The Oregon Trail
Francis Parkman, Jr.

Part 3 out of 7

tolerable fish from the stream, and plenty of smaller game, such as
antelope and deer, though no buffalo. There was one little drawback
to our satisfaction--a certain extensive tract of bushes and dried
grass, just behind us, which it was by no means advisable to enter,
since it sheltered a numerous brood of rattlesnakes. Henry Chatillon
again dispatched The Horse to the village, with a message to his
squaw that she and her relatives should leave the rest and push on as
rapidly as possible to our camp.

Our daily routine soon became as regular as that of a well-ordered
household. The weather-beaten old tree was in the center; our rifles
generally rested against its vast trunk, and our saddles were flung
on the ground around it; its distorted roots were so twisted as to
form one or two convenient arm-chairs, where we could sit in the
shade and read or smoke; but meal-times became, on the whole, the
most interesting hours of the day, and a bountiful provision was made
for them. An antelope or a deer usually swung from a stout bough,
and haunches were suspended against the trunk. That camp is
daguerreotyped on my memory; the old tree, the white tent, with Shaw
sleeping in the shadow of it, and Reynal's miserable lodge close by
the bank of the stream. It was a wretched oven-shaped structure,
made of begrimed and tattered buffalo hides stretched over a frame of
poles; one side was open, and at the side of the opening hung the
powder horn and bullet pouch of the owner, together with his long red
pipe, and a rich quiver of otterskin, with a bow and arrows; for
Reynal, an Indian in most things but color, chose to hunt buffalo
with these primitive weapons. In the darkness of this cavern-like
habitation, might be discerned Madame Margot, her overgrown bulk
stowed away among her domestic implements, furs, robes, blankets, and
painted cases of PAR' FLECHE, in which dried meat is kept. Here she
sat from sunrise to sunset, a bloated impersonation of gluttony and
laziness, while her affectionate proprietor was smoking, or begging
petty gifts from us, or telling lies concerning his own achievements,
or perchance engaged in the more profitable occupation of cooking
some preparation of prairie delicacies. Reynal was an adept at this
work; he and Delorier have joined forces and are hard at work
together over the fire, while Raymond spreads, by way of tablecloth,
a buffalo hide, carefully whitened with pipeclay, on the grass before
the tent. Here, with ostentatious display, he arranges the teacups
and plates; and then, creeping on all fours like a dog, he thrusts
his head in at the opening of the tent. For a moment we see his
round owlish eyes rolling wildly, as if the idea he came to
communicate had suddenly escaped him; then collecting his scattered
thoughts, as if by an effort, he informs us that supper is ready, and
instantly withdraws.

When sunset came, and at that hour the wild and desolate scene would
assume a new aspect, the horses were driven in. They had been
grazing all day in the neighboring meadow, but now they were picketed
close about the camp. As the prairie darkened we sat and conversed
around the fire, until becoming drowsy we spread our saddles on the
ground, wrapped our blankets around us and lay down. We never placed
a guard, having by this time become too indolent; but Henry Chatillon
folded his loaded rifle in the same blanket with himself, observing
that he always took it to bed with him when he camped in that place.
Henry was too bold a man to use such a precaution without good cause.
We had a hint now and then that our situation was none of the safest;
several Crow war parties were known to be in the vicinity, and one of
them, that passed here some time before, had peeled the bark from a
neighboring tree, and engraved upon the white wood certain
hieroglyphics, to signify that they had invaded the territories of
their enemies, the Dakota, and set them at defiance. One morning a
thick mist covered the whole country. Shaw and Henry went out to
ride, and soon came back with a startling piece of intelligence; they
had found within rifle-shot of our camp the recent trail of about
thirty horsemen. They could not be whites, and they could not be
Dakota, since we knew no such parties to be in the neighborhood;
therefore they must be Crows. Thanks to that friendly mist, we had
escaped a hard battle; they would inevitably have attacked us and our
Indian companions had they seen our camp. Whatever doubts we might
have entertained, were quite removed a day or two after, by two or
three Dakota, who came to us with an account of having hidden in a
ravine on that very morning, from whence they saw and counted the
Crows; they said that they followed them, carefully keeping out of
sight, as they passed up Chugwater; that here the Crows discovered
five dead bodies of Dakota, placed according to the national custom
in trees, and flinging them to the ground, they held their guns
against them and blew them to atoms.

If our camp were not altogether safe, still it was comfortable
enough; at least it was so to Shaw, for I was tormented with illness
and vexed by the delay in the accomplishment of my designs. When a
respite in my disorder gave me some returning strength, I rode out
well-armed upon the prairie, or bathed with Shaw in the stream, or
waged a petty warfare with the inhabitants of a neighborhood prairie-
dog village. Around our fire at night we employed ourselves in
inveighing against the fickleness and inconstancy of Indians, and
execrating The Whirlwind and all his village. At last the thing grew

"To-morrow morning," said I, "I will start for the fort, and see if I
can hear any news there." Late that evening, when the fire had sunk
low, and all the camp were asleep, a loud cry sounded from the
darkness. Henry started up, recognized the voice, replied to it, and
our dandy friend, The Horse, rode in among us, just returned from his
mission to the village. He coolly picketed his mare, without saying
a word, sat down by the fire and began to eat, but his imperturbable
philosophy was too much for our patience. Where was the village?
about fifty miles south of us; it was moving slowly and would not
arrive in less than a week; and where was Henry's squaw? coming as
fast as she could with Mahto-Tatonka, and the rest of her brothers,
but she would never reach us, for she was dying, and asking every
moment for Henry. Henry's manly face became clouded and downcast; he
said that if we were willing he would go in the morning to find her,
at which Shaw offered to accompany him.

We saddled our horses at sunrise. Reynal protested vehemently
against being left alone, with nobody but the two Canadians and the
young Indians, when enemies were in the neighborhood. Disregarding
his complaints, we left him, and coming to the mouth of Chugwater,
separated, Shaw and Henry turning to the right, up the bank of the
stream, while I made for the fort.

Taking leave for a while of my friend and the unfortunate squaw, I
will relate by way of episode what I saw and did at Fort Laramie. It
was not more than eighteen miles distant, and I reached it in three
hours; a shriveled little figure, wrapped from head to foot in a
dingy white Canadian capote, stood in the gateway, holding by a cord
of bull's hide a shaggy wild horse, which he had lately caught. His
sharp prominent features, and his little keen snakelike eyes, looked
out from beneath the shadowy hood of the capote, which was drawn over
his head exactly like the cowl of a Capuchin friar. His face was
extremely thin and like an old piece of leather, and his mouth spread
from ear to ear. Extending his long wiry hand, he welcomed me with
something more cordial than the ordinary cold salute of an Indian,
for we were excellent friends. He had made an exchange of horses to
our mutual advantage; and Paul, thinking himself well-treated, had
declared everywhere that the white man had a good heart. He was a
Dakota from the Missouri, a reputed son of the half-breed
interpreter, Pierre Dorion, so often mentioned in Irving's "Astoria."
He said that he was going to Richard's trading house to sell his
horse to some emigrants who were encamped there, and asked me to go
with him. We forded the stream together, Paul dragging his wild
charge behind him. As we passed over the sandy plains beyond, he
grew quite communicative. Paul was a cosmopolitan in his way; he had
been to the settlements of the whites, and visited in peace and war
most of the tribes within the range of a thousand miles. He spoke a
jargon of French and another of English, yet nevertheless he was a
thorough Indian; and as he told of the bloody deeds of his own people
against their enemies, his little eye would glitter with a fierce
luster. He told how the Dakota exterminated a village of the Hohays
on the Upper Missouri, slaughtering men, women, and children; and how
an overwhelming force of them cut off sixteen of the brave Delawares,
who fought like wolves to the last, amid the throng of their enemies.
He told me also another story, which I did not believe until I had it
confirmed from so many independent sources that no room was left for
doubt. I am tempted to introduce it here.

Six years ago a fellow named Jim Beckwith, a mongrel of French,
American, and negro blood, was trading for the Fur Company, in a very
large village of the Crows. Jim Beckwith was last summer at St.
Louis. He is a ruffian of the first stamp; bloody and treacherous,
without honor or honesty; such at least is the character he bears
upon the prairie. Yet in his case all the standard rules of
character fail, for though he will stab a man in his sleep, he will
also perform most desperate acts of daring; such, for instance, as
the following: While he was in the Crow village, a Blackfoot war
party, between thirty and forty in number came stealing through the
country, killing stragglers and carrying off horses. The Crow
warriors got upon their trail and pressed them so closely that they
could not escape, at which the Blackfeet, throwing up a semicircular
breastwork of logs at the foot of a precipice, coolly awaited their
approach. The logs and sticks, piled four or five high, protected
them in front. The Crows might have swept over the breastwork and
exterminated their enemies; but though out-numbering them tenfold,
they did not dream of storming the little fortification. Such a
proceeding would be altogether repugnant to their notions of warfare.
Whooping and yelling, and jumping from side to side like devils
incarnate, they showered bullets and arrows upon the logs; not a
Blackfoot was hurt, but several Crows, in spite of their leaping and
dodging, were shot down. In this childish manner the fight went on
for an hour or two. Now and then a Crow warrior in an ecstasy of
valor and vainglory would scream forth his war song, boasting himself
the bravest and greatest of mankind, and grasping his hatchet, would
rush up and strike it upon the breastwork, and then as he retreated
to his companions, fall dead under a shower of arrows; yet no
combined attack seemed to be dreamed of. The Blackfeet remained
secure in their intrenchment. At last Jim Beckwith lost patience.

"You are all fools and old women," he said to the Crows; "come with
me, if any of you are brave enough, and I will show you how to

He threw off his trapper's frock of buckskin and stripped himself
naked like the Indians themselves. He left his rifle on the ground,
and taking in his hand a small light hatchet, he ran over the prairie
to the right, concealed by a hollow from the eyes of the Blackfeet.
Then climbing up the rocks, he gained the top of the precipice behind
them. Forty or fifty young Crow warriors followed him. By the cries
and whoops that rose from below he knew that the Blackfeet were just
beneath him; and running forward, he leaped down the rock into the
midst of them. As he fell he caught one by the long loose hair and
dragging him down tomahawked him; then grasping another by the belt
at his waist, he struck him also a stunning blow, and gaining his
feet, shouted the Crow war-cry. He swung his hatchet so fiercely
around him that the astonished Blackfeet bore back and gave him room.
He might, had he chosen, have leaped over the breastwork and escaped;
but this was not necessary, for with devilish yells the Crow warriors
came dropping in quick succession over the rock among their enemies.
The main body of the Crows, too, answered the cry from the front and
rushed up simultaneously. The convulsive struggle within the
breastwork was frightful; for an instant the Blackfeet fought and
yelled like pent-up tigers; but the butchery was soon complete, and
the mangled bodies lay piled up together under the precipice. Not a
Blackfoot made his escape.

As Paul finished his story we came in sight of Richard's Fort. It
stood in the middle of the plain; a disorderly crowd of men around
it, and an emigrant camp a little in front.

"Now, Paul," said I, "where are your Winnicongew lodges?"

"Not come yet," said Paul, "maybe come to-morrow."

Two large villages of a band of Dakota had come three hundred miles
from the Missouri, to join in the war, and they were expected to
reach Richard's that morning. There was as yet no sign of their
approach; so pushing through a noisy, drunken crowd, I entered an
apartment of logs and mud, the largest in the fort; it was full of
men of various races and complexions, all more or less drunk. A
company of California emigrants, it seemed, had made the discovery at
this late day that they had encumbered themselves with too many
supplies for their journey. A part, therefore, they had thrown away
or sold at great loss to the traders, but had determined to get rid
of their copious stock of Missouri whisky, by drinking it on the
spot. Here were maudlin squaws stretched on piles of buffalo robes;
squalid Mexicans, armed with bows and arrows; Indians sedately drunk;
long-haired Canadians and trappers, and American backwoodsmen in
brown homespun, the well-beloved pistol and bowie knife displayed
openly at their sides. In the middle of the room a tall, lank man,
with a dingy broadcloth coat, was haranguing the company in the style
of the stump orator. With one hand he sawed the air, and with the
other clutched firmly a brown jug of whisky, which he applied every
moment to his lips, forgetting that he had drained the contents long
ago. Richard formally introduced me to this personage, who was no
less a man than Colonel R., once the leader of the party. Instantly
the colonel seizing me, in the absence of buttons by the leather
fringes of my frock, began to define his position. His men, he said,
had mutinied and deposed him; but still he exercised over them the
influence of a superior mind; in all but the name he was yet their
chief. As the colonel spoke, I looked round on the wild assemblage,
and could not help thinking that he was but ill qualified to conduct
such men across the desert to California. Conspicuous among the rest
stood three tail young men, grandsons of Daniel Boone. They had
clearly inherited the adventurous character of that prince of
pioneers; but I saw no signs of the quiet and tranquil spirit that so
remarkably distinguished him.

Fearful was the fate that months after overtook some of the members
of that party. General Kearny, on his late return from California,
brought in the account how they were interrupted by the deep snows
among the mountains, and maddened by cold and hunger fed upon each
other's flesh.

I got tired of the confusion. "Come, Paul," said I, "we will be
off." Paul sat in the sun, under the wall of the fort. He jumped
up, mounted, and we rode toward Fort Laramie. When we reached it, a
man came out of the gate with a pack at his back and a rifle on his
shoulder; others were gathering about him, shaking him by the hand, as
if taking leave. I thought it a strange thing that a man should set
out alone and on foot for the prairie. I soon got an explanation.
Perrault--this, if I recollect right was the Canadian's name--had
quarreled with the bourgeois, and the fort was too hot to hold him.
Bordeaux, inflated with his transient authority, had abused him, and
received a blow in return. The men then sprang at each other, and
grappled in the middle of the fort. Bordeaux was down in an instant,
at the mercy of the incensed Canadian; had not an old Indian, the
brother of his squaw, seized hold of his antagonist, he would have
fared ill. Perrault broke loose from the old Indian, and both the
white men ran to their rooms for their guns; but when Bordeaux,
looking from his door, saw the Canadian, gun in hand, standing in the
area and calling on him to come out and fight, his heart failed him;
he chose to remain where he was. In vain the old Indian, scandalized
by his brother-in-law's cowardice, called upon him to go upon the
prairie and fight it out in the white man's manner; and Bordeaux's
own squaw, equally incensed, screamed to her lord and master that he
was a dog and an old woman. It all availed nothing. Bordeaux's
prudence got the better of his valor, and he would not stir.
Perrault stood showering approbrious epithets at the recent
bourgeois. Growing tired of this, he made up a pack of dried meat,
and slinging it at his back, set out alone for Fort Pierre on the
Missouri, a distance of three hundred miles, over a desert country
full of hostile Indians.

I remained in the fort that night. In the morning, as I was coming
out from breakfast, conversing with a trader named McCluskey, I saw a
strange Indian leaning against the side of the gate. He was a tall,
strong man, with heavy features.

"Who is he?" I asked. "That's The Whirlwind," said McCluskey. "He
is the fellow that made all this stir about the war. It's always the
way with the Sioux; they never stop cutting each other's throats;
it's all they are fit for; instead of sitting in their lodges, and
getting robes to trade with us in the winter. If this war goes on,
we'll make a poor trade of it next season, I reckon."

And this was the opinion of all the traders, who were vehemently
opposed to the war, from the serious injury that it must occasion to
their interests. The Whirlwind left his village the day before to
make a visit to the fort. His warlike ardor had abated not a little
since he first conceived the design of avenging his son's death. The
long and complicated preparations for the expedition were too much
for his fickle, inconstant disposition. That morning Bordeaux
fastened upon him, made him presents and told him that if he went to
war he would destroy his horses and kill no buffalo to trade with the
white men; in short, that he was a fool to think of such a thing, and
had better make up his mind to sit quietly in his lodge and smoke his
pipe, like a wise man. The Whirlwind's purpose was evidently shaken;
he had become tired, like a child, of his favorite plan. Bordeaux
exultingly predicted that he would not go to war. My philanthropy at
that time was no match for my curiosity, and I was vexed at the
possibility that after all I might lose the rare opportunity of
seeing the formidable ceremonies of war. The Whirlwind, however, had
merely thrown the firebrand; the conflagration was become general.
All the western bands of the Dakota were bent on war; and as I heard
from McCluskey, six large villages already gathered on a little
stream, forty miles distant, were daily calling to the Great Spirit
to aid them in their enterprise. McCluskey had just left and
represented them as on their way to La Bonte's Camp, which they would
THERE. I did not like this condition, for buffalo this season were
rare in the neighborhood. There were also the two Minnicongew
villages that I mentioned before; but about noon, an Indian came from
Richard's Fort with the news that they were quarreling, breaking up,
and dispersing. So much for the whisky of the emigrants! Finding
themselves unable to drink the whole, they had sold the residue to
these Indians, and it needed no prophet to foretell the results; a
spark dropped into a powder magazine would not have produced a
quicker effect. Instantly the old jealousies and rivalries and
smothered feuds that exist in an Indian village broke out into
furious quarrels. They forgot the warlike enterprise that had
already brought them three hundred miles. They seemed like
ungoverned children inflamed with the fiercest passions of men.
Several of them were stabbed in the drunken tumult; and in the
morning they scattered and moved back toward the Missouri in small
parties. I feared that, after all, the long-projected meeting and
the ceremonies that were to attend it might never take place, and I
should lose so admirable an opportunity of seeing the Indian under
his most fearful and characteristic aspect; however, in foregoing
this, I should avoid a very fair probability of being plundered and
stripped, and, it might be, stabbed or shot into the bargain.
Consoling myself with this reflection, I prepared to carry the news,
such as it was, to the camp.

I caught my horse, and to my vexation found he had lost a shoe and
broken his tender white hoof against the rocks. Horses are shod at
Fort Laramie at the moderate rate of three dollars a foot; so I tied
Hendrick to a beam in the corral, and summoned Roubidou, the
blacksmith. Roubidou, with the hoof between his knees, was at work
with hammer and file, and I was inspecting the process, when a
strange voice addressed me.

Two more gone under! Well, there is more of us left yet. Here's
Jean Gars and me off to the mountains to-morrow. Our turn will come
next, I suppose. It's a hard life, anyhow!"

I looked up and saw a little man, not much more than five feet high,
but of very square and strong proportions. In appearance he was
particularly dingy; for his old buckskin frock was black and polished
with time and grease, and his belt, knife, pouch, and powder-horn
appeared to have seen the roughest service. The first joint of each
foot was entirely gone, having been frozen off several winters
before, and his moccasins were curtailed in proportion. His whole
appearance and equipment bespoke the "free trapper." He had a round
ruddy face, animated with a spirit of carelessness and gayety not at
all in accordance with the words he had just spoken.

"Two more gone," said I; "what do you mean by that?"

"Oh," said he, "the Arapahoes have just killed two of us in the
mountains. Old Bull-Tail has come to tell us. They stabbed one
behind his back, and shot the other with his own rifle. That's the
way we live here! I mean to give up trapping after this year. My
squaw says she wants a pacing horse and some red ribbons; I'll make
enough beaver to get them for her, and then I'm done! I'll go below
and live on a farm."

"Your bones will dry on the prairie, Rouleau!" said another trapper,
who was standing by; a strong, brutal-looking fellow, with a face as
surly as a bull-dog's.

Rouleau only laughed, and began to hum a tune and shuffle a dance on
his stumps of feet.

"You'll see us, before long, passing up our way," said the other man.
"Well," said I, "stop and take a cup of coffee with us"; and as it
was quite late in the afternoon, I prepared to leave the fort at

As I rode out, a train of emigrant wagons was passing across the
stream. "Whar are ye goin' stranger?" Thus I was saluted by two or
three voices at once.

"About eighteen miles up the creek."

"It's mighty late to be going that far! Make haste, ye'd better, and
keep a bright lookout for Indians!"

I thought the advice too good to be neglected. Fording the stream, I
passed at a round trot over the plains beyond. But "the more haste,
the worse speed." I proved the truth in the proverb by the time I
reached the hills three miles from the fort. The trail was faintly
marked, and riding forward with more rapidity than caution, I lost
sight of it. I kept on in a direct line, guided by Laramie Creek,
which I could see at intervals darkly glistening in the evening sun,
at the bottom of the woody gulf on my right. Half an hour before
sunset I came upon its banks. There was something exciting in the
wild solitude of the place. An antelope sprang suddenly from the
sagebushes before me. As he leaped gracefully not thirty yards
before my horse, I fired, and instantly he spun round and fell.
Quite sure of him, I walked my horse toward him, leisurely reloading
my rifle, when to my surprise he sprang up and trotted rapidly away
on three legs into the dark recesses of the hills, whither I had no
time to follow. Ten minutes after, I was passing along the bottom of
a deep valley, and chancing to look behind me, I saw in the dim light
that something was following. Supposing it to be wolf, I slid from
my seat and sat down behind my horse to shoot it; but as it came up,
I saw by its motions that it was another antelope. It approached
within a hundred yards, arched its graceful neck, and gazed intently.
I leveled at the white spot on its chest, and was about to fire when
it started off, ran first to one side and then to the other, like a
vessel tacking against a wind, and at last stretched away at full
speed. Then it stopped again, looked curiously behind it, and
trotted up as before; but not so boldly, for it soon paused and stood
gazing at me. I fired; it leaped upward and fell upon its tracks.
Measuring the distance, I found it 204 paces. When I stood by his
side, the antelope turned his expiring eye upward. It was like a
beautiful woman's, dark and rich. "Fortunate that I am in a hurry,"
thought I; "I might be troubled with remorse, if I had time for it."

Cutting the animal up, not in the most skilled manner, I hung the
meat at the back of my saddle, and rode on again. The hills (I could
not remember one of them) closed around me. "It is too late,"
thought I, "to go forward. I will stay here to-night, and look for
the path in the morning." As a last effort, however, I ascended a
high hill, from which, to my great satisfaction, I could see Laramie
Creek stretching before me, twisting from side to side amid ragged
patches of timber; and far off, close beneath the shadows of the
trees, the ruins of the old trading fort were visible. I reached
them at twilight. It was far from pleasant, in that uncertain light,
to be pushing through the dense trees and shrubbery of the grove
beyond. I listened anxiously for the footfall of man or beast.
Nothing was stirring but one harmless brown bird, chirping among the
branches. I was glad when I gained the open prairie once more, where
I could see if anything approached. When I came to the mouth of
Chugwater, it was totally dark. Slackening the reins, I let my horse
take his own course. He trotted on with unerring instinct, and by
nine o'clock was scrambling down the steep ascent into the meadows
where we were encamped. While I was looking in vain for the light of
the fire, Hendrick, with keener perceptions, gave a loud neigh, which
was immediately answered in a shrill note from the distance. In a
moment I was hailed from the darkness by the voice of Reynal, who had
come out, rifle in hand, to see who was approaching.

He, with his squaw, the two Canadians and the Indian boys, were the
sole inmates of the camp, Shaw and Henry Chatillon being still
absent. At noon of the following day they came back, their horses
looking none the better for the journey. Henry seemed dejected. The
woman was dead, and his children must henceforward be exposed,
without a protector, to the hardships and vicissitudes of Indian
life. Even in the midst of his grief he had not forgotten his
attachment to his bourgeois, for he had procured among his Indian
relatives two beautifully ornamented buffalo robes, which he spread
on the ground as a present to us.

Shaw lighted his pipe, and told me in a few words the history of his
journey. When I went to the fort they left me, as I mentioned, at
the mouth of Chugwater. They followed the course of the little
stream all day, traversing a desolate and barren country. Several
times they came upon the fresh traces of a large war party--the same,
no doubt, from whom we had so narrowly escaped an attack. At an hour
before sunset, without encountering a human being by the way, they
came upon the lodges of the squaw and her brothers, who, in
compliance with Henry's message, had left the Indian village in order
to join us at our camp. The lodges were already pitched, five in
number, by the side of the stream. The woman lay in one of them,
reduced to a mere skeleton. For some time she had been unable to
move or speak. Indeed, nothing had kept her alive but the hope of
seeing Henry, to whom she was strongly and faithfully attached. No
sooner did he enter the lodge than she revived, and conversed with
him the greater part of the night. Early in the morning she was
lifted into a travail, and the whole party set out toward our camp.
There were but five warriors; the rest were women and children. The
whole were in great alarm at the proximity of the Crow war party, who
would certainly have destroyed them without mercy had they met. They
had advanced only a mile or two, when they discerned a horseman, far
off, on the edge of the horizon. They all stopped, gathering
together in the greatest anxiety, from which they did not recover
until long after the horseman disappeared; then they set out again.
Henry was riding with Shaw a few rods in advance of the Indians, when
Mahto-Tatonka, a younger brother of the woman, hastily called after
them. Turning back, they found all the Indians crowded around the
travail in which the woman was lying. They reached her just in time
to hear the death-rattle in her throat. In a moment she lay dead in
the basket of the vehicle. A complete stillness succeeded; then the
Indians raised in concert their cries of lamentation over the corpse,
and among them Shaw clearly distinguished those strange sounds
resembling the word "Halleluyah," which together with some other
accidental coincidences has given rise to the absurd theory that the
Indians are descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel.

The Indian usage required that Henry, as well as the other relatives
of the woman, should make valuable presents, to be placed by the side
of the body at its last resting place. Leaving the Indians, he and
Shaw set out for the camp and reached it, as we have seen, by hard
pushing, at about noon. Having obtained the necessary articles, they
immediately returned. It was very late and quite dark when they
again reached the lodges. They were all placed in a deep hollow
among the dreary hills. Four of them were just visible through the
gloom, but the fifth and largest was illuminated by the ruddy blaze
of a fire within, glowing through the half-transparent covering of
raw hides. There was a perfect stillness as they approached. The
lodges seemed without a tenant. Not a living thing was stirring--
there was something awful in the scene. They rode up to the entrance
of the lodge, and there was no sound but the tramp of their horses.
A squaw came out and took charge of the animals, without speaking a
word. Entering, they found the lodge crowded with Indians; a fire
was burning in the midst, and the mourners encircled it in a triple
row. Room was made for the newcomers at the head of the lodge, a
robe spread for them to sit upon, and a pipe lighted and handed to
them in perfect silence. Thus they passed the greater part of the
night. At times the fire would subside into a heap of embers, until
the dark figures seated around it were scarcely visible; then a squaw
would drop upon it a piece of buffalo-fat, and a bright flame,
instantly springing up, would reveal of a sudden the crowd of wild
faces, motionless as bronze. The silence continued unbroken. It was
a relief to Shaw when daylight returned and he could escape from this
house of mourning. He and Henry prepared to return homeward; first,
however, they placed the presents they had brought near the body of
the squaw, which, most gaudily attired, remained in a sitting posture
in one of the lodges. A fine horse was picketed not far off,
destined to be killed that morning for the service of her spirit, for
the woman was lame, and could not travel on foot over the dismal
prairies to the villages of the dead. Food, too, was provided, and
household implements, for her use upon this last journey.

Henry left her to the care of her relatives, and came immediately
with Shaw to the camp. It was some time before he entirely recovered
from his dejection.



Reynal heard guns fired one day, at the distance of a mile or two
from the camp. He grew nervous instantly. Visions of Crow war
parties began to haunt his imagination; and when we returned (for we
were all absent), he renewed his complaints about being left alone
with the Canadians and the squaw. The day after, the cause of the
alarm appeared. Four trappers, one called Moran, another Saraphin,
and the others nicknamed "Rouleau" and "Jean Gras," came to our camp
and joined us. They it was who fired the guns and disturbed the
dreams of our confederate Reynal. They soon encamped by our side.
Their rifles, dingy and battered with hard service, rested with ours
against the old tree; their strong rude saddles, their buffalo robes,
their traps, and the few rough and simple articles of their traveling
equipment, were piled near our tent. Their mountain horses were
turned to graze in the meadow among our own; and the men themselves,
no less rough and hardy, used to lie half the day in the shade of our
tree lolling on the grass, lazily smoking, and telling stories of
their adventures; and I defy the annals of chivalry to furnish the
record of a life more wild and perilous than that of a Rocky Mountain

With this efficient re-enforcement the agitation of Reynal's nerves
subsided. He began to conceive a sort of attachment to our old
camping ground; yet it was time to change our quarters, since
remaining too long on one spot must lead to certain unpleasant
results not to be borne with unless in a case of dire necessity. The
grass no longer presented a smooth surface of turf; it was trampled
into mud and clay. So we removed to another old tree, larger yet,
that grew by the river side at a furlong's distance. Its trunk was
full six feet in diameter; on one side it was marked by a party of
Indians with various inexplicable hieroglyphics, commemorating some
warlike enterprise, and aloft among the branches were the remains of
a scaffolding, where dead bodies had once been deposited, after the
Indian manner.

"There comes Bull-Bear," said Henry Chatillon, as we sat on the grass
at dinner. Looking up, we saw several horsemen coming over the
neighboring hill, and in a moment four stately young men rode up and
dismounted. One of them was Bull-Bear, or Mahto-Tatonka, a compound
name which he inherited from his father, the most powerful chief in
the Ogallalla band. One of his brothers and two other young men
accompanied him. We shook hands with the visitors, and when we had
finished our meal--for this is the orthodox manner of entertaining
Indians, even the best of them--we handed to each a tin cup of coffee
and a biscuit, at which they ejaculated from the bottom of their
throats, 'How! how!" a monosyllable by which an Indian contrives to
express half the emotions that he is susceptible of. Then we lighted
the pipe, and passed it to them as they squatted on the ground.

"Where is the village?"

"There," said Mahto-Tatonka, pointing southward; "it will come in two

"Will they go to the war?"


No man is a philanthropist on the prairie. We welcomed this news
most cordially, and congratulated ourselves that Bordeaux's
interested efforts to divert The Whirlwind from his congenial
vocation of bloodshed had failed of success, and that no additional
obstacles would interpose between us and our plan of repairing to the
rendezvous at La Bonte's Camp.

For that and several succeeding days, Mahto-Tatonka and his friends
remained our guests. They devoured the relics of our meals; they
filled the pipe for us and also helped us to smoke it. Sometimes
they stretched themselves side by side in the shade, indulging in
raillery and practical jokes ill becoming the dignity of brave and
aspiring warriors, such as two of them in reality were.

Two days dragged away, and on the morning of the third we hoped
confidently to see the Indian village. It did not come; so we rode
out to look for it. In place of the eight hundred Indians we
expected, we met one solitary savage riding toward us over the
prairie, who told us that the Indians had changed their plans, and
would not come within three days; still he persisted that they were
going to the war. Taking along with us this messenger of evil
tidings, we retraced our footsteps to the camp, amusing ourselves by
the way with execrating Indian inconstancy. When we came in sight of
our little white tent under the big tree, we saw that it no longer
stood alone. A huge old lodge was erected close by its side,
discolored by rain and storms, rotted with age, with the uncouth
figures of horses and men, and outstretched hands that were painted
upon it, well-nigh obliterated. The long poles which supported this
squalid habitation thrust themselves rakishly out from its pointed
top, and over its entrance were suspended a "medicine-pipe" and
various other implements of the magic art. While we were yet at a
distance, we observed a greatly increased population of various
colors and dimensions, swarming around our quiet encampment. Moran,
the trapper, having been absent for a day or two, had returned, it
seemed, bringing all his family with him. He had taken to himself a
wife for whom he had paid the established price of one horse. This
looks cheap at first sight, but in truth the purchase of a squaw is a
transaction which no man should enter into without mature
deliberation, since it involves not only the payment of the first
price, but the formidable burden of feeding and supporting a
rapacious horde of the bride's relatives, who hold themselves
entitled to feed upon the indiscreet white man. They gather round
like leeches, and drain him of all he has.

Moran, like Reynal, had not allied himself to an aristocratic circle.
His relatives occupied but a contemptible position in Ogallalla
society; for among those wild democrats of the prairie, as among us,
there are virtual distinctions of rank and place; though this great
advantage they have over us, that wealth has no part in determining
such distinctions. Moran's partner was not the most beautiful of her
sex, and he had the exceedingly bad taste to array her in an old
calico gown bought from an emigrant woman, instead of the neat and
graceful tunic of whitened deerskin worn ordinarily by the squaws.
The moving spirit of the establishment, in more senses than one, was
a hideous old hag of eighty. Human imagination never conceived
hobgoblin or witch more ugly than she. You could count all her ribs
through the wrinkles of the leathery skin that covered them. Her
withered face more resembled an old skull than the countenance of a
living being, even to the hollow, darkened sockets, at the bottom of
which glittered her little black eyes. Her arms had dwindled away
into nothing but whipcord and wire. Her hair, half black, half gray,
hung in total neglect nearly to the ground, and her sole garment
consisted of the remnant of a discarded buffalo robe tied round her
waist with a string of hide. Yet the old squaw's meager anatomy was
wonderfully strong. She pitched the lodge, packed the horses, and
did the hardest labor of the camp. From morning till night she
bustled about the lodge, screaming like a screech-owl when anything
displeased her. Then there was her brother, a "medicine-man," or
magician, equally gaunt and sinewy with herself. His mouth spread
from ear to ear, and his appetite, as we had full occasion to learn,
was ravenous in proportion. The other inmates of the lodge were a
young bride and bridegroom; the latter one of those idle, good-for
nothing fellows who infest an Indian village as well as more
civilized communities. He was fit neither for hunting nor for war;
and one might infer as much from the stolid unmeaning expression of
his face. The happy pair had just entered upon the honeymoon. They
would stretch a buffalo robe upon poles, so as to protect them from
the fierce rays of the sun, and spreading beneath this rough canopy a
luxuriant couch of furs, would sit affectionately side by side for
half the day, though I could not discover that much conversation
passed between them. Probably they had nothing to say; for an
Indian's supply of topics for conversation is far from being copious.
There were half a dozen children, too, playing and whooping about the
camp, shooting birds with little bows and arrows, or making miniature
lodges of sticks, as children of a different complexion build houses
of blocks.

A day passed, and Indians began rapidly to come in. Parties of two
or three or more would ride up and silently seat themselves on the
grass. The fourth day came at last, when about noon horsemen
suddenly appeared into view on the summit of the neighboring ridge.
They descended, and behind them followed a wild procession, hurrying
in haste and disorder down the hill and over the plain below; horses,
mules, and dogs, heavily burdened travaux, mounted warriors, squaws
walking amid the throng, and a host of children. For a full half-
hour they continued to pour down; and keeping directly to the bend of
the stream, within a furlong of us, they soon assembled there, a dark
and confused throng, until, as if by magic, 150 tall lodges sprung
up. On a sudden the lonely plain was transformed into the site of a
miniature city. Countless horses were soon grazing over the meadows
around us, and the whole prairie was animated by restless figures
careening on horseback, or sedately stalking in their long white
robes. The Whirlwind was come at last! One question yet remained to
be answered: "Will he go to the war, in order that we, with so
respectable an escort, may pass over to the somewhat perilous
rendezvous at La Bonte's Camp?"

Still this remained in doubt. Characteristic indecision perplexed
their councils. Indians cannot act in large bodies. Though their
object be of the highest importance, they cannot combine to attain it
by a series of connected efforts. King Philip, Pontiac, and Tecumseh
all felt this to their cost. The Ogallalla once had a war chief who
could control them; but he was dead, and now they were left to the
sway of their own unsteady impulses.

This Indian village and its inhabitants will hold a prominent place
in the rest of the narrative, and perhaps it may not be amiss to
glance for an instant at the savage people of which they form a part.
The Dakota (I prefer this national designation to the unmeaning
French name, Sioux) range over a vast territory, from the river St.
Peter's to the Rocky Mountains themselves. They are divided into
several independent bands, united under no central government, and
acknowledge no common head. The same language, usages, and
superstitions form the sole bond between them. They do not unite
even in their wars. The bands of the east fight the Ojibwas on the
Upper Lakes; those of the west make incessant war upon the Snake
Indians in the Rocky Mountains. As the whole people is divided into
bands, so each band is divided into villages. Each village has a
chief, who is honored and obeyed only so far as his personal
qualities may command respect and fear. Sometimes he is a mere
nominal chief; sometimes his authority is little short of absolute,
and his fame and influence reach even beyond his own village; so that
the whole band to which he belongs is ready to acknowledge him as
their head. This was, a few years since, the case with the
Ogallalla. Courage, address, and enterprise may raise any warrior to
the highest honor, especially if he be the son of a former chief, or
a member of a numerous family, to support him and avenge his
quarrels; but when he has reached the dignity of chief, and the old
men and warriors, by a peculiar ceremony, have formally installed
him, let it not be imagined that he assumes any of the outward
semblances of rank and honor. He knows too well on how frail a
tenure he holds his station. He must conciliate his uncertain
subjects. Many a man in the village lives better, owns more squaws
and more horses, and goes better clad than he. Like the Teutonic
chiefs of old, he ingratiates himself with his young men by making
them presents, thereby often impoverishing himself. Does he fail in
gaining their favor, they will set his authority at naught, and may
desert him at any moment; for the usages of his people have provided
no sanctions by which he may enforce his authority. Very seldom does
it happen, at least among these western bands, that a chief attains
to much power, unless he is the head of a numerous family.
Frequently the village is principally made up of his relatives and
descendants, and the wandering community assumes much of the
patriarchal character. A people so loosely united, torn, too, with
ranking feuds and jealousies, can have little power or efficiency.

The western Dakota have no fixed habitations. Hunting and fighting,
they wander incessantly through summer and winter. Some are
following the herds of buffalo over the waste of prairie; others are
traversing the Black Hills, thronging on horseback and on foot
through the dark gulfs and somber gorges beneath the vast splintering
precipices, and emerging at last upon the "Parks," those beautiful
but most perilous hunting grounds. The buffalo supplies them with
almost all the necessaries of life; with habitations, food, clothing,
and fuel; with strings for their bows, with thread, cordage, and
trail-ropes for their horses, with coverings for their saddles, with
vessels to hold water, with boats to cross streams, with glue, and
with the means of purchasing all that they desire from the traders.
When the buffalo are extinct, they too must dwindle away.

War is the breath of their nostrils. Against most of the neighboring
tribes they cherish a deadly, rancorous hatred, transmitted from
father to son, and inflamed by constant aggression and retaliation.
Many times a year, in every village, the Great Spirit is called upon,
fasts are made, the war parade is celebrated, and the warriors go out
by handfuls at a time against the enemy. This fierce and evil spirit
awakens their most eager aspirations, and calls forth their greatest
energies. It is chiefly this that saves them from lethargy and utter
abasement. Without its powerful stimulus they would be like the
unwarlike tribes beyond the mountains, who are scattered among the
caves and rocks like beasts, living on roots and reptiles. These
latter have little of humanity except the form; but the proud and
ambitious Dakota warrior can sometimes boast of heroic virtues. It
is very seldom that distinction and influence are attained among them
by any other course than that of arms. Their superstition, however,
sometimes gives great power, to those among them who pretend to the
character of magicians. Their wild hearts, too, can feel the power
of oratory, and yield deference to the masters of it.

But to return. Look into our tent, or enter, if you can bear the
stifling smoke and the close atmosphere. There, wedged close
together, you will see a circle of stout warriors, passing the pipe
around, joking, telling stories, and making themselves merry, after
their fashion. We were also infested by little copper-colored naked
boys and snake-eyed girls. They would come up to us, muttering
certain words, which being interpreted conveyed the concise
invitation, "Come and eat." Then we would rise, cursing the
pertinacity of Dakota hospitality, which allowed scarcely an hour of
rest between sun and sun, and to which we were bound to do honor,
unless we would offend our entertainers. This necessity was
particularly burdensome to me, as I was scarcely able to walk, from
the effects of illness, and was of course poorly qualified to dispose
of twenty meals a day. Of these sumptuous banquets I gave a specimen
in a former chapter, where the tragical fate of the little dog was
chronicled. So bounteous an entertainment looks like an outgushing
of good will; but doubtless one-half at least of our kind hosts, had
they met us alone and unarmed on the prairie, would have robbed us of
our horses, and perchance have bestowed an arrow upon us beside.
Trust not an Indian. Let your rifle be ever in your hand. Wear next
your heart the old chivalric motto SEMPER PARATUS.

One morning we were summoned to the lodge of an old man, in good
truth the Nestor of his tribe. We found him half sitting, half
reclining on a pile of buffalo robes; his long hair, jet-black even
now, though he had seen some eighty winters, hung on either side of
his thin features. Those most conversant with Indians in their homes
will scarcely believe me when I affirm that there was dignity in his
countenance and mien. His gaunt but symmetrical frame, did not more
clearly exhibit the wreck of bygone strength, than did his dark,
wasted features, still prominent and commanding, bear the stamp of
mental energies. I recalled, as I saw him, the eloquent metaphor of
the Iroquois sachem: "I am an aged hemlock; the winds of a hundred
winters have whistled through my branches, and I am dead at the top!"
Opposite the patriarch was his nephew, the young aspirant Mahto-
Tatonka; and besides these, there were one or two women in the lodge.

The old man's story is peculiar, and singularly illustrative of a
superstitious custom that prevails in full force among many of the
Indian tribes. He was one of a powerful family, renowned for their
warlike exploits. When a very young man, he submitted to the
singular rite to which most of the tribe subject themselves before
entering upon life. He painted his face black; then seeking out a
cavern in a sequestered part of the Black Hills, he lay for several
days, fasting and praying to the Great Spirit. In the dreams and
visions produced by his weakened and excited state, he fancied like
all Indians, that he saw supernatural revelations. Again and again
the form of an antelope appeared before him. The antelope is the
graceful peace spirit of the Ogallalla; but seldom is it that such a
gentle visitor presents itself during the initiatory fasts of their
young men. The terrible grizzly bear, the divinity of war, usually
appears to fire them with martial ardor and thirst for renown. At
length the antelope spoke. He told the young dreamer that he was not
to follow the path of war; that a life of peace and tranquillity was
marked out for him; that henceforward he was to guide the people by
his counsels and protect them from the evils of their own feuds and
dissensions. Others were to gain renown by fighting the enemy; but
greatness of a different kind was in store for him.

The visions beheld during the period of this fast usually determine
the whole course of the dreamer's life, for an Indian is bound by
iron superstitions. From that time, Le Borgne, which was the only
name by which we knew him, abandoned all thoughts of war and devoted
himself to the labors of peace. He told his vision to the people.
They honored his commission and respected him in his novel capacity.

A far different man was his brother, Mahto-Tatonka, who had
transmitted his names, his features, and many of his characteristic
qualities to his son. He was the father of Henry Chatillon's squaw,
a circumstance which proved of some advantage to us, as securing for
us the friendship of a family perhaps the most distinguished and
powerful in the whole Ogallalla band. Mahto-Tatonka, in his rude
way, was a hero. No chief could vie with him in warlike renown, or
in power over his people. He had a fearless spirit, and a most
impetuous and inflexible resolution. His will was law. He was
politic and sagacious, and with true Indian craft he always
befriended the whites, well knowing that he might thus reap great
advantages for himself and his adherents. When he had resolved on
any course of conduct, he would pay to the warriors the empty
compliment of calling them together to deliberate upon it, and when
their debates were over, he would quietly state his own opinion,
which no one ever disputed. The consequences of thwarting his
imperious will were too formidable to be encountered. Woe to those
who incurred his displeasure! He would strike them or stab them on
the spot; and this act, which, if attempted by any other chief, would
instantly have cost him his life, the awe inspired by his name
enabled him to repeat again and again with impunity. In a community
where, from immemorial time, no man has acknowledged any law but his
own will, Mahto-Tatonka, by the force of his dauntless resolution,
raised himself to power little short of despotic. His haughty career
came at last to an end. He had a host of enemies only waiting for
their opportunity of revenge, and our old friend Smoke, in
particular, together with all his kinsmen, hated him most cordially.
Smoke sat one day in his lodge in the midst of his own village, when
Mahto-Tatonka entered it alone, and approaching the dwelling of his
enemy, called on him in a loud voice to come out, if he were a man,
and fight. Smoke would not move. At this, Mahto-Tatonka proclaimed
him a coward and an old woman, and striding close to the entrance of
the lodge, stabbed the chief's best horse, which was picketed there.
Smoke was daunted, and even this insult failed to call him forth.
Mahto-Tatonka moved haughtily away; all made way for him, but his
hour of reckoning was near.

One hot day, five or six years ago, numerous lodges of Smoke's
kinsmen were gathered around some of the Fur Company's men, who were
trading in various articles with them, whisky among the rest. Mahto-
Tatonka was also there with a few of his people. As he lay in his
own lodge, a fray arose between his adherents and the kinsmen of his
enemy. The war-whoop was raised, bullets and arrows began to fly,
and the camp was in confusion. The chief sprang up, and rushing in a
fury from the lodge shouted to the combatants on both sides to cease.
Instantly--for the attack was preconcerted--came the reports of two
or three guns, and the twanging of a dozen bows, and the savage hero,
mortally wounded, pitched forward headlong to the ground. Rouleau
was present, and told me the particulars. The tumult became general,
and was not quelled until several had fallen on both sides. When we
were in the country the feud between the two families was still
rankling, and not likely soon to cease.

Thus died Mahto-Tatonka, but he left behind him a goodly army of
descendants, to perpetuate his renown and avenge his fate. Besides
daughters he had thirty sons, a number which need not stagger the
credulity of those who are best acquainted with Indian usages and
practices. We saw many of them, all marked by the same dark
complexion and the same peculiar cast of features. Of these our
visitor, young Mahto-Tatonka, was the eldest, and some reported him
as likely to succeed to his father's honors. Though he appeared not
more than twenty-one years old, he had oftener struck the enemy, and
stolen more horses and more squaws than any young man in the village.
We of the civilized world are not apt to attach much credit to the
latter species of exploits; but horse-stealing is well known as an
avenue to distinction on the prairies, and the other kind of
depredation is esteemed equally meritorious. Not that the act can
confer fame from its own intrinsic merits. Any one can steal a
squaw, and if he chooses afterward to make an adequate present to her
rightful proprietor, the easy husband for the most part rests
content, his vengeance falls asleep, and all danger from that quarter
is averted. Yet this is esteemed but a pitiful and mean-spirited
transaction. The danger is averted, but the glory of the achievement
also is lost. Mahto-Tatonka proceeded after a more gallant and
dashing fashion. Out of several dozen squaws whom he had stolen, he
could boast that he had never paid for one, but snapping his fingers
in the face of the injured husband, had defied the extremity of his
indignation, and no one yet had dared to lay the finger of violence
upon him. He was following close in the footsteps of his father.
The young men and the young squaws, each in their way, admired him.
The one would always follow him to war, and he was esteemed to have
unrivaled charm in the eyes of the other. Perhaps his impunity may
excite some wonder. An arrow shot from a ravine, a stab given in the
dark, require no great valor, and are especially suited to the Indian
genius; but Mahto-Tatonka had a strong protection. It was not alone
his courage and audacious will that enabled him to career so
dashingly among his compeers. His enemies did not forget that he was
one of thirty warlike brethren, all growing up to manhood. Should
they wreak their anger upon him, many keen eyes would be ever upon
them, many fierce hearts would thirst for their blood. The avenger
would dog their footsteps everywhere. To kill Mahto-Tatonka would be
no better than an act of suicide.

Though he found such favor in the eyes of the fair, he was no dandy.
As among us those of highest worth and breeding are most simple in
manner and attire, so our aspiring young friend was indifferent to
the gaudy trappings and ornaments of his companions. He was content
to rest his chances of success upon his own warlike merits. He never
arrayed himself in gaudy blanket and glittering necklaces, but left
his statue-like form, limbed like an Apollo of bronze, to win its way
to favor. His voice was singularly deep and strong. It sounded from
his chest like the deep notes of an organ. Yet after all, he was but
an Indian. See him as he lies there in the sun before our tent,
kicking his heels in the air and cracking jokes with his brother.
Does he look like a hero? See him now in the hour of his glory, when
at sunset the whole village empties itself to behold him, for to-
morrow their favorite young partisan goes out against the enemy. His
superb headdress is adorned with a crest of the war eagle's feathers,
rising in a waving ridge above his brow, and sweeping far behind him.
His round white shield hangs at his breast, with feathers radiating
from the center like a star. His quiver is at his back; his tall
lance in his hand, the iron point flashing against the declining sun,
while the long scalp-locks of his enemies flutter from the shaft.
Thus, gorgeous as a champion in his panoply, he rides round and round
within the great circle of lodges, balancing with a graceful buoyancy
to the free movements of his war horse, while with a sedate brow he
sings his song to the Great Spirit. Young rival warriors look
askance at him; vermilion-cheeked girls gaze in admiration, boys
whoop and scream in a thrill of delight, and old women yell forth his
name and proclaim his praises from lodge to lodge.

Mahto-Tatonka, to come back to him, was the best of all our Indian
friends. Hour after hour and day after day, when swarms of savages
of every age, sex, and degree beset our camp, he would lie in our
tent, his lynx eye ever open to guard our property from pillage.

The Whirlwind invited us one day to his lodge. The feast was
finished, and the pipe began to circulate. It was a remarkably large
and fine one, and I expressed my admiration of its form and

"If the Meneaska likes the pipe," asked The Whirlwind, "why does he
not keep it?"

Such a pipe among the Ogallalla is valued at the price of a horse. A
princely gift, thinks the reader, and worthy of a chieftain and a
warrior. The Whirlwind's generosity rose to no such pitch. He gave
me the pipe, confidently expecting that I in return should make him a
present of equal or superior value. This is the implied condition of
every gift among the Indians as among the Orientals, and should it
not be complied with the present is usually reclaimed by the giver.
So I arranged upon a gaudy calico handkerchief, an assortment of
vermilion, tobacco, knives, and gunpowder, and summoning the chief to
camp, assured him of my friendship and begged his acceptance of a
slight token of it. Ejaculating HOW! HOW! he folded up the offerings
and withdrew to his lodge.

Several days passed and we and the Indians remained encamped side by
side. They could not decide whether or not to go to war. Toward
evening, scores of them would surround our tent, a picturesque group.
Late one afternoon a party of them mounted on horseback came suddenly
in sight from behind some clumps of bushes that lined the bank of the
stream, leading with them a mule, on whose back was a wretched negro,
only sustained in his seat by the high pommel and cantle of the
Indian saddle. His cheeks were withered and shrunken in the hollow
of his jaws; his eyes were unnaturally dilated, and his lips seemed
shriveled and drawn back from his teeth like those of a corpse. When
they brought him up before our tent, and lifted him from the saddle,
he could not walk or stand, but he crawled a short distance, and with
a look of utter misery sat down on the grass. All the children and
women came pouring out of the lodges round us, and with screams and
cries made a close circle about him, while he sat supporting himself
with his hands, and looking from side to side with a vacant stare.
The wretch was starving to death! For thirty-three days he had
wandered alone on the prairie, without weapon of any kind; without
shoes, moccasins, or any other clothing than an old jacket and
pantaloons; without intelligence and skill to guide his course, or
any knowledge of the productions of the prairie. All this time he
had subsisted on crickets and lizards, wild onions, and three eggs
which he found in the nest of a prairie dove. He had not seen a
human being. Utterly bewildered in the boundless, hopeless desert
that stretched around him, offering to his inexperienced eye no mark
by which to direct his course, he had walked on in despair till he
could walk no longer, and then crawled on his knees until the bone
was laid bare. He chose the night for his traveling, lying down by
day to sleep in the glaring sun, always dreaming, as he said, of the
broth and corn cake he used to eat under his old master's shed in
Missouri. Every man in the camp, both white and red, was astonished
at his wonderful escape not only from starvation but from the grizzly
bears which abound in that neighborhood, and the wolves which howled
around him every night.

Reynal recognized him the moment the Indians brought him in. He had
run away from his master about a year before and joined the party of
M. Richard, who was then leaving the frontier for the mountains. He
had lived with Richard ever since, until in the end of May he with
Reynal and several other men went out in search of some stray horses,
when he got separated from the rest in a storm, and had never been
heard of up to this time. Knowing his inexperience and helplessness,
no one dreamed that he could still be living. The Indians had found
him lying exhausted on the ground.

As he sat there with the Indians gazing silently on him, his haggard
face and glazed eye were disgusting to look upon. Delorier made him
a bowl of gruel, but he suffered it to remain untasted before him.
At length he languidly raised the spoon to his lips; again he did so,
and again; and then his appetite seemed suddenly inflamed into
madness, for he seized the bowl, swallowed all its contents in a few
seconds, and eagerly demanded meat. This we refused, telling him to
wait until morning, but he begged so eagerly that we gave him a small
piece, which he devoured, tearing it like a dog. He said he must
have more. We told him that his life was in danger if he ate so
immoderately at first. He assented, and said he knew he was a fool
to do so, but he must have meat. This we absolutely refused, to the
great indignation of the senseless squaws, who, when we were not
watching him, would slyly bring dried meat and POMMES BLANCHES, and
place them on the ground by his side. Still this was not enough for
him. When it grew dark he contrived to creep away between the legs
of the horses and crawl over to the Indian village, about a furlong
down the stream. Here he fed to his heart's content, and was brought
back again in the morning, when Jean Gras, the trapper, put him on
horseback and carried him to the fort. He managed to survive the
effects of his insane greediness, and though slightly deranged when
we left this part of the country, he was otherwise in tolerable
health, and expressed his firm conviction that nothing could ever
kill him.

When the sun was yet an hour high, it was a gay scene in the village.
The warriors stalked sedately among the lodges, or along the margin
of the streams, or walked out to visit the bands of horses that were
feeding over the prairie. Half the village population deserted the
close and heated lodges and betook themselves to the water; and here
you might see boys and girls and young squaws splashing, swimming,
and diving beneath the afternoon sun, with merry laughter and
screaming. But when the sun was just resting above the broken peaks,
and the purple mountains threw their prolonged shadows for miles over
the prairie; when our grim old tree, lighted by the horizontal rays,
assumed an aspect of peaceful repose, such as one loves after scenes
of tumult and excitement; and when the whole landscape of swelling
plains and scattered groves was softened into a tranquil beauty, then
our encampment presented a striking spectacle. Could Salvator Rosa
have transferred it to his canvas, it would have added new renown to
his pencil. Savage figures surrounded our tent, with quivers at
their backs, and guns, lances, or tomahawks in their hands. Some sat
on horseback, motionless as equestrian statues, their arms crossed on
their breasts, their eyes fixed in a steady unwavering gaze upon us.
Some stood erect, wrapped from head to foot in their long white robes
of buffalo hide. Some sat together on the grass, holding their
shaggy horses by a rope, with their broad dark busts exposed to view
as they suffered their robes to fall from their shoulders. Others
again stood carelessly among the throng, with nothing to conceal the
matchless symmetry of their forms; and I do not exaggerate when I say
that only on the prairie and in the Vatican have I seen such
faultless models of the human figure. See that warrior standing by
the tree, towering six feet and a half in stature. Your eyes may
trace the whole of his graceful and majestic height, and discover no
defect or blemish. With his free and noble attitude, with the bow in
his hand, and the quiver at his back, he might seem, but for his
face, the Pythian Apollo himself. Such a figure rose before the
imagination of West, when on first seeing the Belvidere in the
Vatican, he exclaimed, "By God, a Mohawk!"

When the sky darkened and the stars began to appear; when the prairie
was involved in gloom and the horses were driven in and secured
around the camp, the crowd began to melt away. Fires gleamed around,
duskily revealing the rough trappers and the graceful Indians. One
of the families near us would always be gathered about a bright
blaze, that displayed the shadowy dimensions of their lodge, and sent
its lights far up among the masses of foliage above, gilding the dead
and ragged branches. Withered witchlike hags flitted around the
blaze, and here for hour after hour sat a circle of children and
young girls, laughing and talking, their round merry faces glowing in
the ruddy light. We could hear the monotonous notes of the drum from
the Indian village, with the chant of the war song, deadened in the
distance, and the long chorus of quavering yells, where the war dance
was going on in the largest lodge. For several nights, too, we could
hear wild and mournful cries, rising and dying away like the
melancholy voice of a wolf. They came from the sisters and female
relatives of Mahto-Tatonka, who were gashing their limbs with knives,
and bewailing the death of Henry Chatillon's squaw. The hour would
grow late before all retired to rest in the camp. Then the embers of
the fires would be glowing dimly, the men would be stretched in their
blankets on the ground, and nothing could be heard but the restless
motions of the crowded horses.

I recall these scenes with a mixed feeling of pleasure and pain. At
this time I was so reduced by illness that I could seldom walk
without reeling like a drunken man, and when I rose from my seat upon
the ground the landscape suddenly grew dim before my eyes, the trees
and lodges seemed to sway to and fro, and the prairie to rise and
fall like the swells of the ocean. Such a state of things is by no
means enviable anywhere. In a country where a man's life may at any
moment depend on the strength of his arm, or it may be on the
activity of his legs, it is more particularly inconvenient. Medical
assistance of course there was none; neither had I the means of
pursuing a system of diet; and sleeping on a damp ground, with an
occasional drenching from a shower, would hardly be recommended as
beneficial. I sometimes suffered the extremity of languor and
exhaustion, and though at the time I felt no apprehensions of the
final result, I have since learned that my situation was a critical

Besides other formidable inconveniences I owe it in a great measure
to the remote effects of that unlucky disorder that from deficient
eyesight I am compelled to employ the pen of another in taking down
this narrative from my lips; and I have learned very effectually that
a violent attack of dysentery on the prairie is a thing too serious
for a joke. I tried repose and a very sparing diet. For a long
time, with exemplary patience, I lounged about the camp, or at the
utmost staggered over to the Indian village, and walked faint and
dizzy among the lodges. It would not do, and I bethought me of
starvation. During five days I sustained life on one small biscuit a
day. At the end of that time I was weaker than before, but the
disorder seemed shaken in its stronghold and very gradually I began
to resume a less rigid diet. No sooner had I done so than the same
detested symptoms revisited me; my old enemy resumed his pertinacious
assaults, yet not with his former violence or constancy, and though
before I regained any fair portion of my ordinary strength weeks had
elapsed, and months passed before the disorder left me, yet thanks to
old habits of activity, and a merciful Providence, I was able to
sustain myself against it.

I used to lie languid and dreamy before our tent and muse on the past
and the future, and when most overcome with lassitude, my eyes turned
always toward the distant Black Hills. There is a spirit of energy
and vigor in mountains, and they impart it to all who approach their
presence. At that time I did not know how many dark superstitions
and gloomy legends are associated with those mountains in the minds
of the Indians, but I felt an eager desire to penetrate their hidden
recesses, to explore the awful chasms and precipices, the black
torrents, the silent forests, that I fancied were concealed there.



A Canadian came from Fort Laramie, and brought a curious piece of
intelligence. A trapper, fresh from the mountains, had become
enamored of a Missouri damsel belonging to a family who with other
emigrants had been for some days encamped in the neighborhood of the
fort. If bravery be the most potent charm to win the favor of the
fair, then no wooer could be more irresistible than a Rocky Mountain
trapper. In the present instance, the suit was not urged in vain.
The lovers concerted a scheme, which they proceeded to carry into
effect with all possible dispatch. The emigrant party left the fort,
and on the next succeeding night but one encamped as usual, and
placed a guard. A little after midnight the enamored trapper drew
near, mounted on a strong horse and leading another by the bridle.
Fastening both animals to a tree, he stealthily moved toward the
wagons, as if he were approaching a band of buffalo. Eluding the
vigilance of the guard, who was probably half asleep, he met his
mistress by appointment at the outskirts of the camp, mounted her on
his spare horse, and made off with her through the darkness. The
sequel of the adventure did not reach our ears, and we never learned
how the imprudent fair one liked an Indian lodge for a dwelling, and
a reckless trapper for a bridegroom.

At length The Whirlwind and his warriors determined to move. They
had resolved after all their preparations not to go to the rendezvous
at La Bonte's Camp, but to pass through the Black Hills and spend a
few weeks in hunting the buffalo on the other side, until they had
killed enough to furnish them with a stock of provisions and with
hides to make their lodges for the next season. This done, they were
to send out a small independent war party against the enemy. Their
final determination left us in some embarrassment. Should we go to
La Bonte's Camp, it was not impossible that the other villages would
prove as vacillating and indecisive as The Whirlwinds, and that no
assembly whatever would take place. Our old companion Reynal had
conceived a liking for us, or rather for our biscuit and coffee, and
for the occasional small presents which we made him. He was very
anxious that we should go with the village which he himself intended
to accompany. He declared he was certain that no Indians would meet
at the rendezvous, and said moreover that it would be easy to convey
our cart and baggage through the Black Hills. In saying this, he
told as usual an egregious falsehood. Neither he nor any white man
with us had ever seen the difficult and obscure defiles through which
the Indians intended to make their way. I passed them afterward, and
had much ado to force my distressed horse along the narrow ravines,
and through chasms where daylight could scarcely penetrate. Our cart
might as easily have been conveyed over the summit of Pike's Peak.
Anticipating the difficulties and uncertainties of an attempt to
visit the rendezvous, we recalled the old proverb about "A bird in
the hand," and decided to follow the village.

Both camps, the Indians' and our own, broke up on the morning of the
1st of July. I was so weak that the aid of a potent auxiliary, a
spoonful of whisky swallowed at short intervals, alone enabled me to
sit on my hardy little mare Pauline through the short journey of that
day. For half a mile before us and half a mile behind, the prairie
was covered far and wide with the moving throng of savages. The
barren, broken plain stretched away to the right and left, and far in
front rose the gloomy precipitous ridge of the Black Hills. We
pushed forward to the head of the scattered column, passing the
burdened travaux, the heavily laden pack horses, the gaunt old women
on foot, the gay young squaws on horseback, the restless children
running among the crowd, old men striding along in their white
buffalo robes, and groups of young warriors mounted on their best
horses. Henry Chatillon, looking backward over the distant prairie,
exclaimed suddenly that a horseman was approaching, and in truth we
could just discern a small black speck slowly moving over the face of
a distant swell, like a fly creeping on a wall. It rapidly grew
larger as it approached.

"White man, I b'lieve," said Henry; "look how he ride! Indian never
ride that way. Yes; he got rifle on the saddle before him."

The horseman disappeared in a hollow of the prairie, but we soon saw
him again, and as he came riding at a gallop toward us through the
crowd of Indians, his long hair streaming in the wind behind him, we
recognized the ruddy face and old buckskin frock of Jean Gras the
trapper. He was just arrived from Fort Laramie, where he had been on
a visit, and said he had a message for us. A trader named Bisonette,
one of Henry's friends, was lately come from the settlements, and
intended to go with a party of men to La Bonte's Camp, where, as Jean
Gras assured us, ten or twelve villages of Indians would certainly
assemble. Bisonette desired that we would cross over and meet him
there, and promised that his men should protect our horses and
baggage while we went among the Indians. Shaw and I stopped our
horses and held a council, and in an evil hour resolved to go.

For the rest of that day's journey our course and that of the Indians
was the same. In less than an hour we came to where the high barren
prairie terminated, sinking down abruptly in steep descent; and
standing on these heights, we saw below us a great level meadow.
Laramie Creek bounded it on the left, sweeping along in the shadow of
the declivities, and passing with its shallow and rapid current just
below us. We sat on horseback, waiting and looking on, while the
whole savage array went pouring past us, hurrying down the descent
and spreading themselves over the meadow below. In a few moments the
plain was swarming with the moving multitude, some just visible, like
specks in the distance, others still passing on, pressing down, and
fording the stream with bustle and confusion. On the edge of the
heights sat half a dozen of the elder warriors, gravely smoking and
looking down with unmoved faces on the wild and striking spectacle.

Up went the lodges in a circle on the margin of the stream. For the
sake of quiet we pitched our tent among some trees at half a mile's
distance. In the afternoon we were in the village. The day was a
glorious one, and the whole camp seemed lively and animated in
sympathy. Groups of children and young girls were laughing gayly on
the outside of the lodges. The shields, the lances, and the bows
were removed from the tall tripods on which they usually hung before
the dwellings of their owners. The warriors were mounting their
horses, and one by one riding away over the prairie toward the
neighboring hills.

Shaw and I sat on the grass near the lodge of Reynal. An old woman,
with true Indian hospitality, brought a bowl of boiled venison and
placed it before us. We amused ourselves with watching half a dozen
young squaws who were playing together and chasing each other in and
out of one of the lodges. Suddenly the wild yell of the war-whoop
came pealing from the hills. A crowd of horsemen appeared, rushing
down their sides and riding at full speed toward the village, each
warrior's long hair flying behind him in the wind like a ship's
streamer. As they approached, the confused throng assumed a regular
order, and entering two by two, they circled round the area at full
gallop, each warrior singing his war song as he rode. Some of their
dresses were splendid. They wore superb crests of feathers and close
tunics of antelope skins, fringed with the scalp-locks of their
enemies; their shields too were often fluttering with the war eagle's
feathers. All had bows and arrows at their back; some carried long
lances, and a few were armed with guns. The White Shield, their
partisan, rode in gorgeous attire at their head, mounted on a black-
and-white horse. Mahto-Tatonka and his brothers took no part in this
parade, for they were in mourning for their sister, and were all
sitting in their lodges, their bodies bedaubed from head to foot with
white clay, and a lock of hair cut from each of their foreheads.

The warriors circled three times round the village; and as each
distinguished champion passed, the old women would scream out his
name in honor of his bravery, and to incite the emulation of the
younger warriors. Little urchins, not two years old, followed the
warlike pageant with glittering eyes, and looked with eager wonder
and admiration at those whose honors were proclaimed by the public
voice of the village. Thus early is the lesson of war instilled into
the mind of an Indian, and such are the stimulants which incite his
thirst for martial renown.

The procession rode out of the village as it had entered it, and in
half an hour all the warriors had returned again, dropping quietly
in, singly or in parties of two or three.

As the sun rose next morning we looked across the meadow, and could
see the lodges leveled and the Indians gathering together in
preparation to leave the camp. Their course lay to the westward. We
turned toward the north with our men, the four trappers following us,
with the Indian family of Moran. We traveled until night. I
suffered not a little from pain and weakness. We encamped among some
trees by the side of a little brook, and here during the whole of the
next day we lay waiting for Bisonette, but no Bisonette appeared.
Here also two of our trapper friends left us, and set out for the
Rocky Mountains. On the second morning, despairing of Bisonette's
arrival we resumed our journey, traversing a forlorn and dreary
monotony of sun-scorched plains, where no living thing appeared save
here and there an antelope flying before us like the wind. When noon
came we saw an unwonted and most welcome sight; a rich and luxuriant
growth of trees, marking the course of a little stream called
Horseshoe Creek. We turned gladly toward it. There were lofty and
spreading trees, standing widely asunder, and supporting a thick
canopy of leaves, above a surface of rich, tall grass. The stream
ran swiftly, as clear as crystal, through the bosom of the wood,
sparkling over its bed of white sand and darkening again as it
entered a deep cavern of leaves and boughs. I was thoroughly
exhausted, and flung myself on the ground, scarcely able to move.
All that afternoon I lay in the shade by the side of the stream, and
those bright woods and sparkling waters are associated in my mind
with recollections of lassitude and utter prostration. When night
came I sat down by the fire, longing, with an intensity of which at
this moment I can hardly conceive, for some powerful stimulant.

In the morning as glorious a sun rose upon us as ever animated that
desolate wilderness. We advanced and soon were surrounded by tall
bare hills, overspread from top to bottom with prickly-pears and
other cacti, that seemed like clinging reptiles. A plain, flat and
hard, and with scarcely the vestige of grass, lay before us, and a
line of tall misshapen trees bounded the onward view. There was no
sight or sound of man or beast, or any living thing, although behind
those trees was the long-looked-for place of rendezvous, where we
fondly hoped to have found the Indians congregated by thousands. We
looked and listened anxiously. We pushed forward with our best
speed, and forced our horses through the trees. There were copses of
some extent beyond, with a scanty stream creeping through their
midst; and as we pressed through the yielding branches, deer sprang
up to the right and left. At length we caught a glimpse of the
prairie beyond. Soon we emerged upon it, and saw, not a plain
covered with encampments and swarming with life, but a vast unbroken
desert stretching away before us league upon league, without a bush
or a tree or anything that had life. We drew rein and gave to the
winds our sentiments concerning the whole aboriginal race of America.
Our journey was in vain and much worse than in vain. For myself, I
was vexed and disappointed beyond measure; as I well knew that a
slight aggravation of my disorder would render this false step
irrevocable, and make it quite impossible to accomplish effectively
the design which had led me an arduous journey of between three and
four thousand miles. To fortify myself as well as I could against
such a contingency, I resolved that I would not under any
circumstances attempt to leave the country until my object was
completely gained.

And where were the Indians? They were assembled in great numbers at
a spot about twenty miles distant, and there at that very moment they
were engaged in their warlike ceremonies. The scarcity of buffalo in
the vicinity of La Bonte's Camp, which would render their supply of
provisions scanty and precarious, had probably prevented them from
assembling there; but of all this we knew nothing until some weeks

Shaw lashed his horse and galloped forward, I, though much more vexed
than he, was not strong enough to adopt this convenient vent to my
feelings; so I followed at a quiet pace, but in no quiet mood. We
rode up to a solitary old tree, which seemed the only place fit for
encampment. Half its branches were dead, and the rest were so
scantily furnished with leaves that they cast but a meager and
wretched shade, and the old twisted trunk alone furnished sufficient
protection from the sun. We threw down our saddles in the strip of
shadow that it cast, and sat down upon them. In silent indignation
we remained smoking for an hour or more, shifting our saddles with
the shifting shadow, for the sun was intolerably hot.



At last we had reached La Bonte's Camp, toward which our eyes had
turned so long. Of all weary hours, those that passed between noon
and sunset of the day when we arrived there may bear away the palm of
exquisite discomfort. I lay under the tree reflecting on what course
to pursue, watching the shadows which seemed never to move, and the
sun which remained fixed in the sky, and hoping every moment to see
the men and horses of Bisonette emerging from the woods. Shaw and
Henry had ridden out on a scouting expedition, and did not return
until the sun was setting. There was nothing very cheering in their
faces nor in the news they brought.

"We have been ten miles from here," said Shaw. "We climbed the
highest butte we could find, and could not see a buffalo or Indian;
nothing but prairie for twenty miles around us."

Henry's horse was quite disabled by clambering up and down the sides
of ravines, and Shaw's was severely fatigued.

After supper that evening, as we sat around the fire, I proposed to
Shaw to wait one day longer in hopes of Bisonette's arrival, and if
he should not come to send Delorier with the cart and baggage back to
Fort Laramie, while we ourselves followed The Whirlwind's village and
attempted to overtake it as it passed the mountains. Shaw, not
having the same motive for hunting Indians that I had, was averse to
the plan; I therefore resolved to go alone. This design I adopted
very unwillingly, for I knew that in the present state of my health
the attempt would be extremely unpleasant, and, as I considered,
hazardous. I hoped that Bisonette would appear in the course of the
following day, and bring us some information by which to direct our
course, and enable me to accomplish my purpose by means less

The rifle of Henry Chatillon was necessary for the subsistence of the
party in my absence; so I called Raymond, and ordered him to prepare
to set out with me. Raymond rolled his eyes vacantly about, but at
length, having succeeded in grappling with the idea, he withdrew to
his bed under the cart. He was a heavy-molded fellow, with a broad
face exactly like an owl's, expressing the most impenetrable
stupidity and entire self-confidence. As for his good qualities, he
had a sort of stubborn fidelity, an insensibility to danger, and a
kind of instinct or sagacity, which sometimes led him right, where
better heads than his were at a loss. Besides this, he knew very
well how to handle a rifle and picket a horse.

Through the following day the sun glared down upon us with a
pitiless, penetrating heat. The distant blue prairie seemed
quivering under it. The lodge of our Indian associates was baking in
the rays, and our rifles, as they leaned against the tree, were too
hot for the touch. There was a dead silence through our camp and all
around it, unbroken except by the hum of gnats and mosquitoes. The
men, resting their foreheads on their arms, were sleeping under the
cart. The Indians kept close within their lodge except the newly
married pair, who were seated together under an awning of buffalo
robes, and the old conjurer, who, with his hard, emaciated face and
gaunt ribs, was perched aloft like a turkey-buzzard among the dead
branches of an old tree, constantly on the lookout for enemies. He
would have made a capital shot. A rifle bullet, skillfully planted,
would have brought him tumbling to the ground. Surely, I thought,
there could be no more harm in shooting such a hideous old villain,
to see how ugly he would look when he was dead, than in shooting the
detestable vulture which he resembled. We dined, and then Shaw
saddled his horse.

"I will ride back," said he, "to Horseshoe Creek, and see if
Bisonette is there."

"I would go with you," I answered, "but I must reserve all the
strength I have."

The afternoon dragged away at last. I occupied myself in cleaning my
rifle and pistols, and making other preparations for the journey.
After supper, Henry Chatillon and I lay by the fire, discussing the
properties of that admirable weapon, the rifle, in the use of which
he could fairly outrival Leatherstocking himself.

It was late before I wrapped myself in my blanket and lay down for
the night, with my head on my saddle. Shaw had not returned, but
this gave no uneasiness, for we presumed that he had fallen in with
Bisonette, and was spending the night with him. For a day or two
past I had gained in strength and health, but about midnight an
attack of pain awoke me, and for some hours I felt no inclination to
sleep. The moon was quivering on the broad breast of the Platte;
nothing could be heard except those low inexplicable sounds, like
whisperings and footsteps, which no one who has spent the night alone
amid deserts and forests will be at a loss to understand. As I was
falling asleep, a familiar voice, shouting from the distance, awoke
me again. A rapid step approached the camp, and Shaw on foot, with
his gun in his hand, hastily entered.

"Where's your horse?" said I, raising myself on my elbow.

"Lost!" said Shaw. "Where's Delorier?"

"There," I replied, pointing to a confused mass of blankets and
buffalo robes.

Shaw touched them with the butt of his gun, and up sprang our
faithful Canadian.

"Come, Delorier; stir up the fire, and get me something to eat."

"Where's Bisonette?" asked I.

"The Lord knows; there's nobody at Horseshoe Creek."

Shaw had gone back to the spot where we had encamped two days before,
and finding nothing there but the ashes of our fires, he had tied his
horse to the tree while he bathed in the stream. Something startled
his horse, who broke loose, and for two hours Shaw tried in vain to
catch him. Sunset approached, and it was twelve miles to camp. So
he abandoned the attempt, and set out on foot to join us. The
greater part of his perilous and solitary work was performed in
darkness. His moccasins were worn to tatters and his feet severely
lacerated. He sat down to eat, however, with the usual equanimity of
his temper not at all disturbed by his misfortune, and my last
recollection before falling asleep was of Shaw, seated cross-legged
before the fire, smoking his pipe. The horse, I may as well mention
here, was found the next morning by Henry Chatillon.

When I awoke again there was a fresh damp smell in the air, a gray
twilight involved the prairie, and above its eastern verge was a
streak of cold red sky. I called to the men, and in a moment a fire
was blazing brightly in the dim morning light, and breakfast was
getting ready. We sat down together on the grass, to the last
civilized meal which Raymond and I were destined to enjoy for some

"Now, bring in the horses."

My little mare Pauline was soon standing by the fire. She was a
fleet, hardy, and gentle animal, christened after Paul Dorion, from
whom I had procured her in exchange for Pontiac. She did not look as
if equipped for a morning pleasure ride. In front of the black,
high-bowed mountain saddle, holsters, with heavy pistols, were
fastened. A pair of saddle bags, a blanket tightly rolled, a small
parcel of Indian presents tied up in a buffalo skin, a leather bag of
flour, and a smaller one of tea were all secured behind, and a long
trail-rope was wound round her neck. Raymond had a strong black
mule, equipped in a similar manner. We crammed our powder-horns to
the throat, and mounted.

"I will meet you at Fort Laramie on the 1st of August," said I to

"That is," replied he, "if we don't meet before that. I think I
shall follow after you in a day or two."

This in fact he attempted, and he would have succeeded if he had not
encountered obstacles against which his resolute spirit was of no
avail. Two days after I left him he sent Delorier to the fort with
the cart and baggage, and set out for the mountains with Henry
Chatillon; but a tremendons thunderstorm had deluged the prairie, and
nearly obliterated not only our trail but that of the Indians
themselves. They followed along the base of the mountains, at a loss
in which direction to go. They encamped there, and in the morning
Shaw found himself poisoned by ivy in such a manner that it was
impossible for him to travel. So they turned back reluctantly toward
Fort Laramie. Shaw's limbs were swollen to double their usual size,
and he rode in great pain. They encamped again within twenty miles
of the fort, and reached it early on the following morning. Shaw lay
serionsly ill for a week, and remained at the fort till I rejoined
him some time after.

To return to my own story. We shook hands with our friends, rode out
upon the prairie, and clambering the sandy hollows that were
channeled in the sides of the hills gained the high plains above. If
a curse had been pronounced upon the land it could not have worn an
aspect of more dreary and forlorn barrenness. There were abrupt
broken hills, deep hollows, and wide plains; but all alike glared
with an insupportable whiteness under the burning sun. The country,
as if parched by the heat, had cracked into innumerable fissures and
ravines, that not a little impeded our progress. Their steep sides
were white and raw, and along the bottom we several times discovered
the broad tracks of the terrific grizzly bear, nowhere more abundant
than in this region. The ridges of the hills were hard as rock, and
strewn with pebbles of flint and coarse red jasper; looking from
them, there was nothing to relieve the desert uniformity of the
prospect, save here and there a pine-tree clinging at the edge of a
ravine, and stretching out its rough, shaggy arms. Under the
scorching heat these melancholy trees diffused their peculiar
resinous odor through the sultry air. There was something in it, as
I approached them, that recalled old associations; the pine-clad
mountains of New England, traversed in days of health and buoyancy,
rose like a reality before my fancy. In passing that arid waste I
was goaded with a morbid thirst produced by my disorder, and I
thought with a longing desire on the crystal treasure poured in such
wasteful profusion from our thousand hills. Shutting my eyes, I more
than half believed that I heard the deep plunging and gurgling of
waters in the bowels of the shaded rocks. I could see their dark ice
glittering far down amid the crevices, and the cold drops trickling
from the long green mosses.

When noon came, we found a little stream, with a few trees and
bushes; and here we rested for an hour. Then we traveled on, guided
by the sun, until, just before sunset, we reached another stream,
called Bitter Cotton-wood Creek. A thick growth of bushes and old
storm-beaten trees grew at intervals along its bank. Near the foot
of one of the trees we flung down our saddles, and hobbling our
horses turned them loose to feed. The little stream was clear and
swift, and ran musically on its white sands. Small water birds were
splashing in the shallows, and filling the air with their cries and
flutterings. The sun was just sinking among gold and crimson clouds
behind Mount Laramie. I well remember how I lay upon a log by the
margin of the water, and watched the restless motions of the little
fish in a deep still nook below. Strange to say, I seemed to have
gained strength since the morning, and almost felt a sense of
returning health.

We built our fire. Night came, and the wolves began to howl. One
deep voice commenced, and it was answered in awful responses from the
hills, the plains, and the woods along the stream above and below us.
Such sounds need not and do not disturb one's sleep upon the prairie.
We picketed the mare and the mule close at our feet, and did not wake
until daylight. Then we turned them loose, still hobbled, to feed
for an hour before starting. We were getting ready our morning's
meal, when Raymond saw an antelope at half a mile's distance, and
said he would go and shoot it.

"Your business," said. I, "is to look after the animals. I am too
weak to do much, if anything happens to them, and you must keep
within sight of the camp."

Raymond promised, and set out with his rifle in his hand. The
animals had passed across the stream, and were feeding among the long
grass on the other side, much tormented by the attacks of the
numerous large green-headed flies. As I watched them, I saw them go
down into a hollow, and as several minutes elapsed without their
reappearing, I waded through the stream to look after them. To my
vexation and alarm I discovered them at a great distance, galloping
away at full speed, Pauline in advance, with her hobbles broken, and
the mule, still fettered, following with awkward leaps. I fired my
rifle and shouted to recall Raymond. In a moment he came running
through the stream, with a red handkerchief bound round his head. I
pointed to the fugitives, and ordered him to pursue them. Muttering
a "Sacre!" between his teeth, he set out at full speed, still
swinging his rifle in his hand. I walked up to the top of a hill,
and looking away over the prairie, could just distinguish the
runaways, still at full gallop. Returning to the fire, I sat down at
the foot of a tree. Wearily and anxiously hour after hour passed
away. The old loose bark dangling from the trunk behind me flapped
to and fro in the wind, and the mosquitoes kept up their incessant
drowsy humming; but other than this, there was no sight nor sound of
life throughout the burning landscape. The sun rose higher and
higher, until the shadows fell almost perpendicularly, and I knew
that it must be noon. It seemed scarcely possible that the animals
could be recovered. If they were not, my situation was one of
serious difficulty. Shaw, when I left him had decided to move that
morning, but whither he had not determined. To look for him would be
a vain attempt. Fort Laramie was forty miles distant, and I could
not walk a mile without great effort. Not then having learned the
sound philosophy of yielding to disproportionate obstacles, I
resolved to continue in any event the pursuit of the Indians. Only
one plan occurred to me; this was to send Raymond to the fort with an
order for more horses, while I remained on the spot, awaiting his
return, which might take place within three days. But the adoption
of this resolution did not wholly allay my anxiety, for it involved
both uncertainty and danger. To remain stationary and alone for
three days, in a country full of dangerous Indians, was not the most
flattering of prospects; and protracted as my Indian hunt must be by
such delay, it was not easy to foretell its ultimate result.
Revolving these matters, I grew hungry; and as our stock of
provisions, except four or five pounds of flour, was by this time
exhausted, I left the camp to see what game I could find. Nothing
could be seen except four or five large curlew, which, with their
loud screaming, were wheeling over my head, and now and then
alighting upon the prairie. I shot two of them, and was about
returning, when a startling sight caught my eye. A small, dark
object, like a human head, suddenly appeared, and vanished among the
thick hushes along the stream below. In that country every stranger
is a suspected enemy. Instinctively I threw forward the muzzle of my
rifle. In a moment the bushes were violently shaken, two heads, but
not human heads, protruded, and to my great joy I recognized the
downcast, disconsolate countenance of the black mule and the yellow
visage of Pauline. Raymond came upon the mule, pale and haggard,
complaining of a fiery pain in his chest. I took charge of the
animals while he kneeled down by the side of the stream to drink. He
had kept the runaways in sight as far as the Side Fork of Laramie
Creek, a distance of more than ten miles; and here with great
difficulty he had succeeded in catching them. I saw that he was
unarmed, and asked him what he had done with his rifle. It had
encumbered him in his pursuit, and he had dropped it on the prairie,
thinking that he could find it on his return; but in this he had
failed. The loss might prove a very formidable one. I was too much
rejoiced however at the recovery of the animals to think much about
it; and having made some tea for Raymond in a tin vessel which we had
brought with us, I told him that I would give him two hours for
resting before we set out again. He had eaten nothing that day; but
having no appetite, he lay down immediately to sleep. I picketed the
animals among the richest grass that I could find, and made fires of
green wood to protect them from the flies; then sitting down again by
the tree, I watched the slow movements of the sun, begrudging every
moment that passed.

The time I had mentioned expired, and I awoke Raymond. We saddled
and set out again, but first we went in search of the lost rifle, and
in the course of an hour Raymond was fortunate enough to find it.
Then we turned westward, and moved over the hills and hollows at a
slow pace toward the Black Hills. The heat no longer tormented us,
for a cloud was before the sun. Yet that day shall never be marked
with white in my calendar. The air began to grow fresh and cool, the
distant mountains frowned more gloomily, there was a low muttering of
thunder, and dense black masses of cloud rose heavily behind the
broken peaks. At first they were gayly fringed with silver by the
afternoon sun, but soon the thick blackness overspread the whole sky,
and the desert around us was wrapped in deep gloom. I scarcely
heeded it at the time, but now I cannot but feel that there was an
awful sublimity in the hoarse murmuring of the thunder, in the somber
shadows that involved the mountains and the plain. The storm broke.
It came upon us with a zigzag blinding flash, with a terrific crash
of thunder, and with a hurricane that howled over the prairie,
dashing floods of water against us. Raymond looked round, and cursed
the merciless elements. There seemed no shelter near, but we
discerned at length a deep ravine gashed in the level prairie, and
saw half way down its side an old pine tree, whose rough horizontal
boughs formed a sort of penthouse against the tempest. We found a
practicable passage, and hastily descending, fastened our animals to
some large loose stones at the bottom; then climbing up, we drew our
blankets over our heads, and seated ourselves close beneath the old
tree. Perhaps I was no competent judge of time, but it seemed to me
that we were sitting there a full hour, while around us poured a
deluge of rain, through which the rocks on the opposite side of the
gulf were barely visible. The first burst of the tempest soon
subsided, but the rain poured steadily. At length Raymond grew
impatient, and scrambling out of the ravine, he gained the level
prairie above.

"What does the weather look like?" asked I, from my seat under the

"It looks bad," he answered; "dark all around," and again he
descended and sat down by my side. Some ten minutes elapsed.

"Go up again," said I, "and take another look;" and he clambered up
the precipice. "Well, how is it?"

"Just the same, only I see one little bright spot over the top of the

The rain by this time had begun to abate; and going down to the
bottom of the ravine, we loosened the animals, who were standing up
to their knees in water. Leading them up the rocky throat of the
ravine, we reached the plain above. "Am I," I thought to myself,
"the same man who a few months since, was seated, a quiet student of
BELLES-LETTRES, in a cushioned arm-chair by a sea-coal fire?"

All around us was obscurity; but the bright spot above the
mountaintops grew wider and ruddier, until at length the clouds drew
apart, and a flood of sunbeams poured down from heaven, streaming
along the precipices, and involving them in a thin blue haze, as soft
and lovely as that which wraps the Apennines on an evening in spring.
Rapidly the clouds were broken and scattered, like routed legions of
evil spirits. The plain lay basking in sunbeams around us; a rainbow
arched the desert from north to south, and far in front a line of
woods seemed inviting us to refreshment and repose. When we reached
them, they were glistening with prismatic dewdrops, and enlivened by
the song and flutterings of a hundred birds. Strange winged insects,
benumbed by the rain, were clinging to the leaves and the bark of the

Raymond kindled a fire with great difficulty. The animals turned
eagerly to feed on the soft rich grass, while I, wrapping myself in
my blanket, lay down and gazed on the evening landscape. The
mountains, whose stern features had lowered upon us with so gloomy
and awful a frown, now seemed lighted up with a serene, benignant
smile, and the green waving undulations of the plain were gladdened
with the rich sunshine. Wet, ill, and wearied as I was, my spirit
grew lighter at the view, and I drew from it an augury of good for my
future prospects.

When morning came, Raymond awoke, coughing violently, though I had
apparently received no injury. We mounted, crossed the little
stream, pushed through the trees, and began our journey over the
plain beyond. And now, as we rode slowly along, we looked anxiously
on every hand for traces of the Indians, not doubting that the
village had passed somewhere in that vicinity; but the scanty
shriveled grass was not more than three or four inches high, and the
ground was of such unyielding hardness that a host might have marched
over it and left scarcely a trace of its passage. Up hill and down
hill, and clambering through ravines, we continued our journey. As
we were skirting the foot of a hill I saw Raymond, who was some rods
in advance, suddenly jerking the reins of his mule. Sliding from his
seat, and running in a crouching posture up a hollow, he disappeared;
and then in an instant I heard the sharp quick crack of his rifle. A
wounded antelope came running on three legs over the hill. I lashed
Pauline and made after him. My fleet little mare soon brought me by
his side, and after leaping and bounding for a few moments in vain,
he stood still, as if despairing of escape. His glistening eyes
turned up toward my face with so piteous a look that it was with
feelings of infinite compunction that I shot him through the head
with a pistol. Raymond skinned and cut him up, and we hung the
forequarters to our saddles, much rejoiced that our exhausted stock
of provisions was renewed in such good time.

Gaining the top of a hill, we could see along the cloudy verge of the
prairie before us lines of trees and shadowy groves that marked the
course of Laramie Creek. Some time before noon we reached its banks
and began anxiously to search them for footprints of the Indians. We
followed the stream for several miles, now on the shore and now
wading in the water, scrutinizing every sand-bar and every muddy
bank. So long was the search that we began to fear that we had left
the trail undiscovered behind us. At length I heard Raymond
shouting, and saw him jump from his mule to examine some object under
the shelving bank. I rode up to his side. It was the clear and
palpable impression of an Indian moccasin. Encouraged by this we
continued our search, and at last some appearances on a soft surface
of earth not far from the shore attracted my eye; and going to
examine them I found half a dozen tracks, some made by men and some
by children. Just then Raymond observed across the stream the mouth
of a small branch entering it from the south. He forded the water,
rode in at the opening, and in a moment I heard him shouting again,
so I passed over and joined him. The little branch had a broad sandy
bed, along which the water trickled in a scanty stream; and on either
bank the bushes were so close that the view was completely
intercepted. I found Raymond stooping over the footprints of three
or four horses. Proceeding we found those of a man, then those of a
child, then those of more horses; and at last the bushes on each bank
were beaten down and broken, and the sand plowed up with a multitude
of footsteps, and scored across with the furrows made by the lodge-
poles that had been dragged through. It was now certain that we had
found the trail. I pushed through the bushes, and at a little
distance on the prairie beyond found the ashes of a hundred and fifty
lodge fires, with bones and pieces of buffalo robes scattered around
them, and in some instances the pickets to which horses had been
secured still standing in the ground. Elated by our success we
selected a convenient tree, and turning the animals loose, prepared
to make a meal from the fat haunch of our victim.

Hardship and exposure had thriven with me wonderfully. I had gained
both health and strength since leaving La Bonte's Camp. Raymond and
I made a hearty meal together in high spirits, for we rashly presumed
that having found one end of the trail we should have little
difficulty in reaching the other. But when the animals were led in
we found that our old ill luck had not ceased to follow us close. As
I was saddling Pauline I saw that her eye was as dull as lead, and
the hue of her yellow coat visibly darkened. I placed my foot in the
stirrup to mount, when instantly she staggered and fell flat on her
side. Gaining her feet with an effort she stood by the fire with a
drooping head. Whether she had been bitten by a snake or poisoned by
some noxious plant or attacked by a sudden disorder, it was hard to
say; but at all events her sickness was sufficiently ill-timed and
unfortunate. I succeeded in a second attempt to mount her, and with
a slow pace we moved forward on the trail of the Indians. It led us
up a hill and over a dreary plain; and here, to our great
mortification, the traces almost disappeared, for the ground was hard
as adamant; and if its flinty surface had ever retained the print of
a hoof, the marks had been washed away by the deluge of yesterday.
An Indian village, in its disorderly march, is scattered over the
prairie, often to the width of full half a mile; so that its trail is
nowhere clearly marked, and the task of following it is made doubly
wearisome and difficult. By good fortune plenty of large ant-hills,
a yard or more in diameter, were scattered over the plain, and these
were frequently broken by the footprints of men and horses, and
marked by traces of the lodge-poles. The succulent leaves of the
prickly-pear, also bruised from the same causes, helped a little to
guide us; so inch by inch we moved along. Often we lost the trail
altogether, and then would recover it again, but late in the
afternoon we found ourselves totally at fault. We stood alone
without clew to guide us. The broken plain expanded for league after
league around us, and in front the long dark ridge of mountains was
stretching from north to south. Mount Laramie, a little on our
right, towered high above the rest and from a dark valley just beyond
one of its lower declivities, we discerned volumes of white smoke
slowly rolling up into the clear air.

"I think," said Raymond, "some Indians must be there. Perhaps we had
better go." But this plan was not rashly to be adopted, and we
determined still to continue our search after the lost trail. Our
good stars prompted us to this decision, for we afterward had reason
to believe, from information given us by the Indians, that the smoke
was raised as a decoy by a Crow war party.

Evening was coming on, and there was no wood or water nearer than the
foot of the mountains. So thither we turned, directing our course
toward the point where Laramie Creek issues forth upon the prairie.
When we reached it the bare tops of the mountains were still
brightened with sunshine. The little river was breaking with a
vehement and angry current from its dark prison. There was something
in the near vicinity of the mountains, in the loud surging of the
rapids, wonderfully cheering and exhilarating; for although once as
familiar as home itself, they had been for months strangers to my
experience. There was a rich grass-plot by the river's bank,
surrounded by low ridges, which would effectually screen ourselves
and our fire from the sight of wandering Indians. Here among the
grass I observed numerous circles of large stones, which, as Raymond
said, were traces of a Dakota winter encampment. We lay down and did
not awake till the sun was up. A large rock projected from the
shore, and behind it the deep water was slowly eddying round and
round. The temptation was irresistible. I threw off my clothes,
leaped in, suffered myself to be borne once round with the current,
and then, seizing the strong root of a water plant, drew myself to
the shore. The effect was so invigorating and refreshing that I
mistook it for returning health. "Pauline," thought I, as I led the
little mare up to be saddled, "only thrive as I do, and you and I
will have sport yet among the buffalo beyond these mountains." But
scarcely were we mounted and on our way before the momentary glow
passed. Again I hung as usual in my seat, scarcely able to hold
myself erect.

"Look yonder," said Raymond; "you see that big hollow there; the
Indians must have gone that way, if they went anywhere about here."

We reached the gap, which was like a deep notch cut into the mountain
ridge, and here we soon discerned an ant-hill furrowed with the mark
of a lodge-pole. This was quite enough; there could be no doubt now.
As we rode on, the opening growing narrower, the Indians had been
compelled to march in closer order, and the traces became numerous
and distinct. The gap terminated in a rocky gateway, leading into a
rough passage upward, between two precipitous mountains. Here grass
and weeds were bruised to fragments by the throng that had passed
through. We moved slowly over the rocks, up the passage; and in this
toilsome manner we advanced for an hour or two, bare precipices,
hundreds of feet high, shooting up on either hand. Raymond, with his
hardy mule, was a few rods before me, when we came to the foot of an
ascent steeper than the rest, and which I trusted might prove the
highest point of the defile. Pauline strained upward for a few
yards, moaning and stumbling, and then came to a dead stop, unable to
proceed further. I dismounted, and attempted to lead her; but my own
exhausted strength soon gave out; so I loosened the trail-rope from
her neck, and tying it round my arm, crawled up on my hands and
knees. I gained the top, totally exhausted, the sweat drops
trickling from my forehead. Pauline stood like a statue by my side,
her shadow falling upon the scorching rock; and in this shade, for
there was no other, I lay for some time, scarcely able to move a
limb. All around the black crags, sharp as needles at the top, stood
glowing in the sun, without a tree, or a bush, or a blade of grass,
to cover their precipitous sides. The whole scene seemed parched
with a pitiless, insufferable heat.

After a while I could mount again, and we moved on, descending the
rocky defile on its western side. Thinking of that morning's
journey, it has sometimes seemed to me that there was something
ridiculous in my position; a man, armed to the teeth, but wholly
unable to fight, and equally so to run away, traversing a dangerous
wilderness, on a sick horse. But these thoughts were retrospective,
for at the time I was in too grave a mood to entertain a very lively
sense of the ludicrous.

Raymond's saddle-girth slipped; and while I proceeded he was stopping
behind to repair the mischief. I came to the top of a little
declivity, where a most welcome sight greeted my eye; a nook of fresh
green grass nestled among the cliffs, sunny clumps of bushes on one
side, and shaggy old pine trees leaning forward from the rocks on the
other. A shrill, familiar voice saluted me, and recalled me to days
of boyhood; that of the insect called the "locust" by New England
schoolboys, which was fast clinging among the heated boughs of the
old pine trees. Then, too, as I passed the bushes, the low sound of
falling water reached my ear. Pauline turned of her own accord, and
pushing through the boughs we found a black rock, over-arched by the
cool green canopy. An icy stream was pouring from its side into a
wide basin of white sand, from whence it had no visible outlet, but
filtered through into the soil below. While I filled a tin cup at
the spring, Pauline was eagerly plunging her head deep in the pool.
Other visitors had been there before us. All around in the soft soil
were the footprints of elk, deer, and the Rocky Mountain sheep; and
the grizzly bear too had left the recent prints of his broad foot,
with its frightful array of claws. Among these mountains was his

Soon after leaving the spring we found a little grassy plain,
encircled by the mountains, and marked, to our great joy, with all
the traces of an Indian camp. Raymond's practiced eye detected
certain signs by which he recognized the spot where Reynal's lodge
had been pitched and his horses picketed. I approached, and stood
looking at the place. Reynal and I had, I believe, hardly a feeling
in common. I disliked the fellow, and it perplexed me a good deal to
understand why I should look with so much interest on the ashes of
his fire, when between him and me there seemed no other bond of
sympathy than the slender and precarious one of a kindred race.

In half an hour from this we were clear of the mountains. There was
a plain before us, totally barren and thickly peopled in many parts
with the little prairie dogs, who sat at the mouths of their burrows
and yelped at us as we passed. The plain, as we thought, was about
six miles wide; but it cost us two hours to cross it. Then another
mountain range rose before us, grander and more wild than the last
had been. Far out of the dense shrubbery that clothed the steeps for
a thousand feet shot up black crags, all leaning one way, and
shattered by storms and thunder into grim and threatening shapes. As
we entered a narrow passage on the trail of the Indians, they
impended frightfully on one side, above our heads.

Our course was through dense woods, in the shade and twinkling


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