In The Heart Of The Rockies
G. A. Henty
Part 4 out of 6
for lashing cross-poles across those that were to act as ridge-poles.
The bear's-skin was removed and additional poles placed at that spot,
and all working together the framework of the roof was completed by
nightfall. The Indians had returned soon after the party began their
work, and taking their horses down fetched up the deer they had killed.
In the morning the roof was completed, hides being stretched over the
framework and securely lashed to it with thongs. The whole of the trees
and brushwood were then chopped down close to the ground so as to leave
a level floor. The foliage was given to the horses, and the wood cut up
and piled for fuel. The chief reported that at the upper end of the
valley there was a thick pine-wood, which would give good shelter to the
horses. Near it were plenty of bushes, and a level tract which had been
a beaver meadow, and was thickly covered with grass, as he could see
where the wapiti had scratched away the snow to get at it. This was
excellent news, for the question of how the horses could be fed through
the winter had troubled them much more than that of their own
maintenance. The joints of venison were hung up on a pole outside what
they now called their hut, one or two hams being suspended from the
rafters over the fire, to be smoked.
"We shall have to rig up a b'ar-trap outside," Ben said, "or we shall be
having them here after the meat; and a b'ar's ham now and then will make
a change. Wapiti flesh ain't bad, but we should get dog-goned tired of
it arter a bit."
"You may bet we shall, Ben," Jerry agreed; "but I reckon that we shall
be able to get a lot of game through the winter. That valley down there
is just the place for them to shelter in, and I hope we shall get a
big-horn now and then. It will be a difficult thing to make a b'ar-trap
outside. A grizzly wants a pretty strong pen to keep him in, and though
the horses might drag up some big beams from below, there ain't no
fastening them in this rock."
"No; I don't think we can make that sort of trap," Harry said. "We must
contrive something else. We need not do all our work at once; we have
got plenty of time before us. We want three or four more skins to finish
"You mean to fill up the entrance?"
"Yes; we will sew them together, and make a curtain to hang from the
edge of the roof to the ground. I tell you it is going to be mighty cold
here, and besides, it will keep the snow from drifting in."
"I wish to goodness we could make a chimney," Tom said. "The smoke went
up through the leaves all right, but my eyes are watering now, and if
you fill up the end with skins it will be something awful."
"You will get accustomed to it, Tom; but, of course, we must make a hole
at the top when we fill up the entrance. What do you think is the next
thing to be done, chief?"
"Get wood," the chief said emphatically. "Must fill all the end of hut
"That will be a big job, chief, but there is no doubt we must lay in a
great store of it. Well, there is plenty of timber down in the valley,
and with ten horses we can bring up a tidy lot every day."
"Let us cut quick before snow comes again."
"We will begin to-morrow morning, chief. I agree with you, the sooner
Accordingly the next morning they went down to the valley. They had but
two axes, and Jerry and Sam Hicks, who had both done a good deal of
wood-cutting, undertook this portion of the work. The others took the
horses up to the beaver meadow, where they at once began scraping at the
snow, and were soon munching away at the rich grass.
"Why do you call it a beaver meadow, uncle? I don't see any beavers."
"They have gone long ago, perhaps a hundred years. As we know, this
valley is occupied by the Indians in summer, and they would soon clear
out the beavers. But it is called a beaver meadow because it was made by
them. They set to work and dammed up the stream, and gradually all this
flat became a lake. Well, in time, you know, leaves from the woods
above, and soil and dead wood and other things brought down by the
stream, gradually filled up the bottom. Then the beavers were killed,
and their dams went to ruin and the water drained off, and in a short
time grass began to grow. There are hundreds, ay, and thousands of
beaver meadows among the hills, and on the little streams that run into
the big rivers, and nowhere is the grass so rich. You will often see an
Indian village by one of these meadows. They grow their roots and plant
their corn there. The horses will do first-rate here through the winter
if the snow don't get too deep for them, and, anyhow, we can help them
out with a bucket of gruel occasionally."
"It will be awfully cold for them, though."
"It will be coldish, no doubt, but Indian ponies are accustomed to it."
"I should think, uncle, it would not take much trouble to make them a
sort of shed up among the trees there."
Sam laughed, and even the chief smiled.
"It would not be a bad plan, Tom," his uncle said; "not so much for the
sake of the warmth, though there is no doubt that the warmer they are
the less they can do with to eat, but if they have a place to go to they
are less likely to wander away, and we shall not have the trouble of
hunting for them. Well, we will think it over."
Following the valley up, they found that it extended some ten miles
farther, for the last two of which it was but a narrow canon a few yards
wide. They shot a black bear and four small deer, and returned carrying
the skins, the hind-quarters of the deer, and the bear's hams.
"We seem to have got meat enough for anything," Tom remonstrated when
they shot the deer.
"Seven men will get through a lot of meat, Tom, when they have nothing
else to go with it; and we may be weeks before we can put our heads out
of our hut. Besides, the skins will be useful. We shall want deer-skin
shirts, trousers, and socks and caps; and the skin of these deer is
softer and more pliable than that of the wapiti. I don't want to kill
more than I can help, lad, for I hate taking life without there is a
necessity for it, but we can do with a lot more skins before we are
When, driving the horses before them, they returned to the woodcutters,
they found they had cut down and chopped into logs a number of trees;
and Tom was quite astonished at the great pile of firewood that had been
got ready by them in the course of a day's work. The logs were made up
into bundles, each weighing about eighty pounds. These were tied
together with the horses' lariats, and then secured, one on each side of
the saddle, two of the horses carrying the meat. Harry took the bridle
of his horse and started up the path, the others following at once.
"That is a good day's work," Harry said as the logs were piled at the
inner end of the hut. "That is about half a ton of wood. If we have but
a week of open weather we shall have a good store in our cellar."
The work continued steadily for a week. The horses were each day taken
to feed at the meadow, the two wood-choppers continued their work, while
the rest of the party hunted. The Indians had on the second day gone
down the valley, and returned with the report that the Indian lodges had
all disappeared and that the valley was entirely deserted. Eight more
wapiti were killed during the week, and fourteen smaller deer. Of an
evening they occupied themselves in sewing the skins together with
thongs of leather, the holes being made with their knives; and a curtain
at the mouth of the hut was completed and hung. Four wide slabs of wood
had been cut. These had been bound together with thongs so as to form a
sort of chimney four feet high, and with a good deal of difficulty this
was secured by props in its position over a hole cut through the skins,
above the fire.
"The first avalanche will carry it away, Tom."
"Yes, uncle; but we have had one avalanche here, and it seems to me the
chances are strongly against our having another in exactly the same
The skins of the smaller deer were carefully scraped with knives on the
inner side, smeared with bears' fat, and then rubbed and kneaded until
they were perfectly soft.
The erection of Tom's shed for the horses did not take long. The whole
party, with the exception of the two Indians,--who, as usual, went
hunting,--proceeded to the pine-wood above the beaver meadow. After a
little search six trees were found conveniently situated with regard to
each other. The axemen cut down three young firs. One was lashed by the
others between the two central trees, to form a ridge-pole eight feet
from the ground; the others against the other trees, at a height of
three feet, to support the lower ends of the roof. They were but ten
feet apart, so that the roof might have a considerable pitch. Numbers of
other young trees were felled and fixed, six inches apart, from the
ridge down to the eaves. On these the branches of the young fir-trees
were thickly laid, and light poles were lashed lengthways over them to
keep them in their places.
As the poles of the roof had been cut long enough to extend down to the
ground, no side walls were necessary. The ends were formed of poles
lashed across to the side trees, but extending down only to within four
feet six of the ground, so as to allow the horses to pass under, and
were, like the roof, thickly covered with boughs. The lower ends were
left open for a width of four feet in the middle, uprights being driven
into the ground and the sides completed as before.
"What do you want a doorway at both ends for?" Tom asked. "It would have
been easier and quicker to have shut one end up altogether, and it would
be a good deal warmer."
"So it would, Tom; but if a grizzly were to appear at the door, what
would the horses do? They would be caught in a trap."
"Do you think they are likely to come, uncle?"
"The likeliest thing in the world, Tom. Horses can smell bear a good
distance off, and if they heard one either coming down or going up the
valley, they would bolt through the opposite door. They will do
first-rate here; they will stand pretty close together, and the warmth
of their bodies will heat the place up. They won't know themselves, they
will be so comfortable. It has only taken us a day's work to make the
shed; and though we laughed at your idea at first, I think now that the
day has been well spent in getting them up such a good shelter. Jerry
has got the big pail boiling over his fire, and we will put in a few
handfuls of the flour we brought down. Bring the horses in from the
meadow, and we will give them each a drink of gruel in the shed. They
will soon learn that it is to be their home."
For two more days the open weather continued, and the horses took up
three loads of wood each afternoon, as they had done the previous week.
Then, as there were signs of change, they were given a good feed at
their shed; the saddles were taken off and hung up on some cross-poles
over their heads.
The party had scarcely returned to the hut when the snow began to fall.
They were, however, weather-proof, and felt the immense additional
comfort of the changes they had made. Their stock of firewood was now a
very large one. At each journey the horses had brought up about fifteen
hundredweight; and as the work had gone on for nine days, they had, they
calculated, something like fourteen tons of firewood neatly stacked.
They had also a stock of poles in case the roof should require
strengthening. A certain amount of light found its way in at the edges
of the curtain across the entrance, but they depended principally upon
the fire-light. The smoke, however, was a serious grievance, and even
the men were forced occasionally to go outside into the open air to
allay the smarting of their eyes.
"Don't you think, uncle, we might do something to dry the wood?"
"I can't see that we can do more than we are doing, Tom. We always keep
a dozen logs lying round the fire to dry a bit before they are put on."
"I should think we might make a sort of stage about four feet above the
fire and keep some logs up there. We might pile them so that the hot air
and smoke could go up through them. They would dry a great deal faster
there than merely lying down on the ground."
"I think the idea is a very good one, Tom; but we shall have to make the
frame pretty strong, for if it happened to come down it might break some
of our legs."
The men all agreed that the idea was a capital one, and after some
consultation they set to to carry it out. Two strong poles were first
chosen. These were cut carefully to the right length, and were jambed
between the rocks at a height of seven feet above the floor and five
feet apart. They were driven in and wedged so tightly that they could
each bear the weight of two men swinging upon them without moving. Then
four upright poles were lashed to them, five feet apart, and these were
connected with cross-poles.
"That is strong enough for anything," Jerry said when the structure had
been so far completed. "If a horse were to run against one of the poles
he would hardly bring the thing down."
Four other short poles were now lashed to the uprights three feet below
the upper framework, and were crossed by others so as to form a
gridiron. On this, the logs were laid in tiers crossing each other,
sufficient space being left between them to allow for the passage of the
"That is a splendid contrivance," Harry said when they took their seats
on the buffalo robes round the fire and looked up admiringly at their
work. "The logs will get as dry as chips, and in future we sha'n't be
bothered with the smoke. Besides, it will do to stand the pail and pots
full of snow there, and keep a supply of water, without putting them
down into the fire and running the risk of an upset."
They had occupation now in manufacturing a suit of clothes a-piece from
the deer-skins. As the work required to be neater than that which
sufficed for the making of the curtain, pointed sticks hardened in the
fire were used for making the holes, and the thongs that served as
thread were cut as finely as possible; this being done by the Indians,
who turned them out no thicker than pack-thread.
There was no occasion for hurry, and there was much laughing and joking
over the work. Their hunting-shirts and breeches served as patterns from
which to cut out the skins; and as each strove to outvie the others, the
garments when completed were very fair specimens of work. The
hunting-shirts were made with hoods that, when pulled over the head,
covered the whole face except the eyes, nose, and mouth. As they had
plenty of skin, the hoods and shirts were made double, so that there was
hair both inside and out. They were made to come down half-way to the
knee, being kept close at the waists by their belts. The leggings were
made of single thickness only, as they would be worn over their
breeches; they were long and reached down below the ankle. The Indians
made fresh moccasins for the whole party; they were made higher than
usual, so as to come up over the bottom of the leggings. In addition
each was provided with long strips of hide, which were to be wound round
and round the leggings, from the knee to below the ankle, covering
tightly the tops of the moccasins, and so preventing the snow from
finding its way in there. Gloves were then manufactured, the fingers
being in one and the thumb only being free.
The work occupied them a fortnight, broken only by one day's spell of
fine weather, which they utilized by going down into the valley, taking
with them their kettles and pail, together with a few pounds of flour.
They found the horses out in the meadow, and these, as soon as they saw
them, came trotting to meet them with loud whinnies of pleasure. A fire
was lit near the shed, the snow melted, and an allowance of warm gruel
given to each horse. At Tom's suggestion a few fir-boughs were hung from
the bar over each entrance. These would swing aside as the horses
entered, and would keep out a good deal of wind. When at the end of a
fortnight the sky cleared, the chief said that he thought that there
would be but little more snow.
"If storm come, sure to bring snow, but not last long. Winter now set
in; soon snow harden. Now make snowshoes."
The hunters had all been accustomed to use these in winter. They had
found the last expedition through the deep snow a very toilsome one, and
they embraced the idea eagerly. Some of the poles were split into eight
feet lengths. These were wetted and hung over the fire, the process
being repeated until the wood was sufficiently softened to be bent into
the required shape. This was done by the chief. Two cross-pieces were
added, to stiffen them and keep them in the right shape when they dried;
and the wood was then trimmed up and scraped by the men. When it had
dried and hardened, the work of filling up the frame with a
closely-stretched network of leather was undertaken. This part of the
work occupied three or four days. The straps were attached to go across
the toe and round the heel, and they were then ready to set off.
The weather was now intensely cold, but as there was but little wind it
was not greatly felt; at the same time they were glad of their furs when
they ventured outside the hut. On the first day after their snow-shoes
were finished, the rest of the party started off to visit the horses,
Hunting Dog remaining behind to give Tom instructions in the use of the
snow-shoes, and to help him when he fell down.
Tom found it difficult work at first, the toe of the shoe frequently
catching in the snow, and pitching him head foremost into it, and he
would have had great difficulty in extricating himself, had not the
young Indian been at hand. Before the day was over, however, he could
get on fairly well; and after two or three more days' practice had made
such progress that he was considered capable of accompanying the rest.
The wood-drying apparatus had succeeded excellently. The wood was now
dried so thoroughly before being put on to the fire that there was no
annoyance from the smoke inside the hut, and scarce any could be
perceived coming from the chimney. Upon Harry's remarking upon this with
satisfaction the first time they went out after using the dry wood, Tom
"What does it matter? There are no Indians in the valley."
"That is so, Tom; but as soon as the weather sets in clear, the
red-skins will be hunting again. Winter is their best time for laying in
their stock of pelts for trading. At other times the game is all high up
in the mountains, and it is very difficult to get within range of it. In
the winter the animals come down to the shelter of the forests and
valleys, and they can be shot in numbers; especially as the Indians in
their snow-shoes can get along almost as quickly as the wapiti can
plough through the snow. At present the red-skins think that we must
have been overtaken by that first storm and have all gone under; but as
soon as they begin to venture out of their lodges to hunt, a column of
smoke here would be sure to catch their eyes, and then we should be
having them up the valley to a certainty. The first thing they would do
would be to find our horses and drive them off, and the next thing would
be to set themselves to work to catch us."
"But we could hold the path against them, uncle."
"Yes; but we should have to keep watch every day, which would be a
serious trouble. Besides, there must be other places they could get up.
No doubt their regular trail comes up here, because it is the
straightest way to the pass, and possibly there may be no other point at
which loaded animals could mount anywhere about here. But there must be
plenty of places where Indians could climb, and even if it took them a
detour of fifty miles they would manage it. As long as there is no smoke
we may hope they will not discover us here, though any hunting party
might come upon the horses. That is what has bothered me all along; but
the chief and I have talked it over a dozen times, and can see no way of
avoiding the risk.
"We can't keep the horses up here because we can't feed them; and even
if we were to bring ourselves to leave this comfortable place and to
build a hut down in the valley, we might be surprised and rubbed out by
the red-skins. Of course we might bring them up here every night and
take them down again in the morning, but it would be a troublesome
business. We have agreed that we won't do much more shooting down in the
valley, and that in coming and going to the horses we will keep along
close to the foot of the cliffs this side, so that if two or three
Indians do come up they won't see any tracks on the snow, unless they
happen to come close up to the cliff. Of course if they go up as far as
the beaver flat they will light upon the horses. There is no help for
that; but the chief and I agreed last night that in future two of us
shall always stay up here, and shall take it by turns to keep watch. It
won't be necessary to stand outside. If the curtain is pulled aside
three or four inches one can see right down the valley, and any Indians
coming up could be made out. If the party is a strong one a gun would be
fired as a signal to those away hunting, and some damp wood thrown on
the fire. They might possibly push on up the valley to have a look at
the place, but the two up here with their rifles would soon stop them.
After that, of course, the horses would have to be brought up here at
night, and a watch kept by night as well as by day."
Two or three mornings later they found on going out that two joints of
venison had been carried off, and footprints in the snow showed that it
had been done by a grizzly bear. This turned their attention again to
the construction of a trap, which had not been thought of since the day
it was first mentioned. A young tree of four or five inches in diameter
was cut below and brought up. The butt was cut in the shape of a wedge,
and this was driven strongly into a fissure in the rock. A rope with a
running noose had been fastened to the tree, and this was bent down by
the united strength of four men, and fixed to a catch fastened in the
ground, the noose being kept open by two sticks placed across it.
A foot beyond the noose a joint of venison was hung, the rope passing
over a pole and then down to the catch, so that upon the joint being
pulled the catch would be loosened, when the tree would fly up and the
noose catch anything that might be through it.
A week later they were disturbed by an outburst of violent growling.
Seizing their rifles they rushed out. A huge bear was caught by one of
his paws. The animal's weight was too great for it to be lifted from the
ground, but it was standing upright with its paw above its head, making
furious efforts to free itself. A volley of bullets at once put an end
to its life. The tree was bent down again and the noose loosed, and they
at once returned to their rugs, leaving the bear where it fell. Four
times during the winter did they thus capture intruders, providing
themselves with an ample supply of bear's flesh, while the skins would
sell well down at the settlements.
Otherwise sport was not very good. No more wapiti came up, but black and
white tail deer were occasionally shot, and five or six big-horn sheep
also fell to their rifles. One day on approaching the beaver meadow the
chief pointed to some deep footprints. No explanation was needed. All
knew that they were made by a big grizzly, and that the animal was going
up the valley. No horses were in view on the flat, and grasping their
rifles they hurried towards the wood. Just as they reached it the horses
came galloping to meet them, whinnying and snorting.
"They have been scared by the critter," Jerry said. "Do you see their
coats are staring. Gosh, look at this pack-pony--the bear has had his
paw on him!"
The animal's hind-quarters were indeed badly torn.
"I wonder how it got away," Harry said. "When a grizzly once gets hold,
it don't often leave go."
"There is something in front of the hut," Tom exclaimed.
"It's the grizzly, sure enough," Harry said. "It is a rum place for it
to go to sleep."
They advanced, holding their rifles in readiness to fire, when Leaping
"What can have killed him?" Harry asked doubtfully.
"Horses kill him," the chief replied. They hurried up to the spot. The
bear was indeed dead, and there were signs of a desperate struggle.
There was blood on the snow from a point near the door of the hut to
where the animal was lying ten yards away. Round it the snow was all
trampled deeply. The bear's head was battered out of all shape; its jaw
was broken, and one of its eyes driven out. The Indians examined the
"Well, what do you make of it, chief?" Harry asked.
"Bear walk round hut, come in other end. Horses not able to get out in
time. Pack-horse last, bear catch him by hind-quarters. Horse drag him a
little way and then fall. Then other horses come back, form ring round
bear and kick him. Look at prints of fore-feet deep in snow. That is
where they kick; they break bear's jaw, break his ribs, keep on kick
till he dead."
"I suppose that is how it came about, chief. I should not have thought
they would have done it."
The Seneca nodded. "When wild horses with young foals attacked by bear
or mountain-lion, they form circle with colts in the middle, stand heads
in and kick. Bears and mountain-lion afraid to attack them."
"Waal, I should hardly have believed if I had not seen it," Sam Hicks
said, "that horses would come back to attack a grizzly."
"Not come back," the chief said, "if not for friend. Friend cry out
loud, then horses come back, fight bear and kill him."
"Well, it was mighty plucky of them," Harry said. "I am afraid this pony
won't get over it; he is terribly torn."
The chief examined the horse's wounds again. "Get over it," he said.
"Cold stop wounds bleeding, get some fat and put in."
"I reckon you will find plenty inside the grizzly," Jerry said. The
chief shook his head.
"Bear's fat bad; other horses smell him, perhaps keep away from him,
perhaps kick him. Leaping Horse will bring fat from the big-horn he shot
The animal lay where it had fallen, a mile up the valley. They went up
and tied the great sheep's feet together, and putting a pole through
them brought it down to the hut. Partly skinning it, they obtained some
fat and melted this in a kettle over the fire. Sam Hicks had remained
behind at the fire, the horses all standing near him, excited at the
prospect of their usual meal. As soon as the fat was melted it was
poured into the horse's wounds. The mess of gruel was then prepared and
given to the animals. The bear was skinned and the hams cut off, then by
a united effort it was dragged some distance from the hut, and the
carcass of the big-horn, the bear's flesh and hide, were afterwards
carried up to the hut.
Early in February the cold reached its extreme point, and in spite of
keeping up a good fire they had long before this been compelled to build
up the entrance with a wall of firewood, the interstices being stuffed
with moss; the hut was lighted by lamps of bear and deer fat melted down
and poured into tin drinking-cups, the wicks being composed of strips of
birch bark. A watch was regularly kept all day, two always remaining in
the hut, one keeping watch through a small slip cut in the curtain
before the narrow orifice in the log wall, that served as a door, the
other looking after the fire, keeping up a good supply of melted snow,
and preparing dinner ready for the return of the hunters at sunset. Of
an evening they told stories, and their stock of yarns of their own
adventures and of those they had heard from others, seemed to Tom
Hunting Dog had made rapid advances with his English, and he and Tom had
become great friends, always hunting together, or when their turn came,
remaining together on guard. The cold was now so intense that the
hunting party was seldom out for more than two or three hours. Regularly
twice a week the horses were given their ration of hot gruel, and
although they had fallen away greatly in flesh they maintained their
health, and were capable of work if called upon to do it. It was one day
in the middle of February, that Hunting Dog, who was standing at the
Tom sprang up from the side of the fire, and running to the entrance
pulled aside the curtain and looked out. Six Indians on snow-shoes were
coming up the valley. He ran out on to the platform and fired his ride.
As the sound of the report reached the Indians' ears they stopped
"Shall I throw some green wood on the fire, Hunting Dog?"
"No need," the Indian replied. "The others only gone an hour, not
farther than horses' hut; hear gun plain enough. Perhaps 'Rappahoes go
The Indians remained for some time in consultation.
"Not know where gun fired," Hunting Dog said. "Soon see hut, then know."
After a time the red-skins continued their way up the valley, but
instead of coming on carelessly in the centre they separated, and going
to the other side crept along among the fallen boulders there, where
they would have escaped observation had it not been for their figures
showing against the white snow.
"Must fire now," the young Indian said, "then Leaping Horse know
'Rappahoes coming up."
They went out on to the platform and opened fire. They knew that their
chance of hitting one of the Indians was small indeed; the other side of
the valley was a quarter of a mile away, and the height at which they
were standing rendered it difficult to judge the elevation necessary for
their rifles. However, they fired as fast as they could load.
The Indians made no reply, for their guns would not carry anything like
the distance. They occasionally gathered when they came upon a boulder
of rock sufficiently large to give shelter to them all, and then moved
on again one at a time. When opposite the lower end of the pathway they
again held a consultation.
"No go further," Hunting Dog said. "Afraid we come down path and stop
them. See, Leaping Horse among rocks."
It was some time before Tom could detect the Indian, so stealthily did
he move from rock to rock.
"Where are the others?"
"No see, somewhere in bushes. Leaping Horse go on to scout; not know how
Presently they saw the chief raise his head behind a rock within a
hundred yards of that behind which the 'Rappahoes were sheltering.
"He see them now," Hunting Dog said. "See, he going to fire." There was
a puff of smoke and a sharp report, and almost simultaneously rose an
Indian yell, and the war-cry of the Seneca. Then five Indians leapt out
from behind the rock and made down the valley at full speed, while from
a clump of trees two hundred yards above the spot from which the chief
had fired the four white men hurried out rifle in hand. The chief waited
until they joined him, for the bend in the valley prevented him from
seeing that the 'Rappahoes were making straight down it, and it would
have been imprudent to have ventured out until his white allies came up.
"They have gone right down," Tom shouted at the top of his voice. Harry
waved his arm to show that he heard the words, and then the five men ran
to the corner. The Indians were already a quarter of a mile away, and
were just entering the wood below. The whites were about to fire, when
the chief stopped them. "No use fire," he said. "Stand back behind
rocks; no good let 'Rappahoes count our rifles."
"That is true enough, chief," Harry said, as they all sprang among the
rocks. "All they know at present is, that there are two up on the top
there and one down here. If we were sure that we could wipe them all out
it would be worth following and making a running fight of it, but there
would be no chance of that, and it is better to let them go without
learning more about us. Well, I should say the first thing is to get up
The chief nodded.
"Get up," he said, "but no fear 'Rappahoes come back to-night. Many
hours' journey down to villages, then great council. Next night scouts
come up valley, look all about for sign, and then go back and tell
"I dare say you are right, chief. Anyhow, I shall feel a great deal more
comfortable when we have got the critters up."
It was late in the afternoon before they reached the hut. Some hours
were spent in collecting tufts of grass in places sheltered from the
snow, and in cutting off great bundles of young fir-branches and the
heads of evergreen bushes, and the horses arrived almost hidden under
the load of grass and foliage they carried. Little was said until some
hot tea had been drunk and the bear steaks in readiness were disposed
of, for although they had worked hard and kept themselves comparatively
warm down in the valley, they had as they moved slowly up the path with
the horses become chilled to the bone.
"Now then, chief," Harry said, when they had lighted their pipes with
the mixture of tobacco and willow bark that they had taken to, as soon
as they found that they were likely to be imprisoned all the winter, "we
must hold a council. We have been longer than I expected without
disturbance by these varmint, but it has come now, and the question is
what are we to do? We have agreed all along that there is no getting
over the pass till the spring comes."
"Too cold," the chief said, "deep drift snow. Indians all say no can
pass over hills in winter."
"That air a fact," Jerry said. "Down in the valley there it is all
right, but up here the cold pretty near takes one's breath away. We
ain't sure about the way. We couldn't get over the pass in one day's
tramp, and we should be all stiff before morning. There would be no
taking the horses, and there is a hundred miles to be done over the snow
before we reach the fort. It ain't to be thought of. I would a sight
rather go down the valley and fight the hull tribe."
"I agree with you, Jerry. We might, with luck, get down the valley, but
I don't think there is a possibility of our crossing the pass till the
"No can go down valley," Leaping Horse said; "they find trail on snow,
"That is so, chief, and in that case it is evident that we have got to
fight it out here."
"Good place to stop," the Seneca said; "no good place to fight."
This was self-evident. An enemy on the rock above would be able to fire
down through the roof, without their having a chance of making an
"The only way I can see," Harry said after a long pause, "is to build a
sort of fort up above. If we put it just at the top of this pathway, we
should have them whether they came up by the trail from below or climbed
up anywhere else and came along above. It need not be a very big place,
only just big enough for us all to fire over. We might make a sort of
shelter in it with a fire, and keep guard there by turns." The chief
nodded, and there was a general exclamation of assent from the others.
"The worst of it is," Jerry said, "the ground is so 'tarnal hard that
there will be no driving posts into it. We have cut down all the trees
near the bottom of the pass, and it would be a risky thing to go up
higher, when we might have the red-skins come whooping up the valley at
"Why not make a snow fort?" Tom suggested. "There is four feet of snow
up there, and with the shovels we could make a wall ten feet high in a
very short time."
"So we might, Tom; that is a capital idea. The difficulty is, the snow
does not bind in this bitter cold as it does in England."
"If it was hammered down it would, I should think, uncle. You know the
Esquimaux make snow houses, and it is as cold there as it is here. The
snow at the top is light enough, but I should think as it gets down it
would be hard enough to cut out in blocks. We have plenty of water, and
if we pour it over each layer of blocks it would freeze into solid ice
directly. When we finish it we might pour more water down over the
outside, and it would make a regular wall of ice that no one could climb
"Hooray! Bully for you, Tom!" Jerry shouted, while similar exclamations
of approval broke from all the others, while the chief said gravely, "My
young brother has the head of a man; he is able to teach warriors."
"You shall be engineer-in-chief, Tom," Harry said. "It is certain we may
sleep quietly to-night; at daybreak to-morrow we will begin the job."
The first thing in the morning a semicircular line was traced out at the
top of their pathway. It was thirty feet across, for, as Tom said, the
walls ought to be at least four feet thick; and six feet would be
better, as they would want a parapet at least two feet thick to fire
over. It was agreed that the whites should use the two shovels by turns.
The Indians were unaccustomed to the work, and were to undertake that of
scouting along the hillside, and of watching by turns at night. The
frying-pan was brought into requisition, a wooden handle being made for
it. The hard upper crust was removed with the shovels, and the layer
beneath this was sufficiently soft for the instrument to be used as a
shovel. Below that it hardened, and could be cut out in great blocks.
The loose snow was thrown inside of the line traced out.
As fast as the blocks were cut out they were carried and piled regularly
to form the face. Tom's share of the work was to keep on melting snow,
and to bring it up and pour between and over the blocks. As fast as a
line of these were made the loose snow was thrown in behind it and
trampled down hard. Except for meals there was no rest. The chief said
that as there was little chance of the 'Rappahoes coming up so soon,
Hunting Dog had better stay behind and help, and he lent his aid in
carrying the blocks of snow on a rough stretcher they made for the
purpose. By the time it became dark the wall had risen to a height of
three feet above the general level of the snow, and was already
sufficient to form an excellent breastwork.
At the end farthest from the side from which the Indians were likely to
come, a gap was left between it and the edge of the ravine three feet
wide, in order that if necessary the horses could pass out. When it
became dark the chief returned. He had gone many miles along towards the
main valley, but had seen no sign of any Indians. After supper was over
he took one of the wapiti skins and his buffalo robe, went up to the
"fort," as they had already called it, and laid the deer-skin down on
the slope of snow behind the wall, wrapped the buffalo robe round him,
and lay down upon it. Hunting Dog then threw another robe over him,
projecting a foot beyond his head, so that he could from time to time
raise it and look out over the snow. The night was a dark one, but any
object moving across the unbroken white surface could be seen at a
"I feel sure I should go to sleep," Tom said, "if I were to lie down
"I have no doubt you would, Tom, but there is no fear with the chief. An
Indian never sleeps on the watch, or if he does sleep, it is like a dog:
he seems to hear as well as if he were awake, and every minute or two
his eyes open and he takes a look round. I would rather have an Indian
sentry than half a dozen white ones, unless it is in the open, where
there is no tree to lean against, and a man must keep moving."
Hunting Dog threw himself down as soon as he returned to the hut, and
was almost instantly asleep. Three hours later he rose and went out, and
Leaping Horse a minute or two later returned.
"All quiet," he said; and then after smoking for a short time also lay
THE SNOW FORT
The hut was quiet at an unusually early hour, for the men had done a
very hard day's work, and felt the strain after the long weeks of
inactivity. At daybreak they were up and about, but could remain out but
a few minutes, for the cold was so intense that they felt unable to face
it until they had taken some hot tea and eaten something. Half an hour
sufficed for this early breakfast. Hunting Dog was again left behind by
the chief when he started.
"Two eyes enough," the latter said. "Hunting Dog more use here."
The wall of blocks was raised three more feet during the day, as it was
agreed to devote all their efforts to this, and to defer the work of
thickening it until the next day, for the snow had now been cleared so
far from its foot that it could no longer be thrown inside. Though but
six feet above the snow level, it was at least three feet more above the
level of the rock, and its face was a solid sheet of ice, Tom having,
during the two days, made innumerable journeys backwards and forwards
"Another couple of feet and it will be high enough for anything," Harry
said. "I don't believe that the Indians will venture to attack us, but
it is just as well to have it so high that they can't help each other up
to the top. If they knew how strong it is, I am sure they would not
attack, and would leave us alone altogether, but if a hundred of them
creep up in the dark and make a rush, they will do their best to try to
climb it. Anyhow we sha'n't need to make the bank behind very high. If
it goes to within four feet and a half of the top, so that we can stand
and fire over the wall, that is all that is wanted."
Leaping Horse returned at dusk as before. He uttered a warm approval of
the work when he had examined it.
"Good fort," he said, "better than palisades. Indian no climb over it.
No opening to fire through, good as wall of town house."
"I think they will be puzzled when they get here, chief."
"Must watch well to-night," the chief said. "Indian scout sure to come.
Two men keep on watch; two better than one."
"That is so, chief; we will change every hour. But it will be mighty
cold. I don't see why we shouldn't rig up a shelter against the wall,
and have a bit of a fire there. Then the two on watch can take it by
turns every few minutes to come in and get a warm."
With poles and skins a lean-to was speedily constructed against the
wall. The snow was hammered down, and a hearth made of half a dozen logs
packed closely together. Some brands were brought up from the fire in
the hut, and the skins across the end of the lean-to dropped, so that
the air within could get warm while they were at supper.
"Hunting Dog and Tom shall take the first watch," Harry said; "Sam and I
will take the next, Jerry and Ben the third, then you, chief, can take
"Leaping Horse watch by himself," the Seneca said; "his eyes will be
"Very well, chief. I know you are as good as any two of us, so that will
give us each one hour out and three hours in bed."
Wrapping buffalo robes round them, Tom and the young Indian went up to
the fort. Tom drew aside one of the skins and looked into the shelter.
The hearth was in a glow, and two logs lying on it were burning well.
The night was very still, except for the occasional rumble of some
distant snow-slide. For a few minutes they stood looking over the wall,
but keeping far back, so that only their heads were above its level.
"Tom go in by the fire," the Indian said. "All white, no need for four
"Very well, I will go in first; but mind, you have got to go in
afterwards. I sha'n't go in if you don't."
After waiting for a few minutes in the shelter Tom went out again, and
Hunting Dog took his place. It was his first war-path, and nothing would
have persuaded him to retire from the watch had he not felt sure that
even white men's eyes could not fail to detect any dark object moving on
the surface of the snow. But although all white the surface was not
level; here and there were sudden elevations marking rises in the rock
beneath. Still it seemed impossible to Tom that anyone could approach
In spite of the protection of the buffalo robe it was intensely cold
outside, and he was glad each time when his turn came for a warm by the
fire. The changes, too, made the time pass quickly, and he was quite
surprised when his uncle and Sam came out to relieve them. The other two
men and the chief were still smoking by the fire. There was tea in the
kettle, and they evidently did not mean to lie down until after their
first watch. Every few minutes the chief got up and went out to the
platform, and stood listening there intently for a short time. Just
before it was time to change the guard again he said when he returned:
"Indian down in valley."
"Have you heard them, chief?"
"Leaping Horse heard a dead stick crack."
"That might have been a deer," Ben suggested.
The chief shook his head. "'Rappahoe; heard gun strike tree."
"Then I reckon they will be up in our watch," Ben said. "Well, we shall
be ready for them."
"Perhaps come, perhaps not come; perhaps scout up valley first see if
some of us there, and look for horses. Perhaps some come up path; but
crawl up slow, not know whether look-out there."
"Well, I don't envy them if they have got much crawling to do to-night;
it is cold enough to freeze one's breath."
"'Rappahoe not like cold," the chief said, "but wants scalp bad; that
makes his blood warm."
"I will let some of it out," Jerry said wrathfully, "if I get a chance
to lay a bead on one of them. Don't you be afeard, chief; we will look
out sharp enough, you bet. Waal, I reckon it is about our time to turn
"Jerry tells me that you have heard noises below, chief," Harry said
when he came in. "We heard nothing, but it ain't easy to hear well with
these hoods over one's head."
"Hoods bad for hear," the chief assented. "Leaping Horse heard plain,
Indians down below."
"Well, it is only what we expected, chief. Anyhow, we are ready for them
when they come."
Tom lay down now, and knew nothing more till Hunting Dog touched him.
"Time to go and watch," he said.
"Has everything been quiet?"
The Indian nodded. "No come yet."
Leaping Horse remained at his post after they came out to relieve him.
Tom made no comment. Harry had impressed upon him the necessity for
"If they hear voices they will never come near us," he had said, "and we
would rather they came than stopped away. The sooner we get this job
over the better."
The chief stood with his head slightly bent forward and the hood of his
hunting-shirt thrown back, listening attentively. Then he touched
Hunting Dog, and stooping low down whispered something in his ear, and
then both stood again listening. Tom, too, threw back his hood, but he
could hear nothing whatever, and was soon glad to pull it forward over
his ears again. He strained his eyes in the direction towards which they
were listening, which was apparently towards the edge of the ravine
where the Indian trail came up from below. All seemed to him to be white
Presently the chief's rifle went up to his shoulder; there was a sharp
crack, a dark figure leapt up from the snow fifty yards away and then
fell headlong down again. It seemed to Tom almost magical. His eyes had
been fixed in that direction for the last five minutes, and he could
have sworn that the surface of the snow was unbroken. A minute later the
other four men came running up.
"What is it, chief?" Harry whispered.
Leaping Horse pointed to the dark figure stretched out on the snow.
"So you have got the varmint. Good! Do you think there are any more of
"More there sure," the chief said, pointing to the path up from below.
"Perhaps more there," and he pointed to a broad black line from the foot
of the cliffs to the edge of the ravine, where, three days before, an
avalanche from the hills above had swept the rock clear of snow.
"They must have made sure that we were all asleep, or that fellow would
never have shown himself on the snow," Harry said.
"He did not show himself, uncle. How he got there I don't know; but I
was looking at the spot when the chief fired, and I saw no signs of him
whatever. How he hid himself I don't know. If it had been anywhere else
I should have said he must have had a white sheet over him."
"It certainly was not that whatever it was, Tom. However, we shall see
in the morning. Well, we may as well turn in again. Will they try again,
do you think, chief?"
"Not try to-night, too cold; if any there, will hide up till daybreak.
Now they know we are awake, will not venture on snow."
Half an hour later a great fire was lighted out of gunshot range lower
down the valley, and three or four figures could be seen round it.
"Too cold," Hunting Dog said to Tom. "All gone down to get warm."
The watches were relieved regularly through the night, but there was no
further alarm until just after daylight had broken, when Sam Hicks
suddenly discharged his rifle. The others all turned out at once. He had
fired at a bush just at the point where the trail came up from below,
and he declared that he had seen a slight movement there, and that some
pieces of the snow had dropped from the leaves.
"We will make sure that there is no one there," Harry said, "and then we
will turn out and have a look. It is like enough that one of the
red-skins from below came up the path to have a look at us this
He took a steady aim and fired.
"Fetch up an axe, Tom; we will cut that bush away at once. It is lucky
that Sam caught sight of the red-skin. If he had not done so he might
have got a bullet in his own head, for when the red-skin had finished
taking a view of the fort he would certainly have picked off Sam or
myself before he went down. It is a weak point, that from here one can't
command the path. If they come in force we shall have to keep watch on
the platform too. From there you can get a sight of two or three of its
[Illustration: "They Went Out To Look At The Indian The Chief Had
They went out together, and as they passed, stopped to look at the body
of the Indian the chief had shot. He was a young brave of two-or
three-and-twenty, and the manner of his advance so far unperceived was
now evident. Favoured by a slight fall in the ground, he had crawled
forward, scooping a trench wide enough for his body a foot in depth,
pushing the snow always forward, so that it formed a sort of bank in
front of him and screened him from the sight of those on watch. The
chief's keen eye had perceived a slight movement of the snow, and after
watching a moment had fired at the point where he judged anyone
concealed by it must be. He had calculated accurately. The ball had
struck on the shoulder close to the neck, and had passed down through
the body. The Indian had brought no rifle with him, but had knife and
tomahawk in his belt.
"Poor young fellow," Harry said. "He wanted to win a name for himself by
a deed of desperate bravery. It has cost him his life, but as he would
have taken ours if he had had a chance it is of no use regretting it."
They now went on to the bush.
"You were right, Sam," he went on, as they saw the impression on the
snow made by a figure lying down behind it. "There was an Indian here
sure enough, and here is the mark of the stock of his rifle, and no
doubt he would have picked off one of us if you had not scared him. I
don't expect you hit him; there are no signs of blood."
"Fire too high," the chief said, pointing to a twig that had been
freshly cut off two feet from the ground. "Always shoot low at man
behind bush. Man cannot float in air."
There was a general laugh at Sam, who replied: "I did not suppose he
could, chief. I just fired where I saw the snow fall, without thinking
about it one way or the other. I was an all-fired fool, but I shall know
better next time."
The bush was cut down, and also two or three others that grew along by
the edge of the ravine. On their way back to the hut Harry stopped by
the dead Indian.
"Fetch me a shovel, Tom," he said, "I will dig a hole in the snow; it
ain't a pleasant object to be looking at anyway."
Tom fetched the shovel, Harry dug down in the snow till he reached the
rock, then he and Jerry laid the body in it and filled in the snow
again. The chief looked on.
"Bears get him," he said when they had finished.
"That is like enough, chief, but we have done the best we can for him.
There is no digging into the rock."
"I thought the Indians always scalped enemies they shot?" Tom afterwards
said to his uncle.
"So they do, Tom; but you see the chief is a sort of civilized Indian.
He has consorted for years with whites, and he knows that we don't like
it. I don't say he wouldn't do it if he were on the war-path by himself,
but with us he doesn't, at any rate not openly. I have no doubt it went
against his grain to see the red-skin buried with his hair on, for the
scalp would have been a creditable one, as it would not have been got
without a clear eye and good judgment in shooting. I have no doubt he
has got some scalps about him now, though he don't show them; but they
will be hung up some day if he ever settles down in a wigwam of his own.
"Well, chief, and what do you think," he asked Leaping Horse, as, after
returning to the hut, they sat down to breakfast, "will they come or
"I think they no come," the chief said. "Scout behind bush will tell
them fort too strong to take; must cross snow, and many fall before they
get to it. Very hard to climb. No like cold, Leaping Horse thinks they
will stop in wigwams."
"No fools either," Jerry agreed; "a man would be worse than a natural if
he were to go fooling about in this weather, and run a pretty good big
risk of getting shot and nothing much to gain by it. They know we have
left their country now, and ain't likely to come back again either to
hunt there or to dig gold, and that all we want is to get away as soon
as we can. I allow that the chief is right, and that we sha'n't hear no
more of them, anyhow not for some time."
The chief nodded. "If come again, not come now. Wait a moon, then think
perhaps we sleep sound and try again; but more likely not try."
"Much more likely," Harry assented. "Unless they can do it by a
surprise. Indians are not fond of attacking; they know we shoot
straighter than they do and have better rifles. You remember that time
when you and I and Jersey Dick kept off a party of Navahoes from sunrise
till sunset down near the Emigrant trail? It was lucky for us that a
post-rider who was passing along heard the firing, and took the news to
a fort, and that the officer there brought out fifty troopers just as
the sun went down, or we should have been rubbed out that night sure."
The Seneca nodded.
"How was it, Harry?" Sam Hicks asked.
"It was just the usual thing, Sam. We had left the trail two days
before, and were hunting on our own account when the Navahoes came down.
We had just time to throw the three horses and lie down behind them.
They were within two hundred yards when I began and fetched the chief,
who was leading them, out of his saddle. Leaping Horse brought down
another one and Jersey Dick held his fire, and instead of keeping
straight on they began to straggle round. And they kept at that all day.
Sometimes they would get in pretty close, but each time they did the
chief brought down a horse, and when his rider, who was of course
hanging on the other side of him, got up to run, I fetched him down.
Dick wasn't much of a shot, so we would not let him fire. It discourages
red-skins mightily when they see that there is never a shot thrown
away, and that it is sure death whenever one draws a trigger. So at last
they got careful and held off, knowing as they would get us at night,
when they could have crawled up on foot and made a rush when they got
close to us.
"The worst of it was we hadn't struck water the evening before, and it
was just one of the hottest days on the plains, and we were pretty nigh
mad with thirst before evening. I believe when the soldiers rode up I
was about as glad to get a drink from one of their bottles as I was that
the Navahoes bolted when they saw them coming. No, the red-skins ain't
any good for an open attack; they would have lost fewer men by riding
straight at us than they did by fooling round, but they could not bring
themselves to do it, and I reckon that is what it will be here. They
may, as the chief says, try, say six weeks on, when the frost begins to
break, in hopes that we may have given up keeping watch: but if they
find us awake they will never try an open attack, for they could not
reckon on taking the place without losing a score of men in doing so. If
the snow was off the ground it would be different. Then of a dark night
they could crawl up close and make a rush."
After breakfast the chief and Hunting Dog went out scouting. When they
returned they brought news that three Indians had come over the snow
along the side of the hills, that three others had come up the valley,
and that in a wood half a mile below where they had seen the fire, there
had been a large party encamped.
"I reckoned that would be about it, chief. Three fellows came along over
the hill, in case we should be keeping guard at the top of the path, and
they had a big force somewhere down below, so that if the scouts
reported that there was nothing to prevent them falling on us they would
come up before morning and wipe us out. I suppose they have all ridden
"All gone. Leaping Horse and Hunting Dog followed right down valley. No
stop anywhere, gone back to lodges."
"Then in that case, Harry, we had best get the critters down to their
shed again. They have eaten all that stuff they brought up three days
ago, I gave them the last of it this morning. The Indians know that we
keep a pretty sharp look-out during the day and there ain't no fear of
their coming up here when it is light."
As the chief was also of opinion that there was no danger, the horses
were taken down the path into the valley, where on having their bridles
unbuckled they at once trotted off of their own accord towards the
For the next six weeks a watch was kept regularly, but by only one man
at a time. The horses were driven down to the valley every morning and
brought up again before sunset. There was little hunting now, for they
had as many skins as they could carry comfortably, and a supply of
frozen meat sufficient to last well into the spring. In March the
weather became perceptibly warmer, and the snow in the valley began to
melt where the full power of the sun at mid-day fell upon it. Day by
day the crashes of distant avalanches became more frequent, and they
began to look forward to the time when they should be able to proceed on
One night towards the end of the month Tom was on watch, when he heard a
rustling sound far up beyond the wall of cliff in front of him. It grew
louder and rose to a roar, and then a white mass came pouring down over
the cliff. Leaping from the wall he dashed down the path to the hut. It
needed no word to call the men to their feet, for a deep rumbling filled
the air and the rock seemed to quiver. The horses struggled to break
their head-ropes and snorted with fright.
"Your backs to the wall!" Harry shouted, and as all leapt across at his
order there was a crash overhead. The roof above them fell in and a mass
of snow followed; a, minute later a deep silence followed the deafening
"Anyone hurt?" Harry shouted, and the replies came in muffled tones. Tom
was jambed against the rock by the snow; he was nearest to the entrance,
his uncle was next to him.
"I am all right at present, uncle, but I feel half smothered."
"All right, lad; I am pretty free, and I will soon clear you a bit."
The snow was pushed away from before Tom's face, his left arm was
cleared, and then his uncle with a vigorous pull brought him back close
to him. Here he was comparatively free, for a part of the roof had
fallen close to the wall and had partially kept off the snow. Then Harry
turned, and with some difficulty managed to get Jerry, who was next to
him, freed from the snow.
"Now, Jerry, you work along that way and get at the others. Tom and I
will try to burrow a way out."
It was a difficult task. Once through the passage in the log wall they
pushed to the left towards the edge of the platform, taking it by turns
to go first until the snow became lighter; then by a vigorous effort
Harry rose to his feet, sending a mass of snow tumbling over the edge of
the platform. As soon as Tom had joined him they set to work with hands
and knives, and soon cleared a passage back to the entrance. Just as
they did so Jerry crawled out from within.
"Are they all right, Jerry?"
"Yes, the others are coming; only about twelve feet of the roof caved
in, and the two Indians and Sam soon got in among the horses. I had a
lot of trouble with Ben; he had been knocked down, and I thought that he
was gone when I got him out; but he is all right now, though he can't
walk yet. The Indians and Sam have got the shovels, and are working away
to clear a passage along by the wall; there is no getting Ben out
through that rabbit-hole you have made."
"Thank God we are all right," Harry said; "it does not matter a bit, now
that we know no one is badly hurt. We will begin at this end, but we
sha'n't be able to do much until we get the shovels, the snow will fall
in as fast as we get it out."
They soon found that they could do nothing in this way.
"We will try to tunnel again," Harry said, "it is not more than ten feet
along. If we get in and hump ourselves, we shall soon get it big enough
to drag Ben out, then the others can follow, and we can set to work with
the spades to clear the place."
After a good deal of effort they succeeded in enlarging the hole, and
then got Ben through it, one crawling backwards and pulling him while
the other shoved at his legs.
"How do you feel, Ben?" Harry asked him when they laid him down outside.
"I dunno, Harry; I am afraid my back is badly hurt. I don't seem to feel
my legs at all. I expect they are numbed from the weight of snow on
"I will crawl into our store and fetch out the keg."
"I reckon a drop of whisky will do me good if anything will," Ben said.
"I was crushed pretty near flat, and if my head hadn't been against the
wall I should have been smothered. Are you all right, young Tom?"
"Yes, I am not hurt at all. The snow squeezed me against the rock, and I
could not move an inch, but uncle managed to get me a little free and
then pulled me out of it."
Harry soon came back with the whisky, and was followed by the Indians
and Sam, who found that they could do nothing with the snow, which fell
in as fast as they cleared it. Their first step was to dig out a buffalo
robe to wrap Ben in. His voice was stronger after he had drank some
spirit, and he said that he felt better already. The others at once set
to work with the shovels. They first cleared the platform along by the
wall to the entrance, and then attacked the snow which filled the space
between the two rock walls to the top.
Two of them worked with poles, loosening the snow above, and bringing it
down in masses, while those with shovels cast it out on to the platform,
going out occasionally to throw it over into the ravine. Hunting Dog
made his way up over the snow to the top of the path, and called down to
say that the fort was entirely swept away, and the chief told him to
take up his post at once at the top of the path leading from below.
"He need not have told us that the fort was gone," Jerry grumbled. "If
it had been made of cast-iron it would not have stood. The sooner we get
our rifles out the better."
This could not be done for a time, for the loosening of the snow above
had caused that below to slip, and the passage along by the wall had
fallen in. The Indians, however, who had slept beyond the part filled by
snow, had brought their pieces out with them, and could have defended
the path alone. Several times those at work were buried by falls of
snow, and had to be dragged out by the others. By daylight a
considerable gap had been made in the snow, and they were able to get
into the space beyond the fall. A number of logs, and a joint of meat
that had been taken in the day before to thaw, were brought out, and a
fire was soon blazing on the platform.
"I wonder why the snow did not shoot over as it did before?" Ben, who
was now able to sit up, remarked.
"I reckon it is the fort did it," Harry said. "Of course it went, but it
may have checked the rush of the snow for a moment, and those thick
walls couldn't have got the same way on as the rest of the snow had."
"But the fort wasn't over the roof, uncle," Tom remarked.
"No, but it may have blocked the slide a little, and thrown some of it
sideways; you see it is only this end that gave, while it shot right
over the rest of the roof just as before."
"It is mighty lucky it did not break in all along," Sam Hicks said, "for
it would have left us without horses if it had; and it would have been
mighty rough on us to have lost them, just as we are going to want them,
after our taking such pains with them all through the winter."
The chief took Hunting Dog's place as soon as he had finished his meal,
and remained on watch all day. The men worked without ceasing, but it
was not until sunset that the snow was completely cleared away.
"I reckon that we shall have to be starting before long," Jerry said as
they sat round the fire in what they before called their store-room,
having driven the horses as far in as possible to make room. "We could
have held out before as long as we liked, but it is different now. The
rock's cleared now for a hundred yards on each side of us, our fort's
gone, and there is nothing to prevent the redskins from crawling close
up the first dark night and making a rush. They are like enough to be
sending scouts up the valley occasionally, and it won't be long before
they hear that our fort has gone and the ground cleared of snow."
Leaping Horse nodded. "Two men must watch at top of path," he said.
"That is right enough, chief; but we know three of them came along the
hills before, and it is like enough they will all come that way next
time. They are safe to reckon that we shall hold the path."
"It is very unfortunate," Harry said; "in another month, we should have
been able to travel. Anyhow, it seems to me that we have got to try now;
it would never do to be caught in here by the red-skins. If we are to
go, the sooner the better. All our meat has been carried over the edge.
This is about the time we expected the Indians back, and it would be
dangerous to scatter hunting. It is a big risk, too, taking the horses
down to the meadow. No, I think we can manage to get over the pass. The
snow gets softer every day when the sun is on it; but it freezes at
night. We have the moon, too, so we shall be able to travel then; and
even if we take three or four days getting over the divide we can sleep
in the daytime."
"We must get a little more meat anyhow before we start," Jerry said.
"This joint ain't more than enough for another square meal for us, and
though I reckon the bighorns will be coming up to the hills again now,
it won't do to risk that."
"We have the pack-horses, Jerry."
"Yes, I did not think of them. Horseflesh ain't so bad on a pinch; but I
don't want to lose our skins."
"Better our skins than our hair," Sam laughed.
"That is right enough, Sam, but I would like to save both."
"Perhaps there is some of the meat under the snow," Tom suggested. "It
hung near the wall, and the snow must have come straight down on it from
above, as it did in here."
"That is so, Tom; we will have a look the first thing in the morning. I
am so tired now I would not dig for it if it were gold."
As soon as it was light the next morning they began to clear the snow
from the rest of the platform, and found to their great satisfaction
four bear hams. The rest of the meat had been swept over the edge. The
two Indians had not shared in the work, having started away early
without saying where they were going. They returned to breakfast, each
carrying a hind-quarter of venison, which they had found in the snow
It was agreed that a start should be made that evening. By sunset the
horses were loaded, and half an hour later they moved away. Ben Gulston
had to be assisted on to his horse, for although in other respects
recovered, it was found that he had so severely strained his back across
the loins that he was scarcely able to walk a foot. The moon was shining
brightly, and as soon as they were on the snow they could see as plainly
as if it were day. All were in high spirits that they had left the spot
where for six months they had been prisoners. They had difficulty in
restraining themselves from shouting and singing, but the chief before
starting had warned them of the necessity for travelling silently.
"Snow-slides very bad now; shouting might set them going."
The others looked rather incredulous, but Harry said:
"I know he is right, boys; for I have heard that in the Alps the guides
always forbid talking when they are crossing places exposed to
avalanches. At any rate we may as well give the snow as little chance as
may be of going for us."
They travelled in Indian file from habit rather than necessity, for the
snow was firm and hard, and the horses made their way over it without
difficulty. There had been some debate as to the way they should go; but
they determined at last to take the valley through the cliff wall, and
to strike to the right whenever they came upon a likely spot for
crossing. Two such attempts were made in vain, the upper slopes of snow
being found too steep for the horses to climb; but at the third, which
was made just after morning broke, they succeeded in getting up the hill
to their right, and, after great difficulty, descended into another
valley. This they had little doubt was the one that led to the pass, for
from the hill they could see the great peak along whose foot the trail
It was ten o'clock before they got down into the valley. The snow was
beginning to be soft on the surface, and the horses were tired out. They
therefore halted, made a fire with two or three of the logs they had
brought with them for the purpose, boiled water and had breakfast, and
gave half a bucket of gruel to each of the animals. Then wrapping
themselves in their buffalo robes they lay down and slept till late in
the afternoon. The journey was resumed at sunset, and before morning
they had crossed the divide; and when the sun rose obtained a view over
the country far to the south.
A FRESH START
In the evening they camped on the banks of the Green River, here a
stream of but small size, except when the melting snow swelled its
waters into a torrent. At the spot where they halted a rivulet ran into
the stream from a thickly-wooded little valley. It was frozen, but
breaking the ice with their axes they found that water was flowing
underneath. They had observed that there was a marked difference in
temperature on this side of the mountains, upon which the strength of
the southern sun had already in many places cleared away the snow.
"It is a comfort to be able to sit by a fire without the thought that
red-skins maybe crawling up towards you," Sam Hicks said heartily, "and
to sleep without being turned out to stand watch in the cold.
"You say the country ahead is bad, chief?"
"Bad lands both sides of Green River. Deep canons and bare rock."
"Well, we need not follow it; it don't make any difference to us whether
we get down to the fort in a fortnight or six weeks."
"None at all," Harry said. "We have agreed that when summer fairly sets
in we will try that place I hit on just as the Utes came down on us. It
is the richest place I have ever seen, and if the Indians will but let
us alone for a month we ought to bring back a big lot of dust; and if we
do, we can sell our share in it for a big sum, and take down enough men
to thrash the Utes out of their boots if they interfere with us. By our
reckoning it is the end of March now, though we don't at all agree as to
the day; but at any rate, it is there or thereabouts. That gives us a
good six weeks, and if we start in the middle of May it will be time
enough. So I propose that we strike more to the west, or to the east,
whichever you think is the best, chief, and try and pick up a few more
pelts so as to lay in a fresh stock of goods for our next trip."
"Bad hills everywhere," the chief said; "better go west, plenty of game
"No fear of Indians?"
"Indians there peaceable; make good trade with whites. Ten years ago
fight, but lose many men and not get much plunder. Trappers here good
friends with them. Traders bring up powder and cloth and beads. Indians
no give trouble."
For the next six weeks, therefore, they travelled slowly, camping
sometimes for two or three days on a stream, and then making a long
march until they again came to water. The beaver traps had been left
behind, but they were fortunate enough to come upon several beaver
villages, and by exercising patience they were able to shoot a good
many, getting in all some fifty skins. Tom used to go out in the evening
and lie down to watch the beavers at work, but he would not take a gun.
"I could not shoot them down in cold blood, uncle. It is almost like
looking at a village of human beings at work. One can shoot a man who is
wanting to shoot you, without feeling much about it, but to fire at a
man labouring in the fields is murder. Of course, if we wanted the flesh
for food it would be different."
"I did not see you refuse that beaver-tail soup we had last night, Tom."
"No, and it was very good, uncle; but I would very much rather have gone
without it than shoot the beaver the tail belonged to."
"Well, Tom, as we have all got guns, and as none of us have any scruples
that way, there is no occasion whatever for you to draw a trigger on
them. They take some shooting, for if you hit them in the water they
sink directly, and you have got to kill them dead when they are on land,
otherwise they make for the water at once and dive into their houses and
They killed a good many other animals besides the beaver, including
several wolverines, and by the time they got down to the fort in the
middle of May they had had to give up riding and pack all the animals
with the skins they had obtained. None of these were of any great value,
but the whole brought enough to buy them a fresh outfit of clothes, a
fresh stock of provisions and powder, and to give them a hundred dollars
The evening after the sale was effected Tom wrote home to his sisters,
giving them a brief account of what had taken place since the letter he
had posted to them before starting for the mountains, but saying very
little of their adventures with Indians. "I am afraid you have been in a
great fright about me," he said, "but you must never fidget when you
don't get letters. We may often be for a long time away from any place
where we can post them, or, as they call it here, mail them, though I
certainly do not expect to be snowed up again for a whole winter. Owing
to the Indians being hostile we did not do nearly so well as we
expected, for we could not go down to hunt in the valleys. So after
getting a fresh outfit for our next journey our share is only a hundred
dollars each. I did not want to take a share, for of course I was not of
much use to them, though I have learnt a lot in the last six months, and
can shoot now as well as any of them, except the two Indians.
"However, they all insisted on my having the same share as the rest.
Uncle wanted me to take his hundred dollars and send them home to you
with mine, but I told him that I would not do so, for I know you have
money enough to go on with, even if your school has turned out a
failure. So I think it would be as well for us to keep our money in hand
for the present. There is never any saying what may happen; we may lose
our horses and kit, and it would be very awkward if we hadn't the money
to replace them. As soon as we get more we will send it off, as you know
I always intended to do. I have still some left of what I brought out
with me, but that and the two hundred dollars would not be more than
enough to buy an entirely new outfit for us both.
"I hope you got the five hundred dollars uncle sent you. He told me he
sent it off from Denver, and it ought to have got home a few weeks after
I left. It is horrid to think that there may be letters from you lying
at Denver, but it serves me right for being so stupid as not to put in
the short note I wrote you from here before I started, that you had
better direct to me at Fort Bridger, as I shall almost be sure to come
back to it before I go to Denver. I like uncle awfully; it seems to me
that he is just what I expected he would be. I suppose they all put in
equal shares, but the other men quite look upon him as their leader.
Sometimes when he is talking to me he speaks just as people do at home.
When he talks to the men he uses the same queer words they do. He is
taller than father was, and more strongly built. What I like in him is,
he is always the same. Sometimes the others used to get grumbly when we
were shut up so long, but it never seemed to make any difference in him.
"I told you when I wrote from Denver that he was called 'Straight
Harry,' because he always acted straightforwardly, and now I know him I
can quite understand their calling him so. One feels somehow that one
could rely upon his always being the same, whatever happened. Leaping
Horse is a first-rate fellow, and so is Hunting Dog, though of course he
does not know nearly as much as the chief does, but he knows a lot. The
other three are all nice fellows, too, so we were a very jolly party.
They know a tremendous lot of stories about hunting and red-skins and
that sort of thing. Some of them would make all you girls' hairs stand
on end. We are going to start off in two or three days to hunt up a gold
mine uncle found three years ago. The Indians are going, too; they will
hunt while the rest of us work. It will be quite a different journey to
the last, and I expect it will be just as hot this time as it was cold
last. We may be away for four months, and perhaps we may not come back
till the snow sets in, so don't expect a letter till you see it."
This was by far the longest letter Tom had ever written, and it took him
several hours to get through. He had the room to himself, for the others
were talking over their adventures with old friends they had met at the
fort. His uncle returned about ten o'clock.
"Where are the others?" Tom asked.
"In the saloon; but they are not drinking, that is, not drinking much. I
told them that if they were to get drunk one of them would be sure to
blab as to where we were going, or at any rate to say enough to excite
suspicion among some of the old miners, that we knew of a good thing,
and in that case we should get a lot of men following us, and it would
interfere with our plans altogether. A party as small as ours may live
for months without a red-skin happening to light on us, but if there
were many more they would be certain to find us. There would be too much
noise going on, too much shooting and driving backward and forward with
food and necessaries. We want it kept dark till we thoroughly prove the
place. So I made them all take an oath this morning that they would keep
their heads cool, and I told them that if one of them got drunk, or said
a word about our going after gold, I would not take him with us. I have
given out that we are going on another hunting party, and of course our
having brought in such a lot of skins will make them think that we have
hit on a place where game is abundant and are going back there for the
Two more pack-ponies had been added to the outfit. They might be away
for five or six months, and were determined to take a good supply of
flour this time, for all were tired of the diet of meat only, on which
they had existed for the last six months, having devoted by far the
greater part of the flour to the horses.
When they started next day they turned their faces north, as if they
intended to hunt in the mountains where they had wintered. They made but
a short march, camped on a stream, and long before daybreak started
again, travelling for some hours to the west and then striking directly
south. For two days they travelled rapidly, Tom going out every morning
with the Indians hunting, while the others kept with the pack-horses.
Ben had now quite recovered from the strain which had crippled him for
the first three weeks of their march down to Fort Bridger. They were now
fairly among the Ute hills, and at their third camping-place Harry said:
"We must do no more shooting now till we get to our valley. We have got
a supply of deer-flesh for a week at least, and we must be careful in
future. We heard at the fort that several miners have been cut off and
killed by the Utes during the winter, and that they are more set than
ever against white men entering their country. Everyone says those
rascally Saints are at the bottom of it. We must hide our trail as much
as we can. We are just at the edge of the bad lands, and will travel on
them for the next two days. The red-skins don't go out that way much,
there being nothing either to hunt or to plunder, so there is little
fear of their coming on our trail on the bare rocks, especially as none
of the horses are shod. On the third day we shall strike right up into
"Are you sure that you will know the place again, Harry?"
"I reckon I could find it, but I should not feel quite certain about it
if I had not the chief with me. There is no fear of his going wrong.
When a red-skin has once been to a place he can find his way straight
back to it again, even if he were a thousand miles off."
"You said when we were talking of it among the hills, uncle," Tom said,
as he rode beside him the next morning, "that Leaping Horse and you each
took two shares. I wonder what he will do with his if it turns out
"He won't do anything with it, Tom. The chief and I are like brothers.
He does not want gold, he has no use for it; and, besides, as a rule,
Indians never have anything to do with mining. He and Hunting Dog really
come as hunters, and he has an understanding with me that when the
expedition is over I shall pay them the same as they would earn from any
English sportsman who might engage them as guides and hunters, and that
I shall take their shares in whatever we may make. I need not say that
if it turns out as well as we expect, the Indians will get as many
blankets and as much ammunition as will last them their lives. You can't
get a red-skin to dig. Even the chief, who has been with us for years,
would consider it degrading to do work of that kind; and if you see an
Indian at mining work, you may be sure that he is one of the fellows who
has left his tribe and settled down to loaf and drink in the
settlements, and is just doing a spell to get himself enough fire-water
to make himself drunk on.
"The Seneca would be just as willing to come and hunt for us for
nothing. He would get his food and the skins, which would pay for his
tobacco and ammunition, and, occasionally, a new suit of leggings and
hunting-shirt, made by an Indian woman, and with this he would be happy
and contented. He doesn't mind taking money in return for skins, and he
and Hunting Dog had their full share in the division at the fort. When I
last talked to him about this business, he said, 'Leaping Horse doesn't
want money. Of what use is it to him? He has got a bagful hidden at
home, which he has been paid when he was scouting with the army, and for
the skins of beasts he has shot. It is enough to buy many horses and
blankets, and all that a chief can want. He is going with his friend to
hunt, and to fight by his side if the Utes come; he wants none of the
gold.' I explained the matter to him, and he said carelessly: 'Leaping
Horse will take the two shares, but it will be for his brother, and that
he may send it to the girls, the sisters of his friend Tom, of whom he
spoke one night by the fire.'
"Hunting Dog is like Leaping Horse, he will take no gold. I have told
the three men how matters stand. Of course, it makes no difference to
them whether the Indians keep their share or hand it over to me, but at
the same time I thought they ought to know how we stood. They said it
was no business of theirs; that as I was the discoverer I had a right to
sell the whole thing if I chose, and that they thought I had done the
friendly thing by them in letting them in as partners. So you see it is
all right and square. It is like enough, too, that we shall find some
other lodes, and of course there they will come in on even terms with
us. So they are pleased with the look-out, and know well enough it is
likely to be the best strike they ever made in their lives."
They kept near the edge of the bad lands, as had they gone farther out
they would have been obliged to make long detours to get round the head
of the canons made by rivers running down into the Colorado. They had
filled their water-skins at the last stream where they had camped, and
had taken with them enough dried wood for their fires. These they lit
each night in a hollow, as from the upper slopes of the Ute hills a view
could be obtained for a great distance over the flat rocky plateau. Tom
was heartily glad when the two days' journey was over. Not a living
creature had met their eyes; there was no grass on which beasts could
exist, no earth in which prairie-dogs could burrow; even birds shunned
the bare waste of rock.
"It is a desolate country," he said, as they sat round the fire; "it
would be enough to give one the horrors if one were alone. It is hot
now, and in the height of summer the heat and glare from the rock must
"It is, Tom; many and many a man has died of thirst in the bad lands.
And what makes it more terrible is, that they can perhaps see water a
thousand feet below them and yet die from the want of it."
"When we were camped on the Green River, uncle, you said that no one had
ever followed it down."
"That is so, lad. One knows whereabouts it goes, as men driven by thirst
have followed canons down to it; and in some places it runs for many
miles across low land before it plunges into another canon. Then it cuts
its way for two or three hundred miles, perhaps, through the hills, with
walls two or three thousand feet high. No one, so far as I know, has
gone down these big canons, but it is certain there are rapids and
whirlpools and rocks in them. Two or three parties have gone down
through some of the shorter canons to escape Indians, and most of them
have never been heard of again, but one or two have got down some
distance and managed to escape.
"No one has followed the course by land. They could not do so unless
they carried all their provisions, and drink and food for their animals,
and even then the expedition would take months, perhaps years to do; for
every spring from the hills runs down a canon to the river, sometimes
fifty miles, sometimes a hundred long, and each time the party came upon
one of these they would have to work up to the mountains to get round
it. It is over a thousand miles in a straight line from the place where
the Green River first enters a canon to where the Colorado issues out on
to the plains, and it may be quite twice that distance if one could
follow all its windings. Some day when the country fills up attempts
will no doubt be made to find out something about it; but it will be a
big job whenever it is tried, and may cost a lot of lives before the
canons are all explored."
In the morning they started westward for the hills. The greatest care
was observed on the march. They took advantage of every depression, and
when obliged to pass over level ground moved at a distance apart, as a
clump or string of moving animals would be made out at a distance from
which a solitary one would be unnoticed. By noon they had left the bare
rock, and were travelling up a valley clothed with grass and dotted with
clumps of trees. In the first of these they halted.
"We will stay here until it begins to get dusk," Harry said, "and then
move on as fast as we can go. If we don't lose our way we shall be there
There was no moon, but the stars shone brilliantly, and the mountains,
with their summits still covered with snow, could be seen ahead. The
chief went on in front. Sometimes they proceeded up valleys, sometimes
crossed shoulders and spurs running down from the hills. They moved in
Indian file, and at times proceeded at a brisk pace, at other times more
slowly; but there was no halt or sign of hesitation on the part of their
leader. At last, just as morning was breaking, the chief led them into a
clump of trees. He moved a little distance in, and then reined in his
horse and dismounted.
"Does my brother remember that?" he said to Harry, pointing to something
on the ground.
"Jee-hoshaphat!" Harry exclaimed; "if that ain't my old pack-saddle!
This is the very spot where we camped, boys. Well, chief, you are
certainly a wonder. I doubt whether I could have found my way here in
the daytime. Half a dozen times to-night it seemed to me that you were
going in the wrong direction altogether, and yet you bring us as
straight to the spot as if all the time you had been following a main
"Bully for the chief!" Jerry said warmly. "I am blamed if that ain't a
fust-rate piece of tracking. Waal, here we are at our journey's end.
Can we make a fire?"
"Make small fire, but must put screen round."
"Very well; we will leave the fire to you, and we will unpack the
critters. There is a bundle of dry wood left, so we sha'n't have the
bother of looking for it now."
Before lighting the fire the two Indians stretched some blankets some
six feet above it, to prevent the light falling upon the foliage; then
by their directions Sam cut a dozen short poles, and fixed them in a
circle round the fire. Half a dozen more blankets were fastened to the
poles, forming a wall round the fire, which the chief then lighted. The
nights were, at that height above the sea-level, cool enough to make the
heat pleasant, and there was just room for the, seven men to sit between
the blanket wall and the fire.
"Do you mean this to be our permanent camp, Harry?"
"What do you think, Leaping Horse?"
"Wait till me go up gold valley," the Seneca said. "If can't find a good
place there better stay here; if go backwards and forwards every day
make trail Indian squaw would notice."
"That is so, chief; but by what Harry says it is a mere gully, and the
horses will have to range."
"Horses must feed," the chief said. "If we find a place up there, make
hut, take saddles and outfit there. Tie up horses here, and let them
loose to feed at night. No regular track then. But talk after sleep."
"It will be broad daylight by the time that we have finished our meal,"
Jerry said, "and I reckon none of us will be wanting to sleep till we
have got a sight of Harry's bonanza."
As soon as they had finished their meal, the mining implements, which
had been carefully hidden among the rest of their goods when they
started from the fort, were brought out. Among these were a dozen light
pick-heads and half a dozen handles, as many shovels, a flat iron plate
for crushing ore upon, and a short hammer, with a face six inches in
diameter, as a pounder; also a supply of long nails, to be used in
fastening together troughs, cradles, or any other woodwork that might be
required; three or four deep tin dishes, a bottle of mercury, a saw, and
a few other tools. Three of the pick-heads were now fastened to their
handles, and taking these, a couple of shovels, two of the tin basins, a
sledge hammer, and some steel wedges, and the peculiar wooden platter,
in shape somewhat resembling a small shield with an indentation in the
middle, called a vanner, and universally used by prospectors, the five
whites and Leaping Horse started from their camp for the spot where
Harry had found the lode. It lay about a mile up a narrow valley,
running into the larger one. A rivulet trickled down its centre.
"I reckoned on that," Harry said. "Of course it was frozen when we were
here, but I could see that there was water in summer. You see this
hollow runs right up into that wood, and there is sure to be water in it
for the next three months anyhow."
They had gone but a short distance up when they stopped at a spot where
the streamlet widened out into a pool.
"Let us try here," Jerry said, "and see if there is any sign."
Half a shovelful of sand was placed in the vanner with a small quantity
of water, and while Harry and Sam proceeded to wash some gravel roughly
in the pans, Tom stood watching Jerry's operations. He gave a gentle
motion to the vanner that caused its contents to revolve, the coarser
particles being thrown towards the edges while the finer remained in the
centre. The water was poured away and the rougher particles of gravel
and sand swept off by the hand; fresh water was then added, and the
process repeated again and again, until at last no more than a spoonful
of fine sand remained in the centre. A sideway action of the vanner
caused this to slope gradually down towards the edge. At the very bottom
three tiny bits of yellow metal were seen. They were no bigger than
pins' heads. It seemed to Tom that this was a miserably small return for
five minutes' labour, but the others seemed well satisfied, and were
still more pleased when, on the two pans being cleaned out, several
little pieces of gold were found, one of which was nearly as large as a
"That is good enough," Ben said; "it will run a lot richer when we get
down on to the rock."
At two other places on their way up they tried the experiments, with
increasingly good results.
"There is some tall work to be done here with washing," Harry said. "Now
come on to the vein. I only saw one of them, but there must be a lot
more or you would not find so much metal in the sand. However, the one I
saw is good enough for anything." They went on again to a point where
the rock cropped boldly out on both sides of the valley; Harry led them
a few paces up the side, and pointed to some white patches in the rock.
"That is where I chipped it off, lads, three years ago."
The face of the lode, discoloured by age and weather, differed but
little from the rock surrounding it; but where it had been broken off it
was a whitish yellow, thickly studded with little bits of dull yellow
metal sticking out of it. Tom was not greatly impressed; but he saw from
the faces of his companions that they were at once surprised and
"By gosh, Harry, you have done it this time!" Sam Hicks exclaimed. "You
have struck it rich, and no mistake. I thought from the way you talked
of it it must be something out of the way, but I am blamed if I thought
it was like this."
"Stand back, you chaps," Jerry said, lifting the heavy sledge hammer;
"let me get a drive at it. Here is a crack. Put one of them wedges in,
The wedge was placed in the fissure, and Ben held it while Jerry gave a
few light blows to get it firmly fixed.
"That will do, Ben; take away your hand and let me drive at it."
Swinging the hammer round his head Jerry brought it down with tremendous
force on the head of the wedge. Again and again the heavy hammer rose
and fell, with the accuracy of a machine, upon the right spot, until the
wedge, which was nine inches long, was buried in the crevice.
"Now another one, Ben. Give me a longer one this time."
This time Ben held the wedge until it was half buried, having perfect
confidence in Jerry's skill. It was not until the fourth wedge had been
driven in that a fragment of rock weighing four or five hundredweight
suddenly broke out from the face. All bent eagerly over it, and the
miners gave a shout of joy. The inner surface, which was white, but
slightly stained with yellow, with blurs of slate colour here and there,
was thickly studded with gold. It stuck out above the surface in thin,
leafy plates with ragged edges, with here and there larger spongy
"I reckon that is good enough," Jerry said, wiping the sweat from his
forehead. "Ef there is but enough of it, it is the biggest thing that
ever was struck. There ain't no saying how rich it is, but I will bet my
boots it's over five hundred ounces to the ton. It ain't in nature that
it is going to run far like that, but it is good enough for anything.
Well, what is the next thing, Harry?"
"We will break it up," Harry said, "and carry it down with us to the
camp. If the Utes came down on us tomorrow, and we could get off with
it, that would be plenty to show if we want to make a sale."
It took them a long time to break up the rock, for the quartz was hard,
and was so bound together by the leafy gold running through it that each
of the four men had several spells with the hammer before it was broken
up into fragments weighing some twenty pounds apiece. As soon as this
was done the men collected earth, filled up the hole in the face of the
rock, and planted several large tufts of grass in it, and poured four or
five tins of water over them; then they smeared with mud the patches
where Harry had before broken pieces off.
"What is all that for, Jerry?" Tom asked.
"It is to hide up the traces, lad. We may have to bolt away from here
to-morrow morning for anything we know, and before we come back again
someone else may come along, and though we shall locate our claims at
the mining register, there would be a lot of trouble if anyone else had
taken possession, and was working the vein when we got back."
"It is not likely that anyone else would come along here, Jerry."
"Waal, I reckon that is so, but one ain't going to trust to chance when
one has struck on such a place as this."
The Seneca had been the only unmoved person in the party.
"What do you think of that, chief?" Harry asked him.
"If my white brother is pleased Leaping Horse is glad," he replied. "But
the Indian does not care for gold. What can he do with it? He has a good
gun, he does not want twenty. He does not want many hunting suits. If he
were to buy as many horses as would fill the valley he could not ride
them all, and he would soon tire of sitting in his lodge and being
waited upon by many wives. He has enough for his needs now. When he is
old it will be time to rest."
"Well, that is philosophy, chief, and I don't say you are wrong from
your way of looking at it. But that gold means a lot to us. It means
going home to our people. It means living in comfort for the rest of our
lives. It means making our friends happy."
"Leaping Horse is glad," the chief said gravely. "But he cannot forget
that to him it means that the white brother, with whom he has so long
hunted and camped and fought bad Indians, will go away across the great
salt water, and Leaping Horse will see him no more."
"That is so, chief," Harry said, grasping the Indian's hand warmly, "and
I was a selfish brute not to think of it before. There is one thing I
will promise you. Every year or so I will come out here and do a couple
of months' hunting with you. The journey is long, but it is quickly made
now, and I know that after knocking about for twenty years I shall never
be content if I don't take a run out on the plains for a bit every
summer. I will give you my word, Leaping Horse, that as long as I have
health and strength I will come out regularly, and that you shall see
your white brother's friendship is as strong as your own."
The Seneca's grave face lit up with pleasure. "My white brother is very
good," he said. "He has taken away the thorn out of the heart of Leaping
Horse. His Indian brother is all glad now."
The quartz was placed in sacks they had brought with them to carry down
samples, and they at once returned to the camp, where, after smoking a
pipe, they lay down to sleep; but it was some time before all went off,
so excited were they at the thought of the fortune that seemed before
In the afternoon they took one of the pieces of stone, weighing, by a
spring balance, twenty pounds, and with the flat plate and the
crushing-hammer went to the stream. The rock was first broken with the
sledge into pieces the size of a walnut. These were pulverized on the
iron plate and the result carefully washed, and when the work was
finished the gold was weighed in the miner's scales, and turned the
"That is nearly five hundred ounces to the ton," Harry said, "but of
course it is not going to run like that. I reckon it is a rich pocket;
there may be a ton of the stuff, and there may be fifty. Now let's go up
and have a quiet look for the lode, and see if we can trace it. We ought
to see it on the rock the other side."
A careful search showed them the quartz vein on the face of the rock
some fifty feet higher up the valley, and this showed them the direction
of the run of the lode. It was here, however, only six inches wide
instead of being two feet, as at the spot where it was first found. Some
pieces were broken off: there was gold embedded in it, but it was
evident that it was nothing like so rich as on the other side. A piece
of ten pounds was pounded up, it returned only a little over a
pennyweight of gold.
"About twelve ounces to the ton," Harry said. "Not bad, but a mighty
falling off from the other. To-morrow morning we will follow the lode on
the other side and see if we can strike an outcrop."
The next day they found the lode cropping up through the rock some
thirty yards from their great find. It was about nine inches wide. They
dug it out with their picks to a depth of two feet so as to get a fair
sample. This when crushed gave a return at the rate of twenty ounces.
"That is rich enough again, and would pay splendidly if worked by
machinery. Of course the question is, how far it holds on as rich as we
found it at the face, and how it keeps on in depth? But that is just
what we can't find. We want drills and powder, as picks are no sort of
good on this hard quartz. Supposing it goes off gradually from the face
to this point, there would be millions of dollars in it, even supposing
it pinched in below, which there is no reason in the world to suppose.
We may as well take a few of these chunks of rock, they will show that
the gold holds fairly a good way back anyhow."
A few pieces were put aside and the rest thrown into the hole again,
which was stamped down and filled up with dust. The party then went back
to dinner, and a consultation was held as to what was next to be done.
"Of course we must stake out our claims at once," Harry said. "In the
first place there are our own eight claims--two for each of the
discoverers and one each for the others. Hunting Dog will not have a
share, but will be paid the regular rate as a hunter. Then we will take
twenty claims in the names of men we know. They wouldn't hold water if
it were a well-known place, and everyone scrambling to get a claim on
the lode; but as there is no one to cut in, and no one will know the
place till we have sold it and a company sends up to take possession and
work it, it ain't likely to be disputed. The question is, What shall we
do now? Shall we make back to the settlements, or try washing a bit?"
"Try washing, I should say," Jerry said. "You may be some time before
you can sell the place. Anyone buying will know that they will have to
send up a force big enough to fight the Utes, and besides they will want
someone to come up here to examine it before they close the bargain. I
vote we stick here and work the gravel for a bit so as to take enough
away to keep us till next spring. I reckon we shall find plenty of stuff
in it as we go down, and if that is so we can't do better than stick to
it as long as there is water in the creek."
"I agree with you there, Jerry; but it will never do to risk losing
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