."

"That's well," said Joe. "That's one o' my difficulties
gone."

"What are the others?"

"Well, d'ye see, they're troublesome. We can't git
the horses out o' camp without bein' seen, for the red
rascals would see what we were at in a jiffy. Then, if
we do git 'em out, we can't go off without our bales,
an' we needn't think to take 'em from under the nose
o' the chief and his squaws without bein' axed questions.
To go off without them would niver do at all."

"Joe," said Dick earnestly, "I've hit on a plan."

"Have ye, Dick--what is't?"

"Come and I'll let ye see," answered Dick, rising
hastily and quitting the tent, followed by his comrades
and his faithful dog.

It may be as well to remark here, that no restraint
whatever had yet been put on the movements of our
hunters as long as they kept to their legs, for it was
well known that any attempt by men on foot to escape
from mounted Indians on the plains would be hopeless.
Moreover, the savages thought that as long as there was
a prospect of their being allowed to depart peaceably
with their goods, they would not be so mad as to fly
from the camp, and, by so doing, risk their lives and
declare war with their entertainers. They had therefore
been permitted to wander unchecked, as yet, far
beyond the outskirts of the camp, and amuse themselves
in paddling about the lake in the small Indian canoes
and shooting wild-fowl.

Dick now led the way through the labyrinths of
tents in the direction of the lake, and they talked and
laughed loudly, and whistled to Crusoe as they went,
in order to prevent their purpose being suspected. For
the purpose of further disarming suspicion, they went
without their rifles. Dick explained his plan by the
way, and it was at once warmly approved of by his
comrades.

On reaching the lake they launched a small canoe,
into which Crusoe was ordered to jump; then, embarking,
they paddled swiftly to the opposite shore, singing
a canoe song as they dipped their paddles in the moonlit
waters of the lake. Arrived at the other side, they
hauled the canoe up and hurried through the thin belt
of wood and willows that intervened between the lake
and the prairie. Here they paused.

"Is that the bluff, Joe?"

"No, Dick; that's too near. T'other one'll be best--far
away to the right. It's a little one, and there's
others near it. The sharp eyes o' the Redskins won't
be so likely to be prowlin' there."

"Come on, then; but we'll have to take down by the
lake first."

In a few minutes the hunters were threading their
way through the outskirts of the wood at a rapid trot,
in the opposite direction from the bluff, or wooded knoll,
which they wished to reach. This they did lest prying
eyes should have followed them. In quarter of an hour
they turned at right angles to their track, and struck
straight out into the prairie, and after a long run they
edged round and came in upon the bluff from behind.

It was merely a collection of stunted but thick-growing
willows.

Forcing their way into the centre of this they began
to examine it.

"It'll do," said Joe.

"De very ting," remarked Henri.

"Come here, Crusoe."

Crusoe bounded to his master's side, and looked up
in his face.

"Look at this place, pup; smell it well."

Crusoe instantly set off all round among the willows,
in and out, snuffing everywhere, and whining with excitement.

"Come here, good pup; that will do. Now, lads,
we'll go back." So saying, Dick and his friends left
the bluff, and retraced their steps to the camp. Before
they had gone far, however, Joe halted, and said,--

"D'ye know, Dick, I doubt if the pup's so cliver as
ye think. What if he don't quite onderstand ye?"

Dick replied by taking off his cap and throwing it
down, at the same time exclaiming, "Take it yonder,
pup," and pointing with his hand towards the bluff.
The dog seized the cap, and went off with it at full
speed towards the willows, where it left it, and came
galloping back for the expected reward--not now, as in
days of old, a bit of meat, but a gentle stroke of its
head and a hearty clap on its shaggy side.

"Good pup! go now an' fetch it."

Away he went with a bound, and in a few seconds
came back and deposited the cap at his master's feet.

"Will that do?" asked Dick, triumphantly.


"Ay, lad, it will. The pup's worth its weight in
goold."

"Oui, I have said, and I say it agen, de dog is human,
so him is. If not, fat am he?"

Without pausing to reply to this perplexing question,
Dick stepped forward again, and in half-an-hour or
so they were back in the camp.

"Now for your part of the work, Joe. Yonder's the
squaw that owns the half-drowned baby. Everything
depends on her."

Dick pointed to the Indian woman as he spoke. She
was sitting beside her tent, and playing at her knee
was the identical youngster who had been saved by
Crusoe.

"I'll manage it," said Joe, and walked towards her,
while Dick and Henri returned to the chief's tent.

"Does the Pawnee woman thank the Great Spirit
that her child is saved?" began Joe as he came up.

"She does," answered the woman, looking up at the
hunter. "And her heart is warm to the Pale-faces."

After a short silence Joe continued,--

"The Pawnee chiefs do not love the Pale-faces.
Some of them hate them."

"The Dark Flower knows it," answered the woman;
"she is sorry. She would help the Pale-faces if she
could."

This was uttered in a low tone, and with a meaning
glance of the eye.

Joe hesitated again--could he trust her? Yes; the
feelings that filled her breast and prompted her words
were not those of the Indian just now--they were those of a
mother,
whose gratitude was too full for utterance.

"Will the Dark Flower," said Joe, catching the name
she had given herself, "help the Pale-face if he opens
his heart to her? Will she risk the anger of her
nation?"

"She will," replied the woman; "she will do what
she can."

Joe and his dark friend now dropped their high-sounding
style of speech, and spoke for some minutes
rapidly in an undertone. It was finally arranged that
on a given day, at a certain hour, the woman should
take the four horses down the shores of the lake to
its lower end, as if she were going for firewood, there
cross the creek at the ford, and drive them to the
willow bluff, and guard them till the hunters should
arrive.

Having settled this, Joe returned to the tent and
informed his comrades of his success.

During the next three days Joe kept the Indians in
good-humour by giving them one or two trinkets, and
speaking in glowing terms of the riches of the white
men, and the readiness with which they would part
with them to the savages if they would only make
peace.

Meanwhile, during the dark hours of each night,
Dick managed to abstract small quantities of goods
from their pack, in room of which he stuffed in pieces
of leather to keep up the size and appearance. The
goods thus taken out he concealed about his person, and
went off with a careless swagger to the outskirts of
the village, with Crusoe at his heels. Arrived there,
he tied the goods in a small piece of deerskin, and gave
the bundle to the dog, with the injunction, "Take it
yonder, pup."

Crusoe took it up at once, darted off at full speed
with the bundle in his mouth, down the shore of the
lake towards the ford of the river, and was soon lost
to view. In this way, little by little, the goods were
conveyed by the faithful dog to the willow bluff and
left there, while the stuffed pack still remained in safe
keeping in the chiefs tent.

Joe did not at first like the idea of thus sneaking off
from the camp, and more than once made strong efforts
to induce San-it-sa-rish to let him go; but even that
chief's countenance was not so favourable as it had been.
It was clear that he could not make up his mind to let
slip so good a chance of obtaining guns, powder and
shot, horses, and goods, without any trouble; so Joe
made up his mind to give them the slip at once.

A dark night was chosen for the attempt, and the
Indian woman went off with the horses to the place
where firewood for the camp was usually cut. Unfortunately,
the suspicion of that wily savage Mahtawa
had been awakened, and he stuck close to the hunters
all day--not knowing what was going on, but feeling
convinced that something was brewing which he resolved
to watch, without mentioning his suspicions to
any one.

"I think that villain's away at last," whispered Joe
to his comrades. "It's time to go, lads; the moon
won't be up for an hour. Come along."

"Have ye got the big powder-horn, Joe?"

"Ay, ay, all right."

"Stop! stop! my knife, my couteau. Ah, here I be!
Now, boy."

The three set off as usual, strolling carelessly to the
outskirts of the camp; then they quickened their pace,
and, gaining the lake, pushed off in a small canoe.

At the same moment Mahtawa stepped from the
bushes, leaped into another canoe, and followed them.

"Ha! he must die," muttered Henri.

"Not at all," said Joe; "we'll manage him without
that."

The chief landed and strode boldly up to them, for
he knew well that whatever their purpose might be
they would not venture to use their rifles within sound
of the camp at that hour of the night. As for their
knives, he could trust to his own active limbs and the
woods to escape and give the alarm if need be.

"The Pale-faces hunt very late," he said, with a
malicious grin. "Do they love the dark better than
the sunshine?"

"Not so," replied Joe, coolly; "but we love to
walk by the light of the moon. It will be up in less
than an hour, and we mean to take a long ramble to-night."

"The Pawnee chief loves to walk by the moon, too;
he will go with the Pale-faces."

"Good!" ejaculated Joe. "Come along, then."

The party immediately set forward, although the
savage was a little taken by surprise at the indifferent
way in which Joe received his proposal to accompany
them. He walked on to the edge of the prairie, however,
and then stopped.

"The Pale-faces must go alone," said he; "Mahtawa
will return to his tent."

Joe replied to this intimation by seizing him suddenly
by the throat and choking back the yell that would
otherwise have brought the Pawnee warriors rushing to
the scene of action in hundreds. Mahtawa's hand was
on the handle of his scalping-knife in a moment, but
before he could draw it his arms were glued to his sides
by the bear-like embrace of Henri, while Dick tied a
handkerchief quickly yet firmly round his mouth. The
whole thing was accomplished in two minutes. After
taking his knife and tomahawk away, they loosened
their gripe and escorted him swiftly over the prairie.

Mahtawa was perfectly submissive after the first
convulsive struggle was over. He knew that the men
who walked on each side of him grasping his arms were
more than his match singly, so he wisely made no resistance.

Hurrying him to a clump of small trees on the plain
which was so far distant from the village that a yell
could not be heard, they removed the bandage from
Mahtawa's mouth.

"Must he be kill?" inquired Henri, in a tone of
commiseration.

"Not at all," answered Joe; "we'll tie him to a tree
and leave him here."

"Then he vill be starve to deat'. Oh, dat is more
horrobell!"

"He must take his chance o' that. I've no doubt
his friends'll find him in a day or two, an' he's game
to last for a week or more. But you'll have to run to
the willow bluff, Dick, and bring a bit of line to tie him.
We can't spare it well; but there's no help."

"But there is help," retorted Dick. "Just order the
villain to climb into that tree."

"Why so, lad?"

"Don't ask questions, but do what I bid ye."

The hunter smiled for a moment as he turned to the
Indian, and ordered him to climb up a small tree near
to which he stood. Mahtawa looked surprised, but
there was no alternative. Joe's authoritative tone
brooked no delay, so he sprang into the tree like a
monkey.

"Crusoe," said Dick, "watch him!"

The dog sat quietly down at the foot of the tree, and
fixed his eyes on the savage with a glare that spoke
unutterable things. At the same time he displayed his
full complement of teeth, and uttered a sound like
distant thunder.

Joe almost laughed, and Henri did laugh outright.

"Come along; he's safe now," cried Dick, hurrying
away in the direction of the willow bluff, which they
soon reached, and found that the faithful squaw had
tied their steeds to the bushes, and, moreover, had
bundled up their goods into a pack, and strapped it on
the back of the pack-horse; but she had not remained
with them.

"Bless yer dark face!" ejaculated Joe, as he sprang
into the saddle and rode out of the clump of bushes.


He was followed immediately by the others, and in
three minutes they were flying over the plain at full
speed.

On gaining the last far-off ridge, that afforded a
distant view of the woods skirting the Pawnee camp,
they drew up; and Dick, putting his fingers to his
mouth, drew a long, shrill whistle.

It reached the willow bluff like a faint echo. At the
same moment the moon arose and more clearly revealed
Crusoe's cataleptic glare at the Indian chief, who, being
utterly unarmed, was at the dog's mercy. The instant
the whistle fell on his ear, however, he dropped his eyes,
covered his teeth, and, leaping through the bushes, flew
over the plains like an arrow. At the same instant
Mahtawa, descending from his tree, ran as fast as he
could towards the village, uttering the terrible war-whoop
when near enough to be heard. No sound sends
such a thrill through an Indian camp. Every warrior
flew to arms, and vaulted on his steed. So quickly
was the alarm given that in less than ten minutes a
thousand hoofs were thundering on the plain, and
faintly reached the ears of the fugitives.

Joe smiled. "It'll puzzle them to come up wi' nags
like ours. They're in prime condition, too--lots o' wind
in' em. If we only keep out o' badger holes we may
laugh at the red varmints."

Joe's opinion of Indian horses was correct. In a very
few minutes the sound of hoofs died away; but the
fugitives did not draw bridle during the remainder of
that night, for they knew not how long the pursuit
might be continued. By pond, and brook, and bluff
they passed, down in the grassy bottoms and over the
prairie waves--nor checked their headlong course till
the sun blazed over the level sweep of the eastern plain
as if it arose out of the mighty ocean.

Then they sprang from the saddle, and hastily set
about the preparation of their morning meal.



CHAPTER XI.




Evening meditations and morning reflections--Buffaloes, badgers,
antelopes, and accidents--An old bull and the wolves--"Mad
tails"--Henri floored, etc.


There is nothing that prepares one so well for the
enjoyment of rest, both mental and physical, as a
long-protracted period of excitement and anxiety, followed
up by bodily fatigue. Excitement alone banishes
rest; but, united with severe physical exertion, it prepares
for it. At least, courteous reader, this is our
experience; and certainly this was the experience of our
three hunters as they lay on their backs beneath the
branches of a willow bush and gazed serenely up at the
twinkling stars two days after their escape from the
Indian village.

They spoke little; they were too tired for that, also
they were too comfortable. Their respective suppers of
fresh antelope steak, shot that day, had just been disposed
of. Their feet were directed towards the small
fire on which the said steaks had been cooked, and
which still threw a warm, ruddy glow over the encampment.
Their blankets were wrapped comfortably round
them, and tucked in as only hunters and mothers know
how to tuck them in. Their respective pipes delivered
forth, at stated intervals, three richly yellow puffs of
smoke, as if a three-gun battery were playing upon the
sky from that particular spot of earth. The horses
were picketed and hobbled in a rich grassy bottom close
by, from which the quiet munch of their equine jaws
sounded pleasantly, for it told of healthy appetites,
and promised speed on the morrow. The fear of being
overtaken during the night was now past, and the
faithful Crusoe, by virtue of sight, hearing, and smell,
guaranteed them against sudden attack during the hours
of slumber. A perfume of wild flowers mingled with
the loved odours of the "weed," and the tinkle of a
tiny rivulet fell sweetly on their ears. In short, the
"Pale-faces" were supremely happy, and disposed to be
thankful for their recent deliverance and their present
comforts.

"I wonder what the stars are," said Dick, languidly
taking the pipe out of his mouth.

"Bits o' fire," suggested Joe.

"I tink dey are vorlds," muttered Henri, "an' have
peepels in dem. I have hear men say dat."

A long silence followed, during which, no doubt, the
star-gazers were working out various theories in their
own minds.

"Wonder," said Dick again, "how far off they be."

"A mile or two, maybe," said Joe.

Henri was about to laugh sarcastically at this, but
on further consideration he thought it would be more
comfortable not to, so he lay still. In another minute
he said,--

"Joe Blunt, you is ver' igrant. Don't you know dat
de books say de stars be hondreds, tousands--oh!
milleryons of mile away to here, and dat dey is more
bigger dan dis vorld?"

Joe snored lightly, and his pipe fell out of his
mouth at this point, so the conversation dropped.
Presently Dick asked in a low tone, "I say, Henri,
are ye asleep?"

"Oui," replied Henry faintly. "Don't speak, or you
vill vaken me."

"Ah, Crusoe! you're not asleep, are you, pup?" No
need to ask that question. The instantaneous wag of
that speaking tail and the glance of that wakeful eye,
as the dog lifted his head and laid his chin on Dick's
arm, showed that he had been listening to every word
that was spoken. We cannot say whether he understood
it, but beyond all doubt he heard it. Crusoe
never presumed to think of going to sleep until his
master was as sound as a top, then he ventured to indulge
in that light species of slumber which is familiarly known
as "sleeping with one eye open." But, comparatively as
well as figuratively speaking, Crusoe slept usually with
one eye and a half open, and the other half was never
very tightly shut.

Gradually Dick's pipe fell out of his mouth, an
event which the dog, with an exercise of instinct almost,
if not quite, amounting to reason, regarded as a
signal for him to go off. The camp fire went slowly
out, the stars twinkled down at their reflections in the
brook, and a deep breathing of wearied men was the
only sound that rose in harmony with the purling
stream.

Before the sun rose next morning, and while many of
the brighter stars were still struggling for existence
with the approaching day, Joe was up and buckling on
the saddle-bags, while he shouted to his unwilling companions
to rise.

"If it depended on you," he said, "the Pawnees
wouldn't be long afore they got our scalps. Jump, ye
dogs, an' lend a hand, will ye?"

A snore from Dick and a deep sigh from Henri was
the answer to this pathetic appeal. It so happened,
however, that Henri's pipe, in falling from his lips, had
emptied the ashes just under his nose, so that the sigh
referred to drew a quantity thereof into his throat and
almost choked him. Nothing could have been a more
effective awakener. He was up in a moment coughing
vociferously. Most men have a tendency to vent ill-humour
on some one, and they generally do it on one
whom they deem to be worse than themselves. Henri,
therefore, instead of growling at Joe for rousing him,
scolded Dick for not rising.

"Ha, mauvais dog! bad chien! vill you dare to look
to me?"

Crusoe did look with amiable placidity, as though to
say, "Howl away, old boy, I won't budge till Dick does."

With a mighty effort Giant Sleep was thrown off at
last, and the hunters were once more on their journey,
cantering lightly over the soft turf.

"Ho, let's have a run!" cried Dick, unable to repress
the feelings aroused by the exhilarating morning air.

"Have a care, boy," cried Joe, as they stretched out
at full gallop. "Keep off the ridge; it's riddled wi'
badger--Ha! I thought so."

At that moment Dick's horse put its foot into a
badger-hole and turned completely over, sending its
rider through the air in a curve that an East Indian
acrobat would have envied. For a few seconds Dick
lay flat on his back, then he jumped up and laughed,
while his comrades hurried up anxiously to his assistance.

"No bones broke?" inquired Joe.

Dick gave a hysterical gasp. "I--I think not."

"Let's have a look. No, nothin' to speak o', be
good luck. Ye should niver go slap through a badger
country like that, boy; always keep i' the bottoms, where
the grass is short. Now then, up ye go. That's it!"

Dick remounted, though not with quite so elastic a
spring as usual, and they pushed forward at a more
reasonable pace.

Accidents of this kind are of common occurrence in
the prairies. Some horses, however, are so well trained
that they look sharp out for these holes, which are generally
found to be most numerous on the high and dry
grounds. But in spite of all the caution both of man
and horse many ugly falls take place, and sometimes
bones are broken.

They had not gone far after this accident when an
antelope leaped from a clump of willows, and made for
a belt of woodland that lay along the margin of a stream
not half-a-mile off.

"Hurrah!" cried Dick, forgetting his recent fall.
"Come along, Crusoe." And away they went again
full tilt, for the horse had not been injured by its
somersault.

The antelope which Dick was thus wildly pursuing
was of the same species as the one he had shot some
time before--namely, the prong-horned antelope. These
graceful creatures have long, slender limbs, delicately-formed
heads, and large, beautiful eyes. The horns are
black, and rather short; they have no branches, like
the antlers of the red-deer, but have a single projection
on each horn, near the head, and the extreme points
of the horns curve suddenly inwards, forming the
hook or prong from which the name of the animal
is derived. Their colour is dark yellowish brown.
They are so fleet that not one horse in a hundred
can overtake them; and their sight and sense of smell
are so acute that it would be next to impossible to kill
them, were it not for the inordinate curiosity which
we have before referred to. The Indians manage to
attract these simple little creatures by merely lying
down on their backs and kicking their heels in the air,
or by waving any white object on the point of an arrow,
while the hunter keeps concealed by lying flat in the
grass. By these means a herd of antelopes may be
induced to wheel round and round an object in timid
but intense surprise, gradually approaching until they
come near enough to enable the hunter to make sure of
his mark. Thus the animals, which of all others ought
to be the most difficult to slay, are, in consequence of
their insatiable curiosity, more easily shot than any other
deer of the plains.

May we not gently suggest to the reader for his or
her consideration that there are human antelopes, so to
speak, whose case bears a striking resemblance to the
prong-horn of the North American prairie?

Dick's horse was no match for the antelope, neither
was Crusoe; so they pulled up shortly and returned to
their companions, to be laughed at.

"It's no manner o' use to wind yer horse, lad, after
sich game. They're not much worth, an', if I mistake
not, we'll be among the buffalo soon. There's fresh
tracks everywhere, and the herds are scattered now. Ye
see, when they keep together in bands o' thousands ye
don't so often fall in wi' them. But when they scatters
about in twos, an' threes, an' sixes ye may shoot them
every day as much as ye please."

Several groups of buffalo had already been seen on
the horizon, but as a red-deer had been shot in a belt
of woodland the day before they did not pursue them.
The red-deer is very much larger than the prong-horned
antelope, and is highly esteemed both for its flesh and
its skin, which latter becomes almost like chamois
leather when dressed. Notwithstanding this supply of
food, the hunters could not resist the temptation to give
chase to a herd of about nine buffaloes that suddenly
came into view as they overtopped an undulation in the
plain.

"It's no use," cried Dick, "I must go at them!"

Joe himself caught fire from the spirit of his young
friend, so calling to Henri to come on and let the pack-horse
remain to feed, he dashed away in pursuit. The
buffaloes gave one stare of surprise, and then fled as fast
as possible. At first it seemed as if such huge, unwieldy
carcasses could not run very fast; but in a few
minutes they managed to get up a pace that put the
horses to their mettle. Indeed, at first it seemed as if
the hunters did not gain an inch; but by degrees they
closed with them, for buffaloes are not long winded.

On nearing the herd, the three men diverged from
each other and selected their animals. Henri, being
short-sighted, naturally singled out the largest; and the
largest--also naturally--was a tough old bull. Joe
brought down a fat young cow at the first shot, and
Dick was equally fortunate. But he well-nigh shot
Crusoe, who, just as he was about to fire, rushed in unexpectedly
and sprang at the animal's throat, for which
piece of recklessness he was ordered back to watch the
pack-horse.

Meanwhile, Henri, by dint of yelling, throwing his
arms wildly about, and digging his heels into the sides
of his long-legged horse, succeeded in coming close up
with the bull, which once or twice turned his clumsy
body half round and glared furiously at its pursuer
with its small black eyes. Suddenly it stuck out its
tail, stopped short, and turned full round. Henri stopped
short also. Now, the sticking out of a buffalo's tail has
a peculiar significance which it is well to point out. It
serves, in a sense, the same purpose to the hunter that
the compass does to the mariner--it points out where to
go and what to do. When galloping away in ordinary
flight, the buffalo carries his tail like ordinary cattle,
which indicates that you may push on. When wounded,
he lashes it from side to side, or carries it over his back,
up in the air; this indicates, "Look out! haul off a
bit!" But when he carries it stiff and horizontal, with
a slight curve in the middle of it, it says plainly, "Keep
back, or kill me as quick as you can," for that is what
Indians call the mad tail, and is a sign that mischief is
brewing.

Henri's bull displayed the mad tail just before turning,
but he didn't observe it, and, accordingly, waited for the
bull to move and show his shoulder for a favourable
shot. But instead of doing this he put his head down,
and, foaming with rage, went at him full tilt. The big
horse never stirred; it seemed to be petrified, Henri
had just time to fire at the monster's neck, and the next
moment was sprawling on his back, with the horse rolling
over four or five yards beyond him. It was a most
effective tableau--Henri rubbing his shins and grinning
with pain, the horse gazing in affright as he rose trembling
from the plain, and the buffalo bull looking on
half stunned, and evidently very much surprised at the
result of his charge.

Fortunately, before he could repeat the experiment,
Dick galloped up and put a ball through his heart.

Joe and his comrades felt a little ashamed of their
exploit on this occasion, for there was no need to have
killed three animals--they could not have carried with
them more than a small portion of one--and they upbraided
themselves several times during the operation of
cutting out the tongues and other choice portions of the
two victims. As for the bull, he was almost totally
useless, so they left him as a gift to the wolves.

Now that they had come among the buffalo, wolves
were often seen sneaking about and licking their hungry
jaws; but although they approached pretty near to the
camp at nights, they did not give the hunters any concern.
Even Crusoe became accustomed to them at last,
and ceased to notice them. These creatures are very
dangerous sometimes, however, and when hard pressed
by hunger will even attack man. The day after this
hunt the travellers came upon a wounded old buffalo
which had evidently escaped from the Indians (for a
couple of arrows were sticking in its side), only to fall
a prey to his deadly enemies, the white wolves. These
savage brutes hang on the skirts of the herds of buffaloes
to attack and devour any one that may chance, from
old age or from being wounded, to linger behind the rest.
The buffalo is tough and fierce, however, and fights so
desperately that, although surrounded by fifty or a
hundred wolves, he keeps up the unequal combat for
several days before he finally succumbs.

The old bull that our travellers discovered had evidently
been long engaged with his ferocious adversaries,
for his limbs and flesh were torn in shreds in
many places, and blood was streaming from his sides.
Yet he had fought so gallantly that he had tossed and
stamped to death dozens of the enemy. There could
not have been fewer than fifty wolves round him; and
they had just concluded another of many futile attacks
when the hunters came up, for they were ranged in a
circle round their huge adversary--some lying down,
some sitting on their haunches to rest, and others sneaking
about, lolling out their red tongues and licking their
chops as if impatient to renew the combat. The poor
buffalo was nearly spent, and it was clear that a few
hours more would see him torn to shreds and his bones
picked clean.

"Ugh! de brutes," ejaculated Henri.

"They don't seem to mind us a bit," remarked Dick,
as they rode up to within pistol shot.

"It'll be merciful to give the old fellow a shot," said
Joe. "Them varmints are sure to finish him at last."

Joe raised his rifle as he spoke, and fired. The old
bull gave his last groan and fell, while the wolves,
alarmed by the shot, fled in all directions; but they did
not run far. They knew well that some portion, at
least, of the carcass would fall to their share; so they
sat down at various distances all round, to wait as
patiently as they might for the hunters to retire. Dick
left the scene with a feeling of regret that the villanous
wolves should have their feast so much sooner than they
expected.

Yet, after all, why should we call these wolves villanous?
They did nothing wrong--nothing contrary to
the laws of their peculiar nature. Nay, if we come to
reason upon it, they rank higher in this matter than
man; for while the wolf does no violence to the laws of
its instincts, man often deliberately silences the voice of
conscience, and violates the laws of his own nature.
But we will not insist on the term, good reader, if you
object strongly to it. We are willing to admit that the
wolves are not villanous, but, assuredly, they are
unlovable.

In the course of the afternoon the three horsemen
reached a small creek, the banks of which were lined
with a few stunted shrubs and trees. Having eaten
nothing since the night before, they dismounted here to
"feed," as Joe expressed it.

"Cur'ous thing," remarked Joe, as he struck a light
by means of flint, steel, and tinder-box--"cur'ous thing
that we're made to need sich a lot o' grub. If we could
only get on like the sarpints, now, wot can breakfast on
a rabbit, and then wait a month or two for dinner!
Ain't it cur'ous?"

Dick admitted that it was, and stooped to blow the
fire into a blaze.

Here Henri uttered a cry of consternation, and stood
speechless, with his mouth open.

"What's the matter? what is't?" cried Dick and Joe,
seizing their rifles instinctively.

"De--grub--him--be--forgat!"

There was a look of blank horror, and then a burst
of laughter from Dick Varley. "Well, well," cried he,
"we've got lots o' tea an' sugar, an' some flour; we can
git on wi' that till we shoot another buffalo, or a--ha!"

Dick observed a wild turkey stalking among the
willows as he spoke. It was fully a hundred yards off,
and only its head was seen above the leaves. This was
a matter of little moment, however, for by aiming a
little lower he knew that he must hit the body. But
Dick had driven the nail too often to aim at its body;
he aimed at the bird's eye, and cut its head off.

"Fetch it, Crusoe."

In three minutes it was at Dick's feet, and it is not
too much to say that in five minutes more it was in the
pot.

As this unexpected supply made up for the loss of the
meat which Henri had forgotten at their last halting-place,
their equanimity was restored; and while the meal
was in preparation Dick shouldered his rifle and went
into the bush to try for another turkey. He did not
get one, however, but he shot a couple of prairie-hens,
which are excellent eating. Moreover, he found a large
quantity of wild grapes and plums. These were unfortunately
not nearly ripe, but Dick resolved to try his
hand at a new dish, so he stuffed the breast of his coat
full of them.

After the pot was emptied, Dick washed it out, and
put a little clean water in it. Then he poured some
flour in, and stirred it well. While this was heating, he
squeezed the sour grapes and plums into what Joe
called a "mush," mixed it with a spoonful of sugar, and
emptied it into the pot. He also skimmed a quantity
of the fat from the remains of the turkey soup and
added that to the mess, which he stirred with earnest
diligence till it boiled down into a sort of thick porridge.

"D'ye think it'll be good?" asked Joe gravely; "I've
me doubts of it."

"We'll see.--Hold the tin dish, Henri."

"Take care of de fingers. Ha! it looks magnifique--superb!"

The first spoonful produced an expression on Henri's
face that needed not to be interpreted. It was as sour
as vinegar.

"Ye'll ha' to eat it yerself, Dick, lad," cried Joe,
throwing down his spoon, and spitting out the unsavoury
mess.

"Nonsense," cried Dick, bolting two or three mouthfuls,
and trying to look as if he liked it. "Try again;
it's not so bad as you think."

"Ho-o-o-o-o!" cried Henri, after the second mouthful.
"Tis vinégre. All de sugare in de pack would not
make more sweeter one bite of it."

Dick was obliged to confess the dish a failure, so it
was thrown out after having been offered to Crusoe,
who gave it one sniff and turned away in silence. Then
they mounted and resumed their journey.

At this place mosquitoes and horse-flies troubled our
hunters and their steeds a good deal. The latter especially
were very annoying to the poor horses. They bit
them so much that the blood at last came trickling
down their sides. They were troubled also, once or
twice, by cockchafers and locusts, which annoyed them,
not indeed by biting, but by flying blindly against their
faces, and often-narrowly missed hitting them in the
eyes. Once particularly they were so bad that Henri
in his wrath opened his lips to pronounce a malediction
on the whole race, when a cockchafer flew straight into
his mouth, and, to use his own forcible expression,
"nearly knocked him off de hoss." But these were
minor evils, and scarcely cost the hunters a thought.



CHAPTER XII.




Wanderings on the prairie--A war party--Chased by
Indians
--A bold leap for life.

For many days the three hunters wandered over
the trackless prairie in search of a village of the
Sioux Indians, but failed to find one, for the Indians
were in the habit of shifting their ground and following
the buffalo. Several times they saw small isolated bands
of Indians; but these they carefully avoided, fearing
they might turn out to be war parties, and if they fell
into their hands the white men could not expect civil
treatment, whatever nation the Indians might belong to.

During the greater portion of this time they met with
numerous herds of buffalo and deer, and were well supplied
with food; but they had to cook it during the day,
being afraid to light a fire at night while Indians were
prowling about.

One night they halted near the bed of a stream which
was almost dry. They had travelled a day and a night
without water, and both men and horses were almost
choking, so that when they saw the trees on the horizon
which indicated the presence of a stream, they pushed
forward with almost frantic haste.

"Hope it's not dry," said Joe anxiously as they galloped up to it.
"No,
there's water, lads," and they
dashed forward to a pool that had not yet been dried
up. They drank long and eagerly before they noticed
that the pool was strongly impregnated with salt. Many
streams in those parts of the prairies are quite salt, but
fortunately this one was not utterly undrinkable, though
it was very unpalatable.

"We'll make it better, lads," said Joe, digging a deep
hole in the sand with his hands, a little below the pool.
In a short time the water filtered through, and though
not rendered fresh, it was, nevertheless, much improved.

"We may light a fire to-night, d'ye think?" inquired
Dick; "we've not seed Injuns for some days."

"P'r'aps 'twould be better not," said Joe; "but I daresay
we're safe enough."

A fire was therefore lighted in as sheltered a spot as
could be found, and the three friends bivouacked as
usual. Towards dawn they were aroused by an angry
growl from Crusoe.

"It's a wolf likely," said Dick, but all three seized and
cocked their rifles nevertheless.

Again Crusoe growled more angrily than before, and
springing out of the camp snuffed the breeze anxiously.

"Up, lads! catch the nags! There's something in the
wind, for the dog niver did that afore."

In a few seconds the horses were saddled and the
packs secured.

"Call in the dog," whispered Joe Blunt; "if he barks
they'll find out our whereabouts."

"Here, Crusoe, come--"

It was too late; the dog barked loudly and savagely
at the moment, and a troop of Indians came coursing
over the plain. On hearing the unwonted sound they
wheeled directly and made for the camp.

"It's a war party; fly, lads! nothin' 'll save our
scalps now but our horses' heels," cried Joe.

In a moment they vaulted into the saddle and urged
their steeds forward at the utmost speed. The savages
observed them, and with an exulting yell dashed after
them. Feeling that there was now no need of concealment,
the three horsemen struck off into the open prairie,
intending to depend entirely on the speed and stamina
of their horses. As we have before remarked, they
were good ones; but the Indians soon proved that they
were equally well if not better mounted.

"It'll be a hard run," said Joe in a low, muttering
tone, and looking furtively over his shoulder. "The
varmints are mounted on wild horses--leastways they
were wild not long agone. Them chaps can throw the
lasso and trip a mustang as well as a Mexican. Mind
the badger-holes, Dick.--Hold in a bit, Henri; yer nag
don't need drivin'; a foot in a hole just now would
cost us our scalps. Keep down by the creek, lads."

"Ha! how dey yell," said Henri in a savage tone,
looking back, and shaking his rifle at them, an act that
caused them to yell more fiercely than ever. "Dis old
pack-hoss give me moche trobel."

The pace was now tremendous. Pursuers and pursued
rose and sank on the prairie billows as they swept
along, till they came to what is termed a "dividing
ridge," which is a cross wave, as it were, that cuts the
others in two, thus forming a continuous level. Here
they advanced more easily; but the advantage was
equally shared with their pursuers, who continued the
headlong pursuit with occasional yells, which served to
show the fugitives that they at least did not gain
ground.

A little to the right of the direction in which they
were flying a blue line was seen on the horizon. This
indicated the existence of trees to Joe's practised eyes,
and feeling that if the horses broke down they could
better make a last manful stand in the wood than on
the plain he urged his steed towards it. The savages
noticed the movement at once, and uttered a yell of
exultation, for they regarded it as an evidence that the
fugitives doubted the strength of their horses.

"Ye haven't got us yet," muttered Joe, with a sardonic
grin. "If they get near us, Dick, keep yer eyes
open an' look out for yer neck, else they'll drop a noose
over it, they will, afore ye know they're near, an' haul
ye off like a sack."

Dick nodded in reply, but did not speak, for at that
moment his eye was fixed on a small creek ahead which
they must necessarily leap or dash across. It was
lined with clumps of scattered shrubbery, and he
glanced rapidly for the most suitable place to pass.
Joe and Henri did the same, and having diverged a
little to the different points chosen, they dashed through
the shrubbery and were hid from each other's view.
On approaching the edge of the stream, Dick found to
his consternation that the bank was twenty feet high
opposite him, and too wide for any horse to clear.
Wheeling aside without checking speed, at the risk of
throwing his steed, he rode along the margin of the
stream for a few hundred yards until he found a ford--at
least such a spot as might be cleared by a bold
leap. The temporary check, however, had enabled an
Indian to gain so close upon his heels that his exulting
yell sounded close in his ear.

With a vigorous bound his gallant little horse went
over. Crusoe could not take it, but he rushed down
the one bank and up the other, so that he only lost a
few yards. These few yards, however, were sufficient
to bring the Indian close upon him as he cleared the
stream at full gallop. The savage whirled his lasso
swiftly round for a second, and in another moment
Crusoe uttered a tremendous roar as he was tripped up
violently on the plain.

Dick heard the cry of his faithful dog, and turned
quickly round, just in time to see him spring at the
horse's throat, and bring both steed and rider down
upon him. Dick's heart leaped to his throat. Had a
thousand savages been rushing on him he would have
flown to the rescue of his favourite; but an unexpected
obstacle came in the way. His fiery little steed, excited
by the headlong race and the howls of the Indians,
had taken the bit in his teeth and was now unmanageable.
Dick tore at the reins like a maniac, and in the
height of his frenzy even raised the butt of his rifle with
the intent to strike the poor horse to the earth, but his
better nature prevailed. He checked the uplifted hand,
and with, a groan dropped the reins, and sank almost
helplessly forward on the saddle; for several of the Indians
had left the main body and were pursuing him
alone, so that there would have been now no chance of
his reaching the place where Crusoe fell, even if he could
have turned his horse.

Spiritless, and utterly indifferent to what his fate
might be, Dick Varley rode along with his head drooping,
and keeping his seat almost mechanically, while the
mettlesome little steed flew on over wave and hollow.
Gradually he awakened from this state of despair to a
sense of danger. Glancing round he observed that the
Indians were now far behind him, though still pursuing.
He also observed that his companions were galloping
miles away on the horizon to the left, and that he had
foolishly allowed the savages to get between him and
them. The only chance that remained for him was to
outride his pursuers, and circle round towards his comrades,
and this he hoped to accomplish, for his little
horse had now proved itself to be superior to those of the
Indians, and there was good running in him still.

Urging him forward, therefore, he soon left the savages
still farther behind, and feeling confident that they could
not now overtake him he reined up and dismounted.
The pursuers quickly drew near, but short though it
was the rest did his horse good. Vaulting into the
saddle, he again stretched out, and now skirted along
the margin of a wood which seemed to mark the position
of a river of considerable size.

At this moment his horse put his foot into a badger-hole,
and both of them came heavily to the ground.
In an instant Dick rose, picked up his gun, and leaped
unhurt into the saddle. But on urging his poor horse
forward he found that its shoulder was badly sprained.

There was no room for mercy, however--life and death
were in the balance--so he plied the lash vigorously,
and the noble steed warmed into something like a run,
when again it stumbled, and fell with a crash on the
ground, while the blood burst from its mouth and nostrils.
Dick could hear the shout of triumph uttered by
his pursuers.

"My poor, poor horse!" he exclaimed in a tone of the
deepest commiseration, while he stooped and stroked its
foam-studded neck.

The dying steed raised its head for a moment, it almost
seemed as if to acknowledge the tones of affection,
then it sank down with a gurgling groan.

Dick sprang up, for the Indians were now upon him,
and bounded like an antelope into the thickest of the
shrubbery; which was nowhere thick enough, however,
to prevent the Indians following. Still, it sufficiently
retarded them to render the chase a more equal one than
could have been expected. In a few minutes Dick
gained a strip of open ground beyond, and found
himself on the bank of a broad river, whose evidently
deep waters rushed impetuously along their unobstructed
channel. The bank at the spot where he
reached it was a sheer precipice of between thirty and
forty feet high. Glancing up and down the river he
retreated a few paces, turned round and shook his
clenched fist at the savages, accompanying the action
with a shout of defiance, and then running to the edge
of the bank, sprang far out into the boiling flood and
sank.

The Indians pulled up on reaching the spot. There
was no possibility of galloping down the wood-encumbered
banks after the fugitive; but quick as thought
each Red-man leaped to the ground, and fitting an arrow
to his bow, awaited Dick's re-appearance with eager
gaze.

Young though he was, and unskilled in such wild
warfare, Dick knew well enough what sort of reception
he would meet with on coming to the surface, so he kept
under water as long as he could, and struck out as vigorously
as the care of his rifle would permit. At last he
rose for a few seconds, and immediately half-a-dozen
arrows whizzed through the air; but most of them fell
short--only one passed close to his cheek, and went with
a "whip" into the river. He immediately sank again,
and the next time he rose to breathe he was far beyond
the reach of his Indian enemies.



CHAPTER XIII.




Escape from Indians--A discovery--Alone in the desert.

Dick Varley had spent so much of his boyhood
in sporting about among the waters of the rivers
and lakes near which he had been reared, and especially
during the last two years had spent so much of his
leisure time in rolling and diving with his dog Crusoe
in the lake of the Mustang Valley, that he had become
almost as expert in the water as a South Sea islander;
so that when he found himself whirling down the rapid
river, as already described, he was more impressed with
a feeling of gratitude to God for his escape from the
Indians than anxiety about getting ashore.

He was not altogether blind or indifferent to the
danger into which he might be hurled if the channel of
the river should be found lower down to be broken with
rocks, or should a waterfall unexpectedly appear. After
floating down a sufficient distance to render pursuit
out of the question, he struck into the bank opposite to
that from which he had plunged, and clambering up
to the greensward above, stripped off the greater part
of his clothing and hung it on the branches of a bush to
dry. Then he sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree
to consider what course he had best pursue in his present
circumstances.

These circumstances were by no means calculated to
inspire him with hope or comfort. He was in the
midst of an unknown wilderness, hundreds of miles
from any white man's settlement; surrounded by
savages; without food or blanket; his companions
gone, he knew not whither--perhaps taken and killed
by the Indians; his horse dead; and his dog, the most
trusty and loving of all his friends, lost to him, probably,
for ever! A more veteran heart might have
quailed in the midst of such accumulated evils; but
Dick Varley possessed a strong, young, and buoyant
constitution, which, united with a hopefulness of disposition
that almost nothing could overcome, enabled him
very quickly to cast aside the gloomy view of his case
and turn to its brighter aspects.

He still grasped his good rifle, that was some comfort;
and as his eye fell upon it, he turned with anxiety to
examine into the condition of his powder-horn and the
few things that he had been fortunate enough to carry
away with him about his person.

The horn in which western hunters carry their powder
is usually that of an ox. It is closed up at the large
end with a piece of hard wood fitted tightly into it, and
the small end is closed with a wooden peg or stopper.
It is therefore completely water-tight, and may be for
hours immersed without the powder getting wet, unless
the stopper should chance to be knocked out. Dick
found, to his great satisfaction, that the stopper was
fast and the powder perfectly dry. Moreover, he had by good fortune
filled
it full two days before from the
package that contained the general stock of ammunition,
so that there were only two or three charges out of it.
His percussion caps, however, were completely destroyed;
and even though they had not been, it would have mattered
little, for he did not possess more than half-a-dozen.
But this was not so great a misfortune as at first it
might seem, for he had the spare flint locks and the little
screw-driver necessary for fixing and unfixing them
stowed away in his shot pouch.

To examine his supply of bullets was his next care,
and slowly he counted them out, one by one, to the
number of thirty. This was a pretty fair supply, and
with careful economy would last him many days. Having
relieved his mind on these all-important points,
he carefully examined every pouch and corner of his
dress to ascertain the exact amount and value of his
wealth.

Besides the leather leggings, moccasins, deerskin hunting-shirt,
cap, and belt which composed his costume, he
had a short heavy hunting-knife, a piece of tinder, a
little tin pannikin, which he had been in the habit of
carrying at his belt, and a large cake of maple sugar.
This last is a species of sugar which is procured by the
Indians from the maple-tree. Several cakes of it had
been carried off from the Pawnee village, and Dick
usually carried one in the breast of his coat. Besides
these things, he found that the little Bible, for which
his mother had made a small inside breast-pocket, was
safe. Dick's heart smote him when he took it out and
undid the clasp, for he had not looked at it until that
day. It was firmly bound with a brass clasp, so that,
although the binding and the edges of the leaves were
soaked, the inside was quite dry. On opening the book
to see if it had been damaged, a small paper fell out.
Picking it up quickly, he unfolded it, and read, in his
mother's handwriting: "Call upon me in the time of
trouble; and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify
me. My son, give me thine heart
."

Dick's eyes filled with tears while the sound, as it
were, of his mother's voice thus reached him unexpectedly
in that lonely wilderness. Like too many whose
hearts are young and gay, Dick had regarded religion, if
not as a gloomy, at least as not a cheerful thing. But
he felt the comfort of these words at that moment, and
he resolved seriously to peruse his mother's parting gift
in time to come.

The sun was hot, and a warm breeze gently shook
the leaves, so that Dick's garments were soon dry. A
few minutes served to change the locks of his rifle, draw
the wet charges, dry out the barrels, and re-load. Then
throwing it across his shoulder, he entered the wood and
walked lightly away. And well he might, poor fellow,
for at that moment he felt light enough in person if not
in heart. His worldly goods were not such as to oppress
him; but the little note had turned his thoughts towards
home, and he felt comforted.

Traversing the belt of woodland that marked the
course of the river, Dick soon emerged on the wide
prairie beyond, and here he paused in some uncertainty
as to how he should proceed.

He was too good a backwoodsman, albeit so young, to
feel perplexed as to the points of the compass. He
knew pretty well what hour it was, so that the sun
showed him the general bearings of the country, and he
knew that when night came he could correct his course
by the pole star. Dick's knowledge of astronomy was
limited; he knew only one star by name, but that one
was an inestimable treasure of knowledge. His perplexity
was owing to his uncertainty as to the direction
in which his companions and their pursuers had gone;
for he had made up his mind to follow their trail if
possible, and render all the succour his single arm
might afford. To desert them, and make for the settlement,
he held, would be a faithless and cowardly
act.

While they were together Joe Blunt had often talked
to him about the route he meant to pursue to the Rocky
Mountains, so that, if they had escaped the Indians, he
thought there might be some chance of finding them at
last. But, to set against this, there was the probability
that they had been taken and carried away in a totally
different direction; or they might have taken to the
river, as he had done, and gone farther down without
his observing them. Then, again, if they had escaped,
they would be sure to return and search the country
round for him, so that if he left the spot he might miss
them.

"Oh for my dear pup Crusoe!" he exclaimed aloud
in this dilemma; but the faithful ear was shut now,
and the deep silence that followed his cry was so oppressive
that the young hunter sprang forward at a run
over the plain, as if to fly from solitude. He soon became
so absorbed, however, in his efforts to find the
trail of his companions, that he forgot all other considerations,
and ran straight forward for hours together
with his eyes eagerly fixed on the ground. At last he
felt so hungry, having tasted no food since supper-time
the previous evening, that he halted for the purpose of
eating a morsel of maple sugar. A line of bushes in
the distance indicated water, so he sped on again, and
was soon seated beneath a willow, drinking water from
the cool stream. No game was to be found here, but
there were several kinds of berries, among which wild
grapes and plums grew in abundance. With these and
some sugar he made a meal, though not a good one, for
the berries were quite green and intensely sour.

All that day Dick Varley followed up the trail of his
companions, which he discovered at a ford in the river.
They had crossed, therefore, in safety, though still pursued;
so he ran on at a regular trot, and with a little
more hope than he had felt during the day. Towards
night, however, Dick's heart sank again, for he came
upon innumerable buffalo tracks, among which those of
the horses soon became mingled up, so that he lost them
altogether. Hoping to find them again more easily by
broad daylight, he went to the nearest clump of willows
he could find, and encamped for the night.

Remembering the use formerly made of the tall willows,
he set to work to construct a covering to protect
him from the dew. As he had no blanket or buffalo
skin, he used leaves and grass instead, and found it a
better shelter than he had expected, especially when the
fire was lighted, and a pannikin of hot sugar and water
smoked at his feet; but as no game was to be found, he
was again compelled to sup off unripe berries. Before
lying down to rest he remembered his resolution, and
pulling out the little Bible, read a portion of it by the
fitful blaze of the fire, and felt great comfort in its blessed
words. It seemed to him like a friend with whom he
could converse in the midst of his loneliness.

The plunge into the river having broken Dick's pipe
and destroyed his tobacco, he now felt the want of that
luxury very severely, and, never having wanted it before,
he was greatly surprised to find how much he had
become enslaved to the habit. It cost him more than
an hour's rest that night, the craving for his wonted
pipe.

The sagacious reader will doubtless not fail here to
ask himself the question, whether it is wise in man to
create in himself an unnatural and totally unnecessary
appetite, which may, and often does, entail hours--ay,
sometimes months--of exceeding discomfort; but we
would not for a moment presume to suggest such a
question to him. We have a distinct objection to the
ordinary method of what is called "drawing a moral."
It is much better to leave wise men to do this for
themselves.

Next morning Dick rose with the sun, and started
without breakfast, preferring to take his chance of finding
a bird or animal of some kind before long, to feeding
again on sour berries. He was disappointed, however,
in finding the tracks of his companions. The ground
here was hard and sandy, so that little or no impression
of a distinct kind was made on it; and as buffaloes
had traversed it in all directions, he was soon utterly
bewildered. He thought it possible that, by running
out for several miles in a straight line, and then taking
a wide circuit round, he might find the tracks emerging
from the confusion made by the buffaloes. But he was
again disappointed, for the buffalo tracks still continued,
and the ground became less capable of showing a footprint.

Soon Dick began to feel so ill and weak from eating
such poor fare, that he gave up all hope of discovering
the tracks, and was compelled to push forward at his
utmost speed in order to reach a less barren district,
where he might procure fresh meat; but the farther he
advanced the worse and more sandy did the district
become. For several days he pushed on over this arid
waste without seeing bird or beast, and, to add to his
misery, he failed at last to find water. For a day and
a night he wandered about in a burning fever, and his
throat so parched that he was almost suffocated. Towards
the close of the second day he saw a slight line
of bushes away down in a hollow on his right. With
eager steps he staggered towards them, and, on drawing
near, beheld--blessed sight!--a stream of water glancing
in the beams of the setting sun.

Dick tried to shout for joy, but his parched throat
refused to give utterance to the voice. It mattered
not. Exerting all his remaining strength he rushed
down the bank, dropped his rifle, and plunged headforemost
into the stream.

The first mouthful sent a thrill of horror to his heart;
it was salt as brine!

The poor youth's cup of bitterness was now full to
overflowing. Crawling out of the stream, he sank down
on the bank in a species of lethargic torpor, from which,
he awakened next morning in a raging fever. Delirium
soon rendered him insensible to his sufferings. The
sun rose like a ball of fire, and shone down with scorching
power on the arid plain. What mattered it to
Dick? He was far away in the shady groves of the
Mustang Valley, chasing the deer at times, but more
frequently cooling his limbs and sporting with Crusoe
in the bright blue lake. Now he was in his mother's
cottage, telling her how he had thought of her when
far away on the prairie, and what a bright, sweet word
it was she had whispered in his ear--so unexpectedly,
too. Anon he was scouring over the plains on horseback,
with the savages at his heels; and at such times
Dick would spring with almost supernatural strength
from the ground, and run madly over the burning plain;
but, as if by a species of fascination, he always returned
to the salt river, and sank exhausted by its side, or
plunged helplessly into its waters.

These sudden immersions usually restored him for a
short time to reason, and he would crawl up the bank
and gnaw a morsel of the maple sugar; but he could not
eat much, for it was in a tough, compact cake, which
his jaws had not power to break. All that day and
the next night he lay on the banks of the salt stream,
or rushed wildly over the plain. It was about noon of
the second day after his attack that he crept slowly
out of the water, into which he had plunged a few
seconds before. His mind was restored, but he felt an
indescribable sensation of weakness, that seemed to him
to be the approach of death. Creeping towards the
place where his rifle lay, he fell exhausted beside it,
and laid his cheek on the Bible, which had fallen out
of his pocket there.

While his eyes were closed in a dreamy sort of half-waking
slumber, he felt the rough, hairy coat of an animal
brush against his forehead. The idea of being torn
to pieces by wolves flashed instantly across his mind,
and with a shriek of terror he sprang up--to be almost
overwhelmed by the caresses of his faithful dog.

Yes, there he was, bounding round his master, barking
and whining, and giving vent to every possible
expression of canine joy!



CHAPTER XIV.




Crusoe's return, and his private adventures among the Indians--Dick
at a very low ebb--Crusoe saves him
.

The means by which Crusoe managed to escape
from his two-legged captors, and rejoin his master,
require separate and special notice.

In the struggle with the fallen horse and Indian,
which Dick had seen begun but not concluded, he was
almost crushed to death; and the instant the Indian
gained his feet, he sent an arrow at his head with
savage violence. Crusoe, however, had been so well
used to dodging the blunt-headed arrows that were
wont to be shot at him by the boys of the Mustang
Valley, that he was quite prepared, and eluded the
shaft by an active bound. Moreover, he uttered one of
his own peculiar roars, flew at the Indian's throat, and
dragged him down. At the same moment the other
Indians came up, and one of them turned aside to the
rescue. This man happened to have an old gun, of
the cheap sort at that time exchanged for peltries by
the fur-traders. With the butt of this he struck
Crusoe a blow on the head that sent him sprawling on
the grass.

The rest of the savages, as we have seen, continued
in pursuit of Dick until he leaped into the river; then
they returned, took the saddle and bridle off his dead
horse, and rejoined their comrades. Here they held a
court-martial on Crusoe, who was now bound foot and
muzzle with cords. Some were for killing him; others,
who admired his noble appearance, immense size, and
courage, thought it would be well to carry him to their
village and keep him. There was a pretty violent dispute
on the subject, but at length it was agreed that
they should spare his life in the meantime, and perhaps
have a dog-dance round him when they got to their
wigwams.

This dance, of which Crusoe was to be the chief
though passive performer, is peculiar to some of the
tribes east of the Rocky Mountains, and consists in
killing a dog and cutting out its liver, which is afterwards
sliced into shreds or strings and hung on a pole
about the height of a man's head. A band of warriors
then come and dance wildly round this pole, and each
one in succession goes up to the raw liver and bites a
piece off it, without, however, putting his hands near
it. Such is the dog-dance, and to such was poor Crusoe
destined by his fierce captors, especially by the one
whose throat still bore very evident marks of his teeth.

But Crusoe was much too clever a dog to be disposed
of in so disgusting a manner. He had privately resolved
in his own mind that he would escape; but the
hopelessness of his ever carrying that resolution into
effect would have been apparent to any one who could
have seen the way in which his muzzle was secured,
and his four paws were tied together in a bunch, as
he hung suspended across the saddle of one of the
savages!

This particular party of Indians who had followed
Dick Varley determined not to wait for the return of
their comrades who were in pursuit of the other two
hunters, but to go straight home, so for several days
they galloped away over the prairie. At nights, when
they encamped, Crusoe was thrown on the ground like
a piece of old lumber, and left to lie there with a mere
scrap of food till morning, when he was again thrown
across the horse of his captor and carried on. When
the village was reached, he was thrown again on the
ground, and would certainly have been torn to pieces in
five minutes by the Indian curs which came howling
round him, had not an old woman come to the rescue
and driven them away. With the help of her grand-son--a
little naked creature, just able to walk, or rather
to stagger--she dragged him to her tent, and, undoing
the line that fastened his mouth, offered him a bone.

Although lying in a position that was unfavourable
for eating purposes, Crusoe opened his jaws and took it.
An awful crash was followed by two crunches--and it
was gone! and Crusoe looked up in the old squaw's
face with a look that said plainly, "Another of the same,
please, and as quick as possible." The old woman gave
him another, and then a lump of meat, which latter
went down with a gulp; but he coughed after it! and
it was well he didn't choke. After this the squaw left
him, and Crusoe spent the remainder of that night
gnawing the cords that bound him. So diligent was
he that he was free before morning and walked deliberately
out of the tent. Then he shook himself, and
with a yell that one might have fancied was intended
for defiance he bounded joyfully away, and was soon
out of sight.

To a dog with a good appetite which had been on short
allowance for several days, the mouthful given to him by
the old squaw was a mere nothing. All that day he
kept bounding over the plain from bluff to bluff in
search of something to eat, but found nothing until
dusk, when he pounced suddenly and most unexpectedly
on a prairie-hen fast asleep. In one moment its life
was gone. In less than a minute its body was gone
too--feathers and bones and all--down Crusoe's ravenous
throat.

On the identical spot Crusoe lay down and slept like
a top for four hours. At the end of that time he
jumped up, bolted a scrap of skin that somehow had
been overlooked at supper, and flew straight over the
prairie to the spot where he had had the scuffle with
the Indian. He came to the edge of the river, took
precisely the same leap that his master had done before
him, and came out on the other side a good deal higher
up than Dick had done, for the dog had no savages to
dodge, and was, as we have said before, a powerful
swimmer.

It cost him a good deal of running about to find the
trail, and it was nearly dark before he resumed his
journey; then, putting his keen nose to the ground, he
ran step by step over Dick's track, and at last found
him, as we have shown, on the banks of the salt creek.

It is quite impossible to describe the intense joy
which filled Dick's heart on again beholding his favourite.
Only those who have lost and found such an one
can know it. Dick seized him round the neck and
hugged him as well as he could, poor fellow! in his
feeble arms; then he wept, then he laughed, and then
he fainted.

This was a consummation that took Crusoe quite
aback. Never having seen his master in such a state
before he seemed to think at first that he was playing
some trick, for he bounded round him, and barked, and
wagged his tail. But as Dick lay quite still and
motionless, he went forward with a look of alarm;
snuffed him once or twice, and whined piteously; then
he raised his nose in the air and uttered a long melancholy
wail.

The cry seemed to revive Dick, for he moved, and
with some difficulty sat up, to the dog's evident relief.
There is no doubt whatever that Crusoe learned an
erroneous lesson that day, and was firmly convinced
thenceforth that the best cure for a fainting fit is a
melancholy yell. So easy is it for the wisest of dogs
as well as men to fall into gross error!

"Crusoe," said Dick, in a feeble voice, "dear good
pup, come here." He crawled, as he spoke, down to
the water's edge, where there was a level patch of dry
sand.

"Dig," said Dick, pointing to the sand.

Crusoe looked at him in surprise, as well he might,
for he had never heard the word "dig" in all his life
before.

Dick pondered a minute then a thought struck him.

He turned up a little of the sand with his fingers, and,
pointing to the hole, cried, "Seek him out, pup!"

Ha! Crusoe understood that. Many and many a
time had he unhoused rabbits, and squirrels, and other
creatures at that word of command; so, without a moment's
delay, he commenced to dig down into the sand,
every now and then stopping for a moment and shoving
in his nose, and snuffing interrogatively, as if he fully
expected to find a buffalo at the bottom of it. Then he
would resume again, one paw after another so fast that
you could scarce see them going--"hand over hand," as
sailors would have called it--while the sand flew out
between his hind legs in a continuous shower. When
the sand accumulated so much behind him as to impede
his motions he scraped it out of his way, and set to
work again with tenfold earnestness. After a good
while he paused and looked up at Dick with an
"it-won't-do,-I-fear,-there's-nothing-here" expression on his
face.

"Seek him out, pup!" repeated Dick.

"Oh! very good," mutely answered the dog, and went
at it again, tooth and nail, harder than ever.

In the course of a quarter of an hour there was a
deep yawning hole in the sand, into which Dick peered
with intense anxiety. The bottom appeared slightly
damp. Hope now reanimated Dick Varley, and by
various devices he succeeded in getting the dog to scrape
away a sort of tunnel from the hole, into which he
might roll himself and put down his lips to drink when
the water should rise high enough. Impatiently and
anxiously he lay watching the moisture slowly accumulate
in the bottom of the hole, drop by drop, and while
he gazed he fell into a troubled, restless slumber, and
dreamed that Crusoe's return was a dream, and that he
was alone again, perishing for want of water.

When he awakened the hole was half full of clear
water, and Crusoe was lapping it greedily.

"Back, pup!" he shouted, as he crept down to the
hole and put his trembling lips to the water. It was
brackish, but drinkable, and as Dick drank deeply of
it he esteemed it at that moment better than nectar.
Here he lay for half-an-hour, alternately drinking and
gazing in surprise at his own emaciated visage as reflected
in the pool.

The same afternoon Crusoe, in a private hunting excursion
of his own, discovered and caught a prairie-hen,
which he quietly proceeded to devour on the spot, when
Dick, who saw what had occurred, whistled to him.

Obedience was engrained in every fibre of Crusoe's
mental and corporeal being. He did not merely answer
at once to the call--he sprang to it, leaving the prairie-hen
untasted.

"Fetch it, pup," cried Dick eagerly as the dog came
up.

In a few moments the hen was at his feet. Dick's
circumstances could not brook the delay of cookery; he
gashed the bird with his knife and drank the blood, and
then gave the flesh to the dog, while he crept to the
pool again for another draught. Ah! think not, reader,
that although we have treated this subject in a slight
vein of pleasantry, because it ended well, that therefore
our tale is pure fiction. Not only are Indians glad to
satisfy the urgent cravings of hunger with raw flesh,
but many civilized men and delicately nurtured have
done the same--ay, and doubtless will do the same
again, as long as enterprising and fearless men shall go
forth to dare the dangers of flood and field in the wild
places of our wonderful world!

Crusoe had finished his share of the feast before Dick
returned from the pool. Then master and dog lay down
together side by side and fell into a long, deep, peaceful
slumber.



CHAPTER XV.




Health and happiness return--Incidents of the journey--A
buffalo shot
--A wild horse "creased"--Dick's battle with
a mustang
.

Dick Varley's fears and troubles, in the meantime,
were ended. On the day following he
awoke refreshed and happy--so happy and light at
heart, as he felt the glow of returning health coursing
through his veins, that he fancied he must have dreamed
it all. In fact, he was so certain that his muscles were
strong that he endeavoured to leap up, but was powerfully
convinced of his true condition by the miserable
stagger that resulted from the effort.

However, he knew he was recovering, so he rose, and
thanking God for his recovery, and for the new hope
that was raised in his heart, he went down to the pool
and drank deeply of its water. Then he returned, and,
sitting down beside his dog, opened the Bible and read
long--and, for the first time, earnestly--the story of
Christ's love for sinful man. He at last fell asleep over
the book, and when he awakened felt so much refreshed
in body and mind that he determined to attempt to
pursue his journey.

He had not proceeded far when he came upon a
colony of prairie-dogs. Upon this occasion he was little
inclined to take a humorous view of the vagaries of
these curious little creatures, but he shot one, and, as
before, ate part of it raw. These creatures are so active
that they are difficult to shoot, and even when killed
generally fall into their holes and disappear. Crusoe,
however, soon unearthed the dead animal on this occasion.
That night the travellers came to a stream of
fresh water, and Dick killed a turkey, so that he determined
to spend a couple of days there to recruit. At
the end of that time he again set out, but was able only
to advance five miles when he broke down. In fact, it
became evident to him that he must have a longer period
of absolute repose ere he could hope to continue his
journey; but to do so without food was impossible.
Fortunately there was plenty of water, as his course lay
along the margin of a small stream, and, as the arid
piece of prairie was now behind him, he hoped to fall in
with birds, or perhaps deer, soon.

While he was plodding heavily and wearily along,
pondering these things, he came to the brow of a wave
from which he beheld a most magnificent view of green
grassy plains decked with flowers, and rolling out to
the horizon, with a stream meandering through it, and
clumps of trees scattered everywhere far and wide. It
was a glorious sight; but the most glorious object in it
to Dick, at that time, was a fat buffalo which stood
grazing not a hundred yards off. The wind was blowing
towards him, so that the animal did not scent him,
and, as he came up very slowly, and it was turned away,
it did not see him.

Crusoe would have sprung forward in an instant, but
his master's finger imposed silence and caution. Trembling
with eagerness, Dick sank flat down in the grass,
cocked both barrels of his piece, and, resting it on his
left hand with his left elbow on the ground, he waited
until the animal should present its side. In a few
seconds it moved; Dick's eye glanced along the barrel,
but it trembled--his wonted steadiness of aim was
gone. He fired, and the buffalo sprang off in terror.
With a groan of despair he fired again---almost recklessly--and
the buffalo fell! It rose once or twice and
stumbled forward a few paces, then it fell again. Meanwhile
Dick reloaded with trembling hand, and advanced
to give it another shot; but it was not needful--the
buffalo was already dead.

"Now, Crusoe," said Dick, sitting down on the buffalo's
shoulder and patting his favourite on the head, "we're
all right at last. You and I shall have a jolly time o't,
pup, from this time for'ard."

Dick paused for breath, and Crusoe wagged his tail
and looked as if to say--pshaw! "as if!"

We tell you what it is, reader, it's of no use at all to
go on writing "as if," when we tell you what Crusoe
said. If there is any language in eyes whatever--if
there is language in a tail, in a cocked ear, in a mobile
eyebrow, in the point of a canine nose,--if there is
language in any terrestrial thing at all, apart from that
which flows from the tongue, then Crusoe spoke! Do
we not speak at this moment to you? and if so, then
tell me wherein lies the difference between a written
letter and a given sign?

Yes, Crusoe spoke. He said to Dick as plain as dog
could say it, slowly and emphatically, "That's my opinion
precisely, Dick. You're the dearest, most beloved, jolliest
fellow that ever walked on two legs, you are; and
whatever's your opinion is mine, no matter how absurd
it may be."

Dick evidently understood him perfectly, for he
laughed as he looked at him and patted him on the
head, and called him a "funny dog." Then he continued
his discourse:--

"Yes, pup, we'll make our camp here for a long bit,
old dog, in this beautiful plain. We'll make a willow
wigwam to sleep in, you and I, jist in yon clump o'
trees, not a stone's-throw to our right, where we'll have
a run o' pure water beside us, and be near our buffalo
at the same time. For, ye see, we'll need to watch him
lest the wolves take a notion to eat him--that'll be
your duty, pup. Then I'll skin him when I get strong
enough, which'll be in a day or two, I hope, and we'll
put one-half of the skin below us and t'other half above
us i' the camp, an' sleep, an' eat, an' take it easy for a
week or two--won't we, pup?"

"Hoora-a-a-y!" shouted Crusoe, with a jovial wag of
his tail, that no human arm with hat, or cap, or kerchief
ever equalled.

Poor Dick Varley! He smiled to think how earnestly
he had been talking to the dog; but he did not cease to
do it, for although he entered into discourses the drift
of which Crusoe's limited education did not permit him
to follow, he found comfort in hearing the sound of his
own voice, and in knowing that it fell pleasantly on
another ear in that lonely wilderness.


Our hero now set about his preparations as vigorously
as he could. He cut out the buffalo's tongue--a matter
of great difficulty to one in his weak state--and carried
it to a pleasant spot near to the stream where the turf
was level and green, and decked with wild flowers.
Here he resolved to make his camp.

His first care was to select a bush whose branches
were long enough to form a canopy over his head when
bent, and the ends thrust into the ground. The completing
of this exhausted him greatly, but after a rest
he resumed his labours. The next thing was to light a
fire--a comfort which he had not enjoyed for many
weary days. Not that he required it for warmth, for
the weather was extremely warm, but he required it to
cook with, and the mere sight of a blaze in a dark place
is a most heart-cheering thing, as every one knows.

When the fire was lighted he filled his pannikin at
the brook and put it on to boil, and cutting several
slices of buffalo tongue, he thrust short stakes through
them and set them up before the fire to roast. By this
time the water was boiling, so he took it off with difficulty,
nearly burning his fingers and singeing the tail of
his coat in so doing. Into the pannikin he put a lump
of maple sugar, and stirred it about with a stick, and
tasted it. It seemed to him even better than tea or
coffee. It was absolutely delicious!

Really one has no notion what he can do if he makes
believe very hard. The human mind is a nicely balanced
and extremely complex machine, and when thrown a
little off the balance can be made to believe almost anything,
as we see in the case of some poor monomaniacs,
who have fancied that they were made of all sorts of
things--glass and porcelain, and such like. No wonder
then that poor Dick Varley, after so much suffering and
hardship, came to regard that pannikin of hot sirup as
the most delicious beverage he ever drank.

During all these operations Crusoe sat on his haunches
beside him and looked. And you haven't, no, you
haven't got the most distant notion of the way in which
that dog manoeuvred with his head and face. He opened
his eyes wide, and cocked his ears, and turned his head
first a little to one side, then a little to the other. After
that he turned it a good deal to one side, and then a
good deal more to the other. Then he brought it straight,
and raised one eyebrow a little, and then the other a
little, and then both together very much. Then, when
Dick paused to rest and did nothing, Crusoe looked mild
for a moment, and yawned vociferously. Presently Dick
moved--up went the ears again, and Crusoe came, in
military parlance, "to the position of attention!" At
last supper was ready and they began.

Dick had purposely kept the dog's supper back from
him, in order that they might eat it in company. And
between every bite and sup that Dick took, he gave a
bite--but not a sup--to Crusoe. Thus lovingly they
ate together; and when Dick lay that night under the
willow branches, looking up through them at the stars,
with his feet to the fire and Crusoe close along his side,
he thought it the best and sweetest supper he ever ate,
and the happiest evening he ever spent--so wonderfully
do circumstances modify our notions of felicity.

Two weeks after this "Richard was himself again."

The muscles were springy, and the blood coursed fast
and free, as was its wont. Only a slight, and, perhaps,
salutary feeling of weakness remained, to remind him
that young muscles might again become more helpless
than those of an aged man or a child.

Dick had left his encampment a week ago, and was
now advancing by rapid stages towards the Rocky
Mountains, closely following the trail of his lost comrades,
which he had no difficulty in finding and keeping
now that Crusoe was with him. The skin of the buffalo
that he had killed was now strapped to his shoulders,
and the skin of another animal that he had shot a few
days after was cut up into a long line and slung in a
coil round his neck. Crusoe was also laden. He had a
little bundle of meat slung on each side of him.

For some time past numerous herds of mustangs, or
wild horses, had crossed their path, and Dick was now
on the look-out for a chance to crease one of those magnificent
creatures.

On one occasion a band of mustangs galloped close
up to him before they were aware of his presence, and
stopped short with a wild snort of surprise on beholding
him; then, wheeling round, they dashed away at full
gallop, their long tails and manes flying wildly in the
air, and their hoofs thundering on the plain. Dick
did not attempt to crease one upon this occasion, fearing
that his recent illness might have rendered his hand too
unsteady for so extremely delicate an operation.

In order to crease a wild horse the hunter requires
to be a perfect shot, and it is not every man of the west
who carries a rifle that can do it successfully. Creasing
consists in sending a bullet through the gristle of the
mustang's neck, just above the bone, so as to stun the
animal. If the ball enters a hair's-breadth too low,
the horse falls dead instantly. If it hits the exact
spot, the horse falls as instantaneously, and dead to all
appearance; but, in reality, he is only stunned, and if
left for a few minutes will rise and gallop away nearly
as well as ever. When hunters crease a horse successfully
they put a rope, or halter, round his under jaw
and hobbles round his feet, so that when he rises he
is secured, and, after considerable trouble, reduced to
obedience.

The mustangs which roam in wild freedom on the
prairies of the far west are descended from the noble
Spanish steeds that were brought over by the wealthy
cavaliers who accompanied Fernando Cortez, the conqueror
of Mexico, in his expedition to the New World in
1518. These bold, and, we may add, lawless cavaliers
were mounted on the finest horses that could be procured
from Barbary and the deserts of the Old World. The
poor Indians of the New World were struck with amazement
and terror at these awful beings, for, never having
seen horses before, they believed that horse and rider
were one animal. During the wars that followed many
of the Spaniards were killed, and their steeds bounded
into the wilds of the new country, to enjoy a life of
unrestrained freedom. These were the forefathers of
the present race of magnificent creatures which are
found in immense droves all over the western wilderness,
from the Gulf of Mexico to the confines of the
snowy regions of the far north.

At first the Indians beheld these horses with awe and
terror, but gradually they became accustomed to them,
and finally succeeded in capturing great numbers and
reducing them to a state of servitude. Not, however,
to the service of the cultivated field, but to the service
of the chase and war. The savages soon acquired the
method of capturing wild horses by means of the lasso--as
the noose at that end of a long line of raw hide is
termed--which they adroitly threw over the heads of
the animals and secured them, having previously run
them down. At the present day many of the savage
tribes of the west almost live upon horseback, and
without these useful creatures they could scarcely subsist,
as they are almost indispensable in the chase of
the buffalo.

Mustangs are regularly taken by the Indians to the
settlements of the white men for trade, but very poor
specimens are these of the breed of wild horses. This
arises from two causes. First, the Indian cannot overtake
the finest of a drove of wild mustangs, because his own
steed is inferior to the best among the wild ones, besides
being weighted with a rider, so that only the weak and
inferior animals are captured. And, secondly, when the
Indian does succeed in lassoing a first-rate horse he
keeps it for his own use. Thus, those who have not
visited the far-off prairies and seen the mustang in all
the glory of untrammelled freedom, can form no adequate
idea of its beauty, fleetness, and strength.

The horse, however, was not the only creature imported
by Cortez. There were priests in his army who
rode upon asses, and although we cannot imagine that
the "fathers" charged with the cavaliers and were unhorsed,
or, rather, un-assed in battle, yet, somehow, the
asses got rid of their riders and joined the Spanish
chargers in their joyous bound into a new life of freedom.
Hence wild asses also are found in the western
prairies. But think not, reader, of those poor miserable
wretches we see at home, which seem little better than
rough door-mats sewed up and stuffed, with head, tail,
and legs attached, and just enough of life infused to
make them move! No, the wild ass of the prairie is a
large powerful, swift creature. He has the same long
ears, it is true, and the same hideous, exasperating bray,
and the same tendency to flourish his heels; but for all
that he is a very fine animal, and often wages successful
warfare with the wild horse.

But to return. The next drove of mustangs that
Dick and Crusoe saw were feeding quietly and unsuspectingly
in a rich green hollow in the plain. Dick's
heart leaped up as his eyes suddenly fell on them, for
he had almost discovered himself before he was aware
of their presence.

"Down, pup!" he whispered, as he sank and disappeared
among the grass, which was just long enough
to cover him when lying quite flat.

Crusoe crouched immediately, and his master made
his observations of the drove, and the dispositions of
the ground that might favour his approach, for they
were not within rifle range. Having done so he crept
slowly back until the undulation of the prairie hid him
from view; then he sprang to his feet, and ran a considerable
distance along the bottom until he gained the
extreme end of a belt of low bushes, which would effectually
conceal him while he approached to within a
hundred yards or less of the troop.

Here he made his arrangements. Throwing down
his buffalo robe, he took the coil of line and cut off a
piece of about three yards in length. On this he made
a running noose. The longer line he also prepared
with a running noose. These he threw in a coil over
his arm.

He also made a pair of hobbles, and placed them in
the breast of his coat, and then, taking up his rifle,
advanced cautiously through the bushes--Crusoe following
close behind him. In a few minutes he was gazing
in admiration at the mustangs, which were now within
easy shot, and utterly ignorant of the presence of man,
for Dick had taken care to approach in such a way
that the wind did not carry the scent of him in their
direction.

And well might he admire them. The wild horse of
these regions is not very large, but it is exceedingly
powerful, with prominent eye, sharp nose, distended
nostril, small feet, and a delicate leg. Their beautiful
manes hung at great length down their arched necks,
and their thick tails swept the ground. One magnificent
fellow in particular attracted Dick's attention.
He was of a rich dark-brown colour, with black mane
and tail, and seemed to be the leader of the drove.

Although not the nearest to him, he resolved to crease
this horse. It is said that creasing generally destroys
or damages the spirit of the horse, so Dick determined
to try whether his powers of close shooting would not serve him on
this
occasion. Going down on one knee he aimed at the creature's neck, just
a
hair's-breadth
above the spot where he had been told that hunters
usually hit them, and fired. The effect upon the group
was absolutely tremendous. With wild cries and snorting
terror they tossed their proud heads in the air,
uncertain for one moment in which direction to fly;
then there was a rush as if a hurricane swept over the
place, and they were gone.

But the brown horse was down. Dick did not wait
until the others had fled. He dropped his rifle, and
with the speed of a deer sprang towards the fallen
horse, and affixed the hobbles to his legs. His aim had
been true. Although scarcely half a minute elapsed
between the shot and the fixing of the hobbles, the
animal recovered, and with a frantic exertion rose on
his haunches, just as Dick had fastened the noose of
the short line in his under jaw. But this was not
enough. If the horse had gained his feet before the
longer line was placed round his neck, he would have
escaped. As the mustang made the second violent
plunge that placed it on its legs, Dick flung the noose
hastily; it caught on one ear, and would have fallen
off, had not the horse suddenly shaken its head, and
unwittingly sealed its own fate by bringing the noose
round its neck.

And now the struggle began. Dick knew well
enough, from hearsay, the method of "breaking down"
a wild horse. He knew that the Indians choke them
with the noose round the neck until they fall down
exhausted and covered with foam, when they creep up,
fix the hobbles, and the line in the lower jaw, and then
loosen the lasso to let the horse breathe, and resume its
plungings till it is almost subdued, when they gradually
draw near and breathe into its nostrils. But the violence
and strength of this animal rendered this an
apparently hopeless task. We have already seen that
the hobbles and noose in the lower jaw had been fixed,
so that Dick had nothing now to do but to choke his
captive, and tire him out, while Crusoe remained a quiet
though excited spectator of the scene.

But there seemed to be no possibility of choking this
horse. Either the muscles of his neck were too strong,
or there was something wrong with the noose which
prevented it from acting, for the furious creature dashed
and bounded backwards and sideways in its terror for
nearly an hour, dragging Dick after it, till he was
almost exhausted; and yet, at the end of that time,
although flecked with foam and panting with terror,
it seemed as strong as ever. Dick held both lines, for
the short one attached to its lower jaw gave him great
power over it. At last he thought of seeking assistance
from his dog.

"Crusoe," he cried, "lay hold, pup!"

The dog seized the long line in his teeth and pulled
with all his might. At the same moment Dick let go
the short line and threw all his weight upon the long
one. The noose tightened suddenly under this strain,
and the mustang, with a gasp, fell choking to the
ground.

Dick had often heard of the manner in which the
Mexicans "break" their horses, so he determined to
abandon the method which had already almost worn
him out, and adopt the other, as far as the means in
his power rendered it possible. Instead, therefore, of
loosening the lasso and re-commencing the struggle, he
tore a branch from a neighbouring bush, cut the hobbles,
strode with his legs across the fallen steed, seized the
end of the short line or bridle, and then, ordering Crusoe
to quit his hold, he loosened the noose which compressed
the horse's neck and had already well-nigh terminated
its existence.

One or two deep sobs restored it, and in a moment
it leaped to its feet with Dick firmly on its back. To
say that the animal leaped and kicked in its frantic
efforts to throw this intolerable burden would be a tame
manner of expressing what took place. Words cannot
adequately describe the scene. It reared, plunged,
shrieked, vaulted into the air, stood straight up
on its hind legs, and then almost as straight upon its fore
ones; but its rider held on like a burr. Then the
mustang raced wildly forwards a few paces, then as
wildly back, and then stood still and trembled violently.
But this was only a brief lull in the storm, so Dick saw
that the time was now come to assert the superiority of
his race.

"Stay back, Crusoe, and watch my rifle, pup," he
cried, and raising his heavy switch he brought it down
with a sharp cut across the horse's flank, at the same
time loosening the rein which hitherto he had held
tight.

The wild horse uttered a passionate cry, and sprang
forward like the bolt from a cross-bow.

And now commenced a race which, if not so prolonged,
was at least as furious as that of the far-famed
Mazeppa. Dick was a splendid rider, however--at
least as far as "sticking on" goes. He might not
have come up to the precise pitch desiderated by a
riding-master in regard to carriage, etc., but he rode
that wild horse of the prairie with as much ease as he
had formerly ridden his own good steed, whose bones
had been picked by the wolves not long ago.

The pace was tremendous, for the youth's weight
was nothing to that muscular frame, which bounded
with cat-like agility from wave to wave of the undulating
plain in ungovernable terror. In a few minutes
the clump of willows where Crusoe and his rifle lay
were out of sight behind; but it mattered not, for Dick
had looked up at the sky and noted the position of the
sun at the moment of starting. Away they went on
the wings of the wind, mile after mile over the ocean-like
waste--curving slightly aside now and then to
avoid the bluffs that occasionally appeared on the
scene for a few minutes and then swept out of sight
behind them. Then they came to a little rivulet. It
was a mere brook of a few feet wide, and two or three
yards, perhaps, from bank to bank. Over this they
flew so easily that the spring was scarcely felt, and
continued the headlong course. And now a more
barren country was around them. Sandy ridges and
scrubby grass appeared everywhere, reminding Dick of
the place where he had been so ill. Rocks, too, were
scattered about, and at one place the horse dashed
with clattering hoofs between a couple of rocky sand-hills which, for
a few
seconds, hid the prairie from
view. Here the mustang suddenly shied with such
violence that his rider was nearly thrown, while a
rattlesnake darted from the path. Soon they emerged
from this pass, and again the plains became green and
verdant. Presently a distant line of trees showed that
they were approaching water, and in a few minutes
they were close on it. For the first time Dick felt
alarm. He sought to check his steed, but no force he
could exert had the smallest influence on it.

Trees and bushes flew past in bewildering confusion.
The river was before him; what width, he could not
tell, but he was reckless now, like his charger, which he
struck with the willow rod with all his force as they
came up. One tremendous bound, and they were
across, but Dick had to lie flat on the mustang's back
as it crashed through the bushes to avoid being scraped
off by the trees. Again they were on the open plain,
and the wild horse began to show signs of exhaustion.

Now was its rider's opportunity to assert his dominion.
He plied the willow rod and urged the panting
horse on, until it was white with foam and laboured
a little in its gait. Then Dick gently drew the halter,
and it broke into a trot; still tighter, and it walked,
and in another minute stood still, trembling in every
limb. Dick now quietly rubbed its neck, and spoke
to it in soothing tones; then he wheeled it gently
round, and urged it forward. It was quite subdued
and docile. In a little time they came to the river
and forded it, after which they went through the belt
of woodland at a walk. By the time they reached the
open prairie the mustang was recovered sufficiently to
feel its spirit returning, so Dick gave it a gentle touch
with the switch, and away they went on their return
journey.

But it amazed Dick not a little to find how long
that journey was. Very different was the pace, too,
from the previous mad gallop, and often would the poor
horse have stopped had Dick allowed him. But this
might not be. The shades of night were approaching,
and the camp lay a long way ahead.

At last it was reached, and Crusoe came out with
great demonstrations of joy, but was sent back lest he
should alarm the horse. Then Dick jumped off his
back, stroked his head, put his cheek close to his
mouth and whispered softly to him, after which he
fastened him to a tree and rubbed him down slightly
with a bunch of grass. Having done this, he left him
to graze as far as his tether would permit; and, after
supping with Crusoe, lay down to-rest, not a little
elated with his success in this first attempt at "creasing"
and "breaking" a mustang.



CHAPTER XVI.




Dick becomes a horse tamer--Resumes his journey--Charlie's
doings--Misfortunes which lead to, but do not terminate in, the Rocky
Mountains--A grizzly bear
.

There is a proverb--or a saying--or at least
somebody or book has told us, that some Irishman
once said, "Be aisy; or, if ye can't be aisy, be as
aisy as ye can."

Now, we count that good advice, and strongly recommend
it to all and sundry. Had we been at the
side of Dick Varley on the night after his taming of
the wild horse, we would have strongly urged that
advice upon him. Whether he would have listened
to it or not is quite another question; we rather think
not. Reader, if you wish to know why, go and do
what he did, and if you feel no curious sensations
about the region of the loins after it, we will tell you
why Dick Varley wouldn't have listened to that advice.
Can a man feel as if his joints were wrenched
out of their sockets, and listen to advice--be that
advice good or bad? Can he feel as though these
joints were trying to re-set and re-dislocate themselves
perpetually, and listen to advice? Can he feel as if
he were sitting down on red-hot iron, when he's not
sitting down at all, and listen to advice? Can he--but
no! why pursue the subject. Poor Dick spent
that night in misery, and the greater part of the following
day in sleep, to make up for it.

When he got up to breakfast in the afternoon he felt
much better, but shaky.

"Now, pup," he said, stretching himself, "we'll go
and see our horse. Ours, pup; yours and mine: didn't
you help to catch him, eh, pup?"

Crusoe acknowledged the fact with a wag and a playful
"bow-wow--wow-oo-ow!" and followed his master
to the place where the horse had been picketed. It
was standing there quite quiet, but looking a little
timid.

Dick went boldly up to it, and patted its head and
stroked its nose, for nothing is so likely to alarm either
a tame or a wild horse as any appearance of timidity or
hesitation on the part of those who approach them.

After treating it thus for a short time, he stroked
down its neck, and then its shoulders--the horse eying
him all the time nervously. Gradually he stroked
its back and limbs gently, and walked quietly round
and round it once or twice, sometimes approaching
and sometimes going away, but never either hesitating
or doing anything abruptly. This done, he went down
to the stream and filled his cap with water and carried
it to the horse, which snuffed suspiciously and backed
a little; so he laid the cap down, and went up and
patted him again. Presently he took up the cap and
carried it to his nose. The poor creature was almost
choking with thirst, so that, the moment he understood
what was in the cap, he buried his lips in it and sucked
it up.

This was a great point gained: he had accepted a
benefit at the hands of his new master; he had become
a debtor to man, and no doubt he felt the obligation.
Dick filled the cap and the horse emptied it
again, and again, and again, until its burning thirst
was slaked. Then Dick went up to his shoulder, patted
him, undid the line that fastened him, and vaulted
lightly on his back!

We say lightly, for it was so, but it wasn't easily, as
Dick could have told you! However, he was determined
not to forego the training of his steed on account
of what he would have called a "little bit pain."

At this unexpected act the horse plunged and reared
a good deal, and seemed inclined to go through the performance
of the day before over again; but Dick patted
and stroked him into quiescence, and having done so,
urged him into a gallop over the plains, causing the dog
to gambol round in order that he might get accustomed
to him. This tried his nerves a good deal, and no wonder,
for if he took Crusoe for a wolf, which no doubt he did,
he must have thought him a very giant of the pack.

By degrees they broke into a furious gallop, and
after breathing him well, Dick returned and tied him
to the tree. Then he rubbed him down again, and
gave him another drink. This time the horse smelt
his new master all over, and Dick felt that he had
conquered him by kindness. No doubt the tremendous
run of the day before could scarcely be called
kindness, but without this subduing run he never could
have brought the offices of kindness to bear on so wild
a steed.

During all these operations Crusoe sat looking on
with demure sagacity--drinking in wisdom and taking
notes. We know not whether any notes made by the
canine race have ever been given to the world, but
certain are we that, if the notes and observations made
by Crusoe on that journey were published, they would,
to say the least, surprise us!

Next day Dick gave the wild horse his second lesson,
and his name. He called him "Charlie," after a much-loved
companion in the Mustang Valley. And long and
heartily did Dick Varley laugh as he told the horse his
future designation in the presence of Crusoe, for it struck
him as somewhat ludicrous that a mustang which, two
days ago, pawed the earth in all the pride of independent
freedom, should suddenly come down so low as to carry
a hunter on his back and be named Charlie.

The next piece of instruction began by Crusoe being
led up under Charlie's nose, and while Dick patted the
dog with his right hand he patted the horse with his
left. It backed a good deal at first and snorted, but
Crusoe walked slowly and quietly in front of him
several times, each time coming nearer, until he again
stood under his nose; then the horse smelt him nervously,
and gave a sigh of relief when he found that
Crusoe paid no attention to him whatever. Dick then
ordered the dog to lie down at Charlie's feet, and went
to the camp to fetch his rifle, and buffalo robe, and
pack of meat. These and all the other things belonging
to him were presented for inspection, one by one,
to the horse, who arched his neck, and put forward his
ears, and eyed them at first, but smelt them all over,
and seemed to feel more easy in his mind.

Next, the buffalo robe was rubbed over his nose, then
over his eyes and head, then down his neck and shoulder,
and lastly was placed on his back. Then it was taken
off and flung on; after that it was strapped on, and the
various little items of the camp were attached to it.
This done, Dick took up his rifle and let him smell it;
then he put his hand on Charlie's shoulder, vaulted on
to his back, and rode away.

Charlie's education was completed. And now our
hero's journey began again in earnest, and with some
prospect of its speedy termination.

In this course of training through which Dick put
his wild horse, he had been at much greater pains and
had taken far longer time than is usually the case among
the Indians, who will catch, and "break," and ride a
wild horse into camp in less than three hours. But
Dick wanted to do the thing well, which the Indians
are not careful to do; besides, it must be borne in remembrance
that this was his first attempt, and that his
horse was one of the best and most high-spirited, while
those caught by the Indians, as we have said, are generally
the poorest of a drove.

Dick now followed the trail of his lost companions at
a rapid pace, yet not so rapidly as he might have done,
being averse to exhausting his good dog and his new
companion. Each night he encamped under the shade
of a tree or a bush when he could find one, or in the
open prairie when there were none, and, picketing his
horse to a short stake or pin which he carried with him
for the purpose, lit his fire, had supper, and lay down
to rest. In a few days Charlie became so tame and so
accustomed to his master's voice that he seemed quite
reconciled to his new life. There can be no doubt whatever
that he had a great dislike to solitude; for on one
occasion, when Dick and Crusoe went off a mile or so
from the camp, where Charlie was tied, and disappeared
from his view, he was heard to neigh so loudly that
Dick ran back, thinking the wolves must have attacked
him. He was all right, however, and exhibited evident
tokens of satisfaction when they returned.

On another occasion his fear of being left alone was
more clearly demonstrated.

Dick had been unable to find wood or water that day,
so he was obliged to encamp upon the open plain. The
want of water was not seriously felt, however, for he
had prepared a bladder in which he always carried
enough to give him one pannikin of hot sirup, and
leave a mouthful for Crusoe and Charlie. Dried buffalo
dung formed a substitute for fuel. Spreading his buffalo
robe, he lit his fire, put on his pannikin to boil, and
stuck up a piece of meat to roast, to the great delight
of Crusoe, who sat looking on with much interest.

Suddenly Charlie, who was picketed a few hundred
yards off in a grassy spot, broke his halter close by the
headpiece, and with a snort of delight bounded away,
prancing and kicking up his heels!

Dick heaved a deep sigh, for he felt sure that his
horse was gone. However, in a little Charlie stopped,
and raised his nose high in the air, as if to look for
his old equine companions. But they were gone; no
answering neigh replied to his; and he felt, probably
for the first time, that he was really alone in the world.
Having no power of smell, whereby he might have
traced them out as the dog would have done, he looked
in a bewildered and excited state all round the horizon.
Then his eye fell on Dick and Crusoe sitting by their
little fire. Charlie looked hard at them, and then again
at the horizon; and then, coming to the conclusion, no
doubt, that the matter was quite beyond his comprehension,
he quietly took to feeding.

Dick availed himself of the chance, and tried to catch
him; but he spent an hour with Crusoe in the vain
attempt, and at last they gave it up in disgust and returned
to the fire, where they finished their supper and
went to bed.

Next morning they saw Charlie feeding close at hand,
so they took breakfast, and tried to catch him again.
But it was of no use; he was evidently coquetting with
them, and dodged about and defied their utmost efforts,
for there were only a few inches of line hanging to his
head. At last it occurred to Dick that he would try
the experiment of forsaking him. So he packed up his
things, rolled up the buffalo robe, threw it and the rifle
on his shoulder, and walked deliberately away.

"Come along, Crusoe!" he cried, after walking a few
paces.

But Crusoe stood by the fire with his head up, and
an expression on his face that said, "Hallo, man! what's
wrong? You've forgot Charlie! Hold on! Are you
mad?"

"Come here, Crusoe!" cried his master in a decided
tone.

Crusoe obeyed at once. Whatever mistake there
might be, there was evidently none in that command;
so he lowered his head and tail humbly, and trotted on
with his master, but he perpetually turned his head as
he went, first on this side and then on that, to look and
wonder at Charlie.

When they were far away on the plain, Charlie suddenly
became aware that something was wrong. He
trotted to the brow of a slope, with his head and tail
very high up indeed, and looked after them; then he
looked at the fire, and neighed; then he trotted quickly
up to it, and seeing that everything was gone he began
to neigh violently, and at last started off at full speed,
and overtook his friends, passing within a few feet of
them, and, wheeling round a few yards off, stood trembling
like an aspen leaf.

Dick called him by his name and advanced, while
Charlie met him half-way, and allowed himself to be
saddled, bridled, and mounted forthwith.

After this Dick had no further trouble with his wild
horse.

At his next camping-place, which was in the midst of
a cluster of bushes close beside a creek, Dick came unexpectedly
upon a little wooden cross which marked the
head of a grave. There was no inscription on it, but the
Christian symbol told that it was the grave of a white
man. It is impossible to describe the rush of mingled
feelings that filled the soul of the young hunter as he
leaned on the muzzle of his rifle and looked at this
solitary resting-place of one who, doubtless like himself,
had been a roving hunter. Had he been young or old
when he fell? had he a mother in the distant settlement
who watched and longed and waited for the son
that was never more to gladden her eyes? had he been
murdered, or had he died there and been buried by his
sorrowing comrades? These and a thousand questions
passed rapidly through his mind as he gazed at the little
cross.

Suddenly he started. "Could it be the grave of Joe
or Henri?" For an instant the idea sent a chill to his
heart; but it passed quickly, for a second glance showed
that the grave was old, and that the wooden cross had
stood over it for years.

Dick turned away with a saddened heart; and that
night, as he pored over the pages of his Bible, his mind
was filled with many thoughts about eternity and the
world to come. He, too, must come to the grave one
day, and quit the beautiful prairies and his loved
rifle. It was a sad thought; but while he meditated
he thought upon his mother. "After all," he murmured,
"there must be happiness without the rifle, and youth,
and health, and the prairie! My mother's happy, yet
she don't shoot, or ride like wild-fire over the plains."
Then that word which had been sent so sweetly to him
through her hand came again to his mind, "My son,
give me thine heart;" and as he read God's Book, he
met with the word, "Delight thyself in the Lord, and he
shall give thee the desire of thine heart." "The desire
of thine heart
" Dick repeated this, and pondered it
till he fell asleep.

A misfortune soon after this befell Dick Varley which
well-nigh caused him to give way to despair. For some
time past he had been approaching the eastern slopes
of the Rocky Mountains--those ragged, jagged, mighty
hills which run through the whole continent from north
to south in a continuous chain, and form, as it were, the
backbone of America. One morning, as he threw the
buffalo robe off his shoulders and sat up, he was horrified
to find the whole earth covered with a mantle of snow.
We say he was horrified, for this rendered it absolutely
impossible any further to trace his companions either by
scent or sight.

For some time he sat musing bitterly on his sad fate,
while his dog came and laid his head sympathizingly on
his arm.

"Ah, pup!" he said, "I know ye'd help me if ye
could! But it's all up now; there's no chance of findin'
them--none!"

To this Crusoe replied by a low whine. He knew
full well that something distressed his master, but he
hadn't yet ascertained what it was. As something had
to be done, Dick put the buffalo robe on his steed, and
mounting said, as he was in the habit of doing each
morning, "Lead on, pup."

Crusoe put his nose to the ground and ran forward a
few paces, then he returned and ran about snuffing and
scraping up the snow. At last he looked up and uttered
a long melancholy howl.

"Ah! I knowed it," said Dick, pushing forward.
"Come on, pup; you'll have to follow now. Any way
we must go on."

The snow that had fallen was not deep enough to
offer the slightest obstruction to their advance. It was,
indeed, only one of those occasional showers common to
that part of the country in the late autumn, which
season had now crept upon Dick almost before he was
aware of it, and he fully expected that it would melt
away in a few days. In this hope he kept steadily
advancing, until he found himself in the midst of those
rocky fastnesses which divide the waters that flow into
the Atlantic from those that flow into the Pacific Ocean.
Still the slight crust of snow lay on the ground, and he
had no means of knowing whether he was going in the
right direction or not.

Game was abundant, and there was no lack of wood
now, so that his night bivouac was not so cold or dreary
as might have been expected.

Travelling, however, had become difficult, and even
dangerous, owing to the rugged nature of the ground
over which he proceeded. The scenery had completely
changed in its character. Dick no longer coursed over
the free, open plains, but he passed through beautiful
valleys filled with luxuriant trees, and hemmed in by
stupendous mountains, whose rugged sides rose upward
until the snow-clad peaks pierced the clouds.

There was something awful in these dark solitudes,
quite overwhelming to a youth of Dick's temperament.
His heart began to sink lower and lower every day, and
the utter impossibility of making up his mind what to
do became at length agonizing. To have turned and
gone back the hundreds of miles over which he had
travelled would have caused him some anxiety under
any circumstances, but to do so while Joe and Henri
were either wandering about there or in the power of
the savages was, he felt, out of the question. Yet in
which way should he go? Whatever course he took
might lead him farther and farther away from them.

In this dilemma he came to the determination of
remaining where he was, at least until the snow should
leave the ground.

He felt great relief even when this hopeless course
was decided upon, and set about making himself an encampment
with some degree of cheerfulness. When he
had completed this task, he took his rifle, and leaving
Charlie picketed in the centre of a dell, where the long,
rich grass rose high above the snow, went off to hunt.

On turning a rocky point his heart suddenly bounded
into his throat, for there, not thirty yards distant, stood
a huge grizzly bear!

Yes, there he was at last, the monster to meet which
the young hunter had so often longed--the terrible size
and fierceness of which he had heard so often spoken
about by the old hunters. There it stood at last; but
little did Dick Varley think that the first time he should
meet with his foe should be when alone in the dark recesses
of the Rocky Mountains, and with none to succour
him in the event of the battle going against him. Yes,
there was one. The faithful Crusoe stood by his side,
with his hair bristling, all his formidable teeth exposed,
and his eyes glaring in their sockets. Alas for poor
Crusoe had he gone into that combat alone! One stroke
of that monster's paw would have hurled him dead upon
the ground.



CHAPTER XVII.




Dick's first fight with a grizzly--Adventure with a
deer
--A surprise.


There is no animal in all the land so terrible and
dangerous as the grizzly bear. Not only is he the
largest of the species in America, but he is the fiercest,
the strongest, and the most tenacious of life--facts which
are so well understood that few of the western hunters
like to meet him single-handed, unless they happen
to be first-rate shots; and the Indians deem the encounter
so dangerous that to wear a collar composed
of the claws of a grizzly bear of his own killing is
counted one of the highest honours to which a young
warrior can attain.

The grizzly bear resembles the brown bear of Europe,
but it is larger, and the hair is long, the points being
of a paler shade. About the head there is a considerable
mixture of gray hair, giving it the "grizzly" appearance
from which it derives its name. The claws are
dirty white, arched, and very long, and so strong that
when the animal strikes with its paw they cut like a
chisel. These claws are not embedded in the paw, as
is the case with the cat, but always project far beyond
the hair, thus giving to the foot a very ungainly appearance.
They are not sufficiently curved to enable the
grizzly bear to climb trees, like the black and brown
bears; and this inability on their part is often the only
hope of the pursued hunter, who, if he succeeds in
ascending a tree, is safe, for the time at least, from the
bear's assaults. But "Caleb" is a patient creature, and
will often wait at the foot of the tree for many hours
for his victim.

The average length of his body is about nine feet,
but he sometimes attains to a still larger growth.
Caleb is more carnivorous in his habits than other
bears; but, like them, he does not object to indulge
occasionally in vegetable diet, being partial to the bird-cherry,
the choke-berry, and various shrubs. He has
a sweet tooth, too, and revels in honey--when he can
get it.

The instant the grizzly bear beheld Dick Varley
standing in his path, he rose on his hind legs and made
a loud hissing noise, like a man breathing quick, but
much harsher. To this Crusoe replied by a deep growl,
and showing the utmost extent of his teeth, gums and
all; and Dick cocked both barrels of his rifle.

To say that Dick Varley felt no fear would be simply
to make him out that sort of hero which does not exist
in nature--namely, a perfect hero. He did feel a
sensation
as if his bowels had suddenly melted into water!
Let not our reader think the worse of Dick for this.
There is not a man living who, having met with a huge
grizzly bear for the first time in his life in a wild, solitary
place, all alone, has not experienced some such
sensation. There was no cowardice in this feeling.

Fear is not cowardice. Acting in a wrong and contemptible
manner because of our fear is cowardice.

It is said that Wellington or Napoleon, we forget
which, once stood watching the muster of the men who
were to form the forlorn-hope in storming a citadel.
There were many brave, strong, stalwart men there, in
the prime of life, and flushed with the blood of high
health and courage. There were also there a few stern-browed
men of riper years, who stood perfectly silent,
with lips compressed, and as pale as death. "Yonder
veterans," said the general, pointing to these soldiers,
"are men whose courage I can depend on; they know
what they are going to, the others don't!" Yes, these
young soldiers very probably were brave; the others
certainly were.

Dick Varley stood for a few seconds as if thunderstruck,
while the bear stood hissing at him. Then the
liquefaction of his interior ceased, and he felt a glow
of fire gush through his veins. Now Dick knew well
enough that to fly from a grizzly bear was the sure and
certain way of being torn to pieces, as when taken thus
by surprise they almost invariably follow a retreating
enemy. He also knew that if he stood where he was,
perfectly still, the bear would get uncomfortable under
his stare, and would retreat from him. But he neither
intended to run away himself nor to allow the bear to
do so; he intended to kill it, so he raised his rifle quickly,
"drew a bead," as the hunters express it, on the bear's
heart, and fired.

It immediately dropped on its fore legs and rushed
at him.
"Back, Crusoe! out of the way, pup!" shouted Dick, as
his favourite was about to spring forward.

The dog retired, and Dick leaped behind a tree. As
the bear passed he gave it the contents of the second
barrel behind the shoulder, which brought it down; but
in another moment it rose and again rushed at him.
Dick had no time to load, neither had he time to spring
up the thick tree beside which he stood, and the rocky
nature of the ground out of which it grew rendered it
impossible to dodge round it. His only resource was
flight; but where was he to fly to? If he ran along
the open track, the bear would overtake him in a few
seconds. On the right was a sheer precipice one hundred
feet high; on the left was an impenetrable thicket. In
despair he thought for an instant of clubbing his rifle
and meeting the monster in close conflict; but the utter
hopelessness of such an effort was too apparent to be
entertained for a moment. He glanced up at the overhanging
cliffs. There were one or two rents and projections
close above him. In the twinkling of an eye
he sprang up and grasped a ledge of about an inch
broad, ten or twelve feet up, to which he clung while
he glanced upward. Another projection was within
reach; he gained it, and in a few seconds he stood upon
a ledge about twenty feet up the cliff, where he had just
room to plant his feet firmly.

Without waiting to look behind, he seized his powder-horn
and loaded one barrel of his rifle; and well was it
for him that his early training had fitted him to do this
with rapidity, for the bear dashed up the precipice after
him at once. The first time it missed its hold, and fell
back with a savage growl; but on the second attempt
it sunk its long claws into the fissures between the rocks,
and ascended steadily till within a foot of the place
where Dick stood.

At this moment Crusoe's obedience gave way before
a sense of Dick's danger. Uttering one of his lion-like
roars, he rushed up the precipice with such violence
that, although naturally unable to climb, he reached and
seized the bear's flank, despite his master's stern order
to "keep back," and in a moment the two rolled down
the face of the rock together, just as Dick completed
loading.

Knowing that one stroke of the bear's paw would be
certain death to his poor dog, Dick leaped from his
perch, and with one bound reached the ground at the
same moment with the struggling animals, and close
beside them, and, before they had ceased rolling, he
placed the muzzle of his rifle into the bear's ear, and
blew out its brains.

Crusoe, strange to say, escaped with only one scratch
on the side. It was a deep one, but not dangerous, and
gave him but little pain at the time, although it caused
him many a smart for some weeks after.

Thus happily ended Dick's first encounter with a
grizzly bear; and although, in the course of his wild
life, he shot many specimens of "Caleb," he used to say
that "he an' pup were never so near goin' under as on
the day he dropped that bar!"

Having refreshed himself with a long draught from
a neighbouring rivulet, and washed Crusoe's wound,
Dick skinned the bear on the spot.
"We chawed him up that time, didn't we, pup?"
said Dick, with a smile of satisfaction, as he surveyed
his prize.

Crusoe looked up and assented to this.

"Gave us a hard tussle, though; very nigh sent us
both under, didn't he, pup?"

Crusoe agreed entirely, and, as if the remark reminded
him of honourable scars, he licked his wound.

"Ah, pup!" cried Dick, sympathetically, "does't hurt
ye, eh, poor dog?"

Hurt him? such a question! No, he should think
not; better ask if that leap from the precipice hurt
yourself.

So Crusoe might have said, but he didn't; he took
no notice of the remark whatever.

"We'll cut him up now, pup," continued Dick.
"The skin'll make a splendid bed for you an' me o'
nights, and a saddle for Charlie."

Dick cut out all the claws of the bear by the roots,
and spent the remainder of that night in cleaning them
and stringing them on a strip of leather to form a
necklace. Independently of the value of these enormous
claws (the largest as long as a man's middle finger) as
an evidence of prowess, they formed a remarkably graceful
collar, which Dick wore round his neck ever after
with as much pride as if he had been a Pawnee warrior.

When it was finished he held it out at arm's-length,
and said, "Crusoe, my pup, ain't ye proud of it? I'll
tell ye what it is, pup, the next time you an' I floor
Caleb, I'll put the claws round your neck, an' make ye
wear em ever arter, so I will."

The dog did not seem quite to appreciate this piece
of prospective good fortune. Vanity had no place in
his honest breast, and, sooth to say, it had not a large
place in that of his master either, as we may well grant
when we consider that this first display of it was on the
occasion of his hunter's soul having at last realized its
brightest day-dream.

Dick's dangers and triumphs seemed to accumulate
on him rather thickly at this place, for on the very
next day he had a narrow escape of being killed by a
deer. The way of it was this.

Having run short of meat, and not being particularly
fond of grizzly bear steak, he shouldered his rifle and
sallied forth in quest of game, accompanied by Crusoe,
whose frequent glances towards his wounded side
showed that, whatever may have been the case the day
before, it "hurt" him now.

They had not gone far when they came on the track
of a deer in the snow, and followed it up till they spied
a magnificent buck about three hundred yards off,
standing in a level patch of ground which was everywhere
surrounded either by rocks or thicket. It was a
long shot, but as the nature of the ground rendered it
impossible for Dick to get nearer without being seen,
he fired, and wounded the buck so badly that he came
up with it in a few minutes. The snow had drifted in
the place where it stood bolt upright, ready for a spring,
so Dick went round a little way, Crusoe following, till
he was in a proper position to fire again. Just as he
pulled the trigger, Crusoe gave a howl behind him and
disturbed his aim, so that he feared he had missed; but
the deer fell, and he hurried towards it. On coming
up, however, the buck sprang to its legs, rushed at him
with its hair bristling, knocked him down in the snow,
and deliberately commenced stamping him to death.

Dick was stunned for a moment, and lay quite still,
so the deer left off pommelling him, and stood looking
at him. But the instant he moved it plunged at him
again and gave him another pounding, until he was
content to lie still. This was done several times, and
Dick felt his strength going fast. He was surprised
that Crusoe did not come to his rescue, and once he
cleared his mouth and whistled to him; but as the
deer gave him another pounding for this, he didn't
attempt it again. He now for the first time bethought
him of his knife, and quietly drew it from his belt;
but the deer observed the motion, and was on him
again in a moment. Dick, however, sprang up on his
left elbow, and making several desperate thrusts upward,
succeeded in stabbing the animal to the heart.

Rising and shaking the snow from his garments, he
whistled loudly to Crusoe, and, on listening, heard him
whining piteously. He hurried to the place whence
the sound came, and found that the poor dog had fallen
into a deep pit or crevice in the rocks, which had been
concealed from view by a crust of snow, and he was
now making frantic but unavailing efforts to leap out.

Dick soon freed him from his prison by means of
his belt, which he let down for the dog to grasp, and
then returned to camp with as much deer-meat as he
could carry. Dear meat it certainly was to him, for it
had nearly cost him his life, and left him all black and
blue for weeks after. Happily no bones were broken,
so the incident only confined him a day to his encampment.

Soon after this the snow fell thicker than ever, and
it became evident that an unusually early winter was
about to set in among the mountains. This was a
terrible calamity, for if the regular snow of winter set
in, it would be impossible for him either to advance or
retreat.

While he was sitting on his bearskin by the camp-fire
one day, thinking anxiously what he should do, and
feeling that he must either make the attempt to escape
or perish miserably in that secluded spot, a strange, unwonted
sound struck upon his ear, and caused both him
and Crusoe to spring violently to their feet and listen.
Could he be dreaming?--it seemed like the sound of
human voices. For a moment he stood with his eyes
rivetted on the ground, his lips apart, and his nostrils
distended, as he listened with the utmost intensity.
Then he darted out and bounded round the edge of a
rock which concealed an extensive but narrow valley
from his view, and there, to his amazement, he beheld a
band of about a hundred human beings advancing on
horseback slowly through the snow.



CHAPTER XVIII.




A surprise, and a piece of good news--The fur-traders--Crusoe
proved, and the Peigans pursued
.


Dick's first and most natural impulse, on beholding
this band, was to mount his horse and fly, for
his mind naturally enough recurred to the former rough
treatment he had experienced at the hands of Indians.
On second thoughts, however, he considered it wiser to
throw himself upon the hospitality of the strangers;
"for," thought he, "they can but kill me, an' if I remain
here I'm like to die at any rate."

So Dick mounted his wild horse, grasped his rifle in
his right hand, and, followed by Crusoe, galloped full
tilt down the valley to meet them.

He had heard enough of the customs of savage tribes,
and had also of late experienced enough, to convince
him that when a man found himself in the midst of an
overwhelming force, his best policy was to assume an
air of confident courage. He therefore approached them
at his utmost speed.

The effect upon the advancing band was electrical;
and little wonder, for the young hunter's appearance
was very striking. His horse, from having rested a
good deal of late, was full of spirit. Its neck was
arched, its nostrils expanded, and its mane and tail
never having been checked in their growth flew wildly
around him in voluminous curls. Dick's own hair, not
having been clipped for many months, appeared scarcely
less wild, as they thundered down the rocky pass at
what appeared a break-neck gallop. Add to this the
grandeur of the scene out of which they sprang, and
the gigantic dog that bounded by his side, and you will
not be surprised to hear that the Indian warriors clustered
together, and prepared to receive this bold horseman
as if he, in his own proper person, were a complete
squadron of cavalry. It is probable, also, that they
fully expected the tribe of which Dick was the chief to
be at his heels.

As he drew near the excitement among the strangers
seemed very great, and, from the peculiarity of the
various cries that reached him, he knew that there were
women and children in the band--a fact which, in such
a place and at such a season, was so unnatural that it
surprised him very much. He noted also that, though
the men in front were Indians, their dresses were those
of trappers and hunters, and he almost leaped out of his
saddle when he observed that "Pale-faces" were among
them. But he had barely time to note these facts when
he was up with the band. According to Indian custom,
he did not check his speed till he was within four or
five yards of the advance-guard, who stood in a line
before him, quite still, and with their rifles lying loosely
in their left palms; then he reined his steed almost on
its haunches.

One of the Indians advanced and spoke a few words
in a language which was quite unintelligible to Dick,
who replied, in the little Pawnee he could muster, that
he didn't understand him.

"Why, you must be a trapper!" exclaimed a thick-set,
middle-aged man, riding out from the group. "Can
you speak English?"

"Ay, that can I," cried Dick joyfully, riding up and
shaking the stranger heartily by the hand; "an' right
glad am I to fall in wi' a white-skin an' a civil tongue
in his head."

"Good sooth, sir," replied the stranger, with a quiet
smile on his kind, weather-beaten face, "I can return
you the compliment; for when I saw you come thundering
down the corrie with that wonderful horse and
no less wonderful dog of yours, I thought you were the
wild man o' the mountain himself, and had an ambush
ready to back you. But, young man, do you mean to
say that you live here in the mountain all alone after
this fashion?"

"No, that I don't. I've comed here in my travels,
but truly this bean't my home. But, sir (for I see
you are what the fur-traders call a bourgeois), how
comes it that such a band as this rides i' the mountains?
D'ye mean to say that they live here?" Dick looked
round in surprise, as he spoke, upon the crowd of
mounted men and women, with children and pack-horses,
that now surrounded him.

"'Tis a fair question, lad. I am a principal among
the fur-traders whose chief trading-post lies near the
Pacific Ocean, on the west side of these mountains; and
I have come with these trappers and their families, as you see, to
hunt the
beaver and other animals for a
season in the mountains. We've never been here before; but that's a
matter
of little moment, for it's not
the first time I've been on what may be called a discovery-trading
expedition. We are somewhat entangled,
however, just now among these wild passes, and if you
can guide us out of our difficulties to the east side of
the mountains, I'll thank you heartily and pay you well.
But first tell me who and what you are, if it's a fair
question."

"My name is Dick Varley, and my home's in the
Mustang Valley, near the Missouri River. As to what
I am--I'm nothin' yet, but I hope to desarve the name
o' a hunter some day. I can guide you to the east side
o' the mountains, for I've comed from there; but more
than that I can't do, for I'm a stranger to the country
here, like yourself. But you're on the east side o' the
mountains already, if I mistake not; only these mountains
are so rugged and jumbled up, that it's not easy
tellin' where ye are. And what," continued Dick,
"may be the name o' the bourgeois who speaks to
me?"

"My name is Cameron--Walter Cameron--a well-known
name among the Scottish hills, although it
sounds a little strange here. And now, young man,
will you join my party as guide, and afterwards remain
as trapper? It will pay you better, I think, than
roving about alone."

Dick shook his head and looked grave. "I'll guide
you," said he, "as far as my knowledge 'll help me;
but after that I must return to look for two comrades
whom I have lost. They have been driven into the
mountains by a band of Injuns. God grant they may
not have bin scalped!"

The trader's face looked troubled, and he spoke with
one of his Indians for a few minutes in earnest, hurried
tones.

"What were they like, young man?"

Dick described them.

"The same," continued the trader. "They've been
seen, lad, not more than two days ago, by this Indian
here, when he was out hunting alone some miles away
from our camp. He came suddenly on a band of
Indians who had two prisoners with them, such as you
describe. They were stout, said you?"

"Yes, both of them," cried Dick, listening with intense
eagerness.

"Ay. They were tied to their horses, an' from what
I know of these fellows I'm sure they're doomed. But
I'll help you, my friend, as well as I can. They can't
be far from this. I treated my Indian's story about
them as a mere fabrication, for he's the most notorious
liar in my company; but he seems to have spoken truth
for once."

"Thanks, thanks, good sir," cried Dick. "Had we
not best turn back and follow them at once?"

"Nay, friend, not quite so fast," replied Cameron,
pointing to his people. "These must be provided for
first, but I shall be ready before the sun goes down.
And now, as I presume you don't bivouac in the snow,
will you kindly conduct us to your encampment, if it be
not far hence?"

Although burning with impatience to fly to the rescue
of his friends, Dick felt constrained to comply with so
reasonable a request, so he led the way to his camping-place,
where the band of fur-traders immediately began
to pitch their tents, cut down wood, kindle fires, fill
their kettles with water, cook their food, and, in fact,
make themselves comfortable. The wild spot which, an
hour before, had been so still, and grand, and gloomy,
was now, as if by magic, transformed into a bustling
village, with bright fires blazing among the rocks and
bushes, and merry voices of men, women, and children
ringing in the air. It seemed almost incredible, and
no wonder Dick, in his bewilderment, had difficulty in
believing it was not all a dream.

In days long gone by the fur-trade in that country
was carried on in a very different way from the manner
in which it is now conducted. These wild regions, indeed,
are still as lonesome and untenanted (save by
wild beasts and wandering tribes of Indians) as they
were then; but the Indians of the present day have
become accustomed to the "Pale-face" trader, whose
little wooden forts or trading-posts are dotted here and
there, at wide intervals, all over the land. But in the
days of which we write it was not so. The fur-traders
at that time went forth in armed bands into the heart
of the Indians' country, and he who went forth did so
"with his life in his hand." As in the case of the
soldier who went out to battle, there was great probability
that he might never return.

The band of which Walter Cameron was the chief
had, many months before, started from one of the distant
posts of Oregon on a hunting expedition into the
then totally unknown lands of the Snake Indians. It
consisted of about sixty men, thirty women, and as
many children of various ages--about a hundred and
twenty souls in all. Many of the boys were capable of
using the gun and setting a beaver-trap. The men were
a most motley set. There were Canadians, half-breeds,
Iroquois, and Scotchmen. Most of the women had
Indian blood in their veins, and a few were pure
Indians.

The equipment of this strange band consisted of upwards
of two hundred beaver-traps--which are similar to
our rat-traps, with this difference, that they have two
springs and no teeth--seventy guns, a few articles for
trade with the Indians, and a large supply of powder
and ball; the whole--men, women, children, goods, and
chattels--being carried on the backs of nearly four
hundred horses. Many of these horses, at starting, were
not laden, being designed for the transport of furs that
were to be taken in the course of the season.

For food this adventurous party depended entirely on
their guns, and during the march hunters were kept
constantly out ahead. As a matter of course, their
living was precarious. Sometimes their kettles were
overflowing; at others they scarce refrained from eating
their horses. But during the months they had already
spent in the wilderness good living had been the rule,
starvation the exception. They had already collected a
large quantity of beaver skins, which at that time were
among the most valuable in the market, although they
are now scarcely saleable!
Having shot two wild horses, seven elks, six small
deer, and four big-horned sheep the day before they
met Dick Varley, the camp kettles were full, and the
people consequently happy.

"Now, Master Dick Varley," said Cameron, touching
the young hunter on the shoulder as he stood ready
equipped by one of the camp-fires, "I'm at your service.
The people won't need any more looking after to-night.
I'll divide my men--thirty shall go after this rascally
band of Peigans, for such I believe they are, and thirty
shall remain to guard the camp. Are you ready?"

"Ready! ay, this hour past."

"Mount then, lad; the men have already been told
off, and are mustering down yonder where the deer gave
you such a licking."

Dick needed no second bidding. He vaulted on
Charlie's back, and along with their commander joined
the men, who were thirty as fine, hardy, reckless looking
fellows as one could desire for a forlorn-hope. They
were chatting and laughing while they examined their
guns and saddle-girths. Their horses were sorry looking
animals compared with the magnificent creature
that Dick bestrode, but they were hardy, nevertheless,
and well fitted for their peculiar work.

"My! wot a blazer!" exclaimed a trapper as Dick
rode up.

"Where you git him?" inquired a half-breed.

"I caught him," answered Dick.

"Baw!" cried the first speaker.

Dick took no notice of this last remark.

"No, did ye though?" he asked again.

"I did," answered Dick quietly. "I creased him in
the prairie; you can see the mark on his neck if you
look."

The men began to feel that the young hunter was
perhaps a little beyond them at their own trade, and regarded
him with increased respect.

"Look sharp now, lads," said Cameron, impatiently,
to several dilatory members of the band. "Night will
be on us ere long."

"Who sold ye the bear-claw collar?" inquired another
man of Dick.

"I didn't buy it. I killed the bear and made it."

"Did ye, though, all be yer lone?"

"Ay; that wasn't much, was it?"

"You've begun well, yonker," said a tall, middle-aged
hunter, whose general appearance was not unlike that of
Joe Blunt. "Jest keep clear o' the Injuns an' the grog
bottle, an' ye've a glor'ous life before ye."

At this point the conversation was interrupted by the
order being given to move on, which was obeyed in
silence, and the cavalcade, descending the valley, entered
one of the gorges in the mountains.

For the first half-mile Cameron rode a little ahead of
his men, then he turned to speak to one of them, and
for the first time observed Crusoe trotting close beside
his master's horse.

"Ah! Master Dick," he exclaimed with a troubled
expression, "that won't do. It would never do to take a dog on an
expedition like this."

"Why not?" asked Dick; "the pup's quiet and peaceable."

"I doubt it not; but he will betray our presence to
the Indians, which might be inconvenient."

"I have travelled more than a thousand miles through
prairie and forest, among game an' among Injuns, an'
the pup never betrayed me yet," said Dick, with suppressed
vehemence. "He has saved my life more than
once though."

"You seem to have perfect confidence in your dog,
but as this is a serious matter you must not expect me
to share in it without proof of his trustworthiness."

"The pup may be useful to us; how would you have
it proved?" inquired Dick.

"Any way you like."

"You forgot your belt at starting, I think I heerd
ye say."

"Yes, I did," replied the trader, smiling.

Dick immediately took hold of Cameron's coat, and
bade Crusoe smell it, which the dog did very carefully.
Then he showed him his own belt and said, "Go back
to the camp and fetch it, pup."

Crusoe was off in a moment, and in less than twenty
minutes returned with Cameron's belt in his mouth.

"Well, I'll trust him," said Cameron, patting Crusoe's
head. "Forward, lads!" and away they went at a brisk
trot along the bottom of a beautiful valley on each side
of which the mountains towered in dark masses. Soon
the moon rose and afforded light sufficient to enable
them to travel all night in the track of the Indian
hunter who said he had seen the Peigans, and who was
constituted guide to the party. Hour after hour the
horsemen pressed on without check, now galloping over
a level plain, now bounding by the banks of a rivulet,
or bending their heads to escape the boughs of overhanging
trees, and anon toiling slowly up among the
rocks of some narrow defile. At last the moon set, and
the order was given to halt in a little plain where there
were wood and water.

The horses were picketed, a fire kindled, a mouthful
of dried meat hastily eaten, the watch was set, and then
each man scraped away the snow, spread some branches
on the ground, and wrapping himself in his blanket,
went to sleep with his feet presented towards the fire.

Two hours were allowed for rest; then they were
awakened, and in a few minutes were off again by the
gray light of dawn. In this way they travelled two
nights and a day. At the end of that time they came
suddenly on a small party of nine Indians, who were
seated on the ground with their snow-shoes and blankets
by their sides. They had evidently been taken by surprise,
but they made no attempt to escape, knowing
that it was useless. Each sat still with his bow and
arrows between his legs on the ground ready for instant
use.

As soon as Cameron spoke, however, in their own
language they felt relieved, and began to talk.

"Where do you come from, and what are you doing
here?" asked the trader.

"We have come to trade with the white men," one
of them replied, "and to hunt. We have come from
the Missouri. Our country is far away."

"Do Peigans hunt with war-arrows?" asked Cameron,
pointing to their weapons.

This question seemed to perplex them, for they saw
that their interrogator knew the difference between a
war and a hunting arrow--the former being barbed in
order to render its extraction from the wound difficult,
while the head of the latter is round, and can be drawn
out of game that has been killed, and used again.

"And do Peigans," continued Cameron, "come from a
far country to trade with the white men with nothing?"

Again the Indians were silent, for they had not an
article to trade about them.

Cameron now felt convinced that this party of
Peigans, into whose hands Joe Blunt and Henri had
fallen, were nothing else than a war party, and that
the men now before him were a scouting party sent out
from them, probably to spy out his own camp, on the
trail of which they had fallen, so he said to them:--

"The Peigans are not wise men; they tell lies to the
traders. I will tell you that you are a war party, and
that you are only a few warriors sent out to spy the
traders' camp. You have also two Pale-face prisoners
in your camp. You cannot deceive me. It is useless
to try. Now, conduct me to your camp. My object
is not war; it is peace. I will speak with your chiefs
about trading with the white men, and we will smoke
the pipe of peace. Are my words good?"

Despite their proverbial control of muscle, these Indians
could not conceal their astonishment at hearing
so much of their affairs thus laid bare; so they said
that the Pale-face chief was wise, that he must be a
great medicine man, and that what he said was all true
except about the white men. They had never seen any
Pale-faces, and knew nothing whatever about those he
spoke of.

This was a terrible piece of news to poor Dick, and
at first his heart fairly sank within him, but by degrees
he came to be more hopeful. He concluded that if
these men told lies in regard to one thing, they would
do it in regard to another, and perhaps they might
have some strong reason for denying any knowledge of
Joe and Henri.

The Indians now packed up the buffalo robes on
which they had slept, and the mouthful of provisions
they had taken with them.

"I don't believe a word of what they say about your
friends," said Cameron to Dick in a low tone while the
Indians were thus engaged. "Depend upon it they
hope to hide them till they can send to the settlements
and get a ransom, or till they get an opportunity of
torturing them to death before their women and children
when they get back to their own village. But
we'll balk them, my friend, do not fear."

The Indians were soon ready to start, for they were
cumbered with marvellously little camp equipage. In
less than half-an-hour after their discovery they were
running like deer ahead of the cavalcade in the direction
of the Peigan camp.



CHAPTER XIX.




Adventures with the Peigans--Crusoe does good service as a
discoverer
--The savages outwitted--The rescue.


A run of twenty miles brought the travellers to a
rugged defile in the mountains, from which they
had a view of a beautiful valley of considerable extent.
During the last two days a steady thaw had been rapidly
melting away the snow, so that it appeared only here
and there in the landscape in dazzling patches. At the
distance of about half-a-mile from where they halted to
breathe the horses before commencing the descent into
this vale, several thin wreaths of smoke were seen
rising above the trees.

"Is that your camp?" inquired Cameron, riding up
to the Indian runners, who stood in a group in front,
looking as fresh after their twenty miles' run as though
they had only had a short walk.

To this they answered in the affirmative, adding that
there were about two hundred Peigans there.

It might have been thought that thirty men would
have hesitated to venture to attack so large a number
as two hundred; but it had always been found in the
experience of Indian life that a few resolute white men
well armed were more than a match for ten times their
number of Indians. And this arose not so much from
the superior strength or agility of the Whites over their
red foes, as from that bull-dog courage and utter recklessness
of their lives in combat--qualities which the
crafty savage can neither imitate nor understand. The
information was received with perfect indifference by
most of the trappers, and with contemptuous laughter
by some; for a large number of Cameron's men were
wild, evil-disposed fellows, who would have as gladly
taken the life of an Indian as that of a buffalo.

Just as the word was given to resume the march,
Dick Varley rode up to Cameron and said in a somewhat
anxious tone,--

"D'ye obsarve, sir, that one o' the Redskins has gone
off ahead o' his comrades?"

"I see that, Master Dick; and it was a mistake of
mine not to have stopped him, but he was gone too far
before I observed it, and I thought it better to appear
unconcerned. We must push on, though, and give him
as short time as possible to talk with his comrades in
the camp."

The trappers pressed forward accordingly at a gallop,
and were soon in front of the clump of trees amongst
which the Peigans were encamped. Their approach
had evidently spread great alarm among them, for there
was a good deal of bustle and running to and fro; but
by the time the trappers had dismounted and advanced
in a body on foot, the savages had resumed their usual
quiet dignity of appearance, and were seated calmly
round their fires with their bows and arrows beside
them. There were no tents, no women or children, and
the general aspect of the men showed Cameron conclusively
that his surmise about their being a war party
was correct.

A council was immediately called. The trappers ranged
themselves on one side of the council fire and the Indians
on the other. Meanwhile, our friend Crusoe had been
displaying considerable irritability against the Indians,
and he would certainly have attacked the whole two
hundred single-handed if he had not been ordered by
his master to lie still; but never in his life before had
Crusoe obeyed with such a bad grace. He bristled and
whined in a low tremulous tone, and looked imploringly
at Dick as if for permission to fly at them.

"The Pale-face traders are glad to meet with the
Peigans," began Cameron, who determined to make no
allusion to his knowledge that they were a war party,
"for they wish to be friends with all the children of the
woods and prairies. They wish to trade with them--to
exchange blankets, and guns, and beads, and other goods
which the Peigans require, for furs of animals which the
Pale-faces require."

"Ho! ho!" exclaimed the Indians, which expression
might be translated, "Hear! hear!"

"But," continued Cameron, "we wish to have no war.
We wish to see the hatchet buried, and to see all the
red men and the white men smoking the pipe of peace,
and hunting like brothers."

The "Ho--ho--ing" at this was very emphatic.

"Now," resumed the trader, "the Peigans have got two prisoners--two
Pale-faces--in their camp, and as we cannot be on good terms while our
brothers are detained, we have come to ask for them, and to present
some
gifts
to the Peigans."

To this there was no "Ho" at all, but a prolonged
silence, which was at length interrupted by a tall chief
stepping forward to address the trappers.

"What the Pale-face chief has said is good," began
the Indian. "His words are wise, and his heart is not
double. The Red-men are willing to smoke the pipe of
peace, and to hunt with all men as brothers, but they
cannot do it while many of their scalps are hanging in
the lodges of their enemies and fringing the robes of the
warriors. The Peigans must have vengeance; then they
will make peace."

After a short pause he continued,--

"The chief is wrong when he says there are Pale-faces
in the Peigan camp. The Peigans are not
at war with the Pale-faces; neither have they seen
any on their march. The camp is open. Let the
Pale-faces look round and see that what we say is
true."

The chief waved his hand towards his warriors as he
concluded, as if to say, "Search amongst them. There
are no Pale-faces there."

Cameron now spoke to Dick in a low tone. "They
speak confidently," he said, "and I fear greatly that
your poor comrades have either been killed or conveyed
away from the camp and hidden among the mountains,
in which case, even though they should not be far off,
it would be next to impossible to find them, especially
when such a band of rascals is near, compelling us to
keep together. But I'll try what a little tempting them
with goods will do. At any rate, we shan't give in
without a scuffle."

It now, for the first time, flashed across Dick Varley
that there was something more than he imagined in
Crusoe's restless anxiety, which had not in the least
abated, and the idea of making use of him now occurred
to his mind.

"I've a notion that I'll settle this matter in a shorter
time than you think," he said hurriedly, "if you'll agree
to try what threatening will do."

The trader looked grave and undecided. "I never
resort to that except as a last hope," he answered; "but
I've a good deal of confidence in your prudence. What
would you advise?"

Dick and the trader whispered a few minutes together,
while some of the men, in order to show the Indians how
perfectly unconcerned they were, and how ready for
anything, took out their pipes and began to smoke.
Both parties were seated on the ground, and during this
interval the Indians also held eager discussion.

At length Cameron stood up, and said to his men in
a quiet tone, "Be ready, lads, for instant action. When
I give the word 'Up,' spring to your feet and cock your
guns; but don't fire a shot till you get the word." He
then stepped forward and said,--

"The Peigan warriors are double-tongued; they know
that they have hid the Pale-face prisoners. We do not
wish to quarrel, but if they are not delivered up at once
the Pale-faces and the Peigans will not be friends."

Upon this the Indian chief again stood forward and
said, "The Peigans are not double-tongued. They have
not seen Pale-faces till to-day. They can say no
more."

Without moving hand or foot, Cameron then said in
a firm tone, "The first Peigan that moves shall die!
Up, lads, and ready!"

In the twinkling of an eye the trappers sprang to
their feet, and cocking their rifles stood perfectly motionless,
scowling at the savages, who were completely taken
by surprise at the unusual suddenness and informality
of such a declaration of war. Not a man moved, for,
unlike white men, they seldom risk their lives in open
fight; and as they looked at the formidable row of
muzzles that waited but a word to send instant death
into their midst, they felt that discretion was at that
time the better part of valour.

"Now," said Cameron, while Dick Varley and Crusoe
stepped up beside him, "my young warrior will search
for the Pale-face prisoners. If they are found, we will
take them and go away. If they are not found, we
will ask the Peigans to forgive us, and will give them
gifts. But in the meantime, if a Peigan moves from
the spot where he sits, or lifts a bow, my young men
shall fire, and the Peigans know that the rifle of the
Pale-face always kills."

Without waiting for an answer, Dick immediately
said, "Seek 'em out, pup," and Crusoe bounded away.

For a few minutes he sprang hither and thither
through the camp, quite regardless of the Indians, and
snuffed the air several times, whining in an excited
tone, as if to relieve his feelings. Then he put his nose
to the ground and ran straight forward into the woods.

Dick immediately bounded after him like a deer, while
the trappers kept silent guard over the savages.

For some time Crusoe ran straight forward. Then he
came to a spot where there was a good deal of drifted
snow on the ground. Here he seemed to lose the trail
for a little, and ran about in all directions, whining in a
most piteous tone.

"Seek 'em out, pup," repeated Dick encouragingly,
while his own breast heaved with excitement and expectation.

In a few seconds the dog resumed its onward course,
and led the way into a wild, dark spot, which was so
overshadowed by trees and precipitous cliffs that the
light of the sun scarce found entrance. There were
many huge masses of rock scattered over the ground,
which had fallen from the cliffs. Behind one of these
lay a mound of dried leaves, towards which Crusoe
darted and commenced scraping violently.

Trembling with dread that he should find this to be
the grave of his murdered companions, Dick rushed
forward and hastily cleared away the leaves. The first
handful thrown off revealed part of the figure of a man.
Dick's heart beat audibly as he cleared the leaves from
the face, and he uttered a suppressed cry on beholding
the well-known features of Joe Blunt. But they were
not those of a dead man. Joe's eyes met his with a
scowl of anger, which instantly gave place to one of
intense surprise.

"Joe Blunt!" exclaimed Dick in a voice of intense
amazement, while Crusoe snuffed round the heap of
leaves and whined with excitement. But Joe did not
move, neither did he speak a word in reply--for the
very good reason that his mouth was tightly bound
with a band of leather, his hands and feet were tied,
and his whole body was secured in a rigid, immovable
position by being bound to a pole of about his own
length.

In a moment Dick's knife was out, bands and cords
were severed, and Joe Blunt was free.

"Thank God!" exclaimed Joe with a deep, earnest sigh,
the instant his lips were loosened, "and thanks to you,
lad!" he added, endeavouring to rise; but his limbs had
become so benumbed in consequence of the cords by
which they had been compressed that for some time he
could not move.

"I'll rub ye, Joe; I'll soon rub ye into a right state,"
said Dick, going down on his knees.

"No, no, lad, look sharp and dig up Henri. He's
just beside me here."

Dick immediately rose, and pushing aside the heap
of leaves, found Henri securely bound in the same
fashion. But he could scarce refrain from laughing at
the expression of that worthy's face. Hearing the voices
of Joe and Dick Varley in conversation, though unable
to see their persons, he was filled with such unbounded
amazement that his eyes, when uncovered, were found
to be at their largest possible stretch, and as for the
eyebrows they were gone, utterly lost among the roots
of his voluminous hair.

"Henri, friend, I knew I should find ye," said Dick,
cutting the thongs that bound him. "Get up if ye
can; we haven't much time to lose, an' mayhap we'll
have to fight afore we're done wi' the Redskins. Can
ye rise?"

Henri could do nothing but lie on his back and gasp,
"Eh! possible! mon frere! Oh, non, non, not possible.
Oui! my broder Deek!"

Here he attempted to rise, but being unable fell back
again, and the whole thing came so suddenly, and made
so deep an impression on his impulsive mind, that he
incontinently burst into tears; then he burst into a long
laugh. Suddenly he paused, and scrambling up to a
sitting posture, looked earnestly into Dick's face through
his tearful eyes.

"Oh, non, non!" he exclaimed, stretching himself
out at full length again, and closing his eyes; "it are
too goot to be true. I am dream. I vill wait till I am
wake."

Dick roused him out of this, resolute sleep, however,
somewhat roughly. Meanwhile Joe had rubbed and
kicked himself into a state of animation, exclaiming that
he felt as if he wos walkin' on a thousand needles and
pins, and in a few minutes they were ready to accompany
their overjoyed deliverer back to the Peigan camp.
Crusoe testified his delight in various elephantine gambols
round the persons of his old friends, who were not
slow to acknowledge his services.

"They haven't treated us overly well," remarked Joe
Blunt, as they strode through the underwood.

"Non, de rascale, vraiment, de am villains. Oui!
How de have talk, too, 'bout--oh-o-oo-ooo-wah!--roastin'
us alive, an' puttin' our scalp in de vigvam for de poo-poose
to play wid!"

"Well, niver mind, Henri, we'll be quits wi' them
now," said Joe, as they came in sight of the two bands,
who remained in precisely the same position in which
they had been left, except that one or two of the more
reckless of the trappers had lit their pipes and taken to
smoking, without, however, laying down their rifles or
taking their eyes off the savages.

A loud cheer greeted the arrival of the prisoners, and
looks of considerable discomfort began to be evinced by
the Indians.

"Glad to see you, friends," said Cameron, as they
came up.

"Ve is 'appy ov de same," replied Henri, swaggering
up in the joviality of his heart, and seizing the trader's
hand in his own enormous fist. "Shall ve go to vork
an' slay dem all at vonce, or von at a time?"

"We'll consider that afterwards, my lad. Meantime
go you to the rear and get a weapon of some sort."

"Oui. Ah! c'est charmant," he cried, going with an
immense flounder into the midst of the amused trappers,
and slapping those next to him on the back. "Give me
veapon, do, mes amis--gun, pistol, anyting--cannon, if
you have von."

Meanwhile Cameron and Joe spoke together for a few
moments.

"You had goods with you, and horses, I believe, when
you were captured," said the former.

"Ay, that we had. Yonder stand the horses, under
the pine-tree, along wi' the rest o' the Redskin troop; an'
a hard time they've had o't, as their bones may tell without
speakin'. As for the goods," he continued, glancing
round the camp, "I don't know where--ah! yes, there
they be in the old pack. I see all safe."

Cameron now addressed the Indians.

"The Peigans," he said, "have not done well. Their
hearts have not been true to the Pale-faces. Even now
I could take your scalps where you sit, but white men
do not like war, they do not like revenge. The Peigans
may go free."

Considering the fewness of their numbers, this was
bold language to use towards the Indians; but the boldest
is generally the best policy on such occasions. Moreover,
Cameron felt that, being armed with rifles, while
the Indians had only bows and arrows, the trappers had
a great advantage over them.

The Indian who had spoken before now rose and said
he was sorry there should be any cause of difference
between them, and added he was sorry for a great many
more things besides, but he did not say he was sorry for
having told a lie.

"But, before you go, you must deliver up the horses
and goods belonging to these men," said Cameron, pointing
to Joe and Henri.

This was agreed to. The horses were led out, the two
little packs containing Joe's goods were strapped upon
them, and then the trappers turned to depart. The Indians
did not move until they had mounted; then they
rose and advanced in a body to the edge of the wood, to
see the Pale-faces go away. Meanwhile Joe spoke a few
words to Cameron, and the men were ordered to halt,
while the former dismounted and led his horse towards
the band of savages.

"Peigans," he said, "you know the object for which
I came into this country was to make peace between
you and the Pale-faces. I have often told you so when
you would not listen, and when you told me that I had
a double heart and told lies. You were wrong when
you said this; but I do not wonder, for you live among
nations who do not fear God, and who think it right to
lie. I now repeat to you what I said before. It would
be good for the Red-men if they would make peace with
the Pale-faces, and if they would make peace with each
other. I will now convince you that I am in earnest,
and have all along been speaking the truth."

Hereupon Joe Blunt opened his bundle of goods, and
presented fully one-half of the gaudy and brilliant contents
to the astonished Indians, who seemed quite taken
aback by such generous treatment. The result of this
was that the two parties separated with mutual expressions
of esteem and good-will. The Indians then returned
to the forest, and the white men galloped back to their
camp among the hills.



CHAPTER XX.




New plans--Our travellers join the fur-traders, and see many
strange things
--A curious fight--A narrow escape, and
a prisoner taken
.


Not long after the events related in the last chapter,
our four friends--Dick, and Joe, and Henri,
and Crusoe--agreed to become for a time members of
Walter Cameron's band of trappers. Joe joined because
one of the objects which the traders had in view was
similar to his own mission--namely, the promoting of
peace among the various Indian tribes of the mountains
and plains to the west. Joe, therefore, thought it a
good opportunity of travelling with a band of men who
could secure him a favourable hearing from the Indian
tribes they might chance to meet with in the course of
their wanderings. Besides, as the traders carried about
a large supply of goods with them, he could easily replenish
his own nearly exhausted pack by hunting wild
animals and exchanging their skins for such articles as
he might require.

Dick joined because it afforded him an opportunity of
seeing the wild, majestic scenery of the Rocky Mountains,
and shooting the big-horned sheep which abounded
there, and the grizzly "bars," as Joe named them, or
"Caleb," as they were more frequently styled by Henri
and the other men.

Henri joined because it was agreeable to the inclination
of his own rollicking, blundering, floundering, crashing
disposition, and because he would have joined anything
that had been joined by the other two.

Crusoe's reason for joining was single, simple, easy to
be expressed, easy to be understood, and commendable.
He joined--because Dick did.

The very day after the party left the encampment
where Dick had shot the grizzly bear and the deer, he
had the satisfaction of bringing down a splendid specimen
of the big-horned sheep. It came suddenly out
from a gorge of the mountain, and stood upon the giddy
edge of a tremendous precipice, at a distance of about
two hundred and fifty yards.

"You could not hit that," said a trapper to Henri,
who was rather fond of jeering him about his shortsightedness.

"Non!" cried Henri, who didn't see the animal in the
least; "say you dat? ve shall see;" and he let fly with a
promptitude that amazed his comrades, and with a result
that drew from them peals of laughter.

"Why, you have missed the mountain!"

"Oh, non! dat am eempossoble."

It was true, nevertheless, for his ball had been arrested
in its flight by the stem of a tree not twenty yards before
him.

While the shot was yet ringing, and before the laugh
above referred to had pealed forth, Dick Varley fired,
and the animal, springing wildly into the air, fell down
the precipice, and was almost dashed to pieces at their
feet.
This Rocky Mountain or big-horned sheep was a particularly
large and fine one, but being a patriarch of the
flock was not well suited for food. It was considerably
larger in size than the domestic sheep, and might be
described as somewhat resembling a deer in the body
and a ram in the head. Its horns were the chief point
of interest to Dick; and, truly, they were astounding!
Their enormous size was out of all proportion to the
animal's body, and they curved backwards and downwards,
and then curled up again in a sharp point. These
creatures frequent the inaccessible heights of the Rocky
Mountains, and are difficult to approach. They have a
great fondness for salt, and pay regular visits to the
numerous caverns of these mountains, which are encrusted
with a saline substance.

Walter Cameron now changed his intention of proceeding
to the eastward, as he found the country not so
full of beaver at that particular spot as he had anticipated.
He therefore turned towards the west, penetrated
into the interior of the mountains, and took a
considerable sweep through the lovely valleys on their
western slopes.

The expedition which this enterprising fur-trader was
conducting was one of the first that ever penetrated
these wild regions in search of furs. The ground over
which they travelled was quite new to them, and having
no guide they just moved about at haphazard, encamping
on the margin of every stream or river on which
signs of the presence of beaver were discovered, and
setting their traps.

Beaver skins at this time were worth 25s. a-piece in
the markets of civilized lands, and in the Snake country,
through which our friends were travelling, thousands of
them were to be had from the Indians for trinkets and
baubles that were scarce worth a farthing. A beaver
skin could be procured from the Indians for a brass
finger-ring or a penny looking-glass. Horses were also
so numerous that one could be procured for an axe or a
knife.

Let not the reader, however, hastily conclude that the
traders cheated the Indians in this traffic, though the
profits were so enormous. The ring or the axe was indeed
a trifle to the trader, but the beaver skin and the
horse were equally trifles to the savage, who could procure
as many of them as he chose with very little
trouble, while the ring and the axe were in his estimation
of priceless value. Besides, be it remembered, to
carry that ring and that axe to the far-distant haunts of
the Red-man cost the trader weeks and months of constant
toil, trouble, anxiety, and, alas! too frequently cost
him his life! The state of trade is considerably modified
in these regions at the present day. It is not more
justly conducted, for, in respect of the value of goods
given for furs, it was justly conducted then, but time
and circumstances have tended more to equalize the relative
values of articles of trade.

The snow which had prematurely fallen had passed
away, and the trappers now found themselves wandering
about in a country so beautiful and a season so delightful,
that it would have seemed to them a perfect paradise,
but for the savage tribes who hovered about them,
and kept them ever on the qui vive.

They soon passed from the immediate embrace of stupendous
heights and dark gorges to a land of sloping
ridges, which divided the country into a hundred luxuriant
vales, composed part of woodland and part of prairie.
Through these, numerous rivers and streams flowed deviously,
beautifying the landscape and enriching the
land. There were also many lakes of all sizes, and
these swarmed with fish, while in some of them were
found the much-sought-after and highly-esteemed beaver.
Salt springs and hot springs of various temperatures
abounded here, and many of the latter were so hot that
meat could be boiled in them. Salt existed in all directions
in abundance and of good quality. A sulphurous
spring was also discovered, bubbling out from the base
of a perpendicular rock three hundred feet high, the
waters of which were dark-blue and tasted like gunpowder.
In short, the land presented every variety of
feature calculated to charm the imagination and delight
the eye.

It was a mysterious land, too; for broad rivers burst in
many places from the earth, flowed on for a short space,
and then disappeared as if by magic into the earth from
which they rose. Natural bridges spanned the torrents
in many places, and some of these were so correctly
formed that it was difficult to believe they had not been
built by the hand of man. They often appeared opportunely
to our trappers, and saved them the trouble and
danger of fording rivers. Frequently the whole band
would stop in silent wonder and awe as they listened to
the rushing of waters under their feet, as if another
world of streams, and rapids, and cataracts were flowing
below the crust of earth on which they stood. Some
considerable streams were likewise observed to gush
from the faces of precipices, some twenty or thirty feet
from their summits, while on the top no water was to
be seen.

Wild berries of all kinds were found in abundance,
and wild vegetables, besides many nutritious roots.
Among other fish, splendid salmon were found in the
lakes and rivers, and animal life swarmed on hill and
in dale. Woods and valleys, plains and ravines, teemed
with it. On every plain the red-deer grazed in herds
by the banks of lake and stream. Wherever there were
clusters of poplar and elder trees and saplings, the beaver
was seen nibbling industriously with his sharp teeth,
and committing as much havoc in the forest as if he
had been armed with the woodman's axe; others sported
in the eddies. Racoons sat in the tree-tops; the marten,
the black fox, and the wolf prowled in the woods in
quest of prey; mountain sheep and goats browsed on
the rocky ridges; and badgers peeped from their holes.

Here, too, the wild horse sprang snorting and dishevelled
from his mountain retreats--with flourishing
mane and tail, spanking step, and questioning
gaze--and thundered away over the plains and valleys, while
the rocks echoed back his shrill neigh. The huge,
heavy, ungainly elk, or moose-deer, trotted away from
the travellers with speed equal to that of the mustang:
elks seldom gallop; their best speed is attained at the
trot. Bears, too, black, and brown, and grizzly, roamed
about everywhere.

So numerous were all these creatures that on one
occasion the hunters of the party brought in six wild
horses, three bears, four elks, and thirty red-deer; having
shot them all a short distance ahead of the main body,
and almost without diverging from the line of march.
And this was a matter of everyday occurrence--as it
had need to be, considering the number of mouths that
had to be filled.

The feathered tribes were not less numerous. Chief
among these were eagles and vultures of uncommon size,
the wild goose, wild duck, and the majestic swan.

In the midst of such profusion the trappers spent a
happy time of it, when not molested by the savages, but
they frequently lost a horse or two in consequence of
the expertness of these thievish fellows. They often
wandered, however, for days at a time without seeing
an Indian, and at such times they enjoyed to the full
the luxuries with which a bountiful God had blessed
these romantic regions.

Dick Varley was almost wild with delight. It was
his first excursion into the remote wilderness; he was
young, healthy, strong, and romantic; and it is a question
whether his or his dog's heart, or that of the noble
wild horse he bestrode, bounded most with joy at the
glorious sights and sounds and influences by which they
were surrounded. It would have been perfection, had it
not been for the frequent annoyance and alarms caused
by the Indians.

Alas! alas! that we who write and read about those
wondrous scenes should have to condemn our own species
as the most degraded of all the works of the Creator
there! Yet so it is. Man, exercising his reason and
conscience in the path of love and duty which his Creator
points out, is God's noblest work; but man, left to the
freedom of his own fallen will, sinks morally lower than
the beasts that perish. Well may every Christian wish
and pray that the name and the gospel of the blessed
Jesus may be sent speedily to the dark places of the
earth; for you may read of, and talk about, but you
cannot conceive the fiendish wickedness and cruelty which
causes tearless eyes to glare, and maddened hearts to
burst, in the lands of the heathen.

While we are on this subject, let us add (and our young
readers will come to know it if they are spared to see
many years) that civilization alone will never improve
the heart. Let history speak, and it will tell you that
deeds of darkest hue have been perpetrated in so-called
civilized though pagan lands. Civilization is like the
polish that beautifies inferior furniture, which water will
wash off if it be but hot enough. Christianity resembles
dye, which permeates every fibre of the fabric, and which
nothing can eradicate.

The success of the trappers in procuring beaver here
was great. In all sorts of creeks and rivers they were
found. One day they came to one of the curious rivers
before mentioned, which burst suddenly out of a plain,
flowed on for several miles, and then disappeared into the
earth as suddenly as it had risen. Even in this strange
place beaver were seen, so the traps were set, and a
hundred and fifty were caught at the first lift.

The manner in which the party proceeded was as
follows:--They marched in a mass in groups or in a long
line, according to the nature of the ground over which
they travelled. The hunters of the party went forward
a mile or two in advance, and scattered through the
woods. After them came the advance-guard, being the
bravest and most stalwart of the men mounted on their
best steeds, and with rifle in hand; immediately behind
followed the women and children, also mounted, and
the pack-horses with the goods and camp equipage.
Another band of trappers formed the rear-guard to this
imposing cavalcade. There was no strict regimental
order kept, but the people soon came to adopt the
arrangements that were most convenient for all parties,
and at length fell naturally into their places in the line
of march.

Joe Blunt usually was the foremost and always the
most successful of the hunters. He was therefore seldom
seen on the march except at the hour of starting, and at
night when he came back leading his horse, which always
groaned under its heavy load of meat. Henri, being a
hearty, jovial soul and fond of society, usually kept with
the main body. As for Dick, he was everywhere at
once, at least as much so as it is possible for human
nature to be! His horse never wearied; it seemed to
delight in going at full speed; no other horse in the
troop could come near Charlie, and Dick indulged him
by appearing now at the front, now at the rear, anon in
the centre, and frequently nowhere!--having gone off
with Crusoe like a flash of lightning after a buffalo or a
deer. Dick soon proved himself to be the best hunter
of the party, and it was not long before he fulfilled his
promise to Crusoe and decorated his neck with a collar
of grizzly bear claws.
Well, when the trappers came to a river where there
were signs of beaver they called a halt, and proceeded
to select a safe and convenient spot, near wood and
water, for the camp. Here the property of the band
was securely piled in such a manner as to form a breastwork
or slight fortification, and here Walter Cameron
established headquarters. This was always the post
of danger, being exposed to sudden attack by prowling
savages, who often dogged the footsteps of the party in
their journeyings to see what they could steal. But
Cameron was an old hand, and they found it difficult to
escape his vigilant eye.

From this point all the trappers were sent forth in
small parties every morning in various directions, some
on foot and some on horseback, according to the distances
they had to go; but they never went farther
than twenty miles, as they had to return to camp every
evening.

Each trapper had ten steel traps allowed him. These
he set every night, and visited every morning, sometimes
oftener when practicable, selecting a spot in the stream
where many trees had been cut down by beavers for the
purpose of damming up the water. In some places as
many as fifty tree stumps were seen in one spot, within
the compass of half an acre, all cut through at about
eighteen inches from the root. We may remark, in
passing, that the beaver is very much like a gigantic
water-rat, with this marked difference, that its tail is
very broad and flat like a paddle. The said tail is a
greatly-esteemed article of food, as, indeed, is the whole
body at certain seasons of the year. The beaver's fore
legs are very small and short, and it uses its paws as
hands to convey food to its mouth, sitting the while in
an erect position on its hind legs and tail. Its fur is
a dense coat of a grayish-coloured down, concealed by
long coarse hair, which lies smooth, and is of a bright
chestnut colour. Its teeth and jaws are of enormous
power; with them it can cut through the branch of a
tree as thick as a walking-stick at one snap, and, as we
have said, it gnaws through thick trees themselves.

As soon as a tree falls, the beavers set to work industriously
to lop off the branches, which, as well as the
smaller trunks, they cut into lengths, according to their
weight and thickness. These are then dragged by
main force to the water-side, launched, and floated to
their destination. Beavers build their houses, or
"lodges," under the banks of rivers and lakes, and always
select those of such depth of water that there is
no danger of their being frozen to the bottom. When
such cannot be found, and they are compelled to build
in small rivulets of insufficient depth, these clever little
creatures dam up the waters until they are deep enough.
The banks thrown up by them across rivulets for this
purpose are of great strength, and would do credit to
human engineers. Their lodges are built of sticks,
mud, and stones, which form a compact mass; this
freezes solid in winter, and defies the assaults of that
housebreaker, the wolverine, an animal which is the
beaver's implacable foe. From this lodge, which is
capable often of holding four old and six or eight young
ones, a communication is maintained with the water
below the ice, so that, should the wolverine succeed in breaking up
the
lodge, he finds the family "not at
home," they having made good their retreat by the
back-door. When man acts the part of housebreaker,
however, he cunningly shuts the back-door first, by
driving stakes through the ice, and thus stopping the
passage. Then he enters, and, we almost regret to say,
finds the family at home. We regret it, because the
beaver is a gentle, peaceable, affectionate, hairy little
creature, towards which one feels an irresistible tenderness.
But to return from this long digression.

Our trappers, having selected their several localities,
set their traps in the water, so that when the beavers
roamed about at night they put their feet into them,
and were caught and drowned; for although they can
swim and dive admirably, they cannot live altogether
under water.

Thus the different parties proceeded; and in the
mornings the camp was a busy scene indeed, for then
the whole were engaged in skinning the animals. The
skins were always stretched, dried, folded up with the
hair in the inside, and laid by; and the flesh was used
for food.

But oftentimes the trappers had to go forth with the
gun in one hand and their traps in the other, while
they kept a sharp look-out on the bushes to guard
against surprise. Despite their utmost efforts, a horse
was occasionally stolen before their very eyes, and
sometimes even an unfortunate trapper was murdered,
and all his traps carried off.

An event of this kind occurred soon after the party
had gained the western slopes of the mountains. Three
Iroquois Indians, who belonged to the band of trappers,
were sent to a stream about ten miles off. Having
reached their destination, they all entered the water to
set their traps, foolishly neglecting the usual precaution
of one remaining on the bank to protect the others.
They had scarcely commenced operations when three
arrows were discharged into their backs, and a party of
Snake Indians rushed upon and slew them, carrying
away their traps and horses and scalps. This was not
known for several days, when, becoming anxious about
their prolonged absence, Cameron sent out a party,
which found their mangled bodies affording a loathsome
banquet to the wolves and vultures.

After this sad event, the trappers were more careful
to go in larger parties, and keep watch.

As long as beaver were taken in abundance, the
camp remained stationary; but whenever the beaver
began to grow scarce, the camp was raised, and the
party moved on to another valley.

One day Dick Varley came galloping into camp with
the news that there were several bears in a valley not
far distant, which he was anxious not to disturb until a
number of the trappers were collected together to go
out and surround them.

On receiving the information, Walter Cameron shook
his head.

"We have other things to do, young man," said he,
"than go a-hunting after bears. I'm just about making
up my mind to send off a party to search out the valley
on the other side of the Blue Mountains yonder, and
bring back word if there are beaver there; for if not, I
mean to strike away direct south. Now, if you've a
mind to go with them, you're welcome. I'll warrant you'll
find enough in the way of bear-hunting to satisfy you;
perhaps a little Indian hunting to boot, for if the Banattees
get hold of your horses, you'll have a long hunt
before you find them again. Will you go?"

"Ay, right gladly," replied Dick. "When do we
start?"

"This afternoon."

Dick went off at once to his own part of the camp to
replenish his powder-horn and bullet-pouch, and wipe
out his rifle.

That evening the party, under command of a Canadian
named Pierre, set out for the Blue Hills. They
numbered twenty men, and expected to be absent three
days, for they merely went to reconnoitre, not to trap.
Neither Joe nor Henri was of this party, both having
been out hunting when it was organized; but Crusoe
and Charlie were, of course.

Pierre, although a brave and trusty man, was of a
sour, angry disposition, and not a favourite with Dick;
but the latter resolved to enjoy himself, and disregard
his sulky comrade. Being so well mounted, he not unfrequently
shot far ahead of his companions, despite
their warnings that he ran great risk by so doing. On
one of these occasions he and Crusoe witnessed a very
singular fight, which is worthy of record.

Dick had felt a little wilder in spirit that morning
than usual, and on coming to a pretty open plain he
gave the rein to Charlie, and with an "Adieu, mes camarade,"
he was out of sight in a few minutes. He rode
on several miles in advance without checking speed, and
then came to a wood where rapid motion was inconvenient;
so he pulled up, and, dismounting, tied Charlie
to a tree, while he sauntered on a short way on foot.

On coming to the edge of a small plain he observed
two large birds engaged in mortal conflict. Crusoe observed
them too, and would soon have put an end to the
fight had Dick not checked him. Creeping as close to
the belligerents as possible, he found that one was a
wild turkey-cock, the other a white-headed eagle. These
two stood with their heads down and all their feathers
bristling for a moment; then they dashed at each other,
and struck fiercely with their spurs, as our domestic
cocks do, but neither fell, and the fight was continued
for about five minutes without apparent advantage on
either side.

Dick now observed that, from the uncertainty of its
motions, the turkey-cock was blind, a discovery which
caused a throb of compunction to enter his breast for
standing and looking on, so he ran forward. The eagle
saw him instantly, and tried to fly away, but was unable
from exhaustion.

"At him, Crusoe," cried Dick, whose sympathies all
lay with the other bird.

Crusoe went forward at a bound, and was met by a
peck between the eyes that would have turned most
dogs; but Crusoe only winked, and the next moment
the eagle's career was ended.

Dick found that the turkey-cock was quite blind, the
eagle having thrust out both its eyes, so, in mercy, he
put an end to its sufferings.

The fight had evidently been a long and severe one,
for the grass all round the spot, for about twenty yards,
was beaten to the ground, and covered with the blood
and feathers of the fierce combatants.

Meditating on the fight which he had just witnessed,
Dick returned towards the spot where he had left
Charlie, when he suddenly missed Crusoe from his side.

"Hallo, Crusoe! here, pup! where are you?" he
cried.

The only answer to this was a sharp whizzing sound,
and an arrow, passing close to his ear, quivered in a
tree beyond. Almost at the same moment Crusoe's
angry roar was followed by a shriek from some one in
fear or agony. Cocking his rifle, the young hunter
sprang through the bushes towards his horse, and was
just in time to save a Banattee Indian from being
strangled by the dog. It had evidently scented out
this fellow, and pinned him just as he was in the act of
springing on the back of Charlie, for the halter was cut,
and the savage lay on the ground close beside him.

Dick called off the dog, and motioned to the Indian
to rise, which he did so nimbly that it was quite evident
he had sustained no injury beyond the laceration
of his neck by Crusoe's teeth, and the surprise.

He was a tall strong Indian for the tribe to which
he belonged, so Dick proceeded to secure him at once.
Pointing to his rifle and to the Indian's breast, to show
what he might expect if he attempted to escape, Dick
ordered Crusoe to keep him steady in that position.

The dog planted himself in front of the savage, who
began to tremble for his scalp, and gazed up in his face
with a look which, to say the least of it, was the reverse
of amiable, while Dick went towards his horse for the
purpose of procuring a piece of cord to tie him with.
The Indian naturally turned his head to see what was
going to be done, but a peculiar gurgle in Crusoe's throat
made him turn it round again very smartly, and he did
not venture thereafter to move a muscle.

In a few seconds Dick returned with a piece of
leather and tied his hands behind his back. While this
was being done the Indian glanced several times at his
bow, which lay a few feet away, where it had fallen
when the dog caught him; but Crusoe seemed to understand
him, for he favoured him with such an additional
display of teeth, and such a low--apparently distant,
almost, we might say, subterranean--rumble, that he
resigned himself to his fate.

His hands secured, a long line was attached to his
neck with a running noose, so that if he ventured to
run away the attempt would effect its own cure by producing
strangulation. The other end of this line was
given to Crusoe, who at the word of command marched
him off, while Dick mounted Charlie and brought up
the rear.


Great was the laughter and merriment when this
apparition met the eyes of the trappers; but when they
heard that he had attempted to shoot Dick their ire was
raised, and a court-martial was held on the spot.

"Hang the reptile!" cried one.

"Burn him!" shouted another.

"No, no," said a third; "don't imitate them villains:
don't be cruel. Let's shoot him."
"Shoot 'im," cried Pierre. "Oui, dat is de ting; it
too goot pour lui, mais it shall be dooed."

"Don't ye think, lads, it would be better to let the
poor wretch off?" said Dick Varley; "he'd p'r'aps give
a good account o' us to his people."

There was a universal shout of contempt at this mild
proposal. Unfortunately, few of the men sent on this
exploring expedition were imbued with the peace-making
spirit of their chief, and most of them seemed glad to
have a chance of venting their hatred of the poor Indians
on this unhappy wretch, who, although calm, looked
sharply from one speaker to another, to gather hope, if
possible, from the tones of their voices.

Dick was resolved, at the risk of a quarrel with Pierre,
to save the poor man's life, and had made up his mind
to insist on having him conducted to the camp to be
tried by Cameron, when one of the men suggested that
they should take the savage to the top of a hill about
three miles farther on, and there hang him up on a tree
as a warning to all his tribe.

"Agreed, agreed!" cried the men; "come on."

Dick, too, seemed to agree to this proposal, and hastily
ordered Crusoe to run on ahead with the savage; an
order which the dog obeyed so vigorously that, before
the men had done laughing at him, he was a couple of
hundred yards ahead of them.

"Take care that he don't get off!" cried Dick, springing
on Charlie and stretching out at a gallop.

In a moment he was beside the Indian. Scraping together
the little of the Indian language he knew, he stooped
down, and, cutting the thongs that bound him, said,--

"Go! white men love the Indians."

The man cast on his deliverer one glance of surprise,
and the next moment bounded aside into the bushes and
was gone.

A loud shout from the party behind showed that this
act had been observed; and Crusoe stood with the end
of the line in his mouth, and an expression on his face
that said, "You're absolutely incomprehensible, Dick!
It's all right, I know, but to my feeble capacity it
seems
wrong."

"Fat for you do dat?" shouted Pierre in a rage, as
he came up with a menacing look.

Dick confronted him. "The prisoner was mine. I
had a right to do with him as it liked me."

"True, true," cried several of the men who had begun
to repent of their resolution, and were glad the savage
was off. "The lad's right. Get along, Pierre."

"You had no right, you vas wrong. Oui, et I have
goot vill to give you one knock on de nose."

Dick looked Pierre in the face, as he said this, in a
manner that cowed him.

"It is time," he said quietly, pointing to the sun, "to
go on. Your bourgeois expects that time won't be
wasted."

Pierre muttered something in an angry tone, and
wheeling round his horse, dashed forward at full gallop,
followed by the rest of the men.

The trappers encamped that night on the edge of a
wide grassy plain, which offered such tempting food for
the horses that Pierre resolved to forego his usual
cautious plan of picketing them close to the camp, and
set them loose on the plain, merely hobbling them to
prevent their straying far.

Dick remonstrated, but in vain. An insolent answer
was all he got for his pains. He determined, however,
to keep Charlie close beside him all night, and also made
up his mind to keep a sharp look-out on the other
horses.

At supper he again remonstrated.

"No 'fraid," said Pierre, whose pipe was beginning to
improve his temper. "The red reptiles no dare to come
in open plain when de moon so clear."

"Dun know that," said a taciturn trapper, who seldom
ventured a remark of any kind; "them varmints 'ud
steal the two eyes out o' you' head when they set their
hearts on't."

"Dat ar' umposs'ble, for dey have no hearts," said a
half-breed; "dey have von hole vere de heart vas
be."

This was received with a shout of laughter, in the
midst of which an appalling yell was heard, and, as if
by magic, four Indians were seen on the backs of four
of the best horses, yelling like fiends, and driving all the
other horses furiously before them over the plain!

How they got there was a complete mystery, but the
men did not wait to consider that point. Catching up
their guns they sprang after them with the fury of madmen,
and were quickly scattered far and wide. Dick
ordered Crusoe to follow and help the men, and turned
to spring on the back of Charlie; but at that moment
he observed an Indian's head and shoulders rise above
the grass, not fifty yards in advance from him, so without
hesitation he darted forward, intending to pounce
upon him.

Well would it have been for Dick Varley had he at
that time possessed a little more experience of the wiles
and stratagems of the Banattees. The Snake nation is
subdivided into several tribes, of which those inhabiting
the Rocky Mountains, called the Banattees, are the most
perfidious. Indeed, they are confessedly the banditti of
the hills, and respect neither friend nor foe, but rob all
who come in their way.

Dick reached the spot where the Indian had disappeared
in less than a minute, but no savage was to be
seen. Thinking he had crept ahead, he ran on a few
yards farther, and darted about hither and thither,
while his eye glanced from side to side. Suddenly a
shout in the camp attracted his attention, and looking
back he beheld the savage on Charlie's back turning to
fly. Next moment he was off and away far beyond the
hope of recovery. Dick had left his rifle in the camp,
otherwise the savage would have gone but a short way.
As it was, Dick returned, and sitting down on a mound
of grass, stared straight before him with a feeling akin
to despair. Even Crusoe could not have helped him
had he been there, for nothing on four legs, or on two,
could keep pace with Charlie.

The Banattee achieved this feat by adopting a stratagem
which invariably deceives those who are ignorant
of their habits and tactics. When suddenly pursued the
Banattee sinks into the grass, and, serpent-like, creeps
along with wonderful rapidity, not from but towards
his enemy, taking care, however, to avoid him, so that
when the pursuer reaches the spot where the pursued is
supposed to be hiding, he hears him shout a yell of
defiance far away in the rear.

It was thus that the Banattee eluded Dick and gained
the camp almost as soon as the other reached the spot
where he had disappeared.

One by one the trappers came back weary, raging,
and despairing. In a short time they all assembled,
and soon began to reproach each other. Ere long one
or two had a fight, which resulted in several bloody
noses and black eyes, thus adding to the misery which,
one would think, had been bad enough without such
additions. At last they finished their suppers and their
pipes, and then lay down to sleep under the trees till
morning, when they arose in a particularly silent and
sulky mood, rolled up their blankets, strapped their
things on their shoulders, and began to trudge slowly
back to the camp on foot.



CHAPTER XXI.




Wolves attack the horses, and Cameron circumvents the
wolves
--A bear-hunt, in which Henri shines
conspicuous
--Joe and the "Natter-list"--An
alarm
--A surprise and a capture.


We must now return to the camp where Walter
Cameron still guarded the goods, and the men
pursued their trapping avocations.

Here seven of the horses had been killed in one night
by wolves while grazing in a plain close to the camp,
and on the night following a horse that had strayed
was also torn to pieces and devoured. The prompt and
daring manner in which this had been done convinced
the trader that white wolves had unfortunately scented
them out, and he set several traps in the hope of capturing
them.

White wolves are quite distinct from the ordinary
wolves that prowl through woods and plains in large
packs. They are much larger, weighing sometimes as
much as a hundred and thirty pounds; but they are
comparatively scarce, and move about alone, or in small
bands of three or four. Their strength is enormous,
and they are so fierce that they do not hesitate, upon
occasions, to attack man himself. Their method of
killing horses is very deliberate. Two wolves generally
undertake the cold-blooded murder. They approach
their victim with the most innocent-looking and frolicsome
gambols, lying down and rolling about, and
frisking presently, until the horse becomes a little
accustomed to them. Then one approaches right in
front, the other in rear, still frisking playfully, until
they think themselves near enough, when they make
a simultaneous rush. The wolf which approaches in
rear is the true assailant; the rush of the other is a
mere feint. Then both fasten on the poor horse's
haunches, and never let go till the sinews are cut and
he is rolling on his side.

The horse makes comparatively little struggle in
this deadly assault; he seems paralyzed, and soon falls
to rise no more.

Cameron set his traps towards evening in a circle
with a bait in the centre, and then retired to rest.
Next morning he called Joe Blunt, and the two went
off together.

"It is strange that these rascally white wolves should
be so bold when the smaller kinds are so cowardly,"
remarked Cameron, as they walked along.

"So 'tis," replied Joe; "but I've seed them other
chaps bold enough too in the prairie when they were
in large packs and starvin'."

"I believe the small wolves follow the big fellows,
and help them to eat what they kill, though they
generally sit round and look on at the killing."

"Hist!" exclaimed Joe, cocking his gun; "there he
is, an' no mistake."

There he was, undoubtedly. A wolf of the largest
size with one of his feet in the trap. He was a terrible-looking
object, for, besides his immense size and naturally
ferocious aspect, his white hair bristled on end and
was all covered with streaks and spots of blood from
his bloody jaws. In his efforts to escape he had bitten
the trap until he had broken his teeth and lacerated his
gums, so that his appearance was hideous in the extreme.
And when the two men came up he struggled with all
his might to fly at them.

Cameron and Joe stood looking at him in a sort of
wondering admiration.

"We'd better put a ball in him," suggested Joe after
a time. "Mayhap the chain won't stand sich tugs long."

"True, Joe; if it break, we might get an ugly nip
before we killed him."

So saying Cameron fired into the wolf's head and
killed it. It was found, on examination, that four
wolves had been in the traps, but the rest had escaped.
Two of them, however, had gnawed off their paws and
left them lying in the traps.

After this the big wolves did not trouble them again.
The same afternoon a bear-hunt was undertaken, which
well-nigh cost one of the Iroquois his life. It happened
thus:--

While Cameron and Joe were away after the white
wolves, Henri came floundering into camp tossing his
arms like a maniac, and shouting that "seven bars wos
be down in de bush close by!" It chanced that this
was an idle day with most of the men, so they all leaped
on their horses, and taking guns and knives sallied forth
to give battle to the bears.

Arrived at the scene of action, they found the seven
bears busily engaged in digging up roots, so the men
separated in order to surround them, and then closed in.
The place was partly open and partly covered with
thick bushes into which a horseman could not penetrate.


The moment the bears got wind of what was going
forward they made off as fast as possible, and then commenced
a scene of firing, galloping, and yelling that
defies description! Four out of the seven were shot
before they gained the bushes; the other three were
wounded, but made good their retreat. As their places
of shelter, however, were like islands in the plain, they
had no chance of escaping.

The horsemen now dismounted and dashed recklessly
into the bushes, where they soon discovered and killed
two of the bears; the third was not found for some
time. At last an Iroquois came upon it so suddenly
that he had not time to point his gun before the bear
sprang upon him and struck him to the earth, where it
held him down.

Instantly the place was surrounded by eager men; but
the bushes were so thick, and the fallen trees among
which the bear stood were so numerous, that they could
not use their guns without running the risk of shooting
their companion. Most of them drew their knives and
seemed about to rush on the bear with these; but the
monster's aspect, as it glared around, was so terrible that
they held back for a moment in hesitation.

At this moment Henri, who had been at some distance
engaged in the killing of one of the other bears, came
rushing forward after his own peculiar manner.
"Ah! fat is eet--hay? de bar no go under yit?"

Just then his eye fell on the wounded Iroquois with
the bear above him, and he uttered a yell so intense in
tone that the bear himself seemed to feel that something
decisive was about to be done at last. Henri
did not pause, but with a flying dash he sprang like a
spread eagle, arms and legs extended, right into the
bear's bosom. At the same moment he sent his long
hunting-knife down into its heart. But Bruin is proverbially
hard to kill, and although mortally wounded,
he had strength enough to open his jaws and close them
on Henri's neck.

There was a cry of horror, and at the same moment
a volley was fired at the bear's head; for the trappers
felt that it was better to risk shooting their comrades
than see them killed before their eyes. Fortunately
the bullets took effect, and tumbled him over at once
without doing damage to either of the men, although
several of the balls just grazed Henri's temple and
carried off his cap.

Although uninjured by the shot, the poor Iroquois
had not escaped scathless from the paw of the bear.
His scalp was torn almost off, and hung down over his
eyes, while blood streamed down his face. He was
conveyed by his comrades to the camp, where he lay
two days in a state of insensibility, at the end of which
time he revived and recovered daily. Afterwards when
the camp moved he had to be carried; but in the course
of two months he was as well as ever, and quite as fond
of bear-hunting!

Among other trophies of this hunt there were two
deer and a buffalo, which last had probably strayed from
the herd. Four or five Iroquois were round this animal
whetting their knives for the purpose of cutting it up
when Henri passed, so he turned aside to watch them
perform the operation, quite regardless of the fact that
his neck and face were covered with blood which flowed
from one or two small punctures made by the bear.

The Indians began by taking off the skin, which
certainly did not occupy them more than five minutes.
Then they cut up the meat and made a pack of it, and
cut out the tongue, which is somewhat troublesome, as
that member requires to be cut out from under the jaw
of the animal, and not through the natural opening of
the mouth. One of the fore legs was cut off at the
knee joint, and this was used as a hammer with which
to break the skull for the purpose of taking out the
brains, these being used in the process of dressing and
softening the animal's skin. An axe would have been
of advantage to break the skull, but in the hurry of
rushing to the attack the Indians had forgotten their
axes; so they adopted the common fashion of using the
buffalo's hoof as a hammer, the shank being the handle.
The whole operation of flaying, cutting up, and packing
the meat did not occupy more than twenty minutes.
Before leaving the ground these expert butchers treated
themselves to a little of the marrow and warm liver in
a raw state!

Cameron and Joe walked up to the group while they
were indulging in this little feast.

"Well, I've often seen that eaten, but I never could
do it myself," remarked the former.
"No!" cried Joe in surprise; "now that's oncommon
cur'us. I've lived on raw liver an' marrow-bones for
two or three days at a time, when we wos chased by the
Camanchee Injuns an' didn't dare to make a fire; an' it's
ra'al good, it is. Won't ye try it now?"

Cameron shook his head.

"No, thankee; I'll not refuse when I can't help it,
but until then I'll remain in happy ignorance of how
good it is."

"Well, it is strange how some folk can't abide anything
in the meat way they ha'n't bin used to. D'ye
know I've actually knowed men from the cities as
wouldn't eat a bit o' horseflesh for love or money.
Would ye believe it?"

"I can well believe that, Joe, for I have met with
such persons myself; in fact, they are rather numerous.
What are you chuckling at, Joe?"

"Chucklin'? If ye mean be that 'larfin in to myself,'
it's because I'm thinkin' o' a chap as once comed out to
the prairies."

"Let us walk back to the camp, Joe, and you can
tell me about him as we go along."

"I think," continued Joe, "he comed from Washington,
but I never could make out right whether he wos
a Government man or not. Anyhow, he wos a pheelosopher--a
natter-list I think he call his-self--"

"A naturalist," suggested Cameron.

"Ay, that wos more like it. Well, he wos about six
feet two in his moccasins, an' as thin as a ramrod, an' as
blind as a bat--leastways he had weak eyes an' wore
green spectacles. He had on a gray shootin' coat an'
trousers an' vest an' cap, with rid whiskers an' a long
nose as rid at the point as the whiskers wos."

"Well, this gentleman engaged me an' another hunter
to go a trip with him into the prairies, so off we sot one
fine day on three hosses, with our blankets at our backs--we
wos to depend on the rifle for victuals. At first I
thought the natter-list one o' the cruellest beggars as
iver went on two long legs, for he used to go about
everywhere pokin' pins through all the beetles an' flies
an' creepin' things he could sot eyes on, an' stuck them
in a box. But he told me he comed here a-purpose to
git as many o' them as he could; so says I, 'If that's it,
I'll fill yer box in no time.'

"'Will ye?' says he, quite pleased like.

"'I will,' says I, an' galloped off to a place as was
filled wi' all sorts o' crawlin' things. So I sets to work,
an' whenever I seed a thing crawlin' I sot my fut on it
an' crushed it, an' soon filled my breast pocket. I
cotched a lot o' butterflies too, an' stuffed them into my
shot-pouch, an' went back in an hour or two an' showed
him the lot. He put on his green spectacles an' looked
at them as if he'd seen a rattlesnake.

"'My good man,' says he, 'you've crushed them all
to pieces!'

"'They'll taste as good for all that,' says I; for
somehow I'd taken't in me head that he'd heard o' the
way the Injuns make soup o' the grasshoppers, an' wos
wantin' to try his hand at a new dish!

"He laughed when I said this, an' told me he wos
collectin' them to take home to be looked at. But that's
not wot I was goin' to tell ye about him," continued
Joe; "I wos goin' to tell ye how we made him eat
horseflesh. He carried a revolver, too, this natter-list
did, to load wi' shot as small as dust a'most, an' shoot
little birds with. I've seed him miss birds only three
feet away with it. An' one day he drew it all of a suddent an' let fly
at a
big bum-bee that wos passin',
yellin' out that it wos the finest wot he had iver seed.
He missed the bee, of coorse, 'cause it wos a flyin' shot,
he said, but he sent the whole charge right into Martin's
back--Martin was my comrade's name. By good luck
Martin had on a thick leather coat, so the shot niver
got the length o' his skin."

"One day I noticed that the natter-list had stuffed
small corks into the muzzles of all the six barrels of his
revolver. I wondered what they wos for, but he wos
al'ays doin' sich queer things that I soon forgot it.
'Maybe,' thought I, jist before it went out o' my mind--'maybe
he thinks that'll stop the pistol from goin'
off by accident;' for ye must know he'd let it off three
times the first day by accident, an' well-nigh blowed
off his leg the last time, only the shot lodged in the
back o' a big toad he'd jist stuffed into his breeches
pocket. Well, soon after we shot a buffalo bull, so
when it fell, off he jumps from his horse an' runs up to
it. So did I, for I wasn't sure the beast was dead,
an' I had jist got up when it rose an' rushed at the
natter-list.

"'Out o' the way,' I yelled, for my rifle was empty;
but he didn't move, so I rushed for'ard an' drew the
pistol out o' his belt and let fly in the bull's ribs jist
as it ran the poor man down. Martin came up that
moment an' put a ball through its heart, an' then we
went to pick up the natter-list. He came to in a
little, an' the first thing he said was, 'Where's my revolver?'
When I gave it to him he looked at it, an' said
with a solemcholy shake o' the head, 'There's a whole
barrel-full lost!' It turned out that he had taken to
usin' the barrels for bottles to hold things in, but he
forgot to draw the charges, so sure enough I had fired
a charge o' bum-bees an' beetles an' small shot into
the buffalo!

"But that's not what I wos goin' to tell ye yit. We
corned to a part o' the plains where we wos well-nigh
starved for want o' game, an' the natter-list got so
thin that ye could a'most see through him, so I offered
to kill my horse, an' cut it up for meat; but you niver
saw sich a face he made. 'I'd rather die first,' says he,
'than eat it;' so we didn't kill it. But that very day
Martin got a shot at a wild horse an' killed it. The
natter-list was down in the bed o' a creek at the time
gropin' for creepers, an' he didn't see it.

"'He'll niver eat it,' says Martin.

"'That's true,' says I.

"'Let's tell him it's a buffalo,' says he.

"'That would be tellin' a lie,' says I.

"So we stood lookin' at each other, not knowin' what
to do.

"'I'll tell ye what,' cries Martin; 'we'll cut it up,
and take the meat into camp an' cook it without sayin'
a word
.'

"'Done,' says I, 'that's it;' for ye must know the
poor critter wos no judge o' meat. He couldn't tell one kind from
another,
an' he niver axed questions.
In fact he niver a'most spoke to us all the trip. Well,
we cut up the horse, an' carried the flesh an' marrowbones
into camp, takin' care to leave the hoofs an' skin
behind, an' sot to work an' roasted steaks an' marrowbones."

"When the natter-list came back ye should ha' seen
the joyful face he put on when he smelt the grub, for
he was all but starved out, poor critter."

"'What have we got here?' cried he, rubbin' his
hands an' sittin' down."

"'Steaks an' marrow-bones,' says Martin."

"'Capital!' says he. 'I'm so hungry.'"

"So he fell to work like a wolf. I niver seed a man
pitch into anything like as that natter-list did into that
horseflesh."

"'These are first-rate marrow-bones,' says he, squintin'
with one eye down the shin-bone o' the hind leg to see if
it was quite empty."

"'Yes, sir, they is,' answered Martin, as grave as a judge."

"'Take another, sir,' says I."

"'No, thankee,' says he with a sigh, for he didn't
like to leave off."

"Well, we lived for a week on horseflesh, an' first-rate
livin' it wos; then we fell in with buffalo, an' niver
ran short again till we got to the settlements, when
he paid us our money an' shook hands, sayin' we'd had
a nice trip, an' he wished us well. Jist as we wos
partin' I said, says I, 'D'ye know what it wos we lived
on for a week arter we wos well-nigh starved in the
prairies?'"

"'What,' says he, 'when we got yon capital marrowbones?'"

"'The same,' says I. 'Yon wos horse flesh,' says I;
'an' I think ye'll surely niver say again that it isn't
first-rate livin'.'"

"'Ye're jokin',' says he, turnin' pale."

"'It's true, sir; as true as ye're standin' there.'"

"Well, would ye believe it, he turned--that natter-list
did--as sick as a dog on the spot wot he wos
standin' on, an' didn't taste meat again for three days!"

Shortly after the conclusion of Joe's story they
reached the camp, and here they found the women and
children flying about in a state of terror, and the few
men who had been left in charge arming themselves in
the greatest haste.

"Hallo! something wrong here," cried Cameron,
hastening forward, followed by Joe. "What has happened,
eh?"

"Injuns comin', monsieur; look dere," answered a
trapper, pointing down the valley.

"Arm and mount at once, and come to the front of
the camp," cried Cameron in a tone of voice that silenced
every other, and turned confusion into order.

The cause of all this outcry was a cloud of dust seen
far down the valley, which was raised by a band of
mounted Indians who approached the camp at full
speed. Their numbers could not be made out, but they
were a sufficiently formidable band to cause much
anxiety to Cameron, whose men, at the time, were
scattered to the various trapping-grounds, and only ten
chanced to be within call of the camp. However, with
these ten he determined to show a bold front to the
savages, whether they came as friends or foes. He
therefore ordered the women and children within the
citadel formed of the goods and packs of furs piled
upon each other, which point of retreat was to be defended
to the last extremity. Then galloping to the
front he collected his men and swept down the valley at
full speed. In a few minutes they were near enough to
observe that the enemy only numbered four Indians,
who were driving a band of about a hundred horses
before them, and so busy were they in keeping the
troop together that Cameron and his men were close
upon them before they were observed.

It was too late to escape. Joe Blunt and Henri had
already swept round and cut off their retreat. In this
extremity the Indians slipped from the backs of their
steeds and darted into the bushes, where they were
safe from pursuit, at least on horseback, while the
trappers got behind the horses and drove them towards
the camp.

At this moment one of the horses sprang ahead of
the others and made for the mountain, with its mane
and tail flying wildly in the breeze.

"Marrow-bones and buttons!" shouted one of the
men, "there goes Dick Varley's horse."

"So it am!" cried Henri, and dashed off in pursuit,
followed by Joe and two others.

"Why, these are our own horses," said Cameron in
surprise, as they drove them into a corner of the hills
from which they could not escape.

This was true, but it was only half the truth, for,
besides their own horses, they had secured upwards of
seventy Indian steeds; a most acceptable addition to
their stud, which, owing to casualties and wolves, had
been diminishing too much of late. The fact was that
the Indians who had captured the horses belonging to
Pierre and his party were a small band of robbers who
had travelled, as was afterwards learned, a considerable
distance from the south, stealing horses from various
tribes as they went along. As we have seen, in an evil
hour they fell in with Pierre's party and carried off
their steeds, which they drove to a pass leading from
one valley to the other. Here they united them with
the main band of their ill-gotten gains, and while the
greater number of the robbers descended farther into
the plains in search of more booty, four of them were
sent into the mountains with the horses already procured.
These four, utterly ignorant of the presence of
white men in the valley, drove their charge, as we have
seen, almost into the camp.

Cameron immediately organized a party to go out in
search of Pierre and his companions, about whose fate
he became intensely anxious, and in the course of half-an-hour
as many men as he could spare with safety were
despatched in the direction of the Blue Mountains.



CHAPTER XXII.




Charlie's adventures with savages and bears--Trapping
life
.


It is one thing to chase a horse; it is another thing
to catch it. Little consideration and less sagacity
are required to convince us of the truth of that fact.

The reader may perhaps venture to think this rather
a trifling fact. We are not so sure of that. In this
world of fancies, to have any fact incontestably proved
and established is a comfort, and whatever is a source
of comfort to mankind is worthy of notice. Surely our
reader won't deny that! Perhaps he will, so we can
only console ourself with the remark that there are
people in this world who would deny anything--who
would deny that there was a nose on their face if you
said there was!

Well, to return to the point, which was the chase of
a horse in the abstract; from which we will rapidly
diverge to the chase of Dick Varley's horse in particular.
This noble charger, having been ridden by savages until
all his old fire and blood and mettle were worked up
to a red heat, no sooner discovered that he was pursued
than he gave a snort of defiance, which he accompanied
with a frantic shake of his mane and a fling
of contempt in addition to a magnificent wave of
his tail. Then he thundered up the valley at a pace
which would speedily have left Joe Blunt and Henri
out of sight behind if--ay! that's the word, if! What
a word that if is! what a world of if's we live in!
There never was anything that wouldn't have been
something else if something hadn't intervened to prevent
it! Yes, we repeat Charlie would have left his
two friends miles and miles behind in what is called
"no time," if he had not run straight into a gorge
which was surrounded by inaccessible precipices, and
out of which there was no exit except by the entrance,
which was immediately barred by Henri, while Joe
advanced to catch the run-away.

For two hours at least did Joe Blunt essay to catch
Charlie, and during that space of time he utterly failed
The horse seemed to have made up his mind for what
is vulgarly termed "a lark."

"It won't do, Henri," said Joe, advancing towards
his companion, and wiping his forehead with the cuff
of his leathern coat; "I can't catch him. The wind's
a'most blowed out o' me body."

"Dat am vexatiable," replied Henri, in a tone of
commiseration. "S'pose I wos make try?"

"In that case I s'pose ye would fail. But go ahead,
an' do what ye can. I'll hold yer horse."

So Henri began by a rush and a flourish of legs and
arms that nearly frightened the horse out of his wits.
For half-an-hour he went through all the complications
of running and twisting of which he was capable, without
success, when Joe Blunt suddenly uttered a stentorian
yell that rooted him to the spot on which he
stood.

To account for this, we must explain that in the
heights of the Rocky Mountains vast accumulations of
snow take place among the crevices and gorges during
winter. Such of these masses as form on steep slopes
are loosened by occasional thaws, and are precipitated
in the form of avalanches into the valleys below, carrying
trees and stones along with them in their thundering
descent. In the gloomy gorge where Dick's
horse had taken refuge the precipices were so steep that
many avalanches had occurred, as was evident from the
mounds of heaped snow that lay at the foot of most of
them. Neither stones nor trees were carried down here,
however, for the cliffs were nearly perpendicular, and
the snow slipping over their edges had fallen on the
grass below. Such an avalanche was now about to take
place, and it was this that caused Joe to utter his cry
of alarm and warning.

Henri and the horse were directly under the cliff over
which it was about to be hurled, the latter close to the
wall of rock, the other at some distance away from it.

Joe cried again, "Back, Henri! back vite!" when
the mass flowed over and fell with a roar like prolonged
thunder. Henri sprang back in time to save his life,
though he was knocked down and almost stunned; but
poor Charlie was completely buried under the avalanche,
which now presented the appearance of a hill of snow.

The instant Henri recovered sufficiently, Joe and he
mounted their horses and galloped back to the camp as
fast as possible.

Meanwhile, another spectator stepped forward upon
the scene they had left, and surveyed the snow hill
with a critical eye. This was no less than a grizzly
bear, which had, unobserved, been a spectator, and which
immediately proceeded to dig into the mound, with the
purpose, no doubt, of disentombing the carcass of the
horse for purposes of his own.

While he was thus actively engaged the two hunters
reached the camp, where they found that Pierre and his
party had just arrived. The men sent out in search of
them had scarcely advanced a mile when they found
them trudging back to the camp in a very disconsolate
manner. But all their sorrows were put to flight on
hearing of the curious way in which the horses had
been returned to them with interest.

Scarcely had Dick Varley, however, congratulated
himself on the recovery of his gallant steed, when he
was thrown into despair by the sudden arrival of Joe
with the tidings of the catastrophe we have just related.

Of course there was a general rush to the rescue.
Only a few men were ordered to remain to guard the
camp, while the remainder mounted their horses and
galloped towards the gorge where Charlie had been entombed.
On arriving, they found that Bruin had
worked with such laudable zeal that nothing but the
tip of his tail was seen sticking out of the hole which
he had dug. The hunters could not refrain from
laughing as they sprang to the ground, and standing in
a semicircle in front of the hole, prepared to fire. But
Crusoe resolved to have the honour of leading the
assault. He seized fast hold of Bruin's flank, and
caused his teeth to meet therein. Caleb backed out
at once and turned round, but before he could recover
from his surprise a dozen bullets pierced his heart and
brain.

"Now, lads," cried Cameron, setting to work with a
large wooden shovel, "work like niggers. If there's
any life left in the horse, it'll soon be smothered out
unless we set him free."

The men needed no urging, however. They worked
as if their lives depended on their exertions. Dick
Varley, in particular, laboured like a young Hercules,
and Henri hurled masses of snow about in a most surprising
manner. Crusoe, too, entered heartily into the
spirit of the work, and, scraping with his forepaws,
sent such a continuous shower of snow behind him that
he was speedily lost to view in a hole of his own excavating.
In the course of half-an-hour a cavern was
dug in the mound almost close up to the cliff, and the
men were beginning to look about for the crushed body
of Dick's steed, when an exclamation from Henri attracted
their attention.

"Ha! mes ami, here am be one hole."

The truth of this could not be doubted, for the
eccentric trapper had thrust his shovel through the
wall of snow into what appeared to be a cavern beyond,
and immediately followed up his remark by thrusting
in his head and shoulders. He drew them out in a few
seconds, with a look of intense amazement.

"Voilà! Joe Blunt. Look in dere, and you shall see
fat you vill behold."

"Why, it's the horse, I do b'lieve!" cried Joe. "Go
ahead, lads!"

So saying, he resumed his shovelling vigorously, and
in a few minutes the hole was opened up sufficiently to
enable a man to enter. Dick sprang in, and there stood
Charlie close beside the cliff, looking as sedate and,
unconcerned as if all that had been going on had no
reference to him whatever.

The cause of his safety was simple enough. The
precipice beside which he stood when the avalanche
occurred overhung its base at that point considerably,
so that when the snow descended a clear space of
several feet wide was left all along its base. Here
Charlie had remained in perfect comfort until his
friends dug him out.

Congratulating themselves not a little on having saved
the charger and bagged a grizzly bear, the trappers remounted,
and returned to the camp.

For some time after this nothing worthy of particular
note occurred. The trapping operations went on
prosperously and without interruption from the Indians,
who seemed to have left the locality altogether. During
this period, Dick, and Crusoe, and Charlie had many
excursions together, and the silver rifle full many a time
sent death to the heart of bear, and elk, and buffalo;
while, indirectly, it sent joy to the heart of man,
woman, and child in camp, in the shape of juicy steaks
and marrow-bones. Joe and Henri devoted themselves
almost exclusively to trapping beaver, in which pursuit
they were so successful that they speedily became
wealthy men, according to backwood notions of wealth.

With the beaver that they caught they purchased from
Cameron's store powder and shot enough for a long
hunting expedition, and a couple of spare horses to
carry their packs. They also purchased a large assortment
of such goods and trinkets as would prove acceptable
to Indians, and supplied themselves with new
blankets, and a few pairs of strong moccasins, of which
they stood much in need.

Thus they went on from day to day, until symptoms
of the approach of winter warned them that it was time
to return to the Mustang Valley. About this time an
event occurred which totally changed the aspect of
affairs in these remote valleys of the Rocky Mountains,
and precipitated the departure of our four friends, Dick,
Joe, Henri, and Crusoe. This was the sudden arrival of
a whole tribe of Indians. As their advent was somewhat
remarkable, we shall devote to it the commencement
of a new chapter.



CHAPTER XXIII.




Savage sports--Living cataracts--An alarm--Indians and their
doings--The stampede--Charlie again
.


One day Dick Varley was out on a solitary hunting
expedition near the rocky gorge where his horse
had received temporary burial a week or two before.
Crusoe was with him, of course. Dick had tied Charlie
to a tree, and was sunning himself on the edge of a cliff,
from the top of which he had a fine view of the valley
and the rugged precipices that hemmed it in.

Just in front of the spot on which he sat, the precipices
on the opposite side of the gorge rose to a considerable
height above him, so that their ragged outlines were
drawn sharply across the clear sky. Dick was gazing
in dreamy silence at the jutting rocks and dark caverns,
and speculating on the probable number of bears that
dwelt there, when a slight degree of restlessness on the
part of Crusoe attracted him.

"What is't, pup?" said he, laying his hand on the
dog's broad back.

Crusoe looked the answer, "I don't know, Dick, but
it's something, you may depend upon it, else I would
not have disturbed you."

Dick lifted his rifle from the ground, and laid it in
the hollow of his left arm.

"There must be something in the wind," remarked Dick.

As wind is known to be composed of two distinct
gases, Crusoe felt perfectly safe in replying "Yes" with
his tail. Immediately after he added, "Hallo! did you
hear that?" with his ears.

Dick did hear it, and sprang hastily to his feet, as
a sound like, yet unlike, distant thunder came faintly
down upon the breeze. In a few seconds the sound
increased to a roar in which was mingled the wild cries
of men. Neither Dick nor Crusoe moved, for the
sounds came from behind the heights in front of them,
and they felt that the only way to solve the question,
"What can the sounds be?" was to wait till the sounds
should solve it themselves.

Suddenly the muffled sounds gave place to the distinct
bellowing of cattle, the clatter of innumerable
hoofs, and the yells of savage men, while at the same
moment the edges of the opposite cliffs became alive
with Indians and buffaloes rushing about in frantic
haste--the former almost mad with savage excitement,
the latter with blind rage and terror.

On reaching the edge of the dizzy precipice, the
buffaloes turned abruptly and tossed their ponderous
heads as they coursed along the edge. Yet a few of
them, unable to check their headlong course, fell over,
and were dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Such
falls, Dick observed, were hailed with shouts of delight
by the Indians, whose sole object evidently was to
enjoy the sport of driving the terrified animals over the
precipice. The wily savages had chosen their ground
well for this purpose.

The cliff immediately opposite to Dick Varley was a
huge projection from the precipice that hemmed in the
gorge, a species of cape or promontory several hundred
yards wide at the base, and narrowing abruptly to a
point. The sides of this wedge-shaped projection were
quite perpendicular--indeed, in some places the top overhung
the base--and they were at least three hundred feet
high. Broken and jagged rocks, of that peculiarly
chaotic character which probably suggested the name to
this part of the great American chain, projected from
and were scattered all round the cliffs. Over these the
Indians, whose numbers increased every moment, strove
to drive the luckless herd of buffaloes that had chanced
to fall in their way. The task was easy. The unsuspecting
animals, of which there were hundreds, rushed
in a dense mass upon the cape referred to. On they
came with irresistible impetuosity, bellowing furiously,
while their hoofs thundered on the turf with the muffled
continuous roar of a distant but mighty cataract; the
Indians, meanwhile, urging them on by hideous yells and
frantic gestures.

The advance-guard came bounding madly to the edge
of the precipice. Here they stopped short, and gazed
affrighted at the gulf below. It was but for a moment.
The irresistible momentum of the flying mass behind
pushed them over. Down they came, absolutely a living
cataract, upon the rocks below. Some struck on the
projecting rocks in the descent, and their bodies were
dashed almost in pieces, while their blood spurted out
in showers. Others leaped from rock to rock with
awful bounds, until, losing their foothold, they fell
headlong; while others descended sheer down into the
sweltering mass that lay shattered at the base of the
cliffs.

Dick Varley and his dog remained rooted to the
rock, as they gazed at the sickening sight, as if petrified.
Scarce fifty of that noble herd of buffaloes escaped the
awful leap, but they escaped only to fall before the
arrows of their ruthless pursuers. Dick had often
heard of this tendency of the Indians, where buffaloes
were very numerous, to drive them over precipices in
mere wanton sport and cruelty, but he had never seen
it until now, and the sight filled his soul with horror.
It was not until the din and tumult of the perishing
herd and the shrill yells of the Indians had almost died
away that he turned to quit the spot. But the instant
he did so another shout was raised. The savages had
observed him, and were seen galloping along the cliffs
towards the head of the gorge, with the obvious intention
of gaining the other side and capturing him. Dick
sprang on Charlie's back, and the next instant was flying
down the valley towards the camp.

He did not, however, fear being overtaken, for the
gorge could not be crossed, and the way round the head
of it was long and rugged; but he was anxious to alarm
the camp as quickly as possible, so that they might
have time to call in the more distant trappers and make
preparations for defence.

"Where away now, youngster?" inquired Cameron,
emerging from his tent as Dick, taking the brook that
flowed in front at a flying leap, came crashing through
the bushes into the midst of the fur-packs at full speed.

"Injuns!" ejaculated Dick, reining up, and vaulting
out of the saddle. "Hundreds of 'em. Fiends incarnate
every one!"

"Are they near?"

"Yes; an hour'll bring them down on us. Are Joe
and Henri far from camp to-day?"

"At Ten-mile Creek," replied Cameron with an expression
of bitterness, as he caught up his gun and
shouted to several men, who hurried up on seeing our
hero burst into camp.

"Ten-mile Creek!" muttered Dick. "I'll bring 'em
in, though," he continued, glancing at several of the
camp horses that grazed close at hand.

In another moment he was on Charlie's back, the
line of one of the best horses was in his hand, and almost
before Cameron knew what he was about he was
flying down the valley like the wind. Charlie often
stretched out at full speed to please his young master,
but seldom had he been urged forward as he was upon
this occasion. The led horse being light and wild, kept
well up, and in a marvellously short space of time they
were at Ten-mile Creek.

"Hallo, Dick, wot's to do?" inquired Joe Blunt, who
was up to his knees in the water setting a trap at the
moment his friend galloped up.

"Injuns! Where's Henri?" demanded Dick.

"At the head o' the dam there."

Dick was off in a moment, and almost instantly returned
with Henri galloping beside him.

No word was spoken. In time of action these men
did not waste words. During Dick's momentary
absence, Joe Blunt had caught up his rifle and examined
the priming, so that when Dick pulled up beside
him he merely laid his hand on the saddle, saying, "All
right!" as he vaulted on Charlie's back behind his
young companion. In another moment they were away
at full speed. The mustang seemed to feel that unwonted
exertions were required of him. Double
weighted though he was, he kept well up with the other
horse, and in less than two hours after Dick's leaving
the camp the three hunters came in sight of it.

Meanwhile Cameron had collected nearly all his
forces and put his camp in a state of defence before the
Indians arrived, which they did suddenly, and, as usual,
at full gallop, to the amount of at least two hundred.
They did not at first seem disposed to hold friendly
intercourse with the trappers, but assembled in a semicircle
round the camp in a menacing attitude, while one
of their chiefs stepped forward to hold a palaver. For
some time the conversation on both sides was polite
enough, but by degrees the Indian chief assumed an
imperious tone, and demanded gifts from the trappers,
taking care to enforce his request by hinting that thousands
of his countrymen were not far distant. Cameron
stoutly refused, and the palaver threatened to come to
an abrupt and unpleasant termination just at the time
that Dick and his friends appeared on the scene of
action.

The brook was cleared at a bound; the three hunters
leaped from their steeds and sprang to the front with
a degree of energy that had a visible effect on the
savages; and Cameron, seizing the moment, proposed
that the two parties should smoke a pipe and hold a
council. The Indians agreed, and in a few minutes
they were engaged in animated and friendly intercourse.
The speeches were long, and the compliments paid on
either side were inflated, and, we fear, undeserved; but
the result of the interview was, that Cameron made the
Indians a present of tobacco and a few trinkets, and
sent them back to their friends to tell them that he
was willing to trade with them.

Next day the whole tribe arrived in the valley, and
pitched their deerskin tents on the plain opposite to
the camp of the white men. Their numbers far exceeded
Cameron's expectation, and it was with some
anxiety that he proceeded to strengthen his fortifications
as much as circumstances and the nature of the
ground would admit.

The Indian camp, which numbered upwards of a
thousand souls, was arranged with great regularity, and
was divided into three distinct sections, each section
being composed of a separate tribe. The Great Snake
nation at that time embraced three tribes or divisions--namely,
the Shirry-dikas, or dog-eaters; the War-are-ree-kas,
or fish-eaters; and the Banattees, or robbers.
These were the most numerous and powerful
Indians on the west side of the Rocky Mountains. The
Shirry-dikas dwelt in the plains, and hunted the buffaloes;
dressed well; were cleanly; rich in horses; bold,
independent, and good warriors. The War-are-ree-kas
lived chiefly by fishing, and were found on the banks
of the rivers and lakes throughout the country. They
were more corpulent, slovenly, and indolent than the
Shirry-dikas, and more peaceful. The Banattees, as
we have before mentioned, were the robbers of the
mountains. They were a wild and contemptible race,
and at enmity with every one. In summer they went
about nearly naked. In winter they clothed themselves
in the skins of rabbits and wolves. Being excellent
mimics, they could imitate the howling of
wolves, the neighing of horses, and the cries of birds, by
which means they could approach travellers, rob them,
and then fly to their rocky fastnesses in the mountains,
where pursuit was vain.

Such were the men who now assembled in front of
the camp of the fur-traders, and Cameron soon found
that the news of his presence in the country had spread
far and wide among the natives, bringing them to the
neighbourhood of his camp in immense crowds, so that
during the next few days their numbers increased to
thousands.

Several long palavers quickly ensued between the
red men and the white, and the two great chiefs who
seemed to hold despotic rule over the assembled tribes
were extremely favourable to the idea of universal peace
which was propounded to them. In several set speeches
of great length and very considerable power, these
natural orators explained their willingness to enter into
amicable relations with all the surrounding nations, as
well as with the white men.

"But," said Pee-eye-em, the chief of the Shirry-dikas,
a man above six feet high, and of immense muscular
strength--"but my tribe cannot answer for the Banattees,
who are robbers, and cannot be punished, because they dwell in
scattered
families among the mountains. The Banattees are bad; they cannot be
trusted."

None of the Banattees were present at the council
when this was said; and if they had been it would have
mattered little, for they were neither fierce nor courageous,
although bold enough in their own haunts to
murder and rob the unwary.

The second chief did not quite agree with Pee-eye-em.
He said that it was impossible for them to make
peace with their natural enemies, the Peigans and the
Blackfeet on the east side of the mountains. It was
very desirable, he admitted; but neither of these tribes
would consent to it, he felt sure.

Upon this Joe Blunt rose and said, "The great chief
of the War-are-ree-kas is wise, and knows that enemies
cannot be reconciled unless deputies are sent to make
proposals of peace."

"The Pale-face does not know the Blackfeet," answered
the chief. "Who will go into the lands of the
Blackfeet? My young men have been sent once and
again, and their scalps are now fringes to the leggings
of their enemies. The War-are-ree-kas do not cross the
mountains but for the purpose of making war."

"The chief speaks truth," returned Joe; "yet there
are three men round the council fire who will go to the
Blackfeet and the Peigans with messages of peace from
the Snakes if they wish it."

Joe pointed to himself, Henri, and Dick as he spoke, and added, "We
three
do not belong to the camp of the fur-traders; we only, lodge with them
for
a time. The Great Chief of the white men has sent us to make peace
with the
Red-men, and to tell them that he desires to trade with them--to
exchange
hatchets, and guns, and blankets for furs."

This declaration interested the two chiefs greatly, and
after a good deal of discussion they agreed to take advantage
of Joe Blunt's offer; and appoint him as a
deputy to the court of their enemies. Having arranged
these matters to their satisfaction, Cameron bestowed a
red flag and a blue surtout with brass buttons on each
of the chiefs, and a variety of smaller articles on the
other members of the council, and sent them away in a
particularly amiable frame of mind.

Pee-eye-em burst the blue surtout at the shoulders
and elbows in putting it on, as it was much too small
for his gigantic frame; but never having seen such an
article of apparel before, he either regarded this as the
natural and proper consequence of putting it on, or was
totally indifferent to it, for he merely looked at the
rents with a smile of satisfaction, while his squaw surreptitiously
cut off the two back buttons and thrust
them into her bosom.

By the time the council closed the night was far advanced,
and a bright moon was shedding a flood of soft
light over the picturesque and busy scene.

"I'll go to the Injun camp," said Joe to Walter Cameron,
as the chiefs rose to depart. "The season's far
enough advanced already; it's time to be off; and if
I'm to speak for the Redskins in the Blackfeet Council,
I'd need to know what to say."

"Please yourself, Master Blunt," answered Cameron.
"I like your company and that of your friends, and if it suited you I
would
be glad to take you along with us to the coast of the Pacific; but
your
mission among the
Indians is a good one, and I'll help it on all I can.--I suppose you
will
go also?" he added, turning to Dick Varley, who was still seated
beside the
council fire caressing Crusoe.

"Wherever Joe goes, I go," answered Dick.

Crusoe's tail, ears, and eyes demonstrated high approval
of the sentiment involved in this speech.

"And your friend Henri?"

"He goes too," answered Joe. "It's as well that the
Redskins should see the three o' us before we start for
the east side o' the mountains.--Ho, Henri! come here,
lad."

Henri obeyed, and in a few seconds the three friends
crossed the brook to the Indian camp, and were guided
to the principal lodge by Pee-eye-em. Here a great
council was held, and the proposed attempt at negotiations
for peace with their ancient enemies fully discussed.
While they were thus engaged, and just as
Pee-eye-em had, in the energy of an enthusiastic peroration,
burst the blue surtout almost up to the collar, a
distant rushing sound was heard, which caused every
man to spring to his feet, run out of the tent, and seize
his weapons.

"What can it be, Joe?" whispered Dick as they stood
at the tent door leaning on their rifles, and listening
intently.

"Dun'no'," answered Joe shortly.

Most of the numerous fires of the camp had gone out,
but the bright moon revealed the dusky forms of thousands of Indians,
whom
the unwonted sound had startled,
moving rapidly about.

The mystery was soon explained. The Indian camp
was pitched on an open plain of several miles in extent,
which took a sudden bend half-a-mile distant, where a
spur of the mountains shut out the farther end of the
valley from view. From beyond this point the dull
rumbling sound proceeded. Suddenly there was a roar
as if a mighty cataract had been let loose upon the
scene. At the same moment a countless herd of wild
horses came thundering round the base of the mountain
and swept over the plain straight towards the Indian
camp.

"A stampede!" cried Joe, springing to the assistance
of Pee-eye-em, whose favourite horses were picketed
near the tent.

On they came like a living torrent, and the thunder
of a thousand hoofs was soon mingled with the howling
of hundreds of dogs in the camp, and the yelling of
Indians, as they vainly endeavoured to restrain the
rising excitement of their steeds. Henri and Dick
stood rooted to the ground, gazing in silent wonder at
the fierce and uncontrollable gallop of the thousands of
panic-stricken horses that bore down upon the camp
with the tumultuous violence of a mighty cataract.

As the maddened troop drew nigh, the camp horses
began to snort and tremble violently, and when the
rush of the wild steeds was almost upon them, they
became ungovernable with terror, broke their halters
and hobbles, and dashed wildly about. To add to the
confusion at that moment, a cloud passed over the moon
and threw the whole scene into deep obscurity. Blind
with terror, which was probably increased by the din
of their own mad flight, the galloping troop came on,
and with a sound like the continuous roar of thunder
that for an instant drowned the yell of dog and man
they burst upon the camp, trampling over packs and
skins, and dried meat, etc., in their headlong speed, and
overturning several of the smaller tents. In another
moment they swept out upon the plain beyond, and
were soon lost in the darkness of the night, while the
yelping of dogs, as they vainly pursued them, mingled
and gradually died away with the distant thunder of
their retreat.

This was a stampede, one of the most extraordinary
scenes that can be witnessed in the western wilderness.

"Lend a hand, Henri," shouted Joe, who was struggling
with a powerful horse. "Wot's comed over yer
brains, man? This brute'll git off if you don't look
sharp."

Dick and Henri both answered to the summons, and
they succeeded in throwing the struggling animal on its
side and holding it down until its excitement was somewhat
abated. Pee-eye-em had also been successful in
securing his favourite hunter: but nearly every other
horse belonging to the camp had broken loose and joined
the whirlwind gallop. But they gradually dropped out,
and before morning the most of them were secured by
their owners. As there were at least two thousand
horses and an equal number of dogs in the part of the
Indian camp which had been thus overrun by the wild
mustangs, the turmoil, as may be imagined, was prodigious!
Yet, strange to say, no accident of a serious
nature occurred beyond the loss of several chargers.

In the midst of this exciting scene there was one
heart which beat with a nervous vehemence that well-nigh
burst it. This was the heart of Dick Varley's
horse, Charlie. Well known to him was that distant
rumbling sound that floated on the night air into the
fur-traders' camp, where he was picketed close to
Cameron's tent. Many a time had he heard the approach
of such a wild troop, and often, in days not long
gone by, had his shrill neigh rung out as he joined and
led the panic-stricken band. He was first to hear the
sound, and by his restive actions to draw the attention
of the fur-traders to it. As a precautionary measure
they all sprang up and stood by their horses to soothe
them, but as a brook with a belt of bushes and quarter
of a mile of plain intervened between their camp and
the mustangs as they flew past, they had little or no
trouble in restraining them. Not so, however, with
Charlie. At the very moment that his master was congratulating
himself on the supposed security of his position,
he wrenched the halter from the hand of him who
held it, burst through the barrier of felled trees that
had been thrown round the camp, cleared the brook at
a bound, and with a wild hilarious neigh resumed his
old place in the ranks of the free-born mustangs of the
prairie.

Little did Dick think, when the flood of horses swept
past him, that his own good steed was there, rejoicing
in his recovered liberty. But Crusoe knew it. Ay,
the wind had borne down the information to his acute
nose before the living storm burst upon the camp; and
when Charlie rushed past, with the long tough halter
trailing at his heels, Crusoe sprang to his side, seized
the end of the halter with his teeth, and galloped off
along with him.

It was a long gallop and a tough one, but Crusoe held
on, for it was a settled principle in his mind never to
give in. At first the check upon Charlie's speed was
imperceptible, but by degrees the weight of the gigantic
dog began to tell, and after a time they fell a little to
the rear; then by good fortune the troop passed through
a mass of underwood, and the line getting entangled
brought their mad career forcibly to a close; the mustangs
passed on, and the two friends were left to keep
each other company in the dark.

How long they would have remained thus is uncertain,
for neither of them had sagacity enough to undo a
complicated entanglement. Fortunately, however, in his
energetic tugs at the line, Crusoe's sharp teeth partially
severed it, and a sudden start on the part of Charlie
caused it to part. Before he could escape, Crusoe again
seized the end of it, and led him slowly but steadily
back to the Indian camp, never halting or turning aside
until he had placed the line in Dick Varley's hand.

"Hallo, pup! where have ye bin? How did ye bring
him here?" exclaimed Dick, as he gazed in amazement
at his foam-covered horse.

Crusoe wagged his tail, as if to say, "Be thankful
that you've got him, Dick, my boy, and don't ask questions
that you know I can't answer."

"He must ha' broke loose and jined the stampede,"
remarked Joe, coming out of the chief's tent at the
moment; "but tie him up, Dick, and come in, for we
want to settle about startin' to-morrow or nixt day."

Having fastened Charlie to a stake, and ordered
Crusoe to watch him, Dick re-entered the tent where
the council had reassembled, and where Pee-eye-em--having,
in the recent struggle, split the blue surtout
completely up to the collar, so that his backbone was
visible throughout the greater part of its length--was
holding forth in eloquent strains on the subject of peace
in general and peace with the Blackfeet, the ancient
enemies of the Shirry-dikas, in particular.



CHAPTER XXIV.




Plans and prospects--Dick becomes home-sick, and Henri
metaphysical--Indians attack the camp--A blow-up.



On the following day the Indians gave themselves
up to unlimited feasting, in consequence of the
arrival of a large body of hunters with an immense
supply of buffalo meat. It was a regular day of rejoicing.
Upwards of six hundred buffaloes had been killed
and as the supply of meat before their arrival had been
ample, the camp was now overflowing with plenty.


Feasts were given by the chiefs, and the medicine men
went about the camp uttering loud cries, which were
meant to express gratitude to the Great Spirit for the
bountiful supply of food. They also carried a portion
of meat to the aged and infirm who were unable to hunt
for themselves, and had no young men in their family
circle to hunt for them.

This arrival of the hunters was a fortunate circumstance,
as it put the Indians in great good-humour, and
inclined them to hold friendly intercourse with the
trappers, who for some time continued to drive a brisk
trade in furs. Having no market for the disposal of
their furs, the Indians of course had more than they
knew what to do with, and were therefore glad to exchange
those of the most beautiful and valuable kind
for a mere trifle, so that the trappers laid aside their
traps for a time and devoted themselves to traffic.

Meanwhile Joe Blunt and his friends made preparations
for their return journey.

"Ye see," remarked Joe to Henri and Dick, as they
sat beside the fire in Pee-eye-em's lodge, and feasted on
a potful of grasshopper soup, which the great chief's
squaw had just placed before them--"ye see, my calc'lations
is as follows. Wot with trappin' beavers and
huntin', we three ha' made enough to set us up, an it
likes us, in the Mustang Valley--"

"Ha!" interrupted Dick, remitting for a few seconds
the use of his teeth in order to exercise his
tongue--ha! Joe, but it don't like me! What, give up a
hunter's life and become a farmer? I should think not!"

"Bon!" ejaculated Henri, but whether the remark
had reference to the grasshopper soup or the sentiment
we cannot tell.

"Well," continued Joe, commencing to devour a large
buffalo steak with a hunter's appetite, "ye'll please yourselves,
lads, as to that; but as I wos sayin', we've got a
powerful lot o' furs, an' a big pack o' odds and ends for
the Injuns we chance to meet with by the way, an'
powder and lead to last us a twelvemonth, besides five
good horses to carry us an' our packs over the plains;
so if it's agreeable to you, I mean to make a bee-line for
the Mustang Valley. We're pretty sure to meet with
Blackfeet on the way, and if we do we'll try to make
peace between them an' the Snakes. I 'xpect it'll be
pretty well on for six weeks afore we git to home, so
we'll start to-morrow."

"Dat is fat vill do ver' vell," said Henri; "vill you
please donnez me one petit morsel of steak."

"I'm ready for anything, Joe," cried Dick; "you are
leader. Just point the way, and I'll answer for two o'
us followin' ye--eh! won't we, Crusoe?"

"We will," remarked the dog quietly.

"How comes it," inquired Dick, "that these Indians
don't care for our tobacco?"

"They like their own better, I s'pose," answered Joe;
"most all the western Injuns do. They make it o' the
dried leaves o' the shumack and the inner bark o' the
red-willow, chopped very small an' mixed together.
They call this stuff kinnekinnik; but they like to mix
about a fourth o' our tobacco with it, so Pee-eye-em tells
me, an' he's a good judge. The amount that red-skinned
mortal smokes is oncommon."

"What are they doin' yonder?" inquired Dick, pointing
to a group of men who had been feasting for some
time past in front of a tent within sight of our trio.

"Goin' to sing, I think," replied Joe.

As he spoke six young warriors were seen to work
their bodies about in a very remarkable way, and give
utterance to still more remarkable sounds, which gradually
increased until the singers burst out into that
terrific yell, or war-whoop, for which American savages
have long been famous. Its effect would have been appalling
to unaccustomed ears. Then they allowed their
voices to die away in soft, plaintive tones, while their
action corresponded thereto. Suddenly the furious style
was revived, and the men wrought themselves into a
condition little short of madness, while their yells rang
wildly through the camp. This was too much for ordinary
canine nature to withstand, so all the dogs in the
neighbourhood joined in the horrible chorus.

Crusoe had long since learned to treat the eccentricities
of Indians and their curs with dignified contempt.
He paid no attention to this serenade, but lay sleeping
by the fire until Dick and his companions rose to take
leave of their host and return to the camp of the fur-traders.
The remainder of that night was spent in
making preparations for setting forth on the morrow;
and when, at gray dawn, Dick and Crusoe lay down
to snatch a few hours' repose, the yells and howling
in the Snake camp were going on as vigorously as
ever.

The sun had arisen, and his beams were just tipping
the summits of the Rocky Mountains, causing the snowy
peaks to glitter like flame, and the deep ravines and
gorges to look sombre and mysterious by contrast, when
Dick and Joe and Henri mounted their gallant steeds,
and, with Crusoe gambolling before, and the two pack-horses
trotting by their side, turned their faces eastward,
and bade adieu to the Indian camp.

Crusoe was in great spirits. He was perfectly well
aware that he and his companions were on their way
home, and testified his satisfaction by bursts of scampering
over the hills and valleys. Doubtless he thought of
Dick Varley's cottage, and of Dick's mild, kind-hearted
mother. Undoubtedly, too, he thought of his own
mother, Fan, and felt a glow of filial affection as he did
so. Of this we feel quite certain. He would have been
unworthy the title of hero if he hadn't. Perchance he
thought of Grumps, but of this we are not quite so sure.
We rather think, upon the whole, that he did.

Dick, too, let his thoughts run away in the direction
of home. Sweet word! Those who have never left it
cannot, by any effort of imagination, realize the full import
of the word "home." Dick was a bold hunter; but
he was young, and this was his first long expedition.
Oftentimes, when sleeping under the trees and gazing
dreamily up through the branches at the stars, had he
thought of home, until his longing heart began to yearn
to return. He repelled such tender feelings, however,
when they became too strong, deeming them unmanly,
and sought to turn his mind to the excitements of the
chase; but latterly his efforts were in vain. He became
thoroughly home-sick, and while admitting the fact to
himself, he endeavoured to conceal it from his comrades.
He thought that he was successful in this attempt. Poor
Dick Varley! as yet he was sadly ignorant of human
nature. Henri knew it, and Joe Blunt knew it. Even
Crusoe knew that something was wrong with his master,
although he could not exactly make out what it was.
But Crusoe made memoranda in the note-book of his
memory. He jotted down the peculiar phases of his
master's new disease with the care and minute exactness
of a physician, and, we doubt not, ultimately added the
knowledge of the symptoms of home-sickness to his
already well-filled stores of erudition.

It was not till they had set out on their homeward
journey that Dick Varley's spirits revived, and it was
not till they reached the beautiful prairies on the eastern
slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and galloped over the
greensward towards the Mustang Valley, that Dick
ventured to tell Joe Blunt what his feelings had been.

"D'ye know, Joe," he said confidentially, reining up
his gallant steed after a sharp gallop--"d'ye know I've
bin feelin' awful low for some time past."

"I know it, lad," answered Joe, with a quiet smile, in
which there was a dash of something that implied he
knew more than he chose to express.

Dick felt surprised, but he continued, "I wonder what
it could have bin. I never felt so before."

"'Twas home-sickness, boy," returned Joe.

"How d'ye know that?"

"The same way as how I know most things--by
experience an' obsarvation. I've bin home-sick myself
once, but it was long, long agone."

Dick felt much relieved at this candid confession by
such a bronzed veteran, and, the chords of sympathy
having been struck, he opened up his heart at once, to
the evident delight of Henri, who, among other curious
partialities, was extremely fond of listening to and taking
part in conversations that bordered on the metaphysical,
and were hard to be understood. Most conversations
that were not connected with eating and hunting were
of this nature to Henri.

"Hom'-sik," he cried, "veech mean bein' sik of hom'!
Hah! dat is fat I am always be, ven I goes hout on de
expedition. Oui, vraiment."

"I always packs up," continued Joe, paying no attention
to Henri's remark--"I always packs up an' sets
off for home when I gits home-sick. It's the best cure;
an' when hunters are young like you, Dick, it's the only cure. I've
knowed
fellers a'most die o' home-sickness,
an' I'm told they do go under altogether
sometimes."

"Go onder!" exclaimed Henri; "oui, I vas all but
die myself ven I fust try to git away from hom'. If I
have not git away, I not be here to-day."

Henri's idea of home-sickness was so totally opposed
to theirs that his comrades only laughed, and refrained
from attempting to set him right.

"The fust time I wos took bad with it wos in a
country somethin' like that," said Joe, pointing to the
wide stretch of undulating prairie, dotted with clusters
of trees and meandering streamlets, that lay before them.
"I had bin out about two months, an' was makin' a
good thing of it, for game wos plenty, when I began to
think somehow more than usual o' home. My mother
wos alive then."

Joe's voice sank to a deep, solemn tone as he said
this, and for a few minutes he rode on in silence.

"Well, it grew worse and worse. I dreamed o' home
all night an' thought of it all day, till I began to shoot
bad, an' my comrades wos gittin' tired o' me; so says I
to them one night, says I, 'I give out, lads; I'll make
tracks for the settlement to-morrow.' They tried to
laugh me out of it at first, but it was no go, so I packed
up, bid them good-day, an' sot off alone on a trip o' five
hundred miles. The very first mile o' the way back I
began to mend, and before two days I wos all right
again."

Joe was interrupted at this point by the sudden
appearance of a solitary horseman on the brow of an
eminence not half-a-mile distant. The three friends
instantly drove their pack-horses behind a clump of
trees; but not in time to escape the vigilant eye of the
Red-man, who uttered a loud shout, which brought up
a band of his comrades at full gallop.

"Remember, Henri," cried Joe Blunt, "our errand is
one of peace."

The caution was needed, for in the confusion of the
moment Henri was making preparation to sell his life
as dearly as possible. Before another word could be
uttered, they were surrounded by a troop of about
twenty yelling Blackfeet Indians. They were, fortunately,
not a war party, and, still more fortunately, they
were peaceably disposed, and listened to the preliminary
address of Joe Blunt with exemplary patience; after
which the two parties encamped on the spot, the council fire was
lighted,
and every preparation made for a long palaver.

We will not trouble the reader with the details of
what was said on this occasion. The party of Indians
was a small one, and no chief of any importance was
attached to it. Suffice it to say that the pacific overtures
made by Joe were well received, the trifling gifts
made thereafter were still better received, and they
separated with mutual expressions of good-will.

Several other bands which were afterwards met with
were equally friendly, and only one war party was seen.
Joe's quick eye observed it in time to enable them to
retire unseen behind the shelter of some trees, where
they remained until the Indian warriors were out of
sight.

The next party they met with, however, were more
difficult to manage, and, unfortunately, blood was shed
on both sides before our travellers escaped.

It was at the close of a beautiful day that a war
party of Blackfeet were seen riding along a ridge on the
horizon. It chanced that the prairie at this place was
almost destitute of trees or shrubs large enough to conceal
the horses. By dashing down the grassy wave
into the hollow between the two undulations, and dismounting,
Joe hoped to elude the savages, so he gave
the word; but at the same moment a shout from the
Indians told that they were discovered.

"Look sharp, lads! throw down the packs on the
highest point of the ridge," cried Joe, undoing the lashings,
seizing one of the bales of goods, and hurrying to
the top of the undulation with it; "we must keep them
at arm's-length, boys--be alive! War parties are not to
be trusted."

Dick and Henri seconded Joe's efforts so ably that
in the course of two minutes the horses were unloaded,
the packs piled in the form of a wall in front of a
broken piece of ground, the horses picketed close beside
them, and our three travellers peeping over the
edge, with their rifles cocked, while the savages--about
thirty in number--came sweeping down towards them.

"I'll try to git them to palaver," said Joe Blunt;
"but keep yer eye on 'em, Dick, an' if they behave ill,
shoot the horse o' the leadin' chief. I'll throw up my
left hand, as a signal. Mind, lad, don't hit human flesh
till my second signal is given, and see that Henri don't
draw till I git back to ye."

So saying, Joe sprang lightly over the slight parapet
of their little fortress, and ran swiftly out, unarmed,
towards the Indians. In a few seconds he was close
up with them, and in another moment was surrounded.
At first the savages brandished their spears and rode
round the solitary man, yelling like fiends, as if they
wished to intimidate him; but as Joe stood like a
statue, with his arms crossed, and a grave expression of
contempt on his countenance, they quickly desisted, and,
drawing near, asked him where he came from, and what
he was doing there.

Joe's story was soon told; but instead of replying,
they began to shout vociferously, and evidently meant
mischief.

"If the Blackfeet are afraid to speak to the Pale-face,
he will go back to his braves," said Joe, passing suddenly
between two of the warriors and taking a few
steps towards the camp.

Instantly every bow was bent, and it seemed as if
our bold hunter were about to be pierced by a score of
arrows, when he turned round and
cried,--"The Blackfeet must not advance a single step. The
first that moves his horse shall die. The second that
moves himself shall die."

To this the Blackfeet chief replied scornfully, "The
Pale-face talks with a big mouth. We do not believe
his words. The Snakes are liars; we will make no
peace with them."

While he was yet speaking, Joe threw up his hand;
there was a loud report, and the noble horse of the
savage chief lay struggling in death agony on the ground.

The use of the rifle, as we have before hinted, was
little known at this period among the Indians of the
far west, and many had never heard the dreaded report
before, although all were aware, from hearsay, of its
fatal power. The fall of the chief's horse, therefore,
quite paralyzed them for a few moments, and they had
not recovered from their surprise when a second report
was heard, a bullet whistled past, and a second horse
fell. At the same moment there was a loud explosion
in the camp of the Pale-faces, a white cloud enveloped
it, and from the midst of this a loud shriek was heard,
as Dick, Henri, and Crusoe bounded over the packs
with frantic gestures.

At this the gaping savages wheeled their steeds
round, the dismounted horsemen sprang on behind two
of their comrades, and the whole band dashed away
over the plains as if they were chased by evil spirits.

Meanwhile Joe hastened towards his comrades in a
state of great anxiety, for he knew at once that one of
the powder-horns must have been accidentally blown up.

"No damage done, boys, I hope?" he cried on coming
up.

"Damage!" cried Henri, holding his hands tight
over his face. "Oh! oui, great damage--moche damage;
me two eyes be blowed out of dere holes."

"Not quite so bad as that, I hope," said Dick, who
was very slightly singed, and forgot his own hurts in
anxiety about his comrade. "Let me see."

"My eye!" exclaimed Joe Blunt, while a broad grin
overspread his countenance, "ye've not improved yer
looks, Henri."

This was true. The worthy hunter's hair was singed
to such an extent that his entire countenance presented
the appearance of a universal frizzle. Fortunately the
skin, although much blackened, was quite uninjured--a
fact which, when he ascertained it beyond a doubt,
afforded so much satisfaction to Henri that he capered
about shouting with delight, as if some piece of good
fortune had befallen him.

The accident had happened in consequence of Henri
having omitted to replace the stopper of his powder-horn,
and when, in his anxiety for Joe, he fired at random
amongst the Indians, despite Dick's entreaties to
wait, a spark communicated with the powder-horn and
blew him up. Dick and Crusoe were only a little
singed, but the former was not disposed to quarrel with
an accident which had sent their enemies so promptly
to the right-about.

This band followed them for some nights, in the hope
of being able to steal their horses while they slept; but
they were not brave enough to venture a second time
within range of the death-dealing rifle.



CHAPTER XXV.




Dangers of the prairie--Our travellers attacked by Indians,
and delivered in a remarkable manner
.


There are periods in the life of almost all men
A when misfortunes seem to crowd upon them in
rapid succession, when they escape from one danger
only to encounter another, and when, to use a well-known
expression, they succeed in leaping out of the
frying-pan at the expense of plunging into the fire.

So was it with our three friends upon this occasion.
They were scarcely rid of the Blackfeet, who found them
too watchful to be caught napping, when, about daybreak
one morning, they encountered a roving band of
Camanchee Indians, who wore such a warlike aspect
that Joe deemed it prudent to avoid them if possible.

"They don't see us yit, I guess," said Joe, as he and
his companions drove the horses into a hollow between
the grassy waves of the prairie, "an' if we only can escape their
sharp
eyes till we're in yonder clump o' willows, we're safe enough."

"But why don't you ride up to them, Joe," inquired
Dick, "and make peace between them and the Pale-faces,
as you ha' done with other bands?"

"Because it's o' no use to risk our scalps for the
chance o' makin' peace wi' a rovin' war party. Keep
yer head down, Henri! If they git only a sight o' the
top o' yer cap, they'll be down on us like a breeze o'
wind."

"Ha! let dem come!" said Henri.

"They'll come without askin' yer leave," remarked
Joe, dryly.

Notwithstanding his defiant expression, Henri had
sufficient prudence to induce him to bend his head and
shoulders, and in a few minutes they reached the
shelter of the willows unseen by the savages. At least
so thought Henri, Joe was not quite sure about it, and
Dick hoped for the best.

In the course of half-an-hour the last of the Camanchees
was seen to hover for a second on the horizon,
like a speck of black against the sky, and then to disappear.

Immediately the three hunters vaulted on their steeds
and resumed their journey; but before that evening
closed they had sad evidence of the savage nature of
the band from which they had escaped. On passing
the brow of a slight eminence, Dick, who rode first,
observed that Crusoe stopped and snuffed the breeze in
an anxious, inquiring manner.

"What is't, pup?" said Dick, drawing up, for he
knew that his faithful dog never gave a false alarm.

Crusoe replied by a short, uncertain bark, and then
bounding forward, disappeared behind a little wooded
knoll. In another moment a long, dismal howl floated
over the plains. There was a mystery about the dog's
conduct which, coupled with his melancholy cry, struck
the travellers with a superstitious feeling of dread, as
they sat looking at each other in surprise.

"Come, let's clear it up," cried Joe Blunt, shaking
the reins of his steed, and galloping forward. A few
strides brought them to the other side of the knoll,
where, scattered upon the torn and bloody turf, they
discovered the scalped and mangled remains of about
twenty or thirty human beings. Their skulls had been
cleft by the tomahawk and their breasts pierced by the
scalping-knife, and from the position in which many of
them lay it was evident that they had been slain while
asleep.

Joe's brow flushed and his lips became tightly compressed
as he muttered between his set teeth, "Their
skins are white."

A short examination sufficed to show that the men
who had thus been barbarously murdered while they
slept had been a band of trappers or hunters, but what
their errand had been, or whence they came, they could
not discover.

Everything of value had been carried off, and all the
scalps had been taken. Most of the bodies, although
much mutilated, lay in a posture that led our hunters
to believe they had been killed while asleep; but one or
two were cut almost to pieces, and from the blood-bespattered
and trampled sward around, it seemed as if
they had struggled long and fiercely for life. Whether
or not any of the savages had been slain, it was impossible
to tell, for if such had been the case, their
comrades, doubtless, had carried away their bodies.

That they had been slaughtered by the party of Camanchees
who had been seen at daybreak was quite clear to
Joe; but his burning desire to revenge the death of the
white men had to be stifled, as his party was so small.

Long afterwards it was discovered that this was a
band of trappers who, like those mentioned at the beginning
of this volume, had set out to avenge the death
of a comrade; but God, who has retained the right of
vengeance in his own hand, saw fit to frustrate their
purpose, by giving them into the hands of the savages
whom they had set forth to slay.

As it was impossible to bury so many bodies, the
travellers resumed their journey, and left them to bleach
there in the wilderness; but they rode the whole of
that day almost without uttering a word.

Meanwhile the Camanchees, who had observed the
trio, and had ridden away at first for the purpose of
deceiving them into the belief that they had passed
unobserved, doubled on their track, and took a long
sweep in order to keep out of sight until they could
approach under the shelter of a belt of woodland
towards which the travellers now approached.

The Indians adopted this course instead of the easier
method of simply pursuing so weak a party, because
the plains at this part were bordered by a long stretch
of forest into which the hunters could have plunged,
and rendered pursuit more difficult, if not almost useless.
The detour thus taken was so extensive that the shades
of evening were beginning to descend before they could
put their plan into execution. The forest lay about a
mile to the right of our hunters, like some dark mainland, of which
the
prairie was the sea and the scattered
clumps of wood the islands.

"There's no lack o' game here," said Dick Varley,
pointing to a herd of buffaloes which rose at their
approach and fled away towards the wood.

"I think we'll ha' thunder soon," remarked Joe. "I
never feel it onnatteral hot like this without lookin' out
for a plump."

"Ha! den ve better look hout for one goot tree to
get b'low," suggested Henri. "Voilà!" he added, pointing
with his finger towards the plain; "dere am a lot
of wild hosses."

A troop of about thirty wild horses appeared, as he
spoke, on the brow of a ridge, and advanced slowly
towards them.

"Hist!" exclaimed Joe, reining up; "hold on, lads.
Wild horses! my rifle to a pop-gun there's wilder men
on t'other side o' them."

"What mean you, Joe?" inquired Dick, riding close
up.

"D'ye see the little lumps on the shoulder o' each
horse?" said Joe. "Them's Injun's feet; an' if we don't
want to lose our scalps we'd better make for the forest."

Joe proved himself to be in earnest by wheeling
round and making straight for the thick wood as fast as
his horse could run. The others followed, driving the
pack-horses before them.

The effect of this sudden movement on the so-called
"wild horses" was very remarkable, and to one unacquainted
with the habits of the Camanchee Indians
must have appeared almost supernatural. In the twinkling
of an eye every steed had a rider on its back, and
before the hunters had taken five strides in the direction
of the forest, the whole band were in hot pursuit,
yelling like furies.

The manner in which these Indians accomplish this
feat is very singular, and implies great activity and
strength of muscle on the part of the savages.

The Camanchees are low in stature, and usually are
rather corpulent. In their movements on foot they are
heavy and ungraceful, and they are, on the whole, a
slovenly and unattractive race of men. But the instant
they mount their horses they seem to be entirely
changed, and surprise the spectator with the ease and
elegance of their movements. Their great and distinctive
peculiarity as horsemen is the power they have
acquired of throwing themselves suddenly on either side
of their horse's body, and clinging on in such a way
that no part of them is visible from the other side
save the foot by which they cling. In this manner
they approach their enemies at full gallop, and, without
rising again to the saddle, discharge their arrows at
them over the horses' backs, or even under their
necks.

This apparently magical feat is accomplished by
means of a halter of horse-hair, which is passed round
under the neck of the horse and both ends braided into
the mane, on the withers, thus forming a loop which
hangs under the neck and against the breast. This
being caught by the hand, makes a sling, into which the
elbow falls, taking the weight of the body on the middle
of the upper arm. Into this loop the rider drops suddenly
and fearlessly, leaving his heel to hang over the
horse's back to steady him, and also to restore him to his
seat when desired.

By this stratagem the Indians had approached on the
present occasion almost within rifle range before they
were discovered, and it required the utmost speed of the
hunters' horses to enable them to avoid being overtaken.
One of the Indians, who was better mounted
than his fellows, gained on the fugitives so much that
he came within arrow range, but reserved his shaft until
they were close on the margin of the wood, when, being
almost alongside of Henri, he fitted an arrow to his
bow. Henri's eye was upon him, however. Letting go
the line of the pack-horse which he was leading, he
threw forward his rifle; but at the same moment the
savage disappeared behind his horse, and an arrow
whizzed past the hunter's ear.

Henri fired at the horse, which dropped instantly,
hurling the astonished Camanchee upon the ground, where
he lay for some time insensible. In a few seconds
pursued and pursuers entered the wood, where both had
to advance with caution, in order to avoid being swept
off by the overhanging branches of the trees.

Meanwhile the sultry heat of which Joe had formerly
spoken increased considerably, and a rumbling noise,
as if of distant thunder, was heard; but the flying
hunters paid no attention to it, for the led horses gave
them so much trouble, and retarded their flight so much,
that the Indians were gradually and visibly gaining on
them.

"We'll ha' to let the packs go," said Joe, somewhat
bitterly, as he looked over his shoulder. "Our scalps'll
pay for't, if we don't."

Henri uttered a peculiar and significant hiss between
his teeth, as he said, "P'r'aps ve better stop
and fight!"

Dick said nothing, being resolved to do exactly what
Joe Blunt bid him; and Crusoe, for reasons best known
to himself, also said nothing, but bounded along beside
his master's horse, casting an occasional glance upwards
to catch any signal that might be given.

They had passed over a considerable space of ground,
and were forcing their way at the imminent hazard of
their necks through a densely-clothed part of the wood,
when the sound above referred to increased, attracting
the attention of both parties. In a few seconds the
air was filled with a steady and continuous rumbling
sound, like the noise of a distant cataract. Pursuers
and fugitives drew rein instinctively, and came to a
dead stand; while the rumbling increased to a roar, and
evidently approached them rapidly, though as yet nothing
to cause it could be seen, except that there was a dense,
dark cloud overspreading the sky to the southward.
The air was oppressively still and hot.

"What can it be?" inquired Dick, looking at Joe, who
was gazing with an expression of wonder, not unmixed
with concern, at the southern sky.

"Dun'no', boy. I've bin more in the woods than in
the clearin' in my day, but I niver heerd the likes o'
that."


"It am like t'ondre," said Henri; "mais it nevair do
stop."


This was true. The sound was similar to continuous,
uninterrupted thunder. On it came with a magnificent
roar that shook the very earth, and revealed
itself at last in the shape of a mighty whirlwind. In
a moment the distant woods bent before it, and fell like
grass before the scythe. It was a whirling hurricane,
accompanied by a deluge of rain such as none of the
party had ever before witnessed. Steadily, fiercely,
irresistibly it bore down upon them, while the crash of
falling, snapping, and uprooting trees mingled with the
dire artillery of that sweeping storm like the musketry
on a battle-field.

"Follow me, lads!" shouted Joe, turning his horse
and dashing at full speed towards a rocky eminence
that offered shelter. But shelter was not needed. The
storm was clearly defined. Its limits were as distinctly
marked by its Creator as if it had been a living intelligence
sent forth to put a belt of desolation round
the world; and, although the edge of devastation was
not five hundred yards from the rock behind which the
hunters were stationed, only a few drops of ice-cold
rain fell upon them.

It passed directly between the Camanchee Indians
and their intended victims, placing between them a
barrier which it would have taken days to cut through.
The storm blew for an hour, then it travelled onward in
its might, and was lost in the distance. Whence it
came and whither it went none could tell, but far as
the eye could see on either hand an avenue a quarter
of a mile wide was cut through the forest. It had
levelled everything with the dust; the very grass was
beaten flat; the trees were torn, shivered, snapped
across, and crushed; and the earth itself in many
places was ploughed up and furrowed with deep scars.
The chaos was indescribable, and it is probable that
centuries will not quite obliterate the work of that
single hour.

While it lasted, Joe and his comrades remained
speechless and awe-stricken. When it passed, no Indians
were to be seen. So our hunters remounted their
steeds, and, with feelings of gratitude to God for having
delivered them alike from savage foes and from the destructive
power of the whirlwind, resumed their journey
towards the Mustang Valley.



CHAPTER XXVI.




Anxious fears followed by a joyful surprise--Safe home at last, and
happy hearts
.


One fine afternoon, a few weeks after the storm of
which we have given an account in the last
chapter, old Mrs. Varley was seated beside her own
chimney corner in the little cottage by the lake, gazing
at the glowing logs with the earnest expression of one
whose thoughts were far away. Her kind face was
paler than usual, and her hands rested idly on her knee,
grasping the knitting-wires to which was attached a half-finished
stocking.

On a stool near to her sat young Marston, the lad to
whom, on the day of the shooting-match, Dick Varley
had given his old rifle. The boy had an anxious look
about him, as he lifted his eyes from time to time to the
widow's face.

"Did ye say, my boy, that they were all killed?"
inquired Mrs. Varley, awaking from her reverie with
a deep sigh.

"Every one," replied Marston. "Jim Scraggs, who
brought the news, said they wos all lying dead with
their scalps off. They wos a party o' white men."

Mrs. Varley sighed again, and her face assumed an
expression of anxious pain as she thought of her son
Dick being exposed to a similar fate. Mrs. Varley was
not given to nervous fears, but as she listened to the
boy's recital of the slaughter of a party of white men,
news of which had just reached the valley, her heart
sank, and she prayed inwardly to Him who is the husband
of the widow that her dear one might be protected
from the ruthless hand of the savage.

After a short pause, during which young Marston
fidgeted about and looked concerned, as if he had something
to say which he would fain leave unsaid, Mrs.
Varley continued,--

"Was it far off where the bloody deed was done?"

"Yes; three weeks off, I believe. And Jim Scraggs
said that he found a knife that looked like the one wot
belonged to--to--" the lad hesitated.

"To whom, my boy? Why don't ye go on?"

"To your son Dick."

The widow's hands dropped by her side, and she
would have fallen had not Marston caught her.

"O mother dear, don't take on like that!" he cried,
smoothing down the widow's hair as her head rested on
his breast.

For some time Mrs. Varley suffered the boy to fondle
her in silence, while her breast laboured with anxious
dread.

"Tell me all," she said at last, recovering a little.
"Did Jim see--Dick?"

"No," answered the boy. "He looked at all the
bodies, but did not find his; so he sent me over here to
tell ye that p'r'aps he's escaped."

Mrs. Varley breathed more freely, and earnestly
thanked God; but her fears soon returned when she
thought of his being a prisoner, and recalled the tales
of terrible cruelty often related of the savages.

While she was still engaged in closely questioning
the lad, Jim Scraggs himself entered the cottage, and
endeavoured in a gruff sort of way to reassure the widow.

"Ye see, mistress," he said, "Dick is an oncommon
tough customer, an' if he could only git fifty yards' start,
there's not an Injun in the West as could git hold o' him
agin; so don't be takin' on."

"But what if he's been taken prisoner?" said the
widow.

"Ay, that's jest wot I've comed about. Ye see it's
not onlikely he's bin took; so about thirty o' the lads
o' the valley are ready jest now to start away and give
the red riptiles chase, an' I come to tell ye; so keep up
heart, mistress."

With this parting word of comfort, Jim withdrew,
and Marston soon followed, leaving the widow to weep
and pray in solitude.

Meanwhile an animated scene was going on near the
block-house. Here thirty of the young hunters of the
Mustang Valley were assembled, actively engaged in
supplying themselves with powder and lead, and tightening
their girths, preparatory to setting out in pursuit
of the Indians who had murdered the white men; while
hundreds of boys and girls, and not a few matrons,
crowded round and listened to the conversation, and to
the deep threats of vengeance that were uttered ever
and anon by the younger men.

Major Hope, too, was among them. The worthy
major, unable to restrain his roving propensities, determined
to revisit the Mustang Valley, and had arrived
only two days before.

Backwoodsmen's preparations are usually of the shortest
and simplest. In a few minutes the cavalcade was
ready, and away they went towards the prairies, with
the bold major at their head. But their journey was
destined to come to an abrupt and unexpected close.
A couple of hours' gallop brought them to the edge of
one of those open plains which sometimes break up the
woodland near the verge of the great prairies. It
stretched out like a green lake towards the horizon, on
which, just as the band of horsemen reached it, the sun
was descending in a blaze of glory.

With a shout of enthusiasm, several of the younger
members of the party sprang forward into the plain
at a gallop; but the shout was mingled with one of a
different tone from the older men.

"Hist!--hallo!--hold on, ye catamounts! There's
Injuns ahead!"

The whole band came to a sudden halt at this cry,
and watched eagerly, and for some time in silence, the
motions of a small party of horsemen who were seen in
the far distance, like black specks on the golden sky.

"They come this way, I think," said Major Hope,
after gazing steadfastly at them for some minutes.

Several of the old hands signified their assent to this
suggestion by a grunt, although to unaccustomed eyes
the objects in question looked more like crows than
horsemen, and their motion was for some time scarcely
perceptible.


"I sees pack-horses among them," cried young Marston
in an excited tone; "an' there's three riders; but
there's som'thin' else, only wot it be I can't tell."

"Ye've sharp eyes, younker," remarked one of the
men, "an' I do b'lieve ye're right."

Presently the horsemen approached, and soon there
was a brisk fire of guessing as to who they could be.
It was evident that the strangers observed the cavalcade
of white men, and regarded them as friends, for they
did not check the headlong speed at which they approached.
In a few minutes they were clearly made out
to be a party of three horsemen driving pack-horses
before them, and somethin' which some of the hunters
guessed was a buffalo calf.

Young Marston guessed too, but his guess was different.
Moreover, it was uttered with a yell that would
have done credit to the fiercest of all the savages.
"Crusoe!" he shouted, while at the same moment he
brought his whip heavily down on the flank of his little
horse, and sprang over the prairie like an arrow.

One of the approaching horsemen was far ahead of
his comrades, and seemed as if encircled with the flying
and voluminous mane of his magnificent horse.

"Ha! ho!" gasped Marston in a low tone to himself,
as he flew along. "Crusoe! I'd know ye, dog,
among a thousand! A buffalo calf! Ha! git on with
ye!"

This last part of the remark was addressed to his
horse, and was followed by a whack that increased the
pace considerably.

The space between two such riders was soon devoured.

"Hallo! Dick--Dick Varley!"

"Eh! why, Marston, my boy!"

The friends reined up so suddenly that one might
have fancied they had met like the knights of old in the
shock of mortal conflict.

"Is't yerself, Dick Varley?"

Dick held out his hand, and his eyes glistened, but he
could not find words.

Marston seized it, and pushing his horse close up,
vaulted nimbly off and alighted on Charlie's back behind
his friend.

"Off ye go, Dick! I'll take ye to yer mother."

Without reply, Dick shook the reins, and in another
minute was in the midst of the hunters.

To the numberless questions that were put to him he
only waited to shout aloud, "We're all safe! They'll
tell ye all about it," he added, pointing to his comrades,
who were now close at hand; and then, dashing onward,
made straight for home, with little Marston clinging to
his waist like a monkey.

Charlie was fresh, and so was Crusoe, so you may be
sure it was not long before they all drew up opposite
the door of the widow's cottage. Before Dick could
dismount, Marston had slipped off, and was already in
the kitchen.

"Here's Dick, mother!"

The boy was an orphan, and loved the widow so much
that he had come at last to call her mother.

Before another word could be uttered, Dick Varley
was in the room. Marston immediately stepped out and
softly shut the door. Reader, we shall not open it!

Having shut the door, as we have said, Marston ran
down to the edge of the lake and yelled with delight--usually
terminating each paroxysm with the Indian war-whoop,
with which he was well acquainted. Then he
danced, and then he sat down on a rock, and became
suddenly aware that there were other hearts there, close
beside him, as glad as his own. Another mother of the
Mustang Valley was rejoicing over a long-lost son.

Crusoe and his mother Fan were scampering round
each other in a manner that evinced powerfully the
strength of their mutual affection.

Talk of holding converse! Every hair on Crusoe's
body, every motion of his limbs, was eloquent with
silent language. He gazed into his mother's mild eyes
as if he would read her inmost soul (supposing that she
had one). He turned his head to every possible angle,
and cocked his ears to every conceivable elevation, and
rubbed his nose against Fan's, and barked softly, in
every imaginable degree of modulation, and varied these
proceedings by bounding away at full speed over the
rocks of the beach, and in among the bushes and out
again, but always circling round and round Fan, and
keeping her in view!

It was a sight worth seeing, and young Marston sat
down on a rock, deliberately and enthusiastically, to
gloat over it. But perhaps the most remarkable part
of it has not yet been referred to. There was yet
another heart there that was glad--exceeding glad that
day. It was a little one too, but it was big for the
body that held it. Grumps was there, and all that
Grumps did was to sit on his haunches and stare at Fan
and Crusoe, and wag his tail as well as he could in so
awkward a position! Grumps was evidently bewildered
with delight, and had lost nearly all power to express
it. Crusoe's conduct towards him, too, was not calculated
to clear his faculties. Every time he chanced to pass
near Grumps in his elephantine gambols, he gave him
a passing touch with his nose, which always knocked
him head over heels; whereat Grumps invariably got
up quickly and wagged his tail with additional energy.
Before the feelings of those canine friends were calmed,
they were all three ruffled into a state of comparative
exhaustion.

Then young Marston called Crusoe to him, and
Crusoe, obedient to the voice of friendship, went.

"Are you happy, my dog?"

"You're a stupid fellow to ask such a question; however
it's an amiable one. Yes, I am."

"What do you want, ye small bundle o' hair?"

This was addressed to Grumps, who came forward
innocently, and sat down to listen to the conversation.

On being thus sternly questioned the little dog put
down its ears flat, and hung its head, looking up at the
same time with a deprecatory look, as if to say, "Oh
dear, I beg pardon. I--I only want to sit near Crusoe,
please; but if you wish it, I'll go away, sad and lonely,
with my tail very much between my legs; indeed I will,
only say the word, but--but I'd rather stay if I might."

"Poor bundle!" said Marston, patting its head, "you
can stay then. Hooray! Crusoe, are you happy, I
say? Does your heart bound in you like a cannon ball
that wants to find its way out, and can't, eh?"
Crusoe put his snout against Marston's cheek, and in
the excess of his joy the lad threw his arms round the
dog's neck and hugged it vigorously--a piece of impulsive
affection which that noble animal bore with characteristic
meekness, and which Grumps regarded with idiotic
satisfaction.



CHAPTER XXVII.




Rejoicings--The feast at the block-house--Grumps and
Crusoe come out strong
--The closing scene.


The day of Dick's arrival with his companions was
a great day in the annals of the Mustang Valley,
and Major Hope resolved to celebrate it by an impromptu
festival at the old block-house; for many hearts in the
valley had been made glad that day, and he knew full
well that, under such circumstances, some safety-valve
must be devised for the escape of overflowing excitement.

A messenger was sent round to invite the population
to assemble without delay in front of the block-house.
With backwoods-like celerity the summons was obeyed;
men, women, and children hurried towards the central
point, wondering, yet more than half suspecting, what
was the major's object in calling them together.

They were not long in doubt. The first sight that
presented itself, as they came trooping up the slope in
front of the log-hut, was an ox roasting whole before
a gigantic bonfire. Tables were being extemporized on
the broad level plot in front of the gate. Other fires
there were, of smaller dimensions, on which sundry
steaming pots were placed, and various joints of wild
horse, bear, and venison roasted, and sent forth a savoury
odour as well as a pleasant hissing noise. The
inhabitants of the block-house were self-taught brewers,
and the result of their recent labours now stood displayed
in a row of goodly casks of beer--the only
beverage with which the dwellers in these far-off regions
were wont to regale themselves.

The whole scene, as the cooks moved actively about
upon the lawn, and children romped round the fires,
and settlers came flocking through the forests, might
have recalled the revelry of merry England in the olden
time, though the costumes of the far west were perhaps
somewhat different from those of old England.

No one of all the band assembled there on that day
of rejoicing required to ask what it was all about. Had
any one been in doubt for a moment, a glance at the
centre of the crowd assembled round the gate of the
western fortress would have quickly enlightened him.
For there stood Dick Varley, and his mild-looking mother,
and his loving dog Crusoe. There, too, stood Joe Blunt,
like a bronzed warrior returned from the fight, turning
from one to another as question poured in upon question
almost too rapidly to permit of a reply. There, too,
stood Henri, making enthusiastic speeches to whoever
chose to listen to him--now glaring at the crowd with
clenched fists and growling voice, as he told of how Joe
and he had been tied hand and foot, and lashed to poles,
and buried in leaves, and threatened with a slow death
by torture; at other times bursting into a hilarious laugh
as he held forth on the predicament of Mahtawa, when
that wily chief was treed by Crusoe in the prairie.
Young Marston was there, too, hanging about Dick,
whom he loved as a brother and regarded as a perfect
hero. Grumps, too, was there, and Fan. Do you
think, reader, that Grumps looked at any one but
Crusoe? If you do, you are mistaken. Grumps on
that day became a regular, an incorrigible, utter, and
perfect nuisance to everybody--not excepting himself,
poor beast! Grumps was a dog of one idea, and that
idea was Crusoe. Out of that great idea there grew one
little secondary idea, and that idea was that the only
joy on earth worth mentioning was to sit on his haunches,
exactly six inches from Crusoe's nose, and gaze steadfastly
into his face. Wherever Crusoe went Grumps went.
If Crusoe stopped, Grumps was down before him in an
instant. If Crusoe bounded away, which in the exuberance
of his spirits he often did, Grumps was after him
like a bundle of mad hair. He was in everybody's
way, in Crusoe's way, and being, so to speak, "beside
himself," was also in his own way. If people trod upon
him accidentally, which they often did, Grumps uttered
a solitary heart-rending yell proportioned in intensity
to the excruciating nature of the torture he endured,
then instantly resumed his position and his fascinated
stare. Crusoe generally held his head up, and gazed
over his little friend at what was going on around him;
but if for a moment he permitted his eye to rest on the
countenance of Grumps, that creature's tail became
suddenly imbued with an amount of wriggling vitality
that seemed to threaten its separation from the body.

It was really quite interesting to watch this unblushing,
and disinterested, and utterly reckless display of
affection on the part of Grumps, and the amiable way
in which Crusoe put up with it. We say put up with
it advisedly, because it must have been a very great
inconvenience to him, seeing that if he attempted to
move, his satellite moved in front of him, so that his
only way of escaping temporarily was by jumping over
Grumps's head.

Grumps was everywhere all day. Nobody, almost,
escaped trampling on part of him. He tumbled over
everything, into everything, and against everything.
He knocked himself, singed himself, and scalded himself,
and in fact forgot himself altogether; and when,
late that night, Crusoe went with Dick into his mother's
cottage, and the door was shut, Grumps stretched his
ruffled, battered, ill-used, and dishevelled little body
down on the door-step, thrust his nose against the
opening below the door, and lay in humble contentment
all night, for he knew that Crusoe was there.

Of course such an occasion could not pass without
a shooting-match. Rifles were brought out after the
feast was over, just before the sun went down into its
bed on the western prairies, and "the nail" was soon
surrounded by bullets, tipped by Joe Blunt and Jim
Scraggs, and of course driven home by Dick Varley,
whose "silver rifle" had now become in its owner's hand
a never-failing weapon. Races, too, were started, and
here again Dick stood pre-eminent; and when night
spread her dark mantle over the scene, the two best
fiddlers in the settlement were placed on empty beer-casks,
and some danced by the light of the monster fires,
while others listened to Joe Blunt as he recounted their
adventures on the prairies and among the Rocky Mountains.

There were sweethearts, and wives, and lovers at the
feast, but we question if any heart there was so full of
love, and admiration, and gratitude, as that of the
Widow Varley as she watched her son Dick throughout
that merry evening.

      *       *       *       *       *

Years rolled by, and the Mustang Valley prospered.
Missionaries went there, and a little church was built,
and to the blessings of a fertile land were added the
far greater blessings of Christian light and knowledge.
One sad blow fell on the Widow Varley's heart. Her
only brother, Daniel Hood, was murdered by the Indians.
Deeply and long she mourned, and it required all Dick's
efforts and those of the pastor of the settlement to
comfort her. But from the first the widow's heart was
sustained by the loving Hand that dealt the blow, and
when time blunted the keen edge of her feelings her
face became as sweet and mild, though not so lightsome,
as before.

Joe Blunt and Henri became leading men in the
councils of the Mustang Valley; but Dick Varley preferred
the woods, although, as long as his mother lived,
he hovered round her cottage--going off sometimes for
a day, sometimes for a week, but never longer. After
her head was laid in the dust, Dick took altogether to
the woods, with Crusoe and Charlie, the wild horse, as
his only companions, and his mother's Bible in the
breast of his hunting-shirt. And soon Dick, the bold
hunter, and his dog Crusoe became renowned in the
frontier settlements from the banks of the Yellowstone
River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Many a grizzly bear did the famous "silver rifle" lay
low, and many a wild, exciting chase and adventure did
Dick go through; but during his occasional visits to the
Mustang Valley he was wont to say to Joe Blunt and
Henri--with whom he always sojourned--that "nothin'
he ever felt or saw came up to his first grand dash over
the western prairies into the heart of the Rocky Mountains."
And in saying this, with enthusiasm in his eye
and voice, Dick invariably appealed to, and received a
ready affirmative glance from, his early companion and
his faithful loving friend, the dog Crusoe.


THE END.





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