Infomotions, Inc.In the Heart of the Rockies / Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902



Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Title: In the Heart of the Rockies
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): jerry; tom; harry; pete hoskings; indians; chief; leaping horse; snow; valley; sam hicks; hunting dog; indian; hunting; uncle
Contributor(s): Symonds, John Addington, 1840-1893 [Translator]
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Title: In The Heart Of The Rockies

Author: G. A. Henty

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IN THE HEART OF THE ROCKIES

A STORY OF ADVENTURE IN COLORADO

BY G. A. HENTY







[Illustration: HUNTING DOG SAVES JERRY FROM THE RAPIDS.]



PREFACE


MY DEAR LADS,

Until comparatively lately that portion of the United States in which I
have laid this story was wholly unexplored. The marvellous canons of the
Colorado River extend through a country absolutely bare and waterless,
and save the tales told by a few hunters or gold-seekers who, pressed by
Indians, made the descent of some of them, but little was known
regarding this region. It was not until 1869 that a thorough exploration
of the canons was made by a government expedition under the command of
Major Powell. This expedition passed through the whole of the canons,
from those high up on the Green River to the point where the Colorado
issues out on to the plains. Four years were occupied by the party in
making a detailed survey of the course of the main river and its
tributaries. These explorations took place some eight or nine years
after the date of my story. The country in which the Big Wind River has
its source, and the mountain chains contained in it, were almost unknown
until, after the completion of the railway to California, the United
States government was forced to send an expedition into it to punish the
Indians for their raids upon settlers in the plains. For details of the
geography and scenery I have relied upon the narrative of Mr.
Baillie-Grohman, who paid several visits to the country in 1878 and the
following years in quest of sport, and was the first white man to
penetrate the recesses of the higher mountains. At that time the Indians
had almost entirely deserted the country. For the details of the dangers
and difficulties of the passage through the canons I am indebted to the
official report of Major Powell, published by the United States
government.


                                Yours sincerely,


                                   G. A. HENTY.




CONTENTS


CHAP.


    I. TOM'S CHOICE
   II. FINDING FRIENDS
  III. ON THE PLAINS
   IV. LEAPING HORSE
    V. IN DANGER
   VI. UNITED
  VII. CHASED
 VIII. IN SAFETY
   IX. A BAD TIME
    X. AN AVALANCHE
   XI. WINTER
  XII. THE SNOW FORT
 XIII. A FRESH START
  XIV. AN INDIAN ATTACK
   XV. THE COLORADO
  XVI. AFLOAT IN CANOES
 XVII. THE GRAND CANON
XVIII. BACK TO DENVER
  XIX. A FORTUNE




ILLUSTRATIONS


Hunting Dog Saves Jerry From The Rapids
Carry Reads Uncle Harry's Letter
Jerry Gives Tom A Lesson In Shooting
Leaping Horse Mounted, And Rode Across The Stream
A Moment Later The Indian Fell Forward On His Face
"There Is Another Avalanche, Keep Your Backs To The Wall, Boys"
They Went Out To Look At The Indian The Chief Had Shot
"No Good Fight Here," Said Leaping Horse.





CHAPTER I

TOM'S CHOICE


"I can be of no use here, Carry. What am I good for? Why, I could not
earn money enough to pay for my own food, even if we knew anyone who
would help me to get a clerkship. I am too young for it yet. I would
rather go before the mast than take a place in a shop. I am too young
even to enlist. I know just about as much as other boys at school, and I
certainly have no talent anyway, as far as I can see at present. I can
sail a boat, and I won the swimming prize a month ago, and the sergeant
who gives us lessons in single-stick and boxing says that he considers
me his best pupil with the gloves, but all these things put together
would not bring me in sixpence a week. I don't want to go away, and
nothing would induce me to do so if I could be of the slightest use to
you here. But can I be of any use? What is there for me to look forward
to if I stay? I am sure that you would be always worrying over me if I
did get some sort of situation that you would know father and mother
would not have liked to see me in, and would seem to offer no chance for
the future, whereas if I went out there it would not matter what I did,
and anything I earned I could send home to you."

The speaker was a lad of sixteen. He and his sister, who was two years
his senior, were both dressed in deep mourning, and were sitting on a
bench near Southsea Castle looking across to Spithead, and the Isle of
Wight stretching away behind. They had three days before followed their
mother to the grave, and laid her beside their father, a lieutenant of
the navy, who had died two years before. This was the first time they
had left the house, where remained their four sisters--Janet, who came
between Carry and Tom; Blanche, who was fourteen; Lucie, twelve; and
Harriet, eight. Tom had proposed the walk.

"Come out for some fresh air, Carry," he had said. "You have been shut
up for a month. Let us two go together;" and Carry had understood that
he wanted a talk alone with her. There was need, indeed, that they
should look the future in the face. Since Lieutenant Wade's death their
means had been very straitened. Their mother had received a small
pension as his widow, and on this, eked out by drafts reluctantly drawn
upon the thousand pounds she had brought him on her marriage, which had
been left untouched during his lifetime, they had lived since his death.
Two hundred pounds had been drawn from their little capital, and the
balance was all that now remained. It had long been arranged that Carry
and Janet should go out as governesses as soon as they each reached the
age of eighteen, but it was now clear that Carry must remain at home in
charge of the young ones.

That morning the two girls had had a talk together, and had settled
that, as Janet was too young to take even the humblest place as a
governess, they would endeavour to open a little school, and so, for the
present at any rate, keep the home together. Carry could give music
lessons, for she was already an excellent pianist, having been well
taught by her mother, who was an accomplished performer, and Janet was
sufficiently advanced to teach young girls. She had communicated their
decision to Tom, who had heartily agreed with it.

"The rent is only twenty pounds a year," he said, "and, as you say, the
eight hundred pounds bring in thirty-two pounds a year, which will pay
the rent and leave something over. If you don't get many pupils at first
it will help, and you can draw a little from the capital till the school
gets big enough to pay all your expenses. It is horrible to me that I
don't seem to be able to help, but at any rate I don't intend to remain
a drag upon you. If mother had only allowed me to go to sea after
father's death I should be off your hands now, and I might even have
been able to help a little. As it is, what is there for me to do here?"
And then he pointed out how hopeless the prospect seemed at Portsmouth.

Carry was silent for a minute or two when he ceased speaking, and sat
looking out over the sea.

"Certainly, we should not wish you to go into a shop, Tom, and what you
say about going into an office is also right enough. We have no sort of
interest, and the sort of clerkship you would be likely to get here
would not lead to anything. I know what you are thinking about--that
letter of Uncle Harry's; but you know that mother could not bear the
thought of it, and it would be dreadful for us if you were to go away."

"I would not think of going, Carry, if I could see any chance of helping
you here, and I don't want to go as I did when the letter first came. It
seems such a cowardly thing to run away and leave all the burden upon
your shoulders, yours and Janet's, though I know it will be principally
on yours; but what else is there to do? It was not for my own sake that
I wanted before to go, but I did not see what there was for me to do
here even when I grew up. Still, as mother said it would break her heart
if I went away, of course there was an end of it for the time, though I
have always thought it would be something to fall back upon if, when I
got to eighteen or nineteen, nothing else turned up, which seemed to me
very likely would be the case. Certainly, if it came to a choice between
that and enlisting, I should choose that: and now it seems to me the
only thing to be done."

"It is such a long way off, Tom," the girl said in a tone of deep pain;
"and you know when people get away so far they seem to forget those at
home and give up writing. We had not heard from uncle for ten years when
that letter came."

"There would be no fear of my forgetting you, Carry. I would write to
you whenever I got a chance."

"But even going out there does not seem to lead to anything, Tom. Uncle
has been away twenty-five years, and he does not seem to have made any
money at all."

"Oh, but then he owned in his letter, Carry, that it was principally his
own fault. He said he had made a good sum several times at mining, and
chucked it away; but that next time he strikes a good thing he was
determined to keep what he made and to come home to live upon it. I
sha'n't chuck it away if I make it, but shall send every penny home that
I can spare."

"But uncle will not expect you, Tom, mother refused so positively to let
you go. Perhaps he has gone away from the part of the country he wrote
from, and you may not be able to find him."

"I shall be able to find him," Tom said confidently. "When that letter
went, I sent one of my own to him, and said that though mother would not
hear of my going now, I might come out to him when I got older if I
could get nothing to do here, and asked him to send me a few words
directed to the post-office telling me how I might find him. He wrote
back saying that if I called at the Empire Saloon at a small town called
Denver, in Colorado, I should be likely to hear whereabouts he was, and
that he would sometimes send a line there with instructions if he should
be long away."

"I see you have set your mind on going, Tom," Carry said sadly.

"No, I have not set my mind on it, Carry. I am perfectly ready to stop
here if you can see any way for me to earn money, but I cannot stop here
idle, eating and drinking, while you girls are working for us all."

"If you were but three or four years older, Tom, I should not so much
mind, and though it would be a terrible blow to part with you, I do not
see that you could do anything better; but you are only sixteen."

"Yes, but I am strong and big for my age; I am quite as strong as a good
many men. Of course I don't mean the boatmen and the dockyard maties,
but men who don't do hard work. Anyhow, there are lots of men who go out
to America who are no stronger than I am, and of course I shall get
stronger every month. I can walk thirty miles a day easy, and I have
never had a day's illness."

"It is not your strength, Tom; I shall have no fears about your breaking
down; on the contrary, I should say that a life such as uncle wrote
about, must be wonderfully healthy. But you seem so young to make such a
long journey, and you may have to travel about in such rough places and
among such rough men before you can find Uncle Harry."

"I expect that I shall get on a great deal easier than a man would," Tom
said confidently. "Fellows might play tricks with a grown-up fellow who
they see is a stranger and not up to things, and might get into quarrels
with him, but no one is likely to interfere with a boy. No, I don't
think that there is anything in that, Carry,--the only real difficulty
is in going away so far from you, and perhaps being away for a long
time."

"Well, Tom," the girl said after another pause, "it seems very terrible,
but I own that I can see nothing better for you. There is no way that
you can earn money here, and I am sure we would rather think of you as
mining and hunting with uncle, than as sitting as a sort of boy-clerk in
some dark little office in London or Portsmouth. It is no worse than
going to sea anyhow, and after all you may, as uncle says, hit on a rich
mine and come back with a fortune. Let us be going home. I can hardly
bear to think of it now, but I will tell Janet, and will talk about it
again this evening after the little ones have gone to bed."

Tom had the good sense to avoid any expression of satisfaction. He gave
Carry's hand a silent squeeze, and as they walked across the common
talked over their plans for setting to work to get pupils, and said no
word that would give her a hint of the excitement he felt at the thought
of the life of adventure in a wild country that lay before him. He had
in his blood a large share of the restless spirit of enterprise that has
been the main factor in making the Anglo-Saxons the dominant race of the
world. His father and his grandfather had both been officers in the
royal navy, and a great-uncle had commanded a merchantman that traded in
the Eastern seas, and had never come back from one of its voyages; there
had been little doubt that all on board had been massacred and the ship
burned by Malay pirates. His Uncle Harry had gone away when little more
than a boy to seek a fortune in America, and had, a few years after his
landing there, crossed the plains with one of the first parties that
started out at news of the discovery of gold in California.

Tom himself had longed above all things to be a sailor. His father had
not sufficient interest to get him into the royal navy, but had intended
to obtain for him a berth as apprentice in the merchant service; but his
sudden death had cut that project short, and his mother, who had always
been opposed to it, would not hear of his going to sea. But the life
that now seemed open to him was in the boy's eyes even preferable to
that he had longed for. The excitement of voyages to India or China and
back was as nothing to that of a gold-seeker and hunter in the West,
where there were bears and Indians and all sorts of adventures to be
encountered. He soon calmed down, however, on reaching home. The empty
chair, the black dresses and pale faces of the girls, brought back in
its full force the sense of loss.

In a short time he went up to his room, and sat there thinking it all
over again, and asking himself whether it was fair of him to leave his
sisters, and whether he was not acting selfishly in thus choosing his
own life. He had gone over this ground again and again in the last few
days, and he now came to the same conclusion, namely, that he could do
no better for the girls by stopping at home, and that he had not decided
upon accepting his uncle's invitation because the life was just what he
would have chosen, but because he could see nothing that offered equal
chances of his being able permanently to aid them at home.

When he came downstairs again Carry said:

"The others have gone out, Tom; you had better go round and see some of
your school-fellows. You look fagged and worn out. You cannot help me
here, and I shall go about my work more cheerfully if I know that you
are out and about."

Tom nodded, put on his cap and went out; but he felt far too restless to
follow her advice and call on some of his friends, so he walked across
the common and lay down on the beach and went all over it again, until
at last he went off to sleep, and did not wake up until, glancing at his
watch, he found that it was time to return to tea. He felt fresher and
better for his rest, for indeed he had slept but little for the past
fortnight, and Carry nodded approvingly as she saw that his eyes were
brighter, and the lines of fatigue and sleeplessness less strongly
marked on his face.

Two hours later, when the younger girls had gone to bed, Carry said:
"Now we will have a family council. I have told Janet about our talk,
Tom, and she is altogether on your side, and only regrets that she is
not a boy and able to go out with you. We need not go over the ground
again, we are quite agreed with you that there seems no prospect here of
your obtaining work such as we should like to see you at, or that would
lead to anything. There are only two things open to you, the one is to
go to sea, the other to go out to Uncle Harry. You are old to go as an
apprentice, but not too old, and that plan could be carried out; still,
we both think that the other is better. You would be almost as much
separated from us if you went to sea as you would be if you went out to
America. But before you quite decide I will read uncle's letter, which I
have found this afternoon among some other papers."

She took out the letter and opened it.

"'My dear Jack,--I am afraid it is a very long time since I wrote last;
I don't like to think how long. I have been intending to do so a score
of times, but you know I always hated writing, and I have been waiting
to tell you that I had hit upon something good at last. Even now I can
only tell you that I have been knocking about and getting older, but so
far I cannot say I have been getting richer. As I told you when I wrote
last I have several times made good hauls and struck it rich, but
somehow the money has always slipped through my fingers. Sometimes I
have put it into things that looked well enough but turned out
worthless; sometimes I have chucked it away in the fool's manner men do
here. I have just come back from a prospecting tour in the country of
the Utes, where I found two or three things that seemed good; one of
them first-rate, the best thing, I think, I have seen since I came out
here.

"'Unfortunately I cannot do anything with them at present, for the Utes
are getting troublesome, and it would be as much as one's life is worth
to go back there with a small party; so that matter must rest for a bit,
and I must look out in another quarter until the Utes settle down again.
I am going to join a hunting party that starts for the mountains next
week. I have done pretty nearly as much hunting as mining since I came
out, and though there is no big pile to be made at it, it is a pretty
certain living. How are you all getting on? I hope some day to drop in
on your quiet quarters at Southsea with some big bags of gold-dust, and
to end my days in a nook by your fireside; which I know you will give
me, old fellow, with or without the gold bags. '"

[Illustration: CARRY READS UNCLE HARRY'S LETTER.]

"'I suppose your boy is thirteen or fourteen years old by this time.
That is too young for him to come out here, but if in two or three years
you don't see any opening for him at home, send him out to me, and I
will make a man of him; and even if he does not make a fortune in
gold-seeking, there are plenty of things a young fellow can turn his
hand to in this country with a good certainty of making his way, if he
is but steady. You may think that my example is not likely to be of much
benefit to him, but I should do for an object lesson, and seriously,
would do my very best to set him in a straight path. Anyhow, three or
four years' knocking about with me would enable him to cut his
eye-teeth, and hold his own in the world. At the end of that time he
could look round and see what line he would take up, and I need not say
that I would help him to the utmost of my power, and though I have not
done any good for myself I might do good for him.

"'In the first place, I know pretty well every one in Colorado, Montana,
and Idaho; in the next place, in my wanderings I have come across a
score of bits of land in out-of-the-way places where a young fellow
could set up a ranche and breed cattle and horses and make a good thing
of it; or if he has a turn for mechanics, I could show him places where
he could set up saw-mills for lumber, with water-power all the year
round, and with markets not far away. Of course, he is too young yet,
but unless he is going to walk in your steps and turn sailor he might do
worse than come out to me in three or four years' time. Rough as the
life is, it is a man's life, and a week of it is worth more than a
year's quill-driving in an office. It is a pity your family have run to
girls, for if one boy had made up his mind for the sea you might have
spared me another.'

"That is all. You know mother sent an answer saying that dear father had
gone, and that she should never be able to let you go so far away and
take up such a rough and dangerous life. However, Tom, as you wrote to
uncle, her refusal would not matter, and by his sending you instructions
how to find him, it is evident that he will not be surprised at your
turning up. In the first place, are you sure that you would prefer this
to the sea?"

"Quite sure, Carry; I should like it much better. But the principal
thing is that I may soon be able to help you from there, while it would
be years before I should get pay enough at sea to enable me to do so."

"Then that is settled, Tom. And now, I suppose," and her voice quivered
a little, "you will want to be off as soon as you can?"

"I think so," Tom replied. "If I am to go, it seems to me the sooner I
go the better; there is nothing that I can do here, and we shall all be
restless and unsettled until I am off."

Carry nodded. "I think you are right, Tom; we shall never be able to
settle to our work here when we are thinking of your going away. The
first thing to do will be to draw some money from the bank. There will
be your outfit to get and your passage to pay to America, and a supply
of money to take you out West, and keep you until you join uncle."

"That is what I hate," Tom said gloomily. "It seems beastly that when I
want to help you I must begin by taking some of your money."

"That can't be helped," Carry said cheerfully. "One must not grudge a
sprat to catch a whale, and besides it would cost ever so much more if
we had to apprentice you to the sea, and get your outfit. You will not
want many clothes now. You have enough for the voyage and journey, and I
should think it would be much better for you to get what you want out
there, when you will have uncle to advise what is necessary. I should
really think some flannel shirts and a rough suit for the voyage will be
the principal things."

"I should think so, certainly," Tom agreed. "The less baggage one
travels with the better, for when I leave the railway I shall only want
what I can carry with me or pack on horses. Anything else would only be
a nuisance. As to a rough suit for the voyage, the clothes I had before
I put these on" (and he glanced at his black suit) "will do capitally.
Of course I shall go steerage. I can get out for four or five pounds
that way, and I shall be quite as well off as I should be as an
apprentice. I know I must have some money, but I won't take more than is
absolutely necessary. I am all right as far as I can see for everything,
except three or four flannel shirts. I don't see that another thing will
be required except a small trunk to hold them and the clothes I have on,
which I don't suppose I shall ever wear again, and a few other things.
You know I would only allow you to have this one black suit made. I was
thinking of this, and it would have been throwing away money to have got
more. Of course, I don't know what I shall want out there. I know it is
a long way to travel by rail, and I may have to keep myself for a month
before I find uncle. I should think five-and-twenty pounds when I land
would be enough for everything."

"I shall draw fifty pounds," Carry said positively. "As you say, your
outfit will really cost nothing; ten pounds will pay for your journey to
Liverpool and your passage; that will leave you forty pounds in your
pocket when you land. That is the very least you could do with, for you
may find you will have to buy a horse, and though I believe they are
very cheap out there, I suppose you could not get one under ten pounds;
and then there would be the saddle and bridle and food for the journey,
and all sorts of things. I don't think forty pounds will be enough."

"I won't have a penny more, anyhow," Tom said. "If I find a horse too
expensive I can tramp on foot."

"And you must be sure not to get robbed," Janet said, breaking in for
the first time. "Just fancy your finding yourself without money in such
a place as that. I will make you a belt to wear under your things, with
pockets for the money."

"I hope I should not be such a fool as that, Janet, but anyhow I will be
as careful as I can. I shall be very glad of the belt. One does not know
what the fellows might be up to, and I would certainly rather not have
my money loose in my pocket; but even if I were robbed I don't think it
would be as desperate as you think. I expect a boy could always find
something to do to earn his living, and I should try and work my way
along somehow, but as that would not be pleasant at all I shall take
good care of my money, you may be sure."

For an hour they sat talking, and before the council broke up it was
agreed that they should look in the newspaper in the morning for a list
of vessels sailing for America, and should at once write and take a
passage.

There was no time lost. Carry felt that it would be best for them all
that the parting should be got over as soon as possible. Letters were
written the next morning to two steamship companies and to the owners of
two sailing vessels asking the prices of steerage passages, agreeing
that if there was not much difference it would be better to save perhaps
a fortnight by taking the passage in a steamship.

The replies showed that the difference was indeed trifling, and a week
after their receipt Tom Wade started from Portsmouth to Liverpool. Even
at the last moment he was half-inclined to change his plans, it seemed
so hard to leave his sisters alone; but Carry and Janet had both
convinced themselves that his scheme was the best, and would not hear of
his wavering now. They kept up a show of good spirits until the last,
talked confidently of the success of their own plans, and how they
should set about carrying them out as soon as they were free to act. The
younger girls, although implored by the elders not to give way to their
grief at the departure of their brother, were in a state of constant
tearfulness, and were in consequence frequently got rid of by being sent
on errands. Tom, too, took them out for hours every day, and by telling
them stories of the wild animals he should hunt, and the Indians he
should see, and of the stores of gold he should find hidden, generally
brought them home in a more cheerful state of mind.

At last the parting was over, and after making heroic efforts to be
cheerful to the end, Tom waved a last adieu with his handkerchief to the
five weeping figures on the platform, and then threw himself back in his
seat and gave free vent to his own feelings. Two girls sitting beside
him sniggered at the sight of the strong-built young fellow giving way
to tears, but a motherly-looking woman opposite presently put her hand
on his knee.

"Don't be ashamed of crying, my lad," she said. "I have got a son years
older than you, and we always have a good cry together every time he
starts on a long voyage. Are you going far? I suppose those are your
sisters? I see you are all in black. Lost someone dear to you, no doubt?
It comes to us all, my boy, sooner or later."

"I am going to America," Tom replied, "and may not be back for years.
Yes, those are my sisters, and what upsets me most is that I have to
leave them all alone, for we have lost both our parents."

"Dear, dear, that is sad indeed! No wonder you are all upset. Well,
well, America is not so very far away--only a ten days' voyage by
steamer, they tell me, and my boy is away in a sailing ship. He is in
China, I reckon, now; he sailed five months ago, and did not expect to
be home under a year. I worry about him sometimes, but I know it is of
no use doing that. The last thing he said when I bade good-bye to him
was, 'Keep up your spirits, mother'; and I try to do so."

The old lady went on talking about her son, and Tom, listening to her
kindly attempts to draw him out of his own troubles, grew interested,
and by the time they reached Winchester, where she left the train, he
had shaken off his first depression. It was a long journey with several
changes, and he did not arrive in Liverpool until six o'clock in the
evening, having been nearly twelve hours on the road. Carry's last
injunction had been, "Take a cab when you get to Liverpool, Tom, and
drive straight down to the docks. Liverpool is a large place, and you
might get directed wrong. I shall be more comfortable if I know that, at
any rate, you will go straight on board."

Tom had thought it an unnecessary expense, but as he saw that Carry
would be more comfortable about him if he followed her advice, he
promised to do so, and was not sorry for it as he drove through the
streets; for, in spite of cutting down everything that seemed
unnecessary for the voyage and subsequent journey, the portmanteau was
too heavy to carry far with comfort, and although prepared to rough it
to any extent when he had once left England, he felt that he should not
like to make his way along the crowded streets with his trunk on his
shoulder.

The cabman had no difficulty in finding the _Parthia_, which was still
in the basin. Tom was, however, only just in time to get on board, for
the men were already throwing off the warps, and ten minutes later she
passed out through the dock-gates, and soon anchored in the middle of
the river. Tom had been on board too many ships at Portsmouth to feel
any of that bewilderment common to emigrants starting on their first
voyage. He saw that at present everyone was too busy to attend to him,
and so he put his portmanteau down by the bulwark forward, and leaning
on the rail watched the process of warping the ship out of the docks.
There were a good many steerage passengers forward, but at present the
after-part of the ship was entirely deserted, as the cabin passengers
would not come on board until either late at night or early next
morning. When the anchor had been let drop he took up his trunk and
asked a sailor where he ought to go to.

"Show me your ticket. Ah! single man's quarters, right forward."

There he met a steward, who, after looking at his ticket, said: "You
will see the bunks down there, and can take any one that is unoccupied.
I should advise you to put your trunk into it, and keep the lid shut.
People come and go in the morning, and you might find that your things
had gone too. It would be just as well for you to keep it locked through
the voyage. I see that you have got a cord round it. Keep it corded; the
more things there are to unfasten to get at the contents the less chance
there is of anyone attempting it."

The place was crowded with berths, mere shallow trays, each containing a
straw mattress and pillow and two coloured blankets. They were in three
tiers, one above the other, and were arranged in lines three deep, with
a narrow passage between. He saw by the number into which bags and
packets had been thrown that the upper berths were the favourites, but
he concluded that the lower tiers were preferable. "It will be
frightfully hot and stuffy here," he said to himself, "and I should say
the lower berths will be cooler than the upper." He therefore placed his
trunk in one of those next to the central passage and near the door, and
then went up on deck.

The _Parthia_ was a Cunarder, and although not equal in size to the
great ships of the present day, was a very fine vessel. The fare had
been somewhat higher than that for which he could have had a passage in
a sailing ship, but in addition to his saving time, there was the
advantage that on board the steamers, passengers were not obliged to
provide their own bedding, as they had to do in sailing vessels, and
also the food was cooked for them in the ship's galleys.

The first meal was served soon after the anchor dropped, and consisted
of a bowl of cocoa and a large piece of bread. Half an hour later a
tender came alongside with the last batch of steerage passengers, and
Tom was interested in watching the various groups as they came on
board--men, women, and children.

"Well," he said to himself, "I do think I am better fitted to make my
way out there than most of these people are, for they look as helpless
and confused as a flock of sheep. I pity those women with children. It
will be pretty crowded in our quarters, but there is a chance of getting
a fair night's sleep, while in a place crowded with babies and children
it would be awful."

Being a kind-hearted lad he at once set to work to help as far as he
could, volunteering to carry children down below, and to help with boxes
and bundles.

In many cases his assistance was thankfully accepted, but in some it was
sharply refused, the people's manner clearly showing their suspicions of
his motive. He was not surprised at this after all the warnings Carry
had given him against putting any confidence in strangers, but was
satisfied, after an hour's hard work, that he had rendered things
somewhat easier for many a worried and anxious woman. It was getting
dusk even on deck by the time he had finished.

"Thank you, lad," a man, who went up the companion ladder with him, said
as they stepped on to the deck. "You have done my missis a good turn by
taking care of those three young ones while we straightened up a bit,
and I saw you helping others too. You are the right sort, I can see.
There ain't many young chaps as puts themselves out of the way to do a
bit of kindness like that. My name is Bill Brown; what is yours?"

"Tom Wade. I had nothing to do, and was glad to be of a little help.
People who have never been on board ship before naturally feel confused
in such a crowd."

"Have you been to sea?"

"Not on a voyage, but I have lived at Portsmouth and have often been on
board troopships and men-of-war, so it does not seem so strange to me."

"Are you by yourself, or have you friends with you?"

"I am alone," Tom replied. "I am going out to join an uncle in the
States."

"I have been across before," the man said. "I am a carpenter, and have
worked out there six months, and came home six weeks back to fetch the
others over. I have got a place, where I was working before, to go to as
soon as I land. It makes a lot of difference to a man."

"It does indeed," Tom agreed. "I know if I were going out without any
fixed object beyond taking the first work that came to hand, I should
not feel so easy and comfortable about it as I do now."

"I have got two or three of my mates on board who are going out on my
report of the place, and three families from my wife's village. She and
the youngsters have been staying with her old folk while I was away. So
we are a biggish party, and if you want anything done on the voyage you
have only got to say the word to me."




CHAPTER II

FINDING FRIENDS


The weather was fine, and Tom Wade found the voyage more pleasant than
he had expected. The port-holes were kept open all the way, and the
crowded quarters were less uncomfortable than would have been the case
had they encountered rough weather. There were some very rough spirits
among the party forward, but the great majority were quiet men, and
after the first night all talking and larking were sternly repressed
after the lights were out. The food was abundant, and although some
grumbled at the meat there was no real cause of complaint. A rope across
the deck divided the steerage passengers from those aft, and as there
were not much more than one-half the emigrants aboard that the _Parthia_
could carry, there was plenty of room on deck.

But few of the passengers suffered from sea-sickness, and the women sat
and chatted and sewed in little groups while the children played about,
and the men walked up and down or gathered forward and smoked, while a
few who had provided themselves with newspapers or books sat in quiet
corners and read. Tom was one of these, for he had picked up a few books
on the United States at second-hand bookstalls at Portsmouth, and this
prevented him from finding the voyage monotonous. When indisposed to
read he chatted with Brown the carpenter and his mates, and sometimes
getting a party of children round him and telling them stories gathered
from the books now standing on the shelves in his room at Southsea. He
was glad, however, when the voyage was over; not because he was tired of
it, but because he was longing to be on his way west. Before leaving the
ship he took a very hearty farewell of his companions on the voyage, and
on landing was detained but a few minutes at the custom-house, and then
entering an omnibus that was in waiting at the gate, was driven straight
to the station of one of the western lines of railway.

From the information he had got up before sailing he had learnt that
there were several of these, but that there was very little difference
either in their speed or rates of fare, and that their through-rates to
Denver were practically the same. He had therefore fixed on the Chicago
and Little Rock line, not because its advantages were greater, but in
order to be able to go straight from the steamer to the station without
having to make up his mind between the competing lines. He found on
arrival that the emigrant trains ran to Omaha, where all the lines met,
and that beyond that he must proceed by the regular trains. An emigrant
train was to leave that evening at six o'clock.

"The train will be made up about four," a good-natured official said to
him, "and you had best be here by that time so as to get a corner seat,
for I can tell you that makes all the difference on a journey like this.
If you like to take your ticket at once you can register that trunk of
yours straight on to Denver, and then you won't have any more trouble
about it."

"Of course we stop to take our meals on the way?"

"Yes; but if you take my advice you will do as most of them do, get a
big basket and lay in a stock of bread and cooked meat, cheese, and
anything you fancy, then you will only have to go out and get a cup of
tea at the stopping-places. It comes a good bit cheaper, and you get
done before those who take their meals, and can slip back into the cars
again quick and keep your corner seat. There ain't much ceremony in
emigrant trains, and it is first come first served."

"How long shall we be in getting to Denver?"

"It will be fully a week, but there ain't any saying to a day. The
emigrant trains just jog along as they can between the freight trains
and the fast ones, and get shunted off a bit to let the expresses pass
them."

Thanking the official for his advice, Tom took his ticket, registered
his trunk, and then went out and strolled about the streets of New York
until three o'clock. He took the advice as to provisions, and getting a
small hamper laid in a stock of food sufficient for three or four days.
The platform from which the train was to start was already occupied by a
considerable number of emigrants, but when the train came up he was able
to secure a corner seat. The cars were all packed with their full
complement of passengers. They were open from end to end, with a passage
down the middle. Other cars were added as the train filled up, but not
until all the places were already occupied. The majority of the
passengers were men, but there were a considerable number of women, and
still more children; and Tom congratulated himself on learning from the
conversation of those around him that a good many were not going beyond
Chicago, and that almost all would leave the train at stations between
that place and Omaha.

The journey to Chicago was the most unpleasant experience Tom had ever
gone through. The heat, the dust, and the close confinement seemed to
tell on the tempers of everyone. The children fidgeted perpetually, the
little ones and the babies cried, the women scolded, and the men
grumbled and occasionally quarrelled. It was even worse at night than
during the day; the children indeed were quieter, for they lay on the
floor of the passage and slept in comparative comfort, but for the men
and women there was no change of position, no possibility of rest. The
backs of the seats were low, and except for the fortunate ones by the
windows there was no rest for the head; but all took uneasy naps with
their chins leaning forward on their chest, or sometimes with their
heads resting on their neighbour's shoulder. Tom did not retain his
corner seat, but resigned it a few hours after starting to a weary woman
with a baby in her arms who sat next to him. He himself, strong as he
was, felt utterly worn out by the fatigue and sleeplessness.

Beyond Chicago there was somewhat more room, and it was possible to make
a change of position. Beyond Omaha it was much better; the train was
considerably faster and the number of passengers comparatively few. He
now generally got a seat to himself and could put his feet up. The
people were also, for the most part, acquainted with the country, and he
was able to learn a good deal from their conversation. There were but
few women or children among them, for except near the stations of the
railway, settlements were very rare; and the men were for the most part
either miners, ranchemen, or mechanics, going to the rising town of
Denver, or bound on the long journey across the plains to Utah or
California. It was on the eighth day after starting that Denver was
reached.

Before leaving the ship Tom had put on his working clothes and a flannel
shirt, and had disposed of his black suit, for a small sum, to a
fellow-passenger who intended to remain at New York. This had somewhat
lightened his portmanteau, but he was glad when he found that there were
vehicles at the station to convey passengers up the hill to Denver,
which was some three miles away, and many hundred feet above it. He was
too tired to set about finding the Empire Saloon, but put up at the
hotel at which the omnibus stopped, took a bath and a hearty meal, and
then went straight to bed.

After breakfast the next morning he at once set out. He had no
difficulty in finding the whereabouts of the Empire Saloon, which he
learned from the clerk of the hotel was a small place frequented almost
entirely by miners. Its appearance was not prepossessing. It had been
built in the earliest days of Denver, and was a rough erection. The
saloon was low, its bare rafters were darkly coloured by smoke, a number
of small tables stood on the sanded floor, and across the farther end of
the room ran a bar. On shelves behind this stood a number of black
bottles, and a man in his shirt sleeves was engaged in washing up
glasses. Two or three rough-looking men in coloured flannel shirts, with
the bottoms of their trousers tucked into high boots, were seated at the
tables smoking and drinking.

"I am expecting a letter for me here," Tom said to the man behind the
bar. "My name is Wade."

"The boss is out now," the man said. "He will be here in an hour or so.
If there is anything for you he will know about it."

"Thank you. I will come again in an hour," Tom replied. The man nodded
shortly, and went on with his work. When Tom returned, the bar-tender
said to a man who was sitting at one of the tables talking to the
miners, "This is the chap I told you of as was here about the letter."

"Sit right down," the man said to Tom, "I will talk with you presently;"
and he continued his conversation in a low tone with the miners. It was
nearly half an hour before he concluded it. Then he rose, walked across
the room to Tom, and held out his hand.

"Shake, young fellow," he said; "that is, if you are the chap Straight
Harry told me might turn up here some day."

"I expect I am the fellow," Tom said with a smile. "My uncle's name is
Harry Wade."

"Yes, that is his name; although he is always called Straight Harry.
Yes, I have got a letter for you. Come along with me." He led the way
into a small room behind the saloon, that served at once as his bed-room
and office, and motioned to Tom to sit down on the only chair; then
going to a cupboard he took out a tin canister, and opening it shook out
half a dozen letters on to the table.

"That is yourn," he said, picking one out.

It was directed to Tom, and contained but a few lines. "_If you come I
have gone west. Pete Hoskings will tell you all he knows about me and
put you on the line. Your affectionate uncle._"

"Are you Mr. Hoskings?" he asked the landlord.

"I am Pete Hoskings," the man said. "There ain't been no Mister to my
name as ever I can remember."

"My uncle tells me that you will be able to direct me to him, and will
put me on the line."

"It would take a darn sight cuter fellow than I am to direct you to him
at present," the man said with a laugh. "Straight Harry went away from
here three months ago, and he might be just anywhere now. He may be
grubbing away in a mine, he may be hunting and trapping, or he may have
been wiped out by the Indians. I know where he intended to go, at least
in a general sort of way. He did tell me he meant to stay about there,
and it may be he has done so. He said if he moved away and got a chance
he would send me word; but as there ain't nairy a post-office within
about five hundred miles of where he is, his only chance of sending a
letter would be by a hunter who chanced to be going down to the
settlements, and who, like enough, would put it into his hunting-shirt
and never give it another thought. So whether he has stayed there or not
is more nor I can say."

"And where is _there?_" Tom asked.  "It is among the hills to the west
of the Colorado River, which ain't much, seeing as the Colorado is about
two thousand miles long. However, I can put you closer than that, for he
showed me on a map the bit of country he intended to work. He said he
would be back here in six months from the time he started; and that if
you turned up here I was either to tell you the best way of getting
there, or to keep you here until he came back. Well, I may say at once
that there ain't no best way; there is only one way, and that is to get
on a pony and ride there, and a mighty bad way it is. The only thing for
you to do is to keep on west along the caravan tract. You have to cross
the Green River,--that is the name of the Colorado on its upper course.
Fort Bridger is the place for you to start from, but you have got to
wait there until you sight some one or other bound south; for as to
going by yourself, it would be a sight better to save yourself all
trouble by putting that Colt hanging there to your head, and pulling the
trigger. It is a bad country, and it is full of bad Indians, and there
ain't many, even of the oldest hands, who care to risk their lives by
going where Straight Harry has gone.

"I did all I could to keep him from it; but he is just as obstinate as a
mule when he has made up his mind to a thing. I know him well, for we
worked as mates for over a year down on the Yuba in California. We made
a good pile, and as I had got a wife and wanted to settle I came back
east. This place had a couple of dozen houses then; but I saw it was
likely to boom, so I settled down and set up this saloon and sent for my
wife to come west to me. If she had lived I should have been in a sight
bigger place by this time; but she died six months after she got here,
and then I did not care a continental one way or the other; and I like
better to stop here, where I meet my old mates and can do as I like,
than to run a big hotel. It ain't much to look at, but it suits me, and
I am content to know that I could buy up the biggest place here if I had
a fancy to. I don't take much money now, but I did when the place was
young; and I bought a few lots of land, and you may bet they have turned
out worth having. Well, don't you act rashly in this business. Another
three months your uncle will turn up, if he is alive; and if he don't
turn up at all I dare say I can put you into a soft thing. If you go on
it is about ten to one you get scalped before you find him. Where are
you staying?"

"At the Grand. The omnibus stopped there last night."

"Well, you stay there for a week and think it over. You have got to
learn about the country west of the Colorado. You had best come here to
do that. You might stay a month at the Grand and not find a soul who
could tell you anything worth knowing, but there ain't a day when you
couldn't meet men here who have either been there themselves or have
heard tell of it from men who have."

"Are the natives friendly now?" Tom asked. "In a letter he wrote two
years ago to us, my uncle said that he should put off going to a part of
the country he wanted to prospect until the Indians were quiet."

"The darned critters are never either friendly or quiet. A red-skin is
pizen, take him when you will. The only difference is, that sometimes
they go on the war-path and sometimes they don't; but you may bet that
they are always ready to take a white man's scalp if they get a chance."

"Well, I am very much obliged to you for your advice, which I will
certainly take; that is, I will not decide for a few days, and will come
in here and talk to the miners and learn what I can about it."

"You can hear at once," the landlord said. He stepped back into the
saloon, and said to the two men with whom he had been talking: "Boys,
this young chap is a Britisher, and he has come out all the way to join
Straight Harry, who is an uncle of his. Straight Harry is with Ben
Gulston and Sam Hicks, and they are prospecting somewhere west of the
Colorado. He wants to join them. Now, what do you reckon his chances
would be of finding them out and dropping in on their campfire?"

The men looked at Tom with open eyes.

"Waal," one of them drawled, "I should reckon you would have just about
the same chance of getting to the North Pole if you started off on foot,
as you would of getting to Straight Harry with your hair on."

Tom laughed. "That is not cheering," he said.

"It ain't. I don't say as an old hand on the plains might not manage it.
He would know the sort of place Harry and his mates would be likely to
be prospecting, he would know the ways of the red-skins and how to
travel among them without ever leaving a trail or making a smoke, but
even for him it would be risky work, and not many fellows would care to
take the chances even if they knew the country well. But for a
tenderfoot to start out on such a job would be downright foolishness.
There are about six points wanted in a man for such a journey. He has
got to be as hard and tough as leather, to be able to go for days
without food or drink, to know the country well, to sleep when he does
sleep with his ears open, to be up to every red skin trick, to be able
to shoot straight enough to hit a man plumb centre at three hundred
yards at least, and to hit a dollar at twenty yards sartin with his
six-shooter. If you feel as you have got all them qualifications you can
start off as soon as you like, and the chances aren't more'n twenty to
one agin your finding him."

"I haven't anyone of them," Tom said.

"Waal, it is something if you know that, young chap. It is not every
tenderfoot who would own up as much. You stick to it that you don't know
anything, and at the same time do your best to learn something, and you
will do in time. You look a clean-built young chap, and you could not
have a better teacher than Straight Harry. What he don't know, whether
it is about prospecting for gold or hunting for beasts, ain't worth
knowing, you bet. What is your name, mate?"

"Tom Wade."

"Waal, let us drink. It ain't like you, Pete, to keep a stranger dry as
long as you have been doing."

"He ain't up to our customs yet," the landlord said, as he moved off
towards the bar.

"It is a custom everywhere," the miner said reprovingly, "for folks to
stand drink to a stranger; and good Bourbon hurts no man."

The landlord placed a bottle and four glasses on the counter. Each of
the miners filled his glass for himself, and the bottle was then handed
to Tom, who followed their example, as did Hoskings.

"Here is luck to you," the miner said, as he lifted his glass. Three
glasses were set down empty, but Tom had to stop half-way with his to
cough violently.

"It is strong stuff," he said apologetically, "and I never drank spirits
without water before. I had a glass of grog-and-water on board a ship
sometimes, but it has always been at least two parts of water to one of
spirits."

"We mostly drink our liquor straight out here," the miner said. "But I
am not saying it is the best way, especially for one who ain't used to
it, but you have got to learn to do it if you are going to live long in
this country."

"Standing drinks round is a custom here," Pete Hoskings explained,
seeing that Tom looked a little puzzled, "and there ain't no worse
insult than to refuse to drink with a man. There have been scores of men
shot, ay, and hundreds, for doing so. I don't say that you may not put
water in, but if you refuse to drink you had best do it with your hand
on the butt of your gun, for you will want to get it out quick, I can
tell you."

"There is one advantage in such a custom anyhow," Tom said, "it will
keep anyone who does not want to drink from entering a saloon at all."

"That is so, lad," Pete Hoskings said heartily. "I keep a saloon, and
have made money by it, but for all that I say to every young fellow who
hopes to make his way some time, keep out of them altogether. In country
places you must go to a saloon to get a square meal, but everyone drinks
tea or coffee with their food, and there is no call to stay in the place
a minute after you have finished. Calling for drinks round has been the
ruin of many a good man; one calls first, then another calls, and no one
likes to stand out of it, and though you may only have gone in for one
glass, you may find you will have to drink a dozen before you get out."

"Why, you are a downright temperance preacher, Pete," one of the miners
laughed.

"I don't preach to a seasoned old hoss like you, Jerry. I keep my
preaching for those who may benefit by it, such as the youngster here;
but I say to him and to those like him, you keep out of saloons. If you
don't do that, you will find yourself no forwarder when you are fifty
than you are now, while there are plenty of openings all over the
country for any bright young fellow who will keep away from liquor."

"Thank you," Tom said warmly; "I will follow your advice, which will be
easy enough. Beyond a glass of beer with my dinner and a tot of grog,
perhaps once in three months when I have gone on board a ship, and did
not like to say no, I have never touched it, and have no wish to do so."

"Stick to that, lad; stick to that. You will find many temptations, but
you set your face hard against them, and except when you come upon a
hard man bent on kicking up a muss, you will find folks will think none
the worse of you when you say to them straight, 'I am much obliged to
you all the same, but I never touch liquor.'"

Tom remained four days at the hotel, spending a good deal of his time at
the saloon, where he met many miners, all of whom endorsed what the
first he had spoken to had said respecting the country, and the
impossibility of anyone but an old hand among the mountains making his
way there.

On the fourth evening he said to Pete Hoskings: "I see that your advice
was good, and that it would be madness for me to attempt to go by
myself, but I don't see why I should not ride to Fort Bridger; not of
course by myself, but with one of the caravans going west. It would be a
great deal better for me to do that and to learn something of the plains
and camping than to stay here for perhaps three months. At Fort Bridger
I shall be able to learn more about the country, and might join some
hunting party and gain experience that way. I might find other
prospectors going up among the hills, and even if it were not near where
my uncle is to be found, I should gain by learning something, and should
not be quite a greenhorn when I join him."

"Well, that is sensible enough," Pete Hoskings said, "and I don't know
as I can say anything against it. You certainly would not be doing any
good for yourself here, and I don't say that either an hotel or a saloon
is the best place for you. I will think it over, and will let you know
when you come round in the morning; maybe I can put you a little in the
way of carrying it out."

The next morning when Tom went to the saloon, Jerry Curtis, one of the
miners he had first met there, was sitting chatting with Pete Hoskings.

"I had Jerry in my thoughts when I spoke to you last night, Tom," the
latter said. "I knew he was just starting west again, and thought I
would put the matter to him. He says he has no objection to your
travelling with him as far as Fort Bridger, where maybe he will make a
stay himself. There ain't no one as knows the plains much better than he
does, and he can put you up to more in the course of a month than you
would learn in a year just travelling with a caravan with farmers bound
west"

"I should be very much obliged indeed," Tom said delightedly. "It would
be awfully good of you, Jerry, and I won't be more trouble than I can
help."

"I don't reckon you will be any trouble at all" the miner said. "I was
never set much on travelling alone as some men are. I ain't much of a
talker, but I ain't fond of going two or three months without opening my
mouth except to put food and drink into it. So if you think you will
like it I shall be glad enough to take you. I know Straight Harry well,
and I can see you are teachable, and not set upon your own opinions as
many young fellows I have met out here are, but ready to allow that
there are some things as men who have been at them all their lives may
know a little more about than they do. So you may take it that it is a
bargain. Now, what have you got in the way of outfit?"

"I have not got anything beyond flannel shirts, and rough clothes like
these."

"They are good enough as far as they go. Two flannel shirts, one on and
one off, is enough for any man. Two or three pairs of thick stockings.
Them as is very particular can carry an extra pair of breeches in case
of getting caught in a storm, though for myself I think it is just as
well to let your things dry on you. You want a pair of high boots, a
buffalo robe, and a couple of blankets, one with a hole cut in the
middle to put your head through; that does as a cloak, and is like what
the Mexicans call a poncho. You don't want a coat or waistcoat; there
ain't no good in them. All you want to carry you can put in your
saddle-bag. Get a pair of the best blankets you can find. I will go with
you and choose them for you. You want a thing that will keep you warm
when you sleep, and shoot off the rain in bad weather. Common blankets
are no better than a sponge.

"Then, of course, you must have a six-shooter and a rifle. No man in his
senses would start across the plains without them. It is true there
ain't much fear of red-skins between here and Bridger, but there is
never any saying when the varmint may be about. Can you shoot?"

"No; I never fired off a rifle or a pistol in my life."

"Well, you had better take a good stock of powder and ball, and you can
practise a bit as you go along. A man ain't any use out on these plains
if he cannot shoot. I have got a pony; but you must buy one, and a
saddle, and fixings. We will buy another between us to carry our swag.
But you need not trouble about the things, I will get all that fixed."

"Thank you very much. How much do you suppose it will all come to?"

"Never you mind what it comes to," Pete Hoskings said roughly. "I told
your uncle that if you turned up I would see you through. What you have
got to get I shall pay for, and when Straight Harry turns up we shall
square it. If he don't turn up at all, there is no harm done. This is my
business, and you have got nothing to do with it."

Tom saw that he should offend Hoskings if he made any demur, and the
kind offer was really a relief to him. He had thirty pounds still in his
belt, but he had made a mental calculation of the cost of the things
Jerry had considered essential, and found that the cost of a horse and
saddle, of half another horse, of the rifle, six-shooter ammunition,
blankets, boots, and provisions for the journey, must certainly amount
up to more than that sum, and would leave him without any funds to live
on till he met his uncle.

He was so anxious to proceed that he would have made no excuse, although
he saw that he might find himself in a very difficult position. Pete's
insistence, therefore, on taking all expenses upon himself, was a
considerable relief to him; for although determined to go, he had had an
uneasy consciousness that it was a foolish step. He therefore expressed
his warm thanks.

"There, that is enough said about it," the latter growled out. "The
money is nothing to me one way or the other, and it would be hard if I
couldn't do this little thing for my old mate's nephew. When are you
thinking of making a start, Jerry?"

"The sooner the better. I have been four months here already and have
not struck a vein, that is, not one really worth working, and the sooner
I make a fresh start the better. To-day is Wednesday. There will be
plenty of time to get all the things to-day and to-morrow, and we will
start at daylight on Friday. You may as well come with me, Tom, and
learn something about the prices of things. There are some Indians
camped three miles away. We will walk over there first and pick up a
couple of ponies. I know they have got a troop of them, that is what
they come here to sell. They only arrived yesterday, so we shall have
the pick of them."

Before starting there was a short conversation between Jerry and the
landlord, and then the former put on his broad-brimmed hat.

"Have you seen any red-skins yet?"

"I saw a few at some of the stations the train stopped at between this
and Omaha."

"Those fellows are mostly Indians who have been turned out of their
tribes for theft or drunkenness, and they hang about the stations to
sell moccasins and other things their squaws make, to fresh arrivals.

"The fellows you are going to see are Navahoes, though not good
specimens of the tribe, or they would not be down here to sell ponies.
Still, they are a very different sort from those you have seen."

An hour's walking took them to a valley, in which the Indians were
encamped. There were eight wigwams. Some women paused in their work and
looked round at the newcomers. Their dogs ran up barking furiously, but
were driven back by a volley of stones thrown by three or four boys,
with so good an aim that they went off with sharp yelps. Jerry strolled
along without paying any attention to the dogs or boys towards a party
of men seated round a fire. One of them rose as they approached.

"My white brothers are welcome," he said courteously. "There is room by
the fire for them," and he motioned to them to sit down by his side. A
pipe, composed of a long flat wooden stem studded with brass nails, with
a bowl cut out of red pipe-stone, was now handed round, each taking a
short puff.

"Does my brother speak the language of the Navahoes?" the chief asked in
that tongue.

"I can get along with it," Jerry said, "as I can with most of your
Indian dialects."

"It is good," the chief said. "My brother is wise; he must have wandered
much."

"I have been a goodish bit among your hills, chief. Have you come from
far?"

"The moon was full when we left our village."

"Ah, then you have been a fortnight on the road. Well, chief, I have
come here to trade. I want to buy a couple of ponies."

The chief said a word or two to a boy standing near, and he with four or
five others at once started up the valley, and in a few minutes returned
with a drove of Indian ponies.

"They are not a bad lot," Jerry said to Tom.

"They don't look much, Jerry."

"Indian ponies never look much, but one of those ponies would gallop an
eastern-bred horse to a stand-still."

Jerry got up and inspected some of the horses closely, and presently
picked out two of them; at a word from the chief two of the lads jumped
on their backs and rode off on them at full speed, and then wheeling
round returned to the spot from where they started.

"My white brother is a judge of horses," the chief said; "he has picked
out the best of the lot."

"There are three or four others quite as good," Jerry said carelessly.
"Now, chief, how many blankets, how much powder and lead, and what else
do you want for those two horses?"

The chief stated his demands, to which Jerry replied: "You said just
now, chief, that I was a wise man; but it seems that you must regard me
as a fool."

For half an hour an animated argument went on. Two or three times Jerry
got up, and they started as if to quit the village, but each time the
chief called them back. So animated were their gestures and talk that
Tom had serious fears that they were coming to blows, but their voices
soon fell and the talk became amicable again. At last Jerry turned to
Tom.

"The bargain is struck," he said; "but he has got the best of me, and
has charged an outrageous sum for them," Then, in his own language, he
said to the chief:

"At noon to-morrow you will send the ponies down to the town. I will
meet them at the big rock, half a mile this side of it, with the trade
goods."

"They shall be there," the chief said, "though I am almost giving them
to you."

As they walked away, Tom said:

"So you have paid more than you expected, Jerry?"

"No, I have got them a bargain; only it would never have done to let the
chief know I thought so, or the horses would not have turned up
to-morrow. I expect they have all been stolen from some other tribe. The
two I have got are first-rate animals, and the goods will come to about
fourteen pounds. I shall ride one of them myself, and put our swag on my
own pony. That has been a very good stroke of business; they would never
have sold them at that price if they had been honestly come by."




CHAPTER III

ON THE PLAINS


The purchase of a buffalo robe, blankets, boots, and a Colt's revolver
occupied but a short time, but the rifle was a much more difficult
matter.

"You can always rely upon a Colt," the miner said, "but rifles are
different things; and as your life may often depend upon your
shooting-iron carrying straight, you have got to be mighty careful about
it. A gun that has got the name of being a good weapon will fetch four
times as much as a new one."

Denver was but a small place; there was no regular gunsmith's shop, but
rifles and pistols were sold at almost every store in the town. In this
quest Jerry was assisted by Pete Hoskings, who knew of several men who
would be ready to dispose of their rifles. Some of these weapons were
taken out into the country and tried at marks by the two men. They made
what seemed to Tom wonderful shooting, but did not satisfy Hoskings.

"I should like the youngster to have a first-rate piece," he said, "and
I mean to get him one if I can. There are two of these would do if we
can't get a better, but if there is a first-rate one to be had in this
township I will have it." Suddenly he exclaimed, "I must have gone off
my head, and be going downright foolish! Why, I know the very weapon.
You remember Billy the scout?"

"In course I do, everyone knew him. I heard he had gone down just before
I got back here."

"That is so, Jerry. You know he had a bit of a place up in the hills,
four or five miles from here, where he lived with that Indian wife of
his when he was not away. I went out to see him a day or two afore he
died. I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. He said no,
his squaw would get on well enough there. She had been alone most of her
time, and would wrestle on just as well when he had gone under. He had a
big garden-patch which she cultivated, and brought the things down into
the town here. They always fetch a good price. Why more people don't
grow them I can't make out; it would pay better than gold-seeking, you
bet. He had a few hundred dollars laid by, and he said they might come
in handy to her if she fell sick, or if things went hard in winter.
Well, you remember his gun?"

"In course--his gun was nigh as well known as Billy himself. He used to
call it Plumb-centre. You don't mean to say she hasn't sold it?"

"She hasn't; at least I should have been sure to hear if she had. I know
several of the boys who went to the funeral wanted to buy it, and
offered her long prices for it too; but she wouldn't trade. I will ride
over there this evening and see what I can do about it. She will sell to
me if she sells to anyone, for she knows I was a great chum of Billy's,
and I have done her a few good turns. She broke her leg some years back
when he was away, and luckily enough I chanced to ride over there the
next day. Being alone and without anyone to help, she would have got on
badly. I sent a surgeon up to her, and got a redskin woman to go up to
nurse her. I don't wonder she did not like to sell Billy's piece, seeing
he was so famous with it, and I feel sure money would not do it; but
perhaps I can talk her into it."

The next morning the articles agreed upon as the price of the horses
were packed on Jerry's pony, and they went out to the meeting-place.

"It is twenty minutes early," Jerry said, as Tom consulted his watch,
"and the red-skins won't be here till it is just twelve o'clock. A
red-skin is never five minutes before or five minutes after the time he
has named for a meeting. It may have been set six months before, and at
a place a thousand miles away, but just at the hour, neither before nor
after, he will be there. A white man will keep the appointment; but like
enough he will be there the night before, will make his camp, sleep, and
cook a meal or two, but he does not look for the red-skin till exactly
the hour named, whether it is sunrise or sunset or noon. Red-skins ain't
got many virtues,--least there ain't many of them has, though I have
known some you could trust all round as ready as any white man,--but
for keeping an appintment they licks creation."

A few minutes before twelve o'clock three Indians were seen coming down
the valley on horseback. They were riding at a leisurely pace, and it
was exactly the hour when they drew rein in front of Tom and his
companion. Jerry had already unloaded his pony and had laid out the
contents of the pack. First he proceeded to examine the two ponies, to
make sure that they were the same he had chosen.

"That is all right," he said; "they would hardly have tried to cheat us
over that--they would know that it would not pay with me. There, chief,
is your exchange. You will see that the blankets are of good quality.
There is the keg of powder, the bar of lead, ten plugs of tobacco, the
cloth for the squaws, and all the other things agreed on."

The chief examined them carefully, and nodded his satisfaction. "If all
the pale-faces dealt as fairly with the red man as you have done there
would not be so much trouble between them," he said.

"That is right enough, chief; it can't be gainsaid that a great many,
ay, I might say the most part, of the traders are rogues. But they would
cheat us just the same as they would you, and often do take us in. I
have had worthless goods passed off on me many a time; and I don't blame
you a bit if you put a bullet into the skull of a rogue who has cheated
you, for I should be mightily inclined to do the same myself."

No more words were wasted; the lads who had ridden the ponies down made
up the goods in great bundles and went up the valley with their chief,
while Jerry and Tom took the plaited leather lariats which were round
the ponies' necks and returned to Denver. A saddle of Mexican pattern,
with high peak and cantle, massive wooden framework, huge straps and
heavy stirrups, was next bought. Jerry folded a horse-rug and tried it
in different positions on the horse's back until the saddle fitted well
upon it.

"That is the thing that you have got to be most particular about, Tom.
If the saddle does not sit right the horse gets galled, and when a horse
once gets galled he ain't of much use till he is well again, though the
Indians ride them when they are in a terrible state; but then they have
got so many horses that, unless they are specially good, they don't hold
them of any account. You see the saddle is so high that there is good
space between it and the backbone, and the pressure comes fair on the
ribs, so the ponies don't get galled if the blankets are folded
properly. The Indians do not use saddles, but ride either on a pad or
just a folded blanket, and their ponies are always getting galled."

"The saddle is tremendously heavy."

"It is heavy, but a few pounds don't make much difference to the horse
one way or the other, so that he is carrying it comfortably. The saddles
would be no good if they were not made strong, for a horse may put his
foot in a hole and come down head over heels, or may tumble down a
precipice, and the saddle would be smashed up if it were not pretty near
as strong as cast-iron. Out on the plains a man thinks as much of his
saddle as he does of his horse, and more. If his horse dies he will put
the saddle on his head and carry it for days rather than part with it,
for he knows he won't be long before he gets a horse again. He can buy
one for a few charges of powder and ball from the first friendly Indians
he comes across, or he may get one given to him if he has nothing to
exchange for it, or if he comes across a herd of wild horses he can
crease one."

"What is creasing a horse?" Tom asked.

"Well, it is a thing that wants a steady hand, for you have got to hit
him just on the right spot--an inch higher, you will miss him; half an
inch lower, you will kill him. You have got to put a bullet through his
neck two or three inches behind the ears and just above the spine. Of
course if you hit the spine you kill him, and he is no good except to
give you a meal or two if you are hard-up for food; but if the ball goes
through the muscles of the neck, just above the spine, the shock knocks
him over as surely as if you had hit him in the heart. It stuns him, and
you have only got to run up and put your lariat round his neck, and be
ready to mount him as soon as he rises, which he will do in two or three
minutes, and he will be none the worse for the shock; in fact you will
be able to break him in more easily than if you had caught him by the
rope."

Jerry then adjusted his own saddle to the other Indian horse.

"Can you ride?" he asked.

"No, I have never had any chance of learning at home."

"Well, you had better have a lesson at once. This is a good way for a
beginner;" and he took a blanket, and having rolled it up tightly,
strapped it over the peak of the saddle and down the flaps.

"There," he said. "You get your knees against that, and what with the
high peak and the high cantle you can hardly be chucked out anyhow, that
is, if the horse does not buck; but I will try him as to that before you
mount. We will lead them out beyond the town, we don't want to make a
circus of ourselves in the streets; besides, if you get chucked, you
will fall softer there than you would on the road. But first of all we
will give them a feed of corn. You see they are skeary of us at present.
Indian horses are always afraid of white men at first, just as white
men's horses are afraid of Indians. A feed of corn will go a long way
towards making us good friends, for you may be sure they have never had
a feed in their lives beyond what they could pick up for themselves."

The horses snuffed the corn with some apprehension when it was held out
towards them, backing away from the sieves with their ears laid back;
but seeing that no harm came to them they presently investigated the
food more closely, and at last took a mouthful, after which they
proceeded to eat greedily, their new masters patting their necks and
talking to them while they did so. Then their saddles and bridles were
put on, and they were led out of the stable and along the streets. At
first they were very fidgety and wild at the unaccustomed sights and
sounds, but their fear gradually subsided, and by the time they were
well in the country they went along quietly enough.

"Now you hold my horse, Tom, and I will try yours."

Jerry mounted and galloped away; in ten minutes he returned.

"He will do," he said as he dismounted. "He is fresh yet and wants
training. I don't suppose he has been ridden half a dozen times, but
with patience and training he will turn out a first-rate beast. I could
see they were both fast when those boys rode them. I don't wonder the
chief asked what, for an Indian pony, was a mighty long price, though it
was cheap enough for such good animals. He must have two or three
uncommon good ones at home or he would never have parted with them, for
when an Indian gets hold of an extra good pony no price will tempt him
to sell it, for a man's life on the plains often depends on the speed
and stay of his horse. Now, I will take a gallop on my own, and when I
come back you can mount and we will ride on quietly together.

"There is not much difference between them," he said on his return.
"Yours is a bit faster. Pete told me to get you the best horse I could
find, and I fixed upon yours, directly my eye fell upon him, as being
the pick of the drove. But this is a good one too, and will suit me as
well as yours, for he is rather heavier, and will carry me better than
yours would do on a long journey. Now climb up into your saddle."

Jerry laughed at the difficulty Tom had in lifting his leg over the high
cantle. "You will have to practise presently putting your hands on the
saddle and vaulting into it. Half a minute in mounting may make all the
difference between getting away and being rubbed out. When you see the
red-skins coming yelling down on you fifty yards away, and your horse is
jumping about as scared as you are, it is not an easy matter to get on
to its back if you have got to put your foot in the stirrup first. You
have got to learn to chuck yourself straight into your seat whether you
are standing still or both on the run. There, how do you feel now?"

"I feel regularly wedged into the saddle."

"That is right. I will take up the stirrups a hole, then you will get
your knees firmer against the blanket. It is better to learn to ride
without it, even if you do get chucked off a few times, but as we start
to-morrow you have no time for that. In a few days, when you get at home
in the saddle, we will take off the blanket, and you have got to learn
to hold on by your knees and by the balance of your body. Now we will be
moving on."

As soon as the reins were slackened the horses started together at an
easy canter.

"That is their pace," Jerry said. "Except on a very long journey, when
he has got squaws and baggage with him, a red-skin never goes at a walk,
and the horses will keep on at this lope for hours. That is right. Don't
sit so stiffly; you want your legs to be stiff and keeping a steady
grip, but from your hips you want to be as slack as possible, just
giving to the horse's action, the same way you give on board ship when
vessels are rolling. That is better. Ah! here comes Pete. I took this
way because I knew it was the line he would come back by--and, by gosh,
he has got the rifle, sure enough!"

Pete had seen them, and was waving the gun over his head.

"I've got it," he said as he reined up his horse when he met them. "It
was a stiff job, for she did not like to part with it. I had to talk to
her a long time. I put it to her that when she died the gun would have
to go to someone, and I wanted it for a nephew of Straight Harry, whom
she knew well enough; that it was for a young fellow who was safe to
turn out a great hunter and Indian fighter like her husband, and that he
would be sure to do credit to Plumb-centre, and make the gun as famous
in his hands as it had been in her husband's. That fetched her. She said
I had been kind to her, and though she could not have parted with the
gun for money, she would do it, partly to please me, and partly because
she knew that Straight Harry had been a friend of her husband's, and had
fought by his side, and that the young brave I spoke of, would be likely
to do credit to Plumb-centre. Her husband, she said, would be glad to
know that it was in such good hands. So she handed it over to me. She
would not hear of taking money for it; indeed, I did not press it,
knowing that she would feel that it was almost a part of her husband;
but I will make it up to her in other ways. There, Tom; there is as good
a shooting-iron as there is in all the territories."

"Thank you very much indeed, Pete. I shall value it immensely, and I
only hope that some day I shall be able to do credit to it, as the poor
woman said."

There was nothing particular in the appearance of the rifle. It was a
plainly-finished piece, with a small bore and heavy metal.

"It don't look much," Jerry said, "but it is a daisy, you bet."

"We will try a shot with it, Jerry. She gave me the bag of bullets and a
box of patches and his powder-horn with it. We will see what it will do
in our hands, we are both pretty good shots."

He loaded the rifle carefully.

"You see that bit of black rock cropping out of the hill-side. I guess
it is about two hundred and fifty yards away, and is about the size a
red-skin's head would be if he were crawling through the grass towards
us. Will you shoot first or shall I?"

"Fire away, Pete."

Hoskings took a steady aim and fired.

"You have hit it," Jerry exclaimed. "Just grazed it at the top."

They walked across to the rock; there was a chip just on the top.

"It was a good shot, Pete; especially considering how you are out of
practice. If it had been a red-skin it would have stunned him sure, for
I doubt whether it is not too high by a quarter of an inch or so, to
have finished him altogether."

[Illustration: JERRY GIVES TOM A LESSON IN SHOOTING.]

"It would have cut his top-knot off, Jerry, and that is all. I doubt
whether it would have even touched his skin."

They returned to the spot where Pete had fired, and Jerry threw himself
down on the grass and levelled his rifle.

"That is not fair, Jerry," Pete protested.

"It would not be fair if I was shooting against you, but we are only
trying the rifle, and if that rock were a red-skin you may be sure that
I should be lying down."

He fired: and on going to the stone again they found that the bullet had
struck it fair, within an inch of its central point.

"That is something like a rifle," Jerry said delighted. "Now, Tom, you
shall have a shot."

As they walked to the shooting-point, Jerry showed the lad how to hold
the rifle, instructed him as to the backsight, and showed him how to get
the foresight exactly on the nick of the backsight. "You must just see
the bead as if it were resting in the nick, and the object you aim at
must just show above the top point of the bead." He showed him how to
load, and then told him to lie down, as he had done, on his chest, and
to steady the rifle with the left arm, the elbow being on the ground.
"You must be quite comfortable," he said; "it is of no use trying to
shoot if you are in a cramped position. Now, take a steady aim, and the
moment you have got the two sights in a line on the rock, press the
trigger steadily. Press pretty hard; it is only a pull of about two
pounds, but it is wonderful how stiff a trigger feels the first time you
pull at it. You need not be at all afraid of the kick. If you press the
butt tightly against your shoulder you will hardly feel it, for there is
plenty of weight in the barr'l, and it carries but a small charge of
powder. You won't want to shoot at anything much beyond this range, but
sometimes you may have to try at four or five hundred yards when you are
in want of a dinner. In that case you can put in a charge and a half of
powder. Now, are you comfortable? You need not grip so hard with your
left hand, the gun only wants to rest between your thumb and fingers.
That is better. Now take a steady aim, and the moment you have got it
press the trigger. Well done! that is a good shot for a first. You hit
the dust an inch or two to the right of the stone. If it had been a
red-skin you would have hit him in the shoulder. You will do, lad, and
by the time we get to Fort Bridger I guess you will bring down a stag as
clean as nine out of ten hunters."

"Don't get into the way of waiting too long before you fire, Tom," Pete
Hoskings said. "Better to try to shoot too quick to begin with than to
be too long about it. When you have made up your mind that you are going
to shoot, get your bead on your mark and fire at once. You may want to
hit a red-skin's head as he looks out from behind a tree, and to do that
you must fire the instant you see him or he will be in again. One of the
best shots I ever saw never used to raise his gun to his shoulder at
all. He just dropped his piece into the hollow of his left hand, and
would fire as he touched it. He did not seem to take any aim at all, but
his bullet was sartin to hit the thing he wanted to, even if it were no
bigger than an orange. He could not tell himself how he did it. 'I seen
the thing and I fired, Pete,' he would say; 'the gun seems to point
right of its own accord, I have not anything to say to it.' You see,
shooting is a matter of eye. Some men may shoot all their lives, and
they will never be more than just respectable, while others shoot well
the first time that a gun is put in their hands. Want of nerve is what
spoils half men's shooting; that and taking too long an aim. Well, it is
time for us to be mounting and getting back. I have got to see that the
dinner is all ready. I never can trust that black scoundrel, Sam, to do
things right while I am away."

The preparations for the journey were completed by the evening.

"Now mind, Tom," Pete Hoskings said the last thing before going to bed,
"if you don't find your uncle, or if you hear that he has got wiped out,
be sure you come right back here. Whether you are cut out for a hunter
or not, it will do you a world of good to stick to the life until you
get four or five years older and settle as to how you like to fix
yourself, for there ain't no better training than a few years out on the
plains, no matter what you do afterwards. I will find a good chum for
you, and see you through it, both for the sake of my old mate, Straight
Harry, and because I have taken a liking to you myself."

"Why do you call my uncle Straight Harry?" Tom asked, after thanking
Pete for his promise. "Is he so very upright?"

"No, lad, no; it ain't nothing to do with that. There are plenty more
erect men than him about. He is about the size of Jerry, though, maybe a
bit taller. No; he got to be called Straight Harry because he was a
square man, a chap everyone could trust. If he said he would do a thing
he would do it; there weren't no occasion for any papers to bind him.
When he said a thing you could bet on it. You could buy a mine on his
word: if he said it was good you need not bother to take a journey to
look at it, you knew it was right there, and weren't a put-up job. Once
when we were working down on the Yuba we got to a place where there were
a fault in the rock, and the lode had slipped right away from us.
Everyone in camp knew that we had been doing well, and we had only got
to pile up a few pieces of rock at the bottom, and no one who would have
seen it would have known that the lode was gone. That is what most chaps
would have done, and a third chap who was working with us was all for
doing it. Anyone would have given us five hundred ounces for it. Well, I
didn't say nothing, it was what pretty nigh anyone on the mines would
have done if he had the chance, but Harry turned on our partner like a
mountain lion. 'You are a mean skunk, New Jersey' says he. 'Do you think
that I would be one to rob a man only because he would be fool enough to
take a place without looking at it? We've worked to the edge of the
claim both ways, and I don't reckon there is a dollar's worth of gold
left in it, now that it has pettered out at the bottom, and if there was
I would not work another day with a man who proposed to get up a
swindle.' So as soon as he got up to the surface he told everyone that
the lode had gone out and that the claim weren't worth a red cent. He
and New Jersey had a big fight with fists that evening. The other was
bigger than Harry, and stronger, but he were no hand with his pistol,
and Harry is a dead shot; so he told New Jersey he would fight him
English fashion, and Harry gave him the biggest licking I ever saw a man
have. I felt pretty mean myself, you bet, for having thought of planting
the thing off; but as I hadn't spoken, Harry knew nothing about it. If
he had, I doubt if he would ever have given me his hand again. Yes, sir,
he is a straight man all round, and there is no man better liked than
Harry. Why, there are a score of men in this town who know him as I do,
and, if he came to them and said, 'I have struck it rich, I will go
halves with you if you will plank down twenty thousand dollars to open
her up,' they would pay down the cash without another word; and, I tell
you, there ain't ten men west of the Missouri of whom as much could be
said."

The next morning at daybreak Jerry and Tom started. They rode due north,
skirting the foot of the hills, till they reached the emigrant route,
for the railway had not been carried farther than Wabash, from which
point it ran south to Denver. It was a journey of some five hundred
miles to Fort Bridger, and they took a month to accomplish it, sometimes
following the ordinary line of travel, sometimes branching off more to
the north, where game was still abundant.

"That is Fort Bridger, Tom. It ain't much of a place to look at; but is,
like all these forts, just a strong palisading, with a clump of wooden
huts for the men in the middle. Well, the first stage of your journey is
over, and you know a little more now than when you left Denver; but
though I have taught you a good bit, you will want another year's
practice with that shooting-iron afore you're a downright good shot; but
you have come on well, and the way you brought down that stag on a run
yesterday was uncommon good. You have made the most of your
opportunities, and have got a steady hand and a good eye. You are all
right on your horse now, and can be trusted to keep your seat if you
have a pack of red-skins at your heels. You have learnt to make a camp,
and to sleep comfortable on the ground; you can frizzle a bit of
deer-flesh over the fire, and can bake bread as well as a good many. Six
months of it and you will be a good plain's-man. I wish we had had a
shot at buffalo. They are getting scarcer than they were, and do not
like crossing the trail. We ain't likely to see many of them west of the
Colorado; the ground gets too hilly for them, and there are too many bad
lands."

"What are bad lands, Jerry?"

"They are just lands where Nature, when she made them, had got plenty of
rock left, but mighty little soil or grass seed. There are bad lands all
over the country, but nowhere so bad as the tract on both sides of the
Green and Colorado rivers. You may ride fifty miles any way over bare
rock without seeing a blade of grass unless you get down into some of
the valleys, and you may die of thirst with water under your feet."

"How do you mean, Jerry?"

"The rivers there don't act like the rivers in other parts. Instead of
working round the foot of the hills they just go through them. You ride
along on what seems to be a plain, and you come suddenly to a crack that
ain't perhaps twenty or thirty feet across, and you look down, if you
have got head enough to do it, and there, two thousand feet or more
below you, you see a river foaming among rocks. It ain't one river or it
ain't another river as does it; every little stream from the hills cuts
itself its canon and makes its way along till it meets two or three
others, then they go on together, cutting deeper and deeper until they
run into one of the arms of the Green River or the Colorado or the
Grand.

"The Green and the Colorado are all the same river, only the upper part
is called the Green. For about a thousand miles it runs through great
canons. No one has ever gone down them, and I don't suppose anyone ever
will; and people don't know what is the course of the river from the
time it begins this game till it comes out a big river on the southern
plains. You see, the lands are so bad there is no travelling across
them, and the rapids are so terrible that there is no going down them.
Even the Indians never go near the canons if they can help it. I believe
they think the whole thing is the work of an evil spirit."

"But you said some of the valleys had grass?"

"Yes; I have gone down one or two myself from the mountains of Utah,
where the stream, instead of cutting a canon for itself, has behaved for
a bit in the ordinary way and made a valley. Wonderfully good places
they were--plenty of grass, plenty of water, and no end of game. I have
spent some months among them, and got a wonderful lot of skins, beavers
principally of course, but half a dozen mountain lions and two
grizzlies. I did not bring home their skins, you bet. They were too
heavy, and I should not have troubled them if they had not troubled me.
There was good fish, too, in the streams, and I never had a better time.
The red-skins happened to be friendly, and I was with a hunter who had a
red-skin wife and a dozen ponies. If it hadn't been for that I should
soon have had to quit, for it ain't no good hunting if you can't carry
away the skins. As it was I made a good job of it, for I got nigh a
thousand dollars for my skins at Utah.

"Well, here we are at the fort. I guess we may as well make our camp
outside. If you go in you have got to picket your horse here and put
your baggage there and come in at gun-fire, and all sorts of things that
troubles a man who is accustomed to act as he likes."

The horses were soon picketed. "I will go in first and see who is here,
Tom. There are usually a lot of loafing Indians about these forts, and
though it is safe enough to leave our traps, out on the plain, it will
not do here. We must stay with them, or at any rate keep them in sight;
besides, these two horses would be a temptation to any redskin who
happened to want an animal."

"I will wait willingly, Jerry; I should know nobody inside the fort if I
went in. I will see to making a fire and boiling the kettle, and I will
have supper ready at seven o'clock."

"I shall be sure to be back by that time; like enough I sha'n't be a
quarter of an hour away."

It was but half an hour, indeed, before Tom saw him returning,
accompanied by a tall red-skin.

"This is a friend of mine, Tom. He was a chief of the Senecas, but his
tribe are nearly wiped out, and he has been all his life a hunter, and
there are few of us who have been much out on the plains who don't know
him. Chief, this is Straight Harry's nephew I was telling you of, who
has come out here to join his uncle. Sit down, we have got some
deer-flesh. Tom here knocked one over on the run at two hundred and
fifty yards by as good a shot as you want to see; while it is cooking we
can smoke a pipe and have a chat."

The chief gravely seated himself by the fire.

"What have you been doing since I last saw you up near the Yellowstone?"

"Leaping Horse has been hunting," the Indian said quietly, with a wave
of his hand, denoting that he had been over a wide expanse of country.

"I guessed so," Jerry put in.

"And fighting with 'Rappahoes and Navahoes."

"Then you've been north and south?"

The Indian nodded. "Much trouble with both; they wanted our scalps. But
four of the 'Rappahoe lodges are without a master, and there are five
Navahoe widows."

"Then you were not alone?"

"Garrison was with me among the 'Rappahoes; and the Shoshone hunter,
Wind-that-blows, was with me when the Navahoes came on our trail."

"They had better have left you alone, chief. Do you know the Ute
country?"

"The Leaping Horse has been there. The Utes are dogs."

"They are troublesome varmint, like most of the others," Jerry agreed.
"I was telling you Straight Harry is up in their country somewhere. Tom
here is anxious to join him, but of course that can't be. You have not
heard anything of him, I suppose?"

"The Leaping Horse was with him a week ago."

"You were, chief! Why did you not tell me so when I was saying we did
not know where he was?"

"My white brother did not ask," the chief said quietly.

"That is true enough, chief, but you might have told me without asking."

The Indian made no reply, but continued to smoke his hatchet pipe
tranquilly, as if the remark betrayed such ignorance of Indian manners
that it was not worth replying to.

Tom took up the conversation now.

"Was it far from here that you saw him?"

"Five days' journey, if travel quick."

"Was he hunting?" Jerry asked.

"Hunting, and looking for gold."

"Who had he with him?"

"Two white men. One was Ben Gulston. Leaping Horse had met him in Idaho.
The other was called Sam, a big man with a red beard."

"Yes, Sam Hicks; he only came back from California a few months back, so
you would not be likely to have met him before. Were they going to
remain where you left them?"

The Indian shook his head. "They were going farther north."

"Farther north!" Jerry repeated. "Don't you mean farther south?"

"Leaping Horse is not mistaken, he knows his right hand from his left."

"Of course, of course, chief," the miner said apologetically; "I only
thought that it was a slip of the tongue. Then if they were going
farther north they must have come back in this direction."

"They were on the banks of the Big Wind River when Leaping Horse met
them."

"Jerusalem!" the miner exclaimed. "What on airth are they doing there?
Why, we thought they had gone down to the west of the Colorado. I told
you so, chief, when I talked to you about it; and instead of that, here
they are up in the country of the 'Rappahoes and Shoshones."

"They went south," the Indian said quietly, "and had trouble with the
Utes and had to come back again, then they went north."

"Ah, that accounts for it. I wonder Harry didn't send word to Pete
Hoskings that he had gone up to the Big Wind River. I ain't heard of
there being any gold in that region, though some think that coming down
through the big hills from Yellowstone Valley on the northwest, metal
might be struck."

"Going to look for gold a little," the chief said, "hunt much; not stay
there very long, mean to go down south again after a bit. Leaping Horse
go with them."

"Oh, I see. The Utes had come upon them, and they knew that if they
stopped there they would lose their scalps sooner or later, so they came
up here and made north for a bit to hunt and fossick about in the hills,
and then go back when the Utes had quieted down."

The chief nodded.

"Well, well, that alters the affair altogether. Whereabouts did you
leave them?"

"Near the Buffalo Lake."

"Don't know it. Where does it lie?"

"On a stream that runs into the river from the west, from a valley
running up near Fremont's Buttes. They were going up so as to follow the
Riviere de Noir, and then either strike up across the hills to the Upper
Yellowstone, or go out west and come down over the Grosventre range on
to the Wyoming range, and then down through Thompson's Pass, or else
skirt the foot-hills on to the Green River."

"Waal, chief, I reckon that among all those hills and mountains, one
would have just about the same chance of lighting on them as you would
have of finding a chipmunk in a big pine-forest."

"Couldn't find," the chief said, "but might follow. If they go fast
never catch them; if wait about, hunt beaver, look for gold and silver,
then might come up to them easy enough, if 'Rappahoes not catch and
kill. Very bad place. Leaping Horse told them so. White brother said he
think so too; but other men think they find gold somewhere, so they go
on. They have got horses, of course. Three horses to ride, three horses
to carry beaver-traps and food. Leaping Horse came back here to sell his
skins. He had promised to meet a friend here, or he would not have left
Straight Harry, who is a good man and a friend of Leaping Horse. Three
men not enough in bad country."

"Do you think there would be any chance of my finding them?" Tom asked
eagerly.

A slight gleam of amusement passed over the Indian's face.

"My brother is very young," he said. "He will be a brave warrior and a
great hunter some day, but his eyes are not opened yet. Were he to try
he would leave his scalp to dry in the 'Rappahoes' lodges."

"That is just what I told him, chief. It would be sheer madness."

The Indian made no reply, and Jerry turned the conversation.

"You don't drink spirits, chief, or I would go and get a bottle from the
fort."

"Leaping Horse is not a madman," the Indian said scornfully, "that he
should poison his brain with fire-water."

"Yes; I remembered, chief, that you had fallen into our ways and drink
tea."

"Tea is good," the Indian said. "It is the best thing the white man has
brought out on to the plains."

"That is so, chief, except tobacco. We did not bring that; but I reckon
you got it from the Spaniards long ago, though maybe you knew of it
before they came up from the south."

The meat was now cooked, and Tom took it off the fire and handed the
pieces on the ramrod, that had served as a spit, to the others, together
with some bread, poured out the tea from the kettle, and placed a bag of
sugar before them. There was little talk until after the meal was over.
Then the Indian and Jerry smoked steadily, while Tom took a single pipe,
having only commenced the use of tobacco since he had left Denver.
Presently the Indian arose.

"In the morning I will see my white friends again," he said, and without
further adieu turned and walked gravely back to the fort.




CHAPTER IV

LEAPING HORSE


"He is a fine fellow," Jerry said, after the Indian had left him. "You
must have a talk with him one of these days over his adventures among
the 'Rappahoes and Navahoes, who are both as troublesome rascals as are
to be found on the plains. An Indian seldom talks of his adventures, but
sometimes when you can get him in the right humour you may hear about
them."  "He talks very fair English," Tom said.

"Yes; he has been ten years among us. He was employed for two or three
years supplying the railway men with meat; but no Indian cares to hunt
long in one place, and he often goes away with parties of either hunters
or gold-seekers. He knows the country well, and is a first-rate shot;
and men are always glad to have him with them. There is no more trusty
red-skin on the plains, and he will go through fire and water for those
whom he regards as his special friends. I should say he is about the one
man alive who could take you to your uncle."

"Do you think he would?" Tom asked eagerly.

"Ah, that is another matter; I don't know what his plans are. If he is
engaged to go with another party he will go, for he would not fail
anyone to whom he had made a promise. If he isn't engaged he might
perhaps do it. Not for pay, for he has little use for money. His hunting
supplies him with all he wants. It gives him food, and occasionally he
will go with a bundle of pelts to the nearest town, and the money he
gets for them will supply him with tea and tobacco and ammunition, and
such clothes as he requires, which is little enough. Buckskin is
everlasting wear, and he gets his worked up for him by the women of any
Indian tribe among whom he may be hunting. If he were one of these fort
Indians it would be only a question of money; but it would never do to
offer it to him. He does not forget that he is a chief, though he has
been away so many years from what there is left of his old tribe. If he
did it at all it would be for the sake of your uncle. I know they have
hunted together, and fought the Apaches together. I won't say but that
if we get at him the right way, and he don't happen to have no other
plans in his mind, that he might not be willing to start with you."

"I should be glad if he would, Jerry. I have been quite dreading to get
to Fort Bridger. I have had such a splendid time of it with you that I
should feel awfully lonely after you had gone on."

"Yes, I dare say you would feel lonesome. I should have felt lonesome
myself if I did not light upon some mate going the same way. We got on
very well together, Tom. When Pete Hoskings first put it to me whether I
would be willing to take you with me as far as this, I thought that
though I liked you well enough, it would not be in my way to be playing
a sort of schoolmaster business to a young tenderfoot; but I had got to
like the notion before we left Denver, and now it seems to me that we
have had a rare good time of it together."

"We have indeed, Jerry; at least I have had. Even if the Indian would
agree to take me I should miss you awfully."

Jerry made no reply, but sat smoking his pipe and looking into the fire.
As he was sometimes inclined to be taciturn, Tom made no attempt to
continue the conversation; and after moving out and shifting the
picket-pegs so as to give the horses a fresh range of grass to munch
during the night, he returned to the fire, wrapped himself in his
blankets and lay down, his "Good-night, Jerry," meeting with no
response, his companion being evidently absorbed in his own thoughts.

"You are not going on to-day, Jerry, are you?" Tom said, as he threw off
his blankets and sat up in the morning. The sun was not yet up, but
Jerry had already stirred up the embers, put some meat over them to
cook, and put the kettle among them.

"No, I shall stop here for a day or two, lad. I am in no special hurry,
and have no call to push on. I have not made up my mind about things
yet."

They had scarcely finished breakfast when Leaping Horse came down from
the fort.

"Tom here has been asking me, chief, whether there was any chance of
getting you to guide him to his uncle. I said, of course, that I did not
know what your plans were; but that if you had nothing special before
you, possibly you might be willing to do so, as I know that you and
Straight Harry have done some tall hunting and fighting together."

The Indian's face was impassive.

"Can my young brother ride day after day and night after night, can he
go long without food and water, is he ready to run the risk of his scalp
being taken by the 'Rappahoes? Can he crawl and hide, can he leave his
horse and travel on foot, can he hear the war-cry of the red-skins
without fear?"

"I don't say that I can do all these things, chief," Tom said; "but I
can do my best. And, anyhow, I think I can promise that if we should be
attacked you shall see no signs of my being afraid, whatever I may feel.
I am only a boy yet, but I hope I am not a coward."

"You have come a long way across the sea to find my brother, Straight
Harry. You would not have come so far alone if your heart had been weak.
Leaping Horse is going back to join his white brother again, and will
take you to him."

Tom felt that any outburst of delight would be viewed with distaste by
this grave Indian, and he replied simply: "I thank you with all my
heart, chief, and I am sure that my uncle will be grateful to you."

The chief nodded his head gravely, and then, as if the matter were
settled and no more need be said about it, he turned to Jerry:

"Which way is my white friend going?"

"I'm dog-goned if I know. I had reckoned to go down past Utah, and to go
out prospecting among the hills, say a hundred miles farther west; then
while I journeyed along with Tom I got mixed in my mind. I should like
to have handed him over safe to Harry; but if Harry had gone down to the
Ute hills with an idea of trying a spot I have heard him speak of, where
he thought he had struck it rich, he might not have cared to have had me
come there, and so I concluded last night it was best the lad should
wait here till Harry got back. Now the thing is altered; they are just
hunting and prospecting, and might be glad to have me with them, and I
might as well be there as anywhere else; so as you are going back there,
I reckon I shall be one of the party."

"That will be capital, Jerry," Tom said. "With you as well as the chief
we shall be sure to get through; and it will be awfully jolly having you
with us."

"Don't you make any mistake," the miner said, "I should not be of much
more use in finding them than you would. I ain't been up among the
mountains all these years without learning something, but I ain't no
more than a child by the side of the chief. And don't you think this
affair is going to be a circus. I tell you it is going to be a hard job.
There ain't a dozen white men as have been over that country, and we
shall want to be pretty spry if we are to bring back our scalps. It is a
powerful rough country. There are peaks there, lots of them, ten
thousand feet high, and some of them two or three thousand above that.
There are rivers, torrents, and defiles. I don't say there will be much
chance of running short of food, if it wasn't that half the time one
will be afraid to fire for fear the 'tarnal Indians should hear us. We
ain't got above a month afore the first snows fall. Altogether it is a
risky business, look at it which way you will."

"Well, Jerry, if it is as bad as that, I don't think it will be right
for you and the chief to risk your lives merely that I should find my
uncle. If he is alive he is sure to come back here sooner or later; or
if he goes some other way back to Denver he will hear from Pete that I
am here, and will either write or come for me."

"It ain't entirely on your account, lad, as I am thinking of going; and
I am pretty sure the chief would tell you that it is the same with him.
You see, he tried to persuade your uncle to turn back. My opinion is,
that though he had to come here to keep the appointment, he had it in
his mind to go back again to join your uncle. Haven't I about struck
your thoughts, chief?"

The chief nodded. "My white brother Harry is in danger," he said.
"Leaping Horse had to leave him; but would have started back to-day to
take his place by his side. The Hunting Dog will go with him."

"I thought so, chief; I am dog-goned if I did not think so. It was
Hunting Dog you came back here to meet, I suppose."

"Hunting Dog is of my tribe," he said; "he is my sister's son. He came
across the plains to join me. He has hunted in his own country; this is
the first time he has come out to take his place as a man. Leaping Horse
will teach him to be a warrior."

"That is good; the more the better, so that there ain't too many. Well,
what is your advice, chief? Shall we take our pack pony with the
outfit?"

The chief shook his head decidedly. "Must travel quick and be able to
gallop fast. My white brothers must take nothing but what they can carry
with them."

"All right, chief; we will not overload ourselves. We will just take our
robes and blankets, our shooting-irons, some tea and sugar, and a few
pounds of flour. At what time shall we start?"

"In an hour we will ride out from the fort."

"We shall be ready. Ten minutes would fix us, except that I must go into
the fort and sell my critter and what flour and outfit we sha'n't want,
to a trader there.

"I ain't done badly by that deal," Jerry said when he returned. "I have
sold the pony for more than I gave for him; for the red-skins have been
keeping away from the fort of late, and the folks going by are always
wanting horses in place of those that have died on the way. The other
things all sold for a good bit more than we gave for them at Denver.
Carriage comes mighty high on these plains; besides, the trader took his
chances and reckoned them in."

"How do you mean, Jerry?"

"Waal, I told him we was going up to the Shoshone Sierra, and intended
to hunt about and to come back, maybe by the Yellowstone and then by the
Bear rivers, and that we would take the price of the goods out in trade
when we got back. That made it a sort of lottery for him, for if we
never came back at all he would never have to pay, so he could afford to
take his risks and offer me a good price. I reckon he thinks he has got
them at a gift. He has given two pieces of paper, one for you and one
for me, saying that he owes the two of us the money; so if I should go
under and you should get back, you will draw it all right."

They at once proceeded to pack their ponies. Divided between the
saddle-bags of the two animals were four pounds of tea, eight of sugar,
and thirty-six of flour. Each took a good store of ammunition, an extra
pair of breeches, a flannel shirt, and a pair of stockings. The rest of
their clothes had been packed, and taken up by Jerry to the traders to
lie there until their return.

"That is light enough for anything," Jerry said, when the things were
stowed into the saddle-bags. "Four-and-twenty pounds of grub and five
pounds of ammunition brings it up to nine-and-twenty pounds each, little
enough for a trip that may last three months for aught we know."

In addition to the ammunition in the saddle-bags, each carried a
powder-horn and a bag of bullets over his shoulder. The revolvers were
in their belts, and the rifles slung behind them. While Jerry was away
at the fort Tom had made and baked three loaves, which were cut up and
put in the holsters.

"Now we are ready, Tom; the Indians will be out in a minute or two. The
sun is just at its highest."

Two minutes later the chief and his companion rode out from the gate of
the fort. Jerry and Tom mounted their horses and cantered over to meet
them. As they came up, Tom looked with interest at the young Indian. He
judged him to be about nineteen, and he had a bright and intelligent
face. He was, like his uncle, attired in buckskin; but the shirt was
fringed and embroidered, as was the band that carried his powder-horn, a
gift, doubtless, from some Indian maiden at his departure from his
village. No greetings were exchanged; but the chief and Jerry rode at
once side by side towards the northeast, and Tom took his place by the
side of the young Indian.

"How are you?" he said, holding out his hand. The young Indian took it
and responded to the shake, but he shook his head.

"Ah, you don't speak English yet?" Hunting Dog again shook his head.
"That is a pity," Tom went on; "it would have been jolly if we could
have talked together."

The chief said something to Jerry, who turned around in his saddle. "His
uncle says he can talk some. He has taught him a little when he has paid
visits to the village, but he has had no practice in speaking it. He
will get on after a time."

All were well mounted, and they travelled fast. Just before sunset they
crossed the Green River at a ford used by the emigrants, and some fifty
miles northeast of Fort Bridger. They had seen a herd of deer by the
way, and the two Indians had dismounted and stalked them. The others
lost sight of them, but when two rifle-shots were heard Jerry said, "We
will take the horses along to them, you may be sure they have got meat;
the chief is a dead shot, and he says that his nephew has also gifts
that way." As they expected, they found the Indians standing beside two
dead deer. Hunting Dog laid open the stomachs with a slash of his knife,
and removed the entrails, then tying the hind legs together swung the
carcasses on to his horse behind the saddle, and the journey was at once
renewed.

"You will make for Fremont's Buttes, I suppose, chief?" Jerry said, as
after riding up the river for three or four miles so as to be able to
obtain wood for their fire--as for a considerable distance on either
side of the emigrant trail not a shrub was to be seen--they dismounted,
turned the horses loose, lit a fire, and prepared a meal.

"Yes. We will go over the pass and camp at one of the little lakes at
the head of the north fork, thence we will ride across the plain and
ford Little Wind River, and then follow up the Sage Creek and make our
camp at night on Buffalo Lake. From there we must follow their trail."

"And where shall we have to begin to look out for the 'Rappahoes?"

"They may be over the next rise; no one can say. The 'Rappahoes are like
the dead leaves drifting before the wind. They come as far south as the
emigrant trail, and have attacked caravans many times. After to-night we
must look out for them always, and must put out our fires before dark."

Tom had noticed how carefully the young Indian had selected the wood for
the fire; searching carefully along by the edge of the river for
drift-wood, and rejecting all that contained any sap. He himself had
offered to cut down some wood with the axe he carried strapped to his
saddle, but Hunting Dog had shaken his head.

"No good, no good," he said. "Make heap smoke; smoke very bad."

Tom thought that the shrub he was about to cut would give out obnoxious
smoke that would perhaps flavour the meat hanging over it, but when the
Indian added, "Heap smoke, red-skins see a long way," he understood that
Hunting Dog had been so careful in choosing the wood in order to avoid
making any smoke whatever that might attract the attention of Indians at
a distance from them. It was his first lesson in the necessity for
caution; and as darkness set in he looked round several times, half
expecting to see some crouching red-skins. The careless demeanour of his
companions, however, reassured him, for he felt certain that if there
was any fear of a surprise, they would be watchful.

After supper the Indian talked over with Jerry the route they would most
probably have to pursue. The miner had never been in this part of the
country before; indeed, very few white men, with the exception of
trappers who had married Indian women and had been admitted into their
tribes, had ever penetrated into this, the wildest portion of the Rocky
Mountains. Vague rumours existed of the abundance of game there, and of
the existence of gold, but only one attempt had been made to prospect on
a large scale. This had taken place three years before, when a party of
twenty Californian miners penetrated into the mountains. None of them
returned, but reports brought down by Indians to the settlements were to
the effect that, while working a gold reef they had discovered, they
were attacked and killed to a man by a war party of Sioux.

"I was mighty nigh being one of that crowd," Jerry said when he told the
story to Tom, as they sat over the camp-fire that night. "I heard of
their start when I got back to Salt Lake City, after being away for some
time among the hills. I legged it arter them as fast as I could, but I
found when I got to the last settlement that they had gone on ten days
before, and as I did not know what line they had followed, and did not
care to cross the pass alone, I gave it up. Mighty lucky thing it was,
though I did not think so at the time."

"But why should my uncle's party have gone into such a dangerous country
when they knew that the natives were so hostile?"

"It is a mighty big place, it is pretty nigh as big as all the eastern
states chucked into one, and the red-skins are not thick. No one knows
how many there are, but it is agreed they are not a big tribe. Then it
ain't like the plains, where a party travelling can be seen by an Indian
scout miles and miles away. It is all broken ground, canons and valleys
and rocks. Then again, when we get on the other side of the Wind River
they tell me there are big forests. That is so, chief, isn't it?"

The chief nodded. "Heap forests," he said, "higher up rocks and bad
lands; all bad. In winter snow everywhere on hills. Red-skins not like
cold; too much cold, wigwam no good."

"That's it, you see, Tom. We are here a long way above the sea-level,
and so in the hills you soon get above the timber-line. It's barren land
there, just rock, without grass enough for horses, and in winter it is
so all-fired cold that the Indians can't live there in their wigwams. I
reckon their villages are down in the sheltered valleys, and if we don't
have the bad luck to run plump into one of these we may wander about a
mighty long time before we meet with a red-skin. That is what you mean,
isn't it, chief?"

Leaping Horse grunted an assent.

"What game is there in the country?"

"There are wapitis, which are big stag with thundering great horns, and
there are big-horns. Them are mountain sheep; they are mostly up above
the timber-line. Wapitis and big-horns are good for food, but their
skins ain't worth taking off. There is beaver, heaps of them; though I
reckon there ain't as many as there were by a long way, for since the
whites came out here and opened trade, and the red-skins found they
could get good prices for beaver, they have brought them down by
thousands every year. Still, there is no doubt there is plenty left, and
that trappers would do first-rate there if the red-skins were friendly.
In course, there is plenty of b'ars, but unless you happen to have a
thundering good chance it is just as well to leave the b'ars alone, for
what with the chances of getting badly mauled, and what with the weight
of the skin, it don't pay even when you come right side up out of a
tussle."

"Are there any maps of the region?"

"None of any account. They are all just guess-work. You may take it that
this is just a heap of mountains chucked down anyhow. Such maps as there
are have been made from tales trappers who came in with pelts have told.
Well, firstly they only knew about just where the tribe they had joined
lived, and in the second place you may bet they warn't such fools as to
tell anything as would help other fellows to get there; so you may put
down that they told very little, and what they did tell was all lies.
Some day or other I suppose there will be an expedition fitted out to go
right through, and to punish these dog-goned red-skins and open the
country; but it will be a long time arter that afore it will be safe
travelling, for I reckon that soldiers might march and march for years
through them mountains without ever catching a sight of a red-skin if
they chose to keep out of their way. And now I reckon we had best get in
atween our blankets."

The two Indians had already lain down by the fire. Tom was some time
before he could get to sleep. The thought of the wild and unknown
country he was about to enter, with its great game, its hidden gold
treasures, its Indians and its dangers, so excited his imagination that,
tired as he was with the long ride, two or three hours passed before he
fell off to sleep. He was awoke by being shaken somewhat roughly by
Jerry.

"Why, you are sleeping as sound as a b'ar in a hollow tree," the miner
said. "You are generally pretty spry in the morning." A dip in the cold
water of the river awoke Tom thoroughly, and by the time he had rejoined
his comrades breakfast was ready. The ground rose rapidly as they rode
forward. They were now following an Indian trail, a slightly-marked path
made by the Indians as they travelled down with their ponies laden with
beaver skins, to exchange for ammunition, blankets, and tobacco at the
trading station. The country was barren in the extreme, being covered
only with patches of sage brush. As they proceeded it became more and
more hilly, and distant ridges and peaks could be seen as they crossed
over the crests.

"These are the bad lands, I suppose?"

"You bet they are, Tom, but nothing like as bad as you will see afore
you are done. Sage brush will grow pretty nigh everywhere, but there are
thousands of square miles of rock where even sage brush cannot live."

The hills presently became broken up into fantastic shapes, while
isolated rocks and pinnacles rose high above the general level.

"How curiously they are coloured," Tom remarked, "just regular bands of
white and red and green and orange; and you see the same markings on all
these crags, at the same level."

"Just so, Tom. We reckon that this country, and it is just the same down
south, was once level, and the rains and the rivers and torrents cut
their way through it and wore it down, and just these buttes and crags
and spires were left standing, as if to show what the nature of the
ground was everywhere. Though why the different kinds of rocks has such
different colours is more than I can tell. I went out once with an old
party as they called a scientific explorer. I have heard him say this
was all under water once, and sometimes one kind of stuff settled down
like mud to the bottom, sometimes another, though where all the water
came from is more nor I can tell. He said something about the ground
being raised afterwards, and I suppose the water run off then. I did not
pay much attention to his talk, for he was so choke-full of larning, and
had got such a lot of hard names on the tip of his tongue, that there
were no making head or tail of what he was saying."

Tom had learnt something of the elements of geology, and could form an
idea of the processes by which the strange country at which he was
looking had been formed.

"That's Fremont's Buttes," the Indian said presently, pointing to a
flat-topped hill that towered above the others ahead.

"Why, I thought you said it was a fifty-mile ride to-day, Jerry, and we
can't have gone more than half that."

"How far do you suppose that hill is off?"

"Three or four miles, I should think."

"It is over twenty, lad. Up here in the mountains the air is so clear
you can see things plain as you couldn't make out the outlines of down
below."

"But it seems to me so close that I could make out people walking about
on the top," Tom said a little incredulously.

"I dare say, lad. But you will see when you have ridden another hour it
won't seem much closer than it does now."

Tom found out that the miner was not joking with him, as he at first had
thought was the case. Mile after mile was ridden, and the landmark
seemed little nearer than before. Presently Hunting Dog said something
to the chief, pointing away to the right. Leaping Horse at once reined
in, and motioned to his white companions to do the same.

"What is it, chief?" Jerry asked.

"Wapiti," he replied.

"That is good news," the miner said. "It will be lucky if we can lay in
a supply of deer flesh here. The less we shoot after we get through the
pass the better. Shall we go with you, chief?"

"My white brothers had better ride on slowly," Leaping Horse said.
"Might scare deer. No good lose time."

Tom felt rather disappointed, but as he went on slowly with Jerry, the
miner said: "You will have plenty of chances later on, lad, and there is
no time to lose in fooling about. The red-skins will do the business."

Looking back, Tom saw the two Indians gallop away till they neared the
crest of a low swell. Then they leapt from their horses, and stooping
low went forward. In a short time they lay prone on the ground, and
wriggled along until just on the crest.

"I reckon the stag is just over there somewhere," Jerry said. "The young
red-skin must have caught sight of an antler."

They stopped their ponies altogether now, and sat watching the Indians.
These were half a mile away, but every movement was as clearly visible
as if they were but a hundred yards distant. The chief raised himself on
his arms and then on to his knees. A moment later he lay down again, and
they then crawled along parallel with the crest for a couple of hundred
yards. Then they paused, and with their rifles advanced they crept
forward again.

"Now they see them," Jerry exclaimed.

The Indians lay for half a minute motionless. Then two tiny puffs of
smoke darted out. The Indians rose to their feet and dashed forward as
the sound of their shots reached the ears of their companions.

"Come on," Jerry said, "you may be sure they have brought down one stag
anyhow. The herd could not have been far from that crest or the boy
would not have seen the antler over it, and the chief is not likely to
miss a wapiti at a hundred yards."

Looking back presently Tom saw that the Indian ponies had disappeared.

"Ay, Hunting Dog has come back for them. You may be sure they won't be
long before they are up with us again."

In a quarter of an hour the two Indians rode up, each having the
hind-quarters of a deer fastened across his horse behind the saddle,
while the tongues hung from the peaks.

"Kill them both at first shot, chief?" Jerry asked; "I did not hear
another report."

"Close by," the chief said; "no could miss."

"It seems a pity to lose such a quantity of meat," Tom remarked.

"The Indians seldom carry off more than the hindquarters of a deer,
never if they think there is a chance of getting more soon. There is a
lot more flesh on the hindquarters than there is on the rest of the
stag. But that they are wasteful, the red-skins are, can't be denied.
Even when they have got plenty of meat they will shoot a buffalo any day
just for the sake of his tongue."

It was still early in the afternoon when they passed under the shadow of
the buttes, and, two miles farther, came upon a small lake, the water
from which ran north. Here they unsaddled the horses and prepared to
camp.




CHAPTER V

IN DANGER


There were no bushes that would serve their purpose near the lake; they
therefore formed their camp on the leeward side of a large boulder. The
greatest care was observed in gathering the fuel, and it burned with a
clear flame without giving out the slightest smoke.

"Dead wood dries like tinder in this here air," the miner said. "In
course, if there wur any red-skins within two or three miles on these
hills they would make out the camp, still that ain't likely; but any
loafing Indian who chanced to be hunting ten or even fifteen miles away
would see smoke if there was any, and when a red-skin sees smoke, if he
can't account for it, he is darned sartin to set about finding out who
made it."

The horses fared badly, for there was nothing for them to pick up save a
mouthful of stunted grass here and there.

"Plenty of grass to-morrow," the chief said in answer to a remark of Tom
as to the scantiness of their feed. "Grass down by Buffalo Lake good."

Early the next morning they mounted and rode down the hills into Big
Wind River valley. They did not go down to the river itself, but skirted
the foot of the hills until they reached Buffalo Lake.

"There," the chief said, pointing to a pile of ashes, "the fire of my
white brother." Alighting, he and Hunting Dog searched the ground
carefully round the fire. Presently the younger Indian lightly touched
the chief and pointed to the ground. They talked together, still
carefully examining the ground, and moved off in a straight line some
fifty yards. Then they returned.

"Indian here," Leaping Horse said, "one, two days ago. Found fire, went
off on trail of white men."

"That is bad news, chief."

"Heap bad," the Indian said gravely.

"Perhaps he won't follow far," Tom suggested.

The Indian made no answer. He evidently considered the remark to be
foolish.

"You don't know much of Indian nature yet, Tom," the miner said. "When a
red-skin comes upon the trail of whites in what he considers his
country, he will follow them if it takes him weeks to do it, till he
finds out all about them, and if he passes near one of his own villages
he will tell the news, and a score of the varmint will take up the trail
with him. It's them ashes as has done it. If the chief here had stopped
with them till they started this would not have happened, for he would
have seen that they swept every sign of their fire into the lake. I
wonder they did not think of it themselves. It was a dog-goned foolish
trick to leave such a mark as this. I expect they will be more keerful
arterwards, but they reckoned that they had scarce got into the Indian
country."

"Do you think it was yesterday the red-skin was here, or the day before,
chief?"

"Leaping Horse can't say," the Indian replied. "Ground very hard, mark
very small. No rain, trail keep fresh a long time. Only find mark
twice." He led them to a spot where, on the light dust among the rocks,
was the slight impression of a footmark.

"That is the mark of a moccasin, sure enough," Jerry said; "but maybe
one of the whites, if not all of them, have put on moccasins for the
journey. They reckoned on climbing about some, and moccasins beat boots
anyhow for work among the hills."

"Red-skin foot," the Indian said quietly.

"Well, if you say it is, of course it is. I should know it myself if I
saw three or four of them in a line, but as there is only one mark it
beats me."

"How would you know, Jerry?"

"A white man always turns out his toes, lad, an Indian walks
straight-footed. There are other differences that a red-skin would see
at once, but which are beyond me, for I have never done any tracking
work."

The Indian without speaking led them to another point some twenty yards
away, and pointed to another impression. This was so slight that it was
with difficulty that Tom could make out the outline.

"Yes, that settles it," Jerry said. "You see, lad, when there was only
one mark I could not tell whether it was turned out or not, for that
would depend on the direction the man was walking in. This one is just
in a line with the other, and so the foot must have been set down
straight. Had it been turned out a bit, the line, carried straight
through the first footprint, would have gone five or six yards away to
the right."

It took Tom two or three minutes to reason this out to himself, but at
last he understood the drift of what his companion said. As the line
through one toe and heel passed along the centre of the other, the foot
must each time have been put down in a straight line, while if the
footprints had been made by a person who turned out his toes they would
never point straight towards those farther on.

"Well, what is your advice, chief?" Jerry asked.

"Must camp and eat," the Indian replied, "horses gone far enough. No
fear here, red-skin gone on trail."

"Do you think there have been more than one, chief?"

"Not know," Leaping Horse said; "find out by and by."

Tom now noticed that Hunting Dog had disappeared.

"Where shall we make the fire?"

The chief pointed to the ashes.

"That's it," Jerry said. "If any red-skin came along you see, Tom, there
would be nothing to tell them that more than one party had been here."

The chief this time undertook the collection of fuel himself, and a
bright fire was presently burning. Two hours later Hunting Dog came
back. He talked for some time earnestly with the chief, and taking out
two leaves from his wampum bag opened them and showed him two tiny heaps
of black dust. Jerry asked no questions until the conversation was done,
and then while Hunting Dog cut off a large chunk of deer's flesh, and
placing it in the hot ashes sat himself quietly down to wait until it
was cooked, he said:

"Well, chief, what is the news?"

"The Indian had a horse, Hunting Dog came upon the spot where he had
left it a hundred yards away. When he saw ashes, he came to look at
them. Afterwards he followed the trail quite plain on the soft ground at
head of lake. Over there," and he pointed to the foot of the hills,
"Indian stopped and fired twice."

"How on earth did he know that, chief?"

The chief pointed to the two leaves. The scout examined the powder.
"Wads," he said. "They are leather wads, Tom, shrivelled and burnt. What
did he fire at, chief?"

"Signal. Half a mile farther three other mounted redskins joined him.
They stopped and had heap talk. Then one rode away into hills, the
others went on at gallop on trail."

"That is all bad, chief. The fellow who went up the hills no doubt made
for a village?"

The chief nodded.

"The only comfort is that Harry has got a good start of them. It was a
week from the time you left them before we met you, that is three days
ago, so that if the red-skins took up the trail yesterday, Harry has ten
days' start of them."

Leaping Horse shook his head. "Long start if travel fast, little start
if travel slow."

"I see what you mean. If they pushed steadily on up the valley, they
have gone a good distance, but if they stopped to catch beaver or
prospect for gold they may not have got far away. Hadn't we better be
pushing on, chief?"

"No good, horses make three days' journey; rest well to-day, travel
right on to-morrow. If go farther to-night, little good to-morrow. Good
camp here, all rest."

"Well, no doubt you are right, chief, but it worries one to think that
while we are sitting here those 'tarnal red-skins may be attacking our
friends. My only hope is that Harry, who has done a lot of Indian
fighting, will hide his trail as much as possible as he goes on, and
that they will have a lot of trouble in finding it."

The chief nodded. "My white brother, Harry, knows Indian ways. He did
not think he had come to Indian country here or he would not have left
his ashes. But beyond this he will be sure to hide his trail, and the
'Rappahoes will have to follow slow."

"You think they are 'Rappahoes, chief?"

"Yes, this 'Rappahoe country. The Shoshones are further north, and are
friendly; the Bannacks and Nez Perces are in northwest, near Snake
River; and the Sioux more on the north and east, on other side of great
mountains. 'Rappahoes here."

"Waal," Jerry said wrathfully, "onless they catch Harry asleep, some of
the darned skunks will be rubbed out afore they get his scalp. It is a
good country for hiding trail. There are many streams coming down from
the hills into the Big Wind, and they can turn up or down any of them as
they please, and land on rocky ground too, so it would be no easy matter
to track them. By the lay of the country there does not seem much chance
of gold anywheres about here, and, as I reckon, they will be thinking
more of that than of beaver skins, so I think they would push straight
on."

"Harry said he should get out of Big Wind River valley quick," Leaping
Horse said. "Too many Indians there. Get into mountains other side. Go
up Riviere de Noir, then over big mountains into Sierra Shoshone, and
then down Buffalo through Jackson's Hole, and then strike Snake River. I
told him heap bad Indians in Jackson's Hole, Bannacks, and Nez Perces.
He said not go down into valley, keep on foot-hills. I told him, too bad
journey, but he and other pale-faces thought could do it, and might find
much gold. No good Leaping Horse talk."

"This is a dog-goned bad business I have brought you into, Tom. I
reckoned we should not get out without troubles, but I did not
calkerlate on our getting into them so soon."

"You did not bring me here, Jerry, so you need not blame yourself for
that. It was I brought you into it, for you did not make up your mind to
come till I had settled to go with Leaping Horse."

"I reckon I should have come anyhow," Jerry grumbled. "Directly the
chief said where Harry and the others had gone my mind was set on
joining them. It was a new country, and there wur no saying what they
might strike, and though I ain't a regular Indian-fighter, leaving them
alone when they leave me alone, I can't say as I am averse to a
scrimmage with them if the odds are anyways equal."

"It is a wonderful country," Tom said, looking at the almost
perpendicular cliffs across the valley, with their regular coloured
markings, their deep fissures, crags, and pinnacles, "and worth coming a
long way to see."

"I don't say as it ain't curous, but I have seen the like down on the
Colorado, and I don't care if I never see no more of it if we carry our
scalps safe out of this. I don't say as I object to hills if they are
covered with forest, for there is safe to be plenty of game there, and
the wood comes in handy for timbering, but this kind of country that
looks as if some chaps with paint-pots had been making lines all over
it, ain't to my taste noway. Here, lad; I never travel without hooks and
lines; you can get a breakfast and dinner many a day when a gun would
bring down on you a score of red varmints. I expect you will find fish
in the lake. Many of these mountain lakes just swarm with them. You had
better look about and catch a few bugs, there ain't no better bait.
Those jumping bugs are as good as any," and he pointed to a grasshopper,
somewhat to Tom's relief, for the lad had just been wondering where he
should look for bugs, not having seen one since he landed in the States.

There were two lines and hooks in the miner's outfit, and Tom and
Hunting Dog, after catching some grasshoppers, went down to the lake,
while Jerry and the chief had a long and earnest conversation together.
The baited hooks were scarcely thrown into the water when they were
seized, and in a quarter of an hour ten fine lake trout were lying on
the bank. Tom was much delighted. He had fished from boats, but had
never met with much success, and his pleasure at landing five fish
averaging four or five pounds apiece was great. As it was evidently
useless to catch more, they wound up their lines, and Hunting Dog split
the fish open and laid them down on the rock, which was so hot that Tom
could scarce bear his hand on it.

Seeing the elder men engaged in talk Tom did not return to them, but
endeavoured to keep up a conversation with the young Indian, whom he
found to be willing enough to talk now they were alone, and who knew
much more English than he had given him credit for. As soon as the sun
set the fire was extinguished, and they lay down to sleep shortly
afterwards. An hour before daylight they were in the saddle. Hunting Dog
rode ahead on the line he had followed the day before. As soon as it
became light Tom kept his eyes fixed upon the ground, but it was only
now and then, when the Indian pointed to the print of a horse's hoof in
the sand between the rocks, that he could make them out. The two Indians
followed the track, however, without the slightest difficulty, the
horses going at a hand gallop.

"They don't look to me like horses' footprints," Tom said to Jerry when
they had passed a spot where the marks were unusually clear.

"I reckon you have never seen the track of an unshod horse before, Tom.
With a shod horse you see nothing but the mark of the shoe, here you get
the print of the whole hoof. Harry has been careful enough here, and has
taken the shoes off his ponies, for among all the marks, we have not
seen any made by a shod horse. The Indians never shoe theirs, and the
mark of an iron is enough to tell the first red-skin who passes that a
white man has gone along there. The chief and I took off the shoes of
the four horses yesterday afternoon when you were fishing. We put them
and the nails by to use when we get out of this dog-goned country."

After riding for two hours they came to the bank of a stream. The chief
held up his hand for them to stop, while he dismounted and examined the
foot-marks. Then he mounted again and rode across the stream, which was
some ten yards wide and from two to three feet deep. He went on a short
distance beyond it, leapt from his saddle, threw the reins on the
horse's neck, and returned to the bank on foot. He went a short distance
up the stream and then as much down, stooping low and examining every
inch of the ground. Then he stood up and told the others to cross.

[Illustration: "Leaping Horse Mounted, And Rode Across The Stream"]

"Leave your horses by mine," he said as they joined him. "Trail very
bad, all rock." He spoke to the young Indian, who, on dismounting, at
once went forward, quartering the ground like a spaniel in search of
game, while the chief as carefully searched along the bank.

"Best leave them to themselves, Tom; they know what they are doing."

"They are hunting for the trail, Jerry, I suppose?"

"Ay, lad. Harry struck on a good place when he crossed where he did, for
you see the rock here is as smooth as the top of a table, and the wind
has swept it as clean of dust as if it had been done by an eastern
woman's broom. If the horses had been shod there would have been
scratches on the rock that would have been enough for the dullest Indian
to follow, but an unshod horse leaves no mark on ground like this. I
expect the red-skins who followed them were just as much puzzled as the
chief is. There ain't no saying whether they crossed and went straight
on, or whether they never crossed at all or kept in the stream either up
or down."

It was half an hour before the two Indians had concluded their
examination of the ground.

"Well, chief, what do you make of it?" Jerry asked when they had spoken
a few words together.

"Hunting Dog has good eyes," the chief said. "The white men went
forward, the red men could not find the trail, and thought that they had
kept in the river, so they went up to search for them. Come, let us go
forward."

The miner and Tom mounted their horses, but the Indians led theirs
forward some three hundred yards. Then Hunting Dog pointed down, and the
chief stooped low and examined the spot.

"What is it, chief?" Jerry asked; and he and Tom both got off and knelt
down. They could see nothing whatever.

"That is it," Leaping Horse said, and pointed to a piece of rock
projecting half an inch above the flat.

"I am darned if I can see anything."

"There is a tiny hair there," Tom said, putting his face within a few
inches of the ground. "It might be a cat's hair; it is about the length,
but much thicker. It is brown."

"Good!" the chief said, putting his hand on Tom's shoulder. "Now let us
ride." He leapt into his saddle, the others following his example, and
they went on at the same pace as before.

"Well, chief," the miner said, "what does that hair tell you about it,
for I can't make neither head nor tail of it?"

"The white men killed a deer on their way up here, and they cut up the
hide and made shoes for horses, so that they should leave no tracks. One
of the horses trod on a little rock and a hair came out of the hide."

"That may be it, chief," the miner said, after thinking the matter over,
"though it ain't much of a thing to go by."

"Good enough," Leaping Horse said. "We know now the line they were
taking. When we get to soft ground see trail plainer."

"What will the others do when they cannot find the trail anywhere along
the bank?"

"Ride straight on," the chief said. "Search banks of next river, look at
mouths of valleys to make sure white men have not gone up there, meet
more of tribe, search everywhere closely, find trail at last."

"Well, that ought to give Harry a good start, anyhow."

"Not know how long gone on," the chief said gravely. "No rainfall. Six,
eight--perhaps only two days' start."

"But if they always hide their trail as well as they did here I don't
see how the Indians can find them at all--especially as they don't know
where they are making for, as we do."

"Find camp. Men on foot may hide traces, but with horses sure to find."

"That is so," Jerry agreed, shaking his head. "An Indian can see with
half an eye where the grass has been cropped or the leaves stripped off
the bushes. Yes, I am afraid that is so. There ain't no hiding a camp
from Indian eyes where horses have been about. It is sure to be near a
stream. Shall you look for them, chief?"

The Indian shook his head. "Lose time," he said. "We go straight to
Riviere de Noir."

"You don't think, then, they are likely to turn off before that?"

"Leaping Horse thinks not. They know Indian about here. Perhaps found
Indian trail near first camp. Know, anyhow, many Indians. Think push
straight on."

"That is the likeliest. Anyhow, by keeping on we must get nearer to
them. The worst danger seems to me that we may overtake the red-skins
who are hunting them."

The chief nodded.

"It is an all-fired fix, Tom," Jerry went on. "If we go slow we may not
be in time to help Harry and the others to save their scalps; if we go
fast we may come on these 'tarnal red-skins, and have mighty hard work
in keeping our own ha'r on."

"I feel sure that the chief will find traces of them in time to prevent
our running into them, Jerry. Look how good their eyes are. Why, I might
have searched all my life without noticing a single hair on a rock."

After riding some fifteen miles beyond the stream, and crossing two
similar though smaller rivulets, the chief, after a few words with
Jerry, turned off to the left and followed the foot of the hills. At the
mouth of a narrow valley he stopped, examined the ground carefully, and
then led the way up it, carrying his rifle in readiness across the peak
of the saddle. The valley opened when they had passed its mouth, and a
thick grove of trees grew along the bottom. As soon as they were beneath
their shelter they dismounted.

The horses at once began to crop the grass. Hunting Dog went forward
through the trees, rifle in hand.

"Shall I take the bits out of the horses' mouths, Jerry?" Tom asked.

"Not till the young Indian returns. It is not likely there is a red-skin
village up there, for we should have seen a trail down below if there
had been. Still there may be a hut or two, and we can do nothing till he
comes back."

It was half an hour before Hunting Dog came through the trees again. He
shook his head, and without a word loosened the girths of his horse and
took off the bridle.

"He has seen no signs of them, so we can light a fire and get something
to eat. I am beginning to feel I want something badly."

Thus reminded, Tom felt at once that he was desperately hungry. They had
before starting taken a few mouthfuls of meat that had been cooked the
day before and purposely left over, but it was now three o'clock in the
afternoon, and he felt ravenous. The Indians quickly collected dried
wood, and four of the fish were soon frizzling on hot ashes, while the
kettle, hung in the flame, was beginning to sing.

"We have done nigh forty miles, Tom, and the horses must have a couple
of hours' rest. We will push on as fast as we can before dark, and then
wait until the moon rises; it will be up by ten. This ain't a country to
ride over in the dark. We will hide up before morning, and not go on
again till next night. Of course we shall not go so fast as by day, but
we sha'n't have any risk of being ambushed. The chief reckons from what
he has heard that the Indian villages are thick along that part of the
valley, and that it will never do to travel by day."

"Then you have given up all hopes of finding Harry's tracks?"

"It would be just wasting our time to look for them. We will push on
sharp till we are sure we are ahead of them. We may light upon them by
chance, but there can be no searching for them with these red varmint
round us. It would be just chucking away our lives without a chance of
doing any good. I expect Harry and his party are travelling at night
too; but they won't travel as fast as we do, not by a sight. They have
got pack-ponies with them, and they are likely to lay off a day or two
if they come upon a good place for hiding."

They travelled but a few miles after their halt, for the Indians
declared they could make out smoke rising in two or three places ahead;
and although neither Jerry nor Tom could distinguish it, they knew that
the Indians' sight was much keener than their own in a matter of this
kind. They therefore halted again behind a mass of rocks that had fallen
down the mountain-side. Hunting Dog lay down among the highest of the
boulders to keep watch, and the horses were hobbled to prevent their
straying. The miner and the chief lit their pipes, and Tom lay down on
his back for a sleep. A short time before it became dusk the call of a
deer was heard.

"There are wapiti, chief. We can't take a shot at them; but it don't
matter, we have meat enough for a week."

The chief had already risen to his feet, rifle in hand.

"It is a signal from Hunting Dog," he said, "he has seen something in
the valley. My white brother had better get the horses together," and he
made his way up the rocks. In a minute or two he called out that the
horses might be left to feed, and presently came leisurely down to them.
"Seen Indians--ten 'Rappahoes."

"Which way were they going?"

"Riding from Big Wind River across valley. Been away hunting among hills
over there. Have got meat packed on horses, ride slow. Not have heard
about white men's trail. Going to village, where we saw smoke."

Tom was fast asleep when Jerry roused him, and told him that the moon
was rising, and that it was time to be off.

They started at a walk, the chief leading; Jerry followed him, while Tom
rode between him and Hunting Dog, who brought up the rear. Tom had been
warned that on no account was he to speak aloud. "If you have anything
you want to say, and feel that you must say it or bust," Jerry remarked,
"just come up alongside of me and whisper it. Keep your eyes open and
your rifle handy, we might come upon a party any minute. They might be
going back to their village after following Harry's trail as long as
they could track it, or it might be a messenger coming back to fetch up
food, or those fellows Hunting Dog made out going on to join those in
front. Anyhow we have got to travel as quiet as if there was ears all
round us."

As they passed the clumps of trees where the Indian villages stood they
could see the reflection of the fires on the foliage, and heard the
frequent barking of dogs and an occasional shout. A quarter of a mile
farther the chief halted and spoke to Hunting Dog, who at once
dismounted and glided away towards the village.

"Gone to see how many men there," the chief said in explanation to
Jerry. "Too much laugh, no good."

"He means the men must have gone off again, Tom. If there were men in
the camp the boys would not be making a noise."

They were but a few hundred yards from the trees, and in a very short
time the Indian returned.

"Men are gone," he said; "only squaws and boys there."

"How many lodges are there?" the chief asked. Hunting Dog held up both
hands with extended fingers, and then one finger only.

"Eleven of them," Jerry said. "I expect they are all small villages, and
they move their lodges across into the forests when winter comes on."

As soon as they had mounted, the chief put his horse into a canter, and
at this pace they went forward for some hours, breaking into a walk
occasionally for a few minutes.

"I thought you said we should not go beyond a walk to-night, Jerry," Tom
remarked on the first of these occasions.

"That is what we kinder agreed, lad; but you may be sure the chief has
some good reason for going on faster. I dunno what it is, and I ain't
going to ask. Red-skins hate being questioned. If he wants to tell us he
will tell us without being asked."

A faint light was stealing over the sky when the chief halted his horse
and sat listening. No sound, however, broke the stillness of the night.

"Did you think you heard anything, chief?"

"Leaping Horse heard nothing, but he stopped to listen. What does my
white brother think of the 'Rappahoes having gone on directly they
returned from the chase?"

"I thought that when they got the news that some white men had gone
through, they might have started to join those following up the trail.
Isn't that what you think, chief?"

"Only three white men, plenty Indians on trail; no hurry to follow;
might have had feast after hunt and gone on in morning."

"So they might. You think the whites have been tracked, and are to be
attacked this morning?"

"Perhaps attacked yesterday. Perhaps have got strong place, 'Rappahoes
want more help to take it. White rifle shoot straight, perhaps want more
men to starve them out."

They again went forward, at a gallop now. Jerry did not think much of
the chief's idea. It seemed to him natural that the Indians should want
to join in the hunt for scalps, and to get a share of the white men's
goods, though he admitted that it was strange they should have gone on
without taking a meal. Presently the chief reined in his horse again,
and sat with head bent forward. Tom heard an angry grunt from between
Hunting Dog's teeth. Listening intently also, he was conscious of a
faint, far-away sound.

"You hear?" the chief said to Jerry.

"I heard something; but it might be anything. A waterfall in the hills
miles away, that is what it sounds like."

"Guns," the chief said laconically.

"Do you think so?" Jerry said doubtfully. "There don't seem to me
anything of guns in it. It is just a sort of murmur that keeps on and
on."

"It is the mountains speaking back again," the chief said, waving his
hand. "Hills everywhere. They say to each other, the red men who live in
our bosoms are attacking the pale-face strangers."

"What do you think, Hunting Dog?" Tom whispered to the Indian.

"Gun-shot," he replied, in a tone of absolute conviction.

"Waal, chief, I will not gainsay your opinion," Jerry said. "How far do
you think it is off?"

"The horses will take us there in two hours," the chief replied.

"Then we can put it at twenty miles at least. Let us be going; whatever
the sound is, we shall know more about it before we have gone much
farther."

"Not too fast," Leaping Horse said as the miner was urging his horse
forward. "Maybe have to fight, maybe have to run. No good tire horse too
much."

It was more than an hour before Tom could hear any distinct change in
the character of the sound, but at last he was able to notice that,
though seemingly continuous, the sound really pulsated; sometimes it
almost died away, then suddenly swelled out again, and there were
several vibrations close together. Jerry, more accustomed to the sound
of firearms in the mountains, had before this come round to the chief's
opinion.

"It is guns, sure enough, Tom; the chief has made no mistake about it.
Waal, there is one comfort, they ain't been surprised. They are making a
good fight of it, and we may be there in time to take a hand in the
game."

"Shall we ride straight on and join them?"

"I reckon not, lad. We must wait until we see what sort of place Harry
is in, and how we can best help him, before we fix on any scheme."

The sound became louder and clearer. The echo was still continuous, but
the sound of the shots could be distinctly heard.

"It is over there, to the right," Jerry said. "They must have crossed
the Big Wind River."

"And gone up the De Noir valley," the chief said. "We ought to be close
to it now."

"Yes, I reckon it can't be far off, by what you told me about the
distance."

"Better cross Big Wind at once. They no see us now."

"I agree with you, chief; it would not do for them to get sight of us.
If they did our case would be worse than Harry's. I expect he has got
strongly posted, or he would have been wiped out long ago; that is what
would happen to us if they were to make us out and spy our numbers afore
we get to some place where we and Harry's outfit can help each other."

They rode rapidly down to the river. With the exception of a few yards
in the middle, where the horses had to swim, the depth was not great,
and they were soon on the other side. They rode to the foot of the
hills, and then kept along it. The sound of firing became louder and
louder, and Tom felt his heart beat quickly at the thought that he might
soon be engaged in a desperate fight with the Indians, and that with the
odds greatly against his party.

Presently the hills fell sharply away, and they were at the entrance of
the valley of the Riviere de Noir, which is the principal arm of the Big
Wind River at this point. The firing had very much died out during the
last few minutes, and only an occasional shot was heard.

"They have beat off the attack so far," Jerry said to him encouragingly.
"Now we have got to lie low a bit, while the chief sees how things
stand."

Leaping Horse dismounted at the mouth of a narrow canon running up into
the cliff beside them. A little stream trickled down its centre.

"Could not have been better," Jerry said. "Here is a place we four could
hold against a crowd of red-skins for hours. There is water anyway, and
where there is water there is mostly a little feed for horses. I will
take your horse, chief, and Tom will take Hunting Dog's, if so be you
mean him to go with you.

"Don't you worry yourself, lad," he went on, seeing how anxious Tom
looked, as they started with the horses up the canon. "If Harry and his
friends have beaten off the first attack, you may bet your boots they
are safe for some time. It is clear the red-skins have drawn off, and
are holding a pow-wow as to how they are to try next. They attacked, you
see, just as the day was breaking; that is their favourite hour, and I
reckon Harry must have been expecting them, and that he and his mates
were prepared."




CHAPTER VI

UNITED


The canon showed no sign of widening until they had proceeded a quarter
of a mile from the entrance, then it broadened suddenly for a distance
of a hundred yards.

"There has been a big slip here both sides," the miner said, looking
round. "It must have taken place a great many years ago, for the winter
floods have swept away all signs of it, and there are grass and trees on
the slopes. The horses can find enough to keep them alive here for a day
or two, and that is all we shall want, I hope."

"It would be a nasty place to get out of, Jerry, for the cliffs are
perpendicular from half-way up."

"It ain't likely as there is any place we could get out without
following it to the upper end, which may be some fifty miles away. I
don't know the country it runs through, but the red-skins are pretty
certain to know all about it. If they were to track us here they would
never try to fight their way in, but would just set a guard at the mouth
and at the upper end and starve us out. It is a good place to hide in,
but a dog-goned bad one to be caught in. However, I hope it ain't coming
to that. It is we who are going to attack them, and not them us, and
that makes all the difference. The red-skins can't have a notion that
there are any other white men in this neighbourhood, and when we open
fire on them it will raise such a scare for a bit that it will give us a
chance of joining the others if we choose. That of course must depend on
their position."

They walked back to the mouth of the canon, and had not to wait long for
the return of the Indians.

"Come," Leaping Horse said briefly, at once turning and going off at a
swift pace.

Jerry asked no questions, but with Tom followed close on the Indians'
heels. There were bushes growing among the fallen rocks and debris from
the face of the cliff, and they were, therefore, able to go forward as
quickly as they could leap from boulder to boulder, without fear of
being seen. A quarter of an hour's run, and the chief climbed up to a
ledge on the face of the cliff where a stratum harder than those above
it had resisted the effects of the weather and formed a shelf some
twelve feet wide. He went down on his hands and knees, and keeping close
to the wall crawled along to a spot where some stunted bushes had made
good their hold. The others followed him, and lying down behind the
bushes peered through them.

The valley was four or five hundred yards wide, and down its centre ran
the stream. Close to the water's edge rose abruptly a steep rock. It was
some fifty feet in height and but four or five yards across at the top.
On the north and west the rocks were too perpendicular to be climbed,
but the other sides had crumbled down, the stones being covered with
brushwood. From the point where they were looking they could see the six
horses lying among the bushes. They were evidently tightly roped, and
had probably been led up there when the attack began and thrown at the
highest point to which they could be taken, a spot being chosen where
the bushes concealed their exact position from those below. The rock was
about two hundred and fifty yards from the spot where the party was
lying, and their position was about level with its top. Some twenty
Indians were gathered a few hundred yards higher up the valley, and
about as many some distance down it.

"Why didn't the varmint take their places here?" Jerry whispered to the
chief.

"They came here. See," and he pointed to a patch of blood a few feet
beyond him. "Indian guns not shoot far," he said, "powder weak; white
man's rifles carry here, red-skin not able to shoot so far. When they
found that, went away again."

"What are they going to do now, do you think?"

"Soon attack again."


Half an hour passed, and then a loud yell gave the signal and the two
troops galloped towards the rock. They had evidently had experience of
the accuracy of the white men's fire; not an Indian showed himself, each
dropping over one side of his pony, with an arm resting in a rope round
the animals' necks and one leg thrown over the back. So they dashed
forward until close to the foot of the rocks. Another instant and they
would have thrown themselves from their horses and taken to the bushes,
but although hidden from the sight of the defenders of the position,
they were exposed to the full view of the party on the ledge, from whom
they were distant not more than two hundred yards. The chief fired
first, and almost together the other three rifles flashed out. Three of
the Indians fell from their horses, another almost slipped off, but with
an effort recovered his hold with his leg. A yell of astonishment and
fear broke from the Indians. As the two bands mingled together, some of
the riders were exposed to those on the top of the rock, and three shots
were fired. Two more of the 'Rappahoes fell, and the whole band in
obedience to a shout from one of their chiefs galloped at full speed
down the valley. The three men sprang to their feet, waving their hats,
while the party on the ledge also leapt up with a shout.

"It's you, chief, I see!" one of those on the rocks shouted. "I have
been hoping ever since morning to hear the crack of your rifle, and I
never heard a more welcome sound. We should have been rubbed out sure.
Who have you got with you?"

"It's Jerry Curtis, Harry. I come up along with Leaping Horse, though I
did not expect to find you in such a bad fix. This young Indian is
Hunting Dog, and this young chap next to me is your nephew, Tom Wade.
You did not expect to meet him like this, I reckon?"

While he had been speaking, all had reloaded their rifles.

"You had best go across and talk it over with Harry, chief, and consart
measures with him for getting out of this fix. Those red-skins have got
a bad scare, but you may bet they ain't gone far; and they have lost six
of their bucks now beside what the others shot before, and it ain't in
Indian natur for them to put up with such a loss as that." He had been
looking at the rock as he spoke, and turning round uttered an
exclamation of surprise, for the chief was no longer there. Looking down
they saw that he had managed to make his way down the face of the cliff,
and in another two minutes was ascending the rock. There he stood for
some time in earnest conversation with the whites, and then returned to
the ledge.

"Trouble over horses," he said.

"Ay, ay, I reckoned that was what you was talking over. There ain't no
going back for them now."

The chief shook his head. "'Rappahoes keep watch," he said, "cannot go
till night to fetch horses. All lie here to-day, go across to rock when
darkness comes, then white men go up valley till get to trees an hour's
march away; can see them from rock. Get in among trees and work up into
hills. Leaping Horse and Hunting Dog cross river, go down other side
past 'Rappahoes, then cross back and get into canon, drive horses up.
White men meet them up in mountains."

"That seems a good plan enough, chief. That is, if you can get out at
the other end of the canon."

"Canon little up high," the chief replied. "Find some place to climb."

"But they may find the horses to-day."

The Indian nodded. "May find, perhaps not."

"Why should we not go across to the rock at once, chief?"

"Indian count on fingers how many. They do not know we only four; much
troubled in their mind where men come from, who can be. Red-skins not
like white men. Have many fancies. Fire come out of bush where 'Rappahoe
had been killed; think that bad medicine, keep together and talk. Think
if men here, why not go across to rock."

"I should not be surprised if you are right, chief. They are more likely
to fancy we have come down from above than from below, for they must
have reckoned for sure there were no other white men in the Big Wind
valley, and our not showing ourselves will give them an all-fired
scare."

"What does the chief mean by bad medicine, Jerry?" Tom asked.

"A red-skin is full of all sorts of ideas. Anything he can't make head
nor tail of, is bad medicine; they think there is some magic in it, and
that old Nick has had his finger in the pie. When they get an idea like
that in their minds, even the bravest of them loses his pluck, and is
like a child who thinks he has seen a ghost. It is a mighty good notion
for us to lie low all day. The red-skins will reason it all out, and
will say, if these are white men who killed our brothers why the 'tarnal
don't they go and join the others, there ain't nothing to prevent them.
If they ain't white men, who are they? Maybe they can move without our
being able to see them and will shoot from some other place. No, I
reckon it is likely they will keep pretty close together and won't
venture to scatter to look for tracks, and in that case the chief's plan
will work out all right. In course, a good deal depends on their chief;
one of them is among those we shot, you can make out his feathers from
here. If he is the boss chief, it may be that they will give it up
altogether; the next chief will throw the blame on to him, and may like
enough persuade them to draw off altogether. If it ain't the boss chief,
then they are bound to try again. He would not like to take them back to
their villages with the news that a grist of them had been killed and
narry a scalp taken. I expect you will see this afternoon some of them
come down to palaver with Harry."

The morning passed quietly and not unpleasantly, for they were lying in
the shade, but before noon the sun had climbed up over the cliff behind
them and shone down with great force, and they had to lie with their
heads well under the bushes to screen them from its rays. Presently,
Leaping Horse said:

"Indian chief come, no lift heads."

All shifted their position so as to look down the valley. An Indian
chief, holding up his hands to show that he was unarmed, was advancing
on foot, accompanied by another Indian also without arms.

"There is Harry going down to meet them," Jerry said.

Tom looked eagerly at the figure that came down from the rock and
advanced to meet the Indians. It seemed strange to him that after having
come so far to join his uncle they should remain for hours in sight of
each other without meeting. It was too far to distinguish his features,
but he saw by the light walk and easy swing of the figure that his uncle
was a much more active man than he had expected to see. He had known
indeed that he was but forty years old, but he had somehow expected that
the life of hardship he had led would have aged him, and he was
surprised to see that his walk and figure were those of a young man.

"Is it not rather dangerous, his coming down alone to meet two of them?
They may have arms hidden."

"They have got arms, you maybe sure," Jerry replied. "They have knives
for certain, and most likely tomahawks, but I expect Harry has got his
six-shooter. But it don't matter whether he has or not, there are his
two mates up on that rock with their rifles, and we are across here. The
'Rappahoes would know well enough their lives wouldn't be worth a red
cent if they were to try any of their games. They don't mean business;
they will make out they have come to persuade Harry and his mates to
give up, which they know quite well they ain't fools enough to do. But
what is really in their minds is to try and find out who we are, and
where we have come from."

The conversation lasted a few minutes. Tom could see that questions were
being asked about the concealed party, for the chief pointed to the
ledge two or three times. When the talk was over the Indians went down
the valley again at a slow pace, never once looking back, and the
Englishman returned to the rocks.

"I don't suppose they have got much from Harry."

"I suppose uncle talks their language?"

"No, I don't reckon he knows the 'Rappahoe dialect. But the tribes on
the western side of the plains can mostly understand each other's talk;
and as I know he can get on well with the Utes, he is sure to be able to
understand the 'Rappahoes' talk."

"Leaping Horse will go along the ledge," the chief said a few minutes
later, after a short conversation with Hunting Dog. "The 'Rappahoes will
try to find out who are here; not like to attack the rock till find
out."

The two Indians lay down flat on the ledge, and crawled along without
raising themselves in the slightest until they reached a point where the
cliffs projected somewhat. From here they could see down the valley, and
they lay immovable, with their rifles in front of them.

"They are not more than fifty yards or so from those bushes where we got
up on to the ledge. That is where the red-skins are likely to try
crawling up, for there they would be out of sight of the rock."

"Surely they would never venture to come along the ledge in daylight,
Jerry. They would have to pass along under the fire of uncle and his
mates, and would have our rifles to meet in front."

"No, it would only be one, or at most, two scouts. They would reckon
that from that point where the chief is lying they would get a view
right along the ledge to here, and be able to make out what we are. It
is the strangeness of the thing that has kept them quiet all these
hours, and I expect their chief will want to prove that there are only a
few of us, and that we are men for certain. I reckon they have sent off
to the villages already, and there will be more of the varmint here
to-night. The Indians are never fond of attacking in the dark; still, if
they were sure about us, they might try it. They would know they could
get up to the foot of that rock before being seen, and once among the
bushes they would reckon they could make easy work of it."

A quarter of an hour later there was the crack of a rifle, followed
instantly by an Indian yell.

"That is the chief's piece, Tom, and I reckon the lead has gone
straight."

The silence remained unbroken for the next two hours, and then Leaping
Horse crawled back as quietly as he had gone.

"What was it, chief?"

"It was a 'Rappahoe, who will scout no more," the chief said quietly.
"He came up the bushes, but before he could step on to the ledge Leaping
Horse fired, and he will take no tales back to his tribe."

"They won't try again, chief?"

Leaping Horse shook his head. "First take rock," he said, "then when
they have the scalps of the white men they will watch us here. Will know
we cannot stay here long without water."

"You are right there, chief, and no m'stake; my tongue is like a piece
of leather now, and as soon as it gets dark I shall make a bee-line down
to the river. I want to have a talk with Harry, but just at present I
want a drink a blamed sight worse. If I had thought we were going to be
stuck up here all day I would have brought my water-bottle with me."

The time passed very slowly, although the air became cooler as soon as
the sun had gone down behind the opposite range. As soon as the light
faded a little, the Indian crawled farther along the ledge, and returned
in a short time saying that he had found a spot where the whites could
descend. Two or three times Jerry urged that it was dark enough, before
the chief consented to move. At last, however, he stood up and gave the
cry of an owl, and they were in a minute or two joined by Hunting Dog,
who had until now remained at his post. The chief at once led the way
along the ledge until he reached the spot where the rock had crumbled
away somewhat.

"We had better go down one at a time," Jerry said. "For if there was a
slip or a tumble it might let down a gun-hammer, and we want our lead
for the 'Rappahoes, and not for each other."

When it came to Tom's turn, he found it a very difficult place to get
down in the semi-darkness, and two or three times he almost lost his
footing. As soon as all were down they fell into Indian file, and
crossed the valley to the rock, the chief giving the hoot of an owl
twice as he approached it. Three men at once stepped out from the bushes
at its foot.

"I began to wonder when you were coming, and was just going to get the
ponies down before it was too dark to do it without running the risk of
breaking their legs. Well, I am right glad to see you, Jerry; and you
too, Tom, though it is too dark to see much of you. The chief has been
telling me how he brought you along. There is no time to talk now, but I
am right glad to see you, lad" and he shook Tom heartily by the hand.
"Now, mates, let us get the horses down."

"I must make tracks for the water first, Harry, the young un and I are
pretty near choking; and I expect the Indians are as bad, though it
ain't their natur to talk about it."

"Get down horses first," the chief said. "Too dark soon."

"Waal, I suppose five minutes won't make much difference," Jerry
grumbled, "so here goes."

"I have tied some hide over their hoofs," Harry said, "so as to make as
little noise as possible about it."

"Must make no noise," the chief said urgently. "Redskin scouts soon be
crawling up."

One by one the horses were brought down, Harry leading them, and the
others pushing aside the bushes as noiselessly as possible. Then their
loads were carried down and packed upon them.

"You get on my horse, Jerry," Harry Wade whispered, "I will walk with
Tom. I have had no time to say a word to him yet, or to ask about the
people at home. Where is the chief?"

Leaping Horse and his companion had stolen away as soon as the loads had
been adjusted. The others led the horses to the river, and allowed them
to drink, while Jerry and Tom lay down and took a long draught of the
water. The miners' bottles were filled, and they then started.

"It is lucky the river makes such a roar among these rocks here," Harry
said, "it will drown the sound of the horses' hoofs."

For half an hour they proceeded at a fast walk, then the skins were
taken off the horses' feet and they went on at a trot, the two Wades
taking hold of Jerry's stirrup-leathers and running alongside. In half
an hour they entered the belt of trees, and dismounting, at once began
to ascend the hill. They were some distance up when they heard a distant
yell.

"You may yell as much as you like," Jerry panted, "you won't catch us
now. They have been a mighty long time finding out we were gone."

"They could not make out about you," Harry said. "I could see by the
chief's manner, and the glances the Indian with him kept giving to the
place where you were lying, that they were puzzled and alarmed. They
offered if we would surrender that they would allow us to return down
the valley without hurt. I said, of course, that I preferred staying
where I was; we had come up the valley and intended going farther; we
didn't want to interfere with them, and if they had left us alone we
should have left them alone; and they had only themselves to thank for
the loss of some of their braves. 'We have,' I said, 'many friends, who
will protect us, and much harm will fall on the Indians who venture to
meddle with us.'

"'Are your friends white men?' the chief asked. 'Have they wings that
they have flown down here from the hills?'

"'They have come, that is enough,' I said. 'You see, when they were
wanted they were here, and if they are wanted again you will hear of
them, and your braves will die, and you will gain nothing. You had best
go back to your lodges and leave us to go away in peace. Whoever they
are, they can shoot, as you have found out to your cost. They have no
ill-will to the red-skins, providing the redskins let us alone. They
only fired four shots; if they had wished to, they could have killed
many more.' When the chief saw that he could get nothing further from me
he went away. As usual he spoke boastfully at last, and said that he had
offered peace to us, and if war came, it would be our faults. I laughed,
and said that we could take care of ourselves, and preferred doing so to
trusting ourselves in the hands of the 'Rappahoes, when we had made some
of their squaws widows."

"Would they have kept their word, uncle, do you think?" Tom asked.

"Not they. There are a few of the Indian tribes whose word can be taken,
but as a rule words mean nothing with them, and if we had put ourselves
in their power they would have tomahawked us instantly, or else taken us
down and tortured us at their villages, which would have been a deal
worse. I have no doubt they had a long talk after the chief returned to
them, and that it was some time after it became dark before they could
pluck up courage enough to climb the rock, though I expect they must
have got close to it very soon after we left. I reckon they have been
crawling up inch by inch. Of course, directly they got to where the
horses had been tied they knew we had gone, and I expect that yell was a
signal for a rush forward to the top. But we need not bother any more
about them. They may ride as far as the foot of the forest, but when
they find we have gained that safely they will give it up until morning;
they will know well enough it is no good starting to search the woods in
the dark. We may as well rest where we are until the moon is up, for we
make so much noise crashing through this undergrowth that they could
hear us down there."

"Now tell me, lad, about your mother and sisters, and how you came out
after all."

Tom told his uncle of his mother's death, and the reason why he had left
his sisters to come out to join him.

"It is a very bad business, lad, and I take a lot of blame to myself.
When I got your mother's letter, telling me of poor John's death, and
that she would not hear of your coming out, I said some very hard things
to myself. Here had I been knocking about for twenty years, and having
had a fair share of luck, and yet I could not put my hand on five
hundred dollars, and there was my brother's widow and children, and I,
their nearest relative, could not help them. It made me feel a pretty
mean man, I can tell you. Your mother did not say much about her
circumstances, but it did not need that. I knew that John had retired
from the navy with little besides his half-pay, and that her pension as
his widow must be a mighty slim one. Altogether I had a pretty bad time
of it. However, I took a tall oath that the next rich strike I made the
dollars should not be thrown away. I reckoned that you would be out
before long; for it was certain that if you were a lad of spirit you
would not be staying there doing nothing. Your mother said that the
girls all intended to take up teaching, and it was not likely that you
would let them work for the family while you were loafing about at home.
I know in my time it was hard enough to get anything to do there, and
young fellows who have come out here to ranche tell me that it is harder
than ever now. I thought you would fancy this life, and that in time you
would talk your mother over into letting you come."

"I should never have got her to agree to it, uncle. I wanted to go to
sea, but after father's death she would not hear of it. She said I was
her only boy and that she could not spare me, and I had to promise to
give up the thought. She was still more against your plan, but when I
wrote to you I thought that possibly in time she might agree to it. But
it was not long afterwards that her health began to fail, and I saw then
that I must give up all thought of leaving her, and must, when I left
school, take anything that offered; and it was only after her death that
I talked it over with the girls, and they agreed that to come here was
the best thing for me."

"And you left before my last letter arrived?"

"Yes; we had no letter after the one you wrote asking me to come out."

"No, I suppose you could not have had it. I wrote before I started out
three months ago from Salt Lake City. I had struck a ledge of pretty
good stuff, I and another. We sold out for a thousand dollars, and I
sent my share off to your mother, telling her that I had been having bad
luck since I got her letter, but that I hoped to do better in future,
and I thought, anyhow, I could promise to send her as much once a year,
and if I had a real stroke of luck she and her girls would have the
benefit of it."

"That was good of you, uncle."

"Not good at all," Harry Wade grumbled. "I have behaved like a fool all
along; it is true that when I did get letters from your father, which
was not very often, he always wrote cheerfully, and said very little
about how he was situated as to money. But I ought to have known--I did
know, if I thought of it--that with a wife and six children it must be
mighty hard to make ends meet on a lieutenant's half-pay, and there was
I, often throwing away twice as much as his year's pension on a week's
spree. When I heard he was gone you may pretty well guess how I felt.
However, lad, if things turn out well I will make it up as far as I can.
Now, let us join the others."

The others, however, were all sound asleep, having wrapped themselves in
their blankets, and lain down as soon as the halt was decided upon.
Jerry, having had no sleep the previous night, and but little for four
or five days, had not even thought of asking the others for food, which
they doubtless had on their saddles, although he had tasted nothing for
twenty-four hours. Tom, however, less accustomed to enforced fasts, felt
ravenous.

"We have had nothing to eat to-day, uncle, except a crust left over from
yesterday's baking, and I don't think I could get to sleep if I did not
eat something."

"Bless me, I never thought of that, Tom. If I had I would have sent food
across by the chief this morning. There is no bread, but there is plenty
of cold meat. We cooked a lot yesterday evening, for we thought we might
not get a chance of cooking to-day."

"Then you knew, uncle, the Indians were near?" Tom went on, when he had
appeased his appetite and taken a drink of water, with a little whisky
in it from his uncle's flask.

"Ay, lad; we guessed somehow we had been followed all along. We had done
everything we could to throw them off the trail--travelling as much as
we could in the course of streams, muffling the feet of our ponies, and
picking out the hardest ground to travel on; but every morning before
daybreak one of us went up the hillside, and twice we made out mounted
Indians moving about down the valley. Yesterday morning ten of them came
galloping up within easy shot. I don't think they thought that we were
so near. They drew up their horses suddenly, had a talk, and then came
riding after us. It didn't need their yells to tell us what their
intention was. We knocked three of them out of their saddles, then threw
our horses down and lay behind them.

"They galloped round and round us shooting, but we picked two more off,
and then they rode away. We knew enough of them to be sure that they
were not going to give it up, but would follow us till joined by enough
of their tribe to attack us again. We made a long march, hoping to get
to the timber before they could come up, but just as the sun was setting
we saw them coming along, about fifteen of them; and we had just time to
get up to that rock. As they rode past we opened a smart fire and
dropped four of them; the others rode up the valley, so as to cut us off
from going farther. We filled our water-skins and got the horses
half-way up as you saw, and then lighted a fire and cooked. We kept
watch all night, two down below and one at the top; but everything was
quiet, and we guessed they were waiting for others to come up.

"About an hour before daylight we heard another gang arrive below us.
They halted there, and it was not long before they began crawling up
from above and below, and for a bit we shot pretty brisk. The odds were
too much against them, with us on the height, and they drew off. Then
for an hour they were pretty quiet while they were holding council,
except that we did some shooting with a party who had climbed up to that
ledge opposite; then we saw both bands mount, and reckoned they were
going to make a dash for us. We knew if they did it in earnest we must
go down, for once among the rocks and bushes there would be no keeping
them from mounting up. We made up our minds that the end was not far
off, though I fancy we should have accounted for a good many of them
before they rubbed us out. When your four rifles spoke from the ledge we
thought it was a party who had gone back there, for we felt sure that we
had driven them all away, but it wasn't more than a moment before we saw
it wasn't that. There was no mistaking the yell of astonishment from the
Indians, and as the horses swerved round we saw that three of them had
fallen. You may guess we didn't stop to argue who it was, but set to
work to do our share; but it seemed to us something like a miracle when
the red-skins rode off.

"We had been talking of Leaping Horse during the night, for he had
promised to come back to join us, and I knew him well enough to be able
to bet all creation that he would come. He had only left us to keep an
appointment with his nephew, who was to join him at Fort Bridger. If
there had only been two guns fired we should have put it down to him,
but being four I don't think either of us thought of him till he stood
up and shouted. Now, lad, you had better take a sleep. We shall be
moving on as soon as the moon is fairly up, and it won't be over that
hill behind us till two or three. I will watch till then, but I don't
think there is the least chance of their following us to-night; they
have been pretty roughly handled, and I don't think they will follow
until they have solved the mystery of that ledge. They searched it, no
doubt, as soon as they found the rock was empty, and at daybreak they
will set about tracing the trail up. That will be easy enough for them
when they have once got rid of the idea that there was something uncanny
about it, and then we shall have them on our heels again and on the
chief's too. The first thing for us to do will be to make along the hill
till we get to the edge of the canon, where Leaping Horse has gone for
your ponies, and to follow it to its upper end."

"I will watch, uncle, if you will wake me in an hour. I shall be all
right after a nap, but I can scarcely keep my eyes open now."

It seemed, however, to Tom that he had not been asleep five minutes when
his uncle shook him. The others were already on their feet. The moon was
shining down through the trees, and with cautious steps, and taking the
utmost trouble to avoid the branches, they started on their upward
climb. Not a word was spoken, for all knew how far sound travels on a
still night. There was, however, a slight breeze moving among the tree
tops when they started, and in an hour this had so far increased that
the boughs were swaying and the leaves rustling.

"I reckon there ain't no occasion to keep our mouths shut no longer,"
one of the men said. "Now that the trees are on the move they would not
hear us if they were only a hundred yards away."

All were glad when daylight began to appear, Tom because the climbing
would be much easier when the ground could be seen, the others because
they were all longing for a pipe, but had hitherto not dared to light
one, for the flash of a match could be seen far away. They had been
bearing steadily to the right as they mounted, and shortly after
daybreak they suddenly found themselves on the edge of a canon.

"Do you think this is the one, Jerry?" one of the men asked.

"That is more than I can tell, Ben. I did not see an opening in the
valley as we came up it, but we might very well have missed one in the
dark. I should think from the distance we have gone towards the right it
must be the one where we left our horses. Anyhow, whether it is or not,
we must follow it up to the top and wait there for a bit to see if the
chief comes."

"I reckon he will be there before us," Harry said; "that is if he got
round the red-skins all right and found the horses. There would be no
reason for him to wait, and I expect he would go straight on, and is
like enough to be waiting for us by this time."




CHAPTER VII

CHASED


The party pressed forward as rapidly as they could. The ground was rough
and at times very steep, and those on foot were able to keep up with the
horses without much difficulty.

"You think the Indians will follow, uncle?" Tom asked.

"They will follow, you may bet your boots, Tom; by this time they have
got to the bottom of the mystery. The first thing this morning some of
them will go up on to the ledge where you were, follow your tracks down
to the canon where you left the horses, and find that you came up the
valley and not down it. They will have made out that there were two
whites and two red-skins, and that the two red-skins have gone up the
canon with the horses. Directly the matter is all cleared up, they will
be hotter than ever for our scalps, for there is nothing a red-skin
hates worse than being fooled. Of course, they will know that it is a
good deal harder to wipe out seven men than three, and I don't think
they will attack us openly; they know well enough that in a fair fight
two red-skins, if not three, are likely to go down for each white they
rub out. But they will bide their time: red-skins are a wonderful hand
at that; time is nothing to them, and they would not mind hanging about
us for weeks and weeks if they can but get us at last. However, we will
talk it all over when the Indians join us. I don't think there is any
chance of fighting to-day, but whether we shall get out of these
mountains without having another scrimmage is doubtful."

Tom noticed that in his talk with him his uncle dropped most of the
western expressions which when speaking with the others he used as
freely as they did. He was now able to have a fair look at him, and
found that he agreed pretty closely with the ideas he had formed of him.
There was a strong likeness between him and his brother. They were about
the same height, but Harry was broader and more strongly built. His face
was deeply bronzed by long exposure to the wind and sun. He had a large
tawny beard, while Tom's father had been clean shaved. The sailor was
five years the senior, but the miner looked far younger than Tom could
ever remember his father looking, for the latter had never thoroughly
recovered his, health after having had a long bout of fever on the
Zanzibar station; and the long stride and free carriage of his uncle was
in striking contrast to the walk of his father. Both had keen gray eyes,
the same outline of face, the same pleasant smile.

"Now that I can see you fairly, Tom," the miner said, when they halted
once for the horses to come up to them, "I can make out that you are a
good deal like your father as I can first remember him."

"I was thinking you were very like him, uncle."

"We used to be alike in the old days, but I reckon the different lives
we led must have changed us both a great deal. He sent me once a
photograph four or five years ago, and at first I should not have known
it was he. I could see the likeness after a bit, but he was very much
changed. No doubt I have changed still more; all this hair on my face
makes a lot of difference. You see, it is a very long time since we met.
I was but twenty when I left England, and I had not seen him for two or
three years before that, for he was on the Mediterranean station at the
time. Well, here are the horses again, and as the ground looks flatter
ahead we shall have to push on to keep up with them." They were
presently altogether beyond the forest, and a broad plateau of bare rock
stretched away in front of them for miles.

"There they are," Jerry Curtis shouted. "I was beginning to feel scared
that the 'Rappahoes had got them."

It was a minute or two before Tom could make out the distant figures,
for his eyes were less accustomed to search for moving objects than were
those of his companions.

"They are riding fast," Harry Wade said. "I reckon they have made out
some Indians on their trail."

The little dark mass Tom had first seen soon resolved itself into two
horsemen and two riderless animals. They were still three or four miles
away, but in twenty minutes they reached the party advancing to meet
them. The whites waved their hats and gave them a cheer as they rode up.

"So you have managed to get through them all right, chief?"

"The 'Rappahoes are dogs. They are frightened at shadows; their eyes
were closed. Leaping Horse stood near their fires and saw them go
forward, and knew that his white brothers must have gained the forest
before the 'Rappahoes got to the rock. He found the horses safe, but the
canon was very dark and in some places very narrow, with many rocks in
the road, so that he had to stop till the moon was high. It was not
until morning came that he reached the head of the canon, an hour's ride
from here. Half an hour back Leaping Horse went to the edge and looked
down. There were ten 'Rappahoes riding fast up the trail. Has my brother
heard anything of the others?"

"Nothing whatever," Harry said. "I reckon they did not begin to move
until daylight, and as we went on when the moon rose they must be a good
two hours behind us. Which way do you think we had better go, chief?"

"Where does my brother wish to go?"

"It matters mighty little. I should say for a bit we had better travel
along this plateau, keeping about the same distance from the
timber-line. I don't think the 'Rappahoes will venture to attack us in
the open. If we keep on here we can cross the divide and get into the
Shoshones' country, and either go down the Buffalo and then up the Snake
and so work down south, or go east and strike some of the streams
running that way into the Big Horn."

The chief shook his head.

"Too far, too many bad Indians; will talk over fire tonight."

"That is it, chief. It is a matter that wants a good deal of talking
over. Anyhow, we had better be moving on at once."

Tom was glad to find himself in the saddle again, and the party rode on
at a steady pace for some hours, then they halted, lit a fire, and
cooked a meal. Tom noticed that the Indians no longer took pains to
gather dry sticks, but took the first that came to hand. He remarked
this to Jerry.

"They know it is no use trying to hide our trail here; the two bands of
Indians will follow, one up and one down, until they meet at the spot
where the chief joined us. From there they can track us easy enough.
Nothing would suit us better than for them to come up to us here, for we
should give them fits, sartin. This is a good place. This little stream
comes down from that snow peak you see over there, and we have got
everything we want, for this patch of bushes will keep us in firing for
a bit. You see, there are some more big hills in front of us, and we are
better here than we should be among them. I expect we shall camp here
for the night."

"Then you don't think the Indians will come up close?"

"Not they. They will send a spy or two to crawl up, you may be sure, but
they will know better than to come within reach of our rifles."

"I am mighty glad to have my teeth into some deer-flesh again," Ben
Gulston said. "We had two or three chances as we came along, but we dare
not fire, and we have just been living on bread and bacon. Where did you
kill these wapiti?"

"At our first halt, near Fremont's Pass. We got two."

"Well, you haven't eaten much, Jerry," Sam Hicks said. "I reckon four
men ought pretty well to have finished off two quarters by this time."

"I reckon we should have finished one of the bucks, Sam; but we caught a
grist of fish the same day, dried them in the sun, and I think we mostly
ate them. They would not keep as well as the flesh. That is as good as
the day we shot it, for up here in the dry air meat keeps a sight better
than down in the plains. Give me some more tea, Sam."

"What do you think, mates, of camping here?" Harry Wade said. "The chief
thinks we are better here than we should be if we moved on. He feels
certain the red-skins won't dare attack us."

There was a cordial agreement in favour of a halt, for after the work
they had gone through during the last week they were glad of a rest. No
one would have thought half an hour afterwards that the little party
engaged in washing their shirts at the stream or mending their clothes,
were in the heart of a country unknown to most of them, and menaced by a
savage foe. The horses cropped the scanty tufts of grass or munched the
young tops of the bushes, the rifles stood stacked by the fire, near
which the two Indians sat smoking and talking earnestly together,
Hunting Dog occasionally getting up and taking a long careful look over
the plain. As the men finished their various jobs they came back to the
fire.

"Now, chief," Harry said, "let us hear your ideas as to what we had best
do. We are all pretty old hands at mountaineering, but we reckon you
know a great deal more about it than we do. You don't like the plans I
proposed."

"No can do it," the chief said positively. "In a moon the snow will
fall, and there will be no crossing mountains."

"That is true enough," Jerry said. "An old trapper who had lived among
the Shoshones told me that nine months in the year they were shut up in
the valleys by the snow on the passes."

"Then how can live?" the chief went on. "As long as we stay in this
country the 'Rappahoes will watch us. They will tell the Bannacks and
the Nez Perces, and they too would be on our trail. As long as we keep
together and watch they will not come, they fear the white man's rifle;
but we cannot live without hunting, and then they kill one, two, till
all killed. At night must always watch, at day cannot hunt. How we live?
What good to stay? If we stop all killed sure."

There was silence round the circle. Every one of them felt the truth of
the Indian's words, and yet they hated the thought of abandoning their
search for gold, or, failing that, of a return home with their horses
laden with beaver skins.

Harry was the first to speak. "I am afraid these varmint have interfered
with our plans, mates. If we had had the luck to drop into one of the
upper valleys without being noticed we could have hunted and trapped
there and looked for gold for months without much chance of being
discovered, but this has upset it all. I am afraid that what the chief
says is true. If we keep together we starve, if we break up and hunt we
shall be ambushed and killed. I hate giving up anything I have set my
mind on, but this time I don't see a way out of it. We ain't the first
party that has come up here and had to go back again with empty hands,
and we know what happened to that party of twenty old-time miners from
California two years ago, though none of them ever got back to tell the
tale. We knew when we started, it wur just a chance, and the cards have
gone against us."

"That is so," Ben agreed; "if it had turned out well we might have made
a good strike. It ain't turned out well, and as every day we stay here
there will be more of those varmint swarming round us, I say the sooner
we get out of this dog-goned country the better."

"You can count me in with you, Ben," Sam Hicks said. "We have gone in
for the game and we don't hold hands, and it ain't no use bluffing
against them red-skins. We sha'n't have lost much time arter all, and I
reckon we have all learned something. Some day when the railroad goes
right across, Uncle Sam will have to send a grist of troops to reckon up
with the red-skins in these hills, and arter that it may be a good
country for mining and trapping, but for the present we are a darned
sight more likely to lose our scalps than to get skins."

"Well, Leaping Horse, which way would you advise us to take, then?"

"Go straight back to canon, ride down there, cross river, go up
mountains other side, pass them north of Union Peak, come down on upper
water Big Wind River. From there little way on to Green River. Leaping
Horse never been there, but has heard. One long day's ride from here, go
to upper waters of Green River."

"That sounds good," Jerry Curtis said. "If we could once strike the
Green we should be out of the 'Rappahoe country altogether. I have known
two or three men who have been up the Green nearly to its head, and
there is good hunting and a good many beaver in the side streams. I
should not have thought it would have come anywhere like as near as
this, but I don't doubt the chief is right."

"Union Peak," the chief said, pointing to a crag rising among a tumble
of hills to the south.

"Are you sure, chief?"

The Indian nodded. "Forty, fifty miles away," he said. "Leaping Horse
has been to upper waters of Green River, seen the peak from other side."

"That settles it, then," Harry said. "That is our course, there cannot
be a doubt. I should never have proposed the other if I had had an idea
that we were within sixty or seventy miles of the Green River. And you
think we had better take the canon you came up by, chief?"

The Indian nodded. "If go down through forest may be ambushed. Open
ground from here back to canon. 'Rappahoes most in front. Think we go
that way, not think we go back. Get good start. Once across river follow
up little stream among hills other side, that the way to pass. If
'Rappahoes follow us we fight them."

"Yes, we shall have them at an advantage there, for they would have to
come up under our fire, and there are sure to be places where half a
dozen men could keep fifty at bay. Very well, chief, that is settled.
When do you think we had better start?"

"When gets dark," the chief replied. "No lose time, more Indian come
every hour. Keep fire burning well, 'Rappahoes think we camp here. Take
horses a little way off and mount beyond light of fire."

"You think they will be watching us?"

"Sure to watch. First ride north half an hour, then turn and ride to
canon. If spies see us go off take word to friends we gone north. Too
dark to follow trail. They think they catch us easy to-morrow, and take
up trail in morning; but too late then, we cross river before that."

There was a general murmur of assent. The thought of being constantly
watched, and suddenly attacked when least expecting it, made them feel
restless, and the thought of early action was pleasant to them.

"You don't think that there are any spies watching us now, uncle, do
you?"

"Not close, Tom; they would know better than that. They could see us
miles away if we were to mount and ride off, and it is only when it gets
dark that they would venture to crawl up, for if one were sighted in the
daytime he would not have a ghost of a chance of getting away, for we
could ride him down sartin."

"Well, I reckon we may as well take a sleep," Sam Hicks said. "You lie
down for one, anyhow, Harry, for you watched last evening. We will toss
up which of us keeps awake."

"Leaping Horse will keep watch," the chief said quietly. "No fear of
Indians, but better to watch."

Knowing the power of the red-skins to keep awake for an almost unlimited
time, none of the others thought of refusing the offer, and in a few
minutes all were sound asleep. Towards sunset they were on their feet
again. Another meal was cooked and eaten, then as it became dusk the
horses were gathered fifty yards away, and Hunting Dog and Tom took
their places beside them.

"Keep your eyes open and your rifle handy, Tom," his uncle said. "It is
like enough that some young brave, anxious to distinguish himself, may
crawl up with the intention of stampeding the ponies, though I don't
think he would attempt it till he thought most of us were asleep. Still,
there is no saying."

The watch was undisturbed, and soon it became so dark that objects could
no longer be seen fifty yards away. Tom began to feel nervous. Every
tuft of ground, every little bush seemed to him to take the form of a
crawling Indian, and he felt a great sense of relief when he saw the
figures round the fire rise and walk towards him.

"I am glad you have come, uncle," he said frankly; "I began to feel very
uncomfortable several times. It seemed to me that some of the bushes
moved."

"That is just what I thought you would be feeling, Tom. But it was just
as well that your first watch should be a short one, without much chance
of an ambush being on foot; and I knew that if your eyes deceived you,
Hunting Dog was there. Next time you won't feel so nervous; that sort of
thing soon passes off."

A fresh armful of brushwood had been thrown on to the fire before the
men left it, and long after they had ridden away they could see the
flames mounting high. After riding north for a quarter of an hour they
changed their route and passed round, leaving the fire half a mile on
their right. The light of the stars was quite sufficient for them to
travel by, and after four hours' journey the chief, who was riding
ahead, halted.

"Not far from canon now. Listen."

A very faint murmur came to their ears, so faint that had not his
attention been drawn to it Tom would not have noticed it at all.

"What is that noise?" he asked.

"That is the stream down in the canon," his uncle replied. "How far are
we from the head, chief?"

"Not far, must ride slow."

They proceeded at a walk, changing their course a little towards the
east. Hunting Dog went on ahead, and in a quarter of an hour they heard
his signal, the cry of an owl. It arose from a point still further east,
and quickening their pace, in a few minutes they came up to the young
Indian, who was standing by his horse at the edge of a steep descent, at
the bottom of which Tom could see a stream of water.

"It looks very steep," Jerry said.

"Steep, but smooth," the Indian replied. "Came up here with horses this
morning."

All dismounted, and Tom went up to his horse's head. "That won't do,
Tom. Never go before a horse down a steep place where you can't see your
way, always drive it before you."

There was some trouble in getting the horses to commence the descent,
but after a short time the chief's pony set the example; and tucking its
hind legs under it until it sat down on its haunches, began to slide
down, while the other animals, after staring into the darkness with ears
laid back and snorting with fear, were half-persuaded, half-forced to
follow its example, and the men went down after them. The descent was
not so steep as in the darkness it looked, and the depth was not over
fifty feet. As soon as they reached the bottom they mounted again, and
the chief leading the way, they rode down the canon. At first they were
able to proceed at a fair pace, but as the sides grew higher and more
precipitous the darkness became more dense, and they were obliged to
pick their way with great caution among the boulders that strewed the
bottom of the ravine. Several times they had to dismount in order to get
the horses over heavy falls, and it was four hours from the time they
entered the canon before they approached its mouth. When they entered
the little wood where they had first left the horses, the chief said,
"Make fire, cook food here. Leaping Horse and Hunting Dog go on and
scout, maybe 'Rappahoes left watch in valley."

"Very well, chief. It is seven hours since we started; I think the
horses will be all the better for an hour's rest, and I am sure we shall
be the better of a feed. Besides, when we are once out of this hole we
may have to travel fast."

"You don't think it likely that the 'Rappahoes are on the look-out for
us at the entrance?" Tom asked, as the Indians moved away.

"Not likely at all, Tom. Still, as they might reckon that if we gave
their searching party the slip we must come down again by the river or
through this canon, they may have left a party or sent down word to some
of their villages to keep a watch in the valley."

It was more than an hour before the Indians returned.

"No 'Rappahoes in valley," the chief said, as he seated himself by the
fire and began without loss of time to eat the meat they had cooked in
readiness. "Better be going soon, must cross river and get on before
light come; have seen fires, Indian villages up on hillsides. When light
comes and 'Rappahoes find trail they come back quick."

"You may bet your boots they will, chief," Sam Hicks said. "They will be
a pretty mad crowd when they make out that we have come down again by
the canon. As soon as they see which way we have headed some of them
will make a bee-line down here in hopes of cutting us off at the mouth,
but by the time they are here we shall be half-way up the hill."

The Indian made no reply, but he and Hunting Dog ate their meal
steadily, and as soon as they had finished rose to their feet, and
saying "Time to go" went out to fetch in their horses.

"I don't think the chief is as confident we shall get off without a
fight as Sam seemed to be," Tom said to his uncle.

"There is never any saying what an Indian thinks, Tom, even when he has
fallen into white man's ways, as Leaping Horse has done. It may be that
the sight of the fires he made out on the opposite hills has troubled
him. It will be light before we are far up on the side, and we may be
made out by some of the varmint there. They are always restless. Go into
an Indian village when you will, you will find some of them smoking by
the fire. Their ears are so 'tarnal sharp, they can hear sounds that
would never catch our ears, not at half the distance. The clink of a
couple of pans together, or a stone set rolling by a horse's tread, were
it ever so faint, would bring them on their feet directly, especially
now they know that a war-party is out."

The march was again resumed. Passing through the narrowest part of the
canon they issued out into the valley and made for the river. Some time
was lost here, for Sam Hicks, who was leading one of the pack-ponies,
was carried down several hundred yards by the stream, and with
difficulty effected his landing. The horse's load shifted and had to be
repacked. As soon as this was done they followed the river down for two
miles till they came upon a stream running into it from the southwest.

"You think this is the stream we have to follow, chief?"

"Must be him, no other came in on this side for a long way; right line
for peak."

They turned up by the stream, and after riding a mile found themselves
entering a mountain gorge. It was not a canon but a steep, narrow
valley. They picked their way with the greatest caution for some time,
then the two Indians stopped simultaneously.

"What is the matter, chief?" Harry, who was riding next to them,
whispered.

"Smell smoke."

Harry sniffed the air.

"I can't say I smell it, chief, but if you say you do that settles it.
Where do you think it comes from?"

"Up valley; wind light, but comes that way. Indian village up here."

"Well, so much the worse for the Indian village if it interferes with
us," Harry said grimly; "there is one thing certain, we have got to go
through. Probably most of the braves are away up in the hills."

They now went on with redoubled caution. The chief gave his bridle to
Hunting Dog and went forward on foot. A hundred yards farther the valley
made a sharp turn and then widened out considerably, and the glow of a
fire was visible among some trees standing on the hillside some fifty
feet above the level of the stream. The chief looked at the sky; a faint
light was breaking, and without pausing he continued to lead the way.
They passed under the Indian encampment, and had got a few yards higher
when the pony Sam Hicks was leading gave a sharp neigh.

"Darn its old ears!" Tom heard Jerry growl. Harry at the same moment put
his horse to a trot, and the others following clattered up the valley,
knowing that concealment was no longer of any use; indeed, an answering
neigh from above and hurried shouts were heard, followed a moment
afterwards by a loud yell as an Indian running through the trees caught
sight of them in the moonlight.

"We are in for it now, Tom; that is, if there are men enough in the
village to attack us."

The horses broke into a gallop. They had gone but fifty yards when a
rifle-shot was heard from behind, and Tom felt a shock as the ball
struck his saddle. Almost immediately another shot was fired abreast of
him, and an Indian yell rose loudly behind them. A moment later Leaping
Horse with a shout of triumph bounded down the rocks and leapt on to his
horse. Four or five more shots were fired from behind, but none of them
were hit. A hundred yards farther they were in shelter of a belt of
trees that extended down to the stream. As they entered it Harry looked
back. He could now see the hills beyond the main valley.

"Look, chief!" he exclaimed. "The varmint up there are signalling far
off above the timber-line."

Bright tongues of fire could be seen, two close together and one a short
distance to the left.

"What does that mean, uncle?" Tom asked, as the chief gave a short
exclamation of surprise and anger.

"It means, lad, that the red-skins have been sharper than we gave them
credit for. When their spies brought them news that we had started they
must have come down to the fire and followed our trail at once with
torches, before we had got above an hour or two away. No doubt it was
slow work, but they must have found where we changed our course, and
made out that we were making for the head of the canon. I expect most of
them lost no time in following the trail farther, but rode straight for
the head of the canon, and like enough they weren't half an hour behind
us when we came out. The others rode to the edge of the plateau and set
those fires alight."

"But what do they mean, uncle?"

"They are a warning to all the villages that we have headed back, you
may be sure of that, though I can't say what the message is, for every
tribe has its own signals, but it will have set them on the watch up and
down the valley; and like enough the signal has been repeated somewhere
at a point where it can be seen straight down the Big Wind Valley. The
shooting will tell them all which way we are making, and if the
'Rappahoes have come out of the canon, as I reckon they have, they need
lose no more time in looking for our trail. I reckon in half an hour we
shall have a hundred or so of the varmint after us. I only hope there are
no more villages upon this line. I don't so much care about the fellows
who are following us, we are sure to find some place where we can make a
stand, but it would be awkward if we find our way barred."

"But if there is no one in front, uncle, I should think we might be able
to keep ahead. Our horses are as good as they are likely to have."

"You and Jerry might be able to, Tom, for you have got hold of two
first-rate ponies; but the Indians' are nothing out of the way, and our
ponies ain't in it with you; besides, they and the pack-horses have all
been doing hard work for the last week with none too much food, and many
of the 'Rappahoes will be on fresh horses. I expect we have got some
very tall climbing to do before we get up to the pass, and we have got
to do our fighting before we get there."

The ground rose steeply, and was encumbered by fallen stones and
boulders, and it was not long before the pack-horses began to show signs
of distress, while those ridden by Harry and his two comrades were
drawing their breath in short gasps. After emerging from the trees the
ravine had run in almost a straight line for more than half a mile, and
just as they reached the end of this stretch a yell was heard down the
valley. Looking back they saw eight or ten mounted Indians emerging from
the wood at the lower end.

"That is a signal," Harry exclaimed, as four rifles were fired in quick
succession. "Well, we have got a bit of a start of them, and they won't
venture to attack us until some more come up. We had better take it a
bit quietly, chief, or our horses will give out. I expect we sha'n't be
long before we come upon a place where we can make a stand."

The Seneca looked round at the horses. "You, Sam, Ben and pack-horses go
on till you get to place where can fight. We four wait here; got good
horses, and can ride on. We stop them here for a bit."

"That would be best. I don't like being out of it, but we will do our
share presently."

No more words were necessary. Harry and his two mates rode on at a
slower pace than before, while the two Indians, Jerry, and Tom
dismounted, left their horses beyond the turn, and then coming back took
up their positions behind four large boulders. The Indians had noticed
their returning figures, for they suddenly drew up their horses and
gathered together in consultation.

"Draw your bullet, Tom," Jerry said, "and drop in half a charge more
powder; I reckon that piece of yours will send a bullet among them with
the help of a good charge. Allow a bit above that top notch for extra,
elevation. It's a good big mark, and you ought to be able to plump a
bullet among them."

Tom followed the instructions, and then resting the barrel on the top of
the boulder took a steady aim and fired. There was a sudden stir among
the group of Indians. A horse reared high in the air, almost unseating
its rider, and then they all rode off at the top of their speed, and
halted two or three hundred yards lower down the valley. The Senecas
uttered a grunt of approval.

"That was a good shot, Tom, though I wish you had hit one of the
red-skins instead of his critter. Still, it will give them a good
lesson, and make them mighty keerful. They won't care about showing
their ugly heads within range of a piece that will carry five hundred
yards."

A quarter of an hour passed without any movement on the part of the
Indians. Then a large party of horsemen appeared from the trees below,
and were greeted by them with a yell of satisfaction.

"There must be well-nigh fifty of them," Jerry said. "I reckon it's the
party that came down the hill. They must have picked up a good many
others by the way. Now the fun is going to begin."

After five minutes' consultation some twenty of the Indians dismounted,
and dividing into two parties ascended the slopes of the valley and
began to move forward, taking advantage of every stone and bush, so that
it was but occasionally that a glimpse of one of their bodies was
obtained.

"They are going to skirmish up to us," Jerry said, "till they are near
enough to make it hot for us if we show a head above the rocks to fire.
As soon as they can do that, the others will charge. I think they are
not more than four hundred yards off now, Tom. That is within your
range, so you may as well begin to show them that we are awake. If you
can bring one down it will check their pace."

Tom had just noticed three Indians run behind a clump of bushes, and he
now levelled his rifle so that it bore on a spot a foot on one side of
it. Half a minute later an Indian appeared at the bush and began to run
forward. Tom pressed the trigger. The Indian ran a few steps, and then
fell forward on his face.

"Bravo, Plumb-centre!" Jerry shouted. "We said that you would do the
rifle credit, Tom, and Billy the Scout could not have done better
himself."

"Young white man make great hunter," the chief remarked approvingly.
"Got good eye and steady hand."

The lesson had its effect. The Indian advance was no longer rapid, but
was conducted with the greatest caution, and it was only occasionally
that a glimpse could be caught of a dusky figure passing from rock to
rock. When they came within three hundred yards the two Indians and
Jerry also opened fire. One fell to a shot from the chief, but neither
of the others hit their marks. Tom indeed did not fire again, the
movements of the Indians being so rapid that they were gone before he
could bring his sight to bear upon any of them.

"Go now," the chief said. "'Rappahoes fire soon; run quick."

It was but a few yards to shelter. As they dashed across the intervening
space two or three Indian rifles rang out, but the rest of the
assailants had been too much occupied in sheltering themselves and
looking for the next spot to make for, to keep an eye upon the
defenders, and the hastily-fired shots all missed. A moment later the
party mounted their horses and rode up the ravine, the yells of the
Indians ringing in their ears.

[Illustration: "A Moment Later The Indian Fell Forward On His Face."]




CHAPTER VIII

IN SAFETY


"We have gained half an hour anyhow," Jerry said, as they galloped up
the ravine, "and I reckon by the time we overtake them we shall find
them stowed away in some place where it will puzzle the red-skins to
dislodge us. The varmint will fight hard if they are cornered, but they
ain't good at advancing when there are a few rifle-tubes, in the hands
of white men, pointing at them, and they have had a lesson now that we
can shoot."

The ravine continued to narrow. The stream had become a mere rivulet,
and they were high up on the hillside.

"I begin to be afeared there ain't no place for making a stand." Here he
was interrupted by an angry growl, as a great bear suddenly rose to his
feet behind a rock.

"You may thank your stars that we are too busy to attend to you," Jerry
said, as they rode past within a few yards of it. "That is a grizzly,
Tom; and an awkward beast you would have found him if you had come upon
him by yourself without your shooting-iron. He is a big one too, and his
skin would have been worth money down in the settlements. Ah, there they
are."

The ravine made an abrupt turn to the west, and high up on its side they
saw their three companions with the five horses climbing up the
precipitous rocks.

"How ever did they get up there?" Jerry exclaimed.

"Found Indian trail," the chief said. "Let my brothers keep their eyes
open."

They rode on slowly now, examining every foot of the steep hillside.
Presently Hunting Dog, who was ahead, uttered an exclamation. Between
two great boulders there was a track, evidently a good deal used.

"Let Hunting Dog go first," the chief said. "Leaping Horse will follow
the white men."

"I reckon that this is the great Indian trail over the pass," Jerry said
to Tom, who preceded him. "I have heard there ain't no way over the
mountains atween that pass by Fremont's Buttes and the pass by this
peak, which they calls Union Peak, and the red-skins must travel by this
when they go down to hunt buffalo on the Green River. It is a wonder
Harry struck on it."

"Leaping Horse told him to keep his eyes open," the chief said from the
rear. "He knew that Indian trail led up this valley."

"Jee-rusalem! but it's a steep road," Jerry said presently. "I am
dog-goned if I can guess how the red-skins ever discovered it. I expect
they must have tracked some game up it, and followed to see where it
went to."

The trail wound about in a wonderful way. Sometimes it went horizontally
along narrow ledges, then there was a bit of steep climbing, where they
had to lead their horses; then it wound back again, and sometimes even
descended for a distance to avoid a projecting crag.

"Ah! would ye, yer varmint?" Jerry exclaimed, as a shot rang out from
the valley below and a bullet flattened itself against a rock within a
foot or two of his head. The shot was followed by a loud yell from
below, as a crowd of mounted Indians rode at full gallop round the angle
of the ravine.

"Hurry on, Hunting Dog, and get round the next corner, for we are
regular targets here."

A few yards farther a turn of the path took them out of sight of the
Indians, but not before a score of bullets came whistling up from below.

"The varmint have been riding too fast to shoot straight, I reckon. It
will be our turn directly."

Just as he spoke the chief called upon them to dismount. They threw
their bridles on their horses' necks, and descending to the ledge they
had just left, lay down on it.

"Get your revolver out, Tom, before you shoot," Jerry said. "They will
be off before you have time to load your rifle again."

The Indians were some four hundred feet below them, and were talking
excitedly, evidently hesitating whether to follow up the trail. The four
rifles cracked almost together. Two Indians fell, and the plunging of
two horses showed that they were hit. In an instant the whole mass were
on their way down the valley, followed by bullet after bullet from the
revolvers which Leaping Horse as well as the whites carried. Anything
like accurate aim was impossible, and no Indian was seen to fall, but it
was probable that some of the bullets had taken effect among the crowded
horsemen.

"Go on quiet now," Leaping Horse said, rising to his feet. "'Rappahoes
not follow any farther. One man with this"--and he touched his
revolver--"keep back whole tribe here."

Half an hour later they joined the party who had halted at the top of
the track.

"It air too bad our being out of it," Ben said. "I hope you have given
some of the varmint grist."

"Only five or six of them," Jerry replied regretfully, "counting in the
one Leaping Horse shot at the village. Tom here did a big shot, and
brought one down in his tracks at a good four hundred yards--as neat a
shot as ever I saw fired. The chief he accounted for another; then
atween us we wiped out two down below; and I reckon some of the others
are carrying some of our lead away. Waal, I think we have shook them off
at last any how. I suppose there ain't, no other road they can come up
here by, chief?"

"Leaping Horse only heard of one trail."

"You may bet your life there ain't another," Harry remarked. "They would
never have used such a dog-goned road as this if there had been any
other way of going up."

"Camp here," the chief said. "Long journey over pass, too much cold.
Keep watch here at head of trail."

"That is a very good plan. I have heard that the pass is over nine
thousand feet above the sea, and it would never do to have to camp up
there. Besides, I have been looking at the sky, and I don't much like
its appearance. Look over there to the north."

There were, indeed, evident signs of an approaching change in the
weather. On the previous day every peak and jagged crest stood out hard
and distinct in the clear air. Now all the higher summits were hidden by
a bank of white cloud.

"Snow" the Indian said gravely; "winter coming."

"That is just what I thought, chief. At any rate we know where we are
here, and there is brushwood to be gathered not far down the trail; and
even if we are shut up here we can manage well enough for a day or two.
These early snows don't lie long, but to be caught in a snow-storm
higher up would be a sight worse than fighting with red-skins."

From the spot where they were now standing at the edge of the ravine the
ground sloped very steeply up for some hundreds of feet, and then steep
crags rose in an unbroken wall; but from the view they had had of the
country from the other side they knew that behind this wall rose a range
of lofty summits. The Indian trail ran along close to the edge of the
ravine. The chief looked round earnestly.

"No good place to camp," he said. "Wind blow down hills, horses not able
to stand against it. Heap snow tumble down from there," and he pointed
upwards. "Carry everything down below."

"Well, if you think we had better push on, let us do so, chief."

The Indian shook his head and pointed to the clouds again. "See," he
said; "storm come very soon."

Even in the last two or three minutes a change was perceptible. The
upper edge of the clouds seemed to be suddenly broken up. Long streamers
spread out like signal flags of danger. Masses of clouds seemed to be
wrenched off and to fly with great rapidity for a short distance; some
of them sinking a little, floated back until they again formed a part of
the mountain cap, while others sped onwards towards the south.

"No time," the chief repeated earnestly; "must look for camp quick." He
spoke in the Indian tongue to Hunting Dog, and the two stood on a point
where the ground jutted out, and closely examined the ravine up whose
side they had climbed. The chief pointed farther along, and Hunting Dog
started at a run along the Indian trail. A few hundred yards farther he
paused and looked down, moved a few steps farther, and then disappeared
from sight. In three or four minutes he returned and held up his arms.

"Come," the chief said, and taking his horse's rein led it along the
path. The others followed his example, glad, indeed, to be in motion.
Five minutes before they had been bathed in perspiration from their
climb up the cliff; now they were conscious of the extraordinary change
of temperature that had suddenly set in, and each had snatched a blanket
from behind his saddle and wrapped it round him. They soon reached the
spot where Hunting Dog was standing, and looked down. Some thirty feet
below there was a sort of split in the face of the cliff, a wall of rock
rising to within four or five feet of the level of the edge of the
ravine. At one end it touched the face of the rock, at the other it was
ten or twelve feet from it, the space between being in the form of a
long wedge, which was completely filled up with trees and brushwood. A
ledge ran down from the point where Hunting Dog was standing to the
mouth of the fissure.

"Jee-rusalem, chief!" Ben exclaimed. "That air just made for us--we
could not have found a better, not if we had sarched for a year. But I
reckon we shall have to clear the place a bit before we take the
critters down."

Two axes were taken from one of the pack-horses.

"Don't cut away the bigger stuff, Ben," Harry said as his two mates
proceeded down the ledge, "their heads will shelter us from the snow a
bit; and only clear away the bushes enough to give room for the horses
and us, and leave those standing across the entrance to make a screen.
While you are doing it we will fetch in as much more wood and grass as
we can get hold of before the snow begins to fall."

The horses were left standing while the men scattered along the top of
the ravine, and by the time Ben shouted that they were ready, a
considerable pile of brushwood and a heap of coarse grass had been
collected. The horses were then led down one by one, unsaddled, and
packed together in two lines, having beyond them a great pile of the
bushes that had been cut away.

"I am dog-goned if this ain't the best shelter I ever struck upon,"
Jerry said. "We could not have fixed upon a better if we had had it
built special," the others cordially agreed.

The place they occupied was of some twelve feet square. On either side
was a perpendicular wall of rock; beyond were the horses; while at the
entrance the bush, from three to four feet high, had been left standing;
above them stretched a canopy of foliage. Enough dry wood had been
collected to start a fire.

"Don't make it too big. Jerry, we don't want to scorch up our roof,"
Harry Wade said. "Well, I reckon we have got enough fuel here for a
week, for there is what you cut down and what we brought, and all that
is left standing beyond the horses; and with the leaves and the grass
the ponies should be able to hold out as long as the fuel lasts. We are
short of meat, but we have plenty of flour; and as for water, we can
melt snow."

Buffalo rugs were laid down on each side by the rock walls, and on these
they took their seats and lighted their pipes.

"I have been wanting a smoke pretty bad," Jerry said; "I ain't had one
since we halted in that there canon. Hello, here it comes!"

As he spoke a fierce gust of wind swayed the foliage overhead and sent
the smoke, that had before risen quietly upwards, whirling round the
recess; then for a moment all was quiet again; then came another and a
stronger gust, rising and gathering in power and laden with fine
particles of snow. A thick darkness fell, and Harry threw some more wood
on the fire to make a blaze. But loud as was the gale outside, the air
in the shelter was hardly moved, and there was but a slight rustling of
the leaves overhead. Thicker and thicker flew the snow flakes in the air
outside, and yet none seemed to fall through the leaves.

"I am dog-goned if I can make this out," Sam Hicks said. "We are as
quiet here as if we were in a stone house, and one would think there was
a copper-plated roof overhead. It don't seem nat'ral."

The others were also looking up with an air of puzzled surprise, not
unmingled with uneasiness. Harry went to the entrance and looked out
over the breastwork of bushes. "Look here, Sam," he said.

"Why, Harry, it looks to me as if it were snowing up instead of down,"
the miner said as he joined him.

"That is just it. You see, we are in the elbow of the valley and are
looking straight down it, into the eye of the wind. It comes rushing up
the valley and meets this steep wall on its way, and pushed on by the
wind behind has to go somewhere, and so it is driven almost straight up
here and over the hilltops behind us. So you see the snow is carried up
instead of falling, and this rock outside us shoots it clear up over the
path we were following above. As long as the wind keeps north, I reckon
we sha'n't be troubled by the snow in here."

The explanation seemed satisfactory, and there was a general feeling of
relief.

"I remember reading," Tom said, as the others took their seats again,
"that people can stand on the edge of a cliff, facing a gale, without
feeling any wind. For the wind that strikes the cliff rushes up with
such force that it forms a sort of wall. Of course, it soon beats down
again, and not many yards back you can feel the gale as strongly as
anywhere else. But just at the edge the air is perfectly still."

The miners looked at Tom as if they thought that he was making a joke at
their expense. But his uncle said:

"Yes, I can quite believe that. You see, it is something like a
waterfall; you can stand right under that, for the force shoots it
outwards, and I reckon it is the same sort of thing here."  The chief
nodded gravely. He too had been surprised at the lull in their shelter
when the storm was raging so furiously outside, but Harry's illustration
of the action of rushing water enlightened him more than his first
explanation had done.

"But water ain't wind, Harry," Ben said.


"It is like water in many ways, Ben. You don't see it, but you can feel
it just the same. If you stand behind a tree or round a corner it rushes
past you, and you are in a sort of eddy, just as you would be if it was
a river that was moving alongside of you. Wind acts just the same way as
water. If it had been a big river coming along the valley at the same
rate as the wind it would rush up the rocks some distance and then sweep
round and race up the valley; but wind being light instead of being
heavy is able to rush straight up the hill till it gets right over the
crest."

"Waal, if you say it is all right I suppose it is. Anyhow, it's a good
thing for us, and I don't care how long it goes on in the same way. I
reckoned that before morning we should have those branches breaking down
on us with the weight of snow; now I see we are like to have a quiet
night."

"I won't answer for that, Ben; it is early in the day yet, and there is
no saying how the wind may be blowing before to-morrow morning. Anyhow,
now we have time we may as well get some of those bundles of bushes that
we brought down, and pile them so as to thicken the shelter of these
bushes and lighten it a bit. If we do that, and hang a couple of
blankets inside of them, it will give us a good shelter even if the wind
works round, and will help to keep us warm. For though we haven't got
wind or snow in here, we have got cold."

"You bet," Jerry agreed; "it is a regular blizzard. And although I don't
say as it is too cold sitting here by the fire, it won't cost us
anything to make the place a bit warmer."

Accordingly the bundles of wood they had gathered were brought out, and
with these the screen of bush was thickened, and raised to a height of
five feet; and when this was hung inside with a couple of blankets, it
was agreed that they could get through the storm comfortably even if it
lasted for a month.

They cooked their last chunk of deer's flesh, after having first
prepared some bread and put it in the baking pot among the embers, and
made some tea from the water in the skins. When they had eaten their
meal they covered themselves up in buffalo robes and blankets, and
lighted their pipes. There was, however, but little talk, for the noise
of the tempest was so great, that it was necessary to raise the voice
almost to a shout to be heard, and it was not long before they were all
asleep.

For hours there was no stir in the shelter, save when a horse pawed the
ground impatiently, or when Hunting Dog rose two or three times to put
fresh sticks on the fire. It seemed to Tom when he woke that it ought to
be nearly morning. He took out his watch, and by the light of the fire
made out to his surprise that it was but ten o'clock. The turmoil of the
wind seemed to him to be as loud as before, and he pulled the blankets
over his shoulder again and was soon sound asleep. When he next woke, it
was with the sensation of coldness in the face, and sitting up he saw
that the blankets and the ground were covered with a thick coating of
fine snow. There was a faint light in addition to that given by the
embers of the fire, and he knew that morning was breaking. His movement
disturbed his uncle, who was lying next him. He sat up and at once
aroused the others.

"Wake up, mates," he said; "we have had somewhere about eighteen hours'
sleep, and day is breaking."

In a minute all were astir. The snow was first shaken off the blankets,
and then Harry, taking a shovel, cleared the floor. Jerry took the
largest cooking-pot, and saying to Tom, "You bring that horse-bucket
along," pushed his way out through a small gap that had been left in the
screen of bushes. The wind had gone down a good deal, though it was
still blowing strongly. The snow had drifted against the entrance, and
formed a steep bank there; from this they filled the pot and bucket,
pressing the snow down. Tom was glad to get back again within the
shelter, for the cold outside was intense. The fire was already burning
brightly, and the pot and a frying-pan were placed over it, and kept
replenished with snow as fast as their contents melted. "We must keep on
at this," Harry said, "there is not a drop left in the skins, and the
horses must have water."

As soon as enough had melted it was poured into the kettle. There was
some bacon among the trappers' stores, as they had calculated that they
would not be able to hunt until out of Big Wind Valley and far up among
the forests beyond. The frying-pan was now utilized for its proper work,
while the pail was placed close enough to the fire to thaw its contents,
without risking injury to it. Within an hour of breakfast being finished
enough snow had been thawed to give the horses half a bucket of water
each. In each pail a couple of pounds of flour had been stirred to help
out what nourishment could be obtained from the leaves, and from the
small modicum of grass given to each animal.

"It will be a big journey over the pass, anyhow," Harry had said. "Now
that we are making tracks for the settlements we need not be sparing of
the flour; indeed, the lighter we are the better."

The day did not pass so pleasantly as that preceding it, for the air was
filled with fine snow that blew in at the entrance and found its way
between the leaves overhead; while from time to time the snow
accumulating there came down with a crash, calling forth much strong
language from the man on whom it happened to fall, and shouts of
laughter from his comrades. The party was indeed a merry one. They had
failed altogether in the objects of their expedition, but they had
escaped without a scratch from the Indians, and had inflicted some
damage upon them; and their luck in finding so snug a shelter in such a
storm far more than counterbalanced their disappointment at their
failure.

"Have you often been caught in the snow, uncle?"

"You bet, Tom; me and the chief here were mighty nigh rubbed out three
years ago. I was prospecting among the Ute hills, while Leaping Horse
was doing the hunting for us both. It was in the middle of winter; the
snow was deep on the ground in the valleys and on the tops of the hills,
but there was plenty of bare rock on the hillside, so I was able to go
on with my work. While as for hunting, the cold drove the big-horns down
from the heights where they feed in summer, and the chief often got a
shot at them; and they are good eating, I can tell you.

"We hadn't much fear of red-skins, for they ain't fond of cold and in
winter move their lodges down to the most sheltered valleys and live
mostly on dried meat. When they want a change they can always get a bear
or maybe a deer in the woods. We were camped in a grove of pines in a
valley and were snug enough. One day I had struck what I thought was the
richest vein I had ever come on. I got my pockets full of bits of quartz
with the gold sticking thick in it, and you may bet I went down to the
camp in high glee. A quarter of a mile before I got there I saw Leaping
Horse coming to meet me at a lope. It didn't want telling that there was
something wrong. As soon as he came up he said 'Utes.' 'Many of them,
chief?' I asked. He held up his open hands twice.

"'Twenty of them,' I said; 'that is pretty bad. How far are they away?'
He said he had seen them coming over a crest on the other side of the
valley. 'Then we have got to git,' I said, 'there ain't no doubt about
that. What the 'tarnal do the varmint do here?' 'War-party,' the chief
said. 'Indian hunter must have come across our trail and taken word back
to the lodges.' The place where he had met me was among a lot of rocks
that had rolled down. There had been no snow for a fortnight, and of
course the red-skins would see our tracks everywhere, going and coming
from the camp. We were on foot that time, though we had a pack-horse to
carry our outfit. Of course they would get that and everything at the
camp. I did not think much of the loss, the point was how were we to
save our scalps? We had sat down behind a rock as soon as he had joined
me. Just then a yell came from the direction of our camp, and we knew
that the red-skins had found it. 'They won't be able to follow your
trail here, chief, will they?' He shook his head. 'Trail everywhere, not
know which was the last.' We could see the grove where the camp was, and
of course they could see the rocks, and it was sartin that if we had
made off up the hill they would have been after us in a squirrel's jump;
so there was nothing to do but to lie quiet until it was dark. We got in
among the boulders, and lay down where we could watch the grove through
a chink.

"'I don't see a sign of them,' I said. 'You would have thought they
would have been out in search of us.'

"'No search,' the chief said. 'No good look for us, not know where we
have gone to. Hide up in grove. Think we come back, and then catch us.'

"So it turned out. Not a sign of them was to be seen, and after that
first yell everything was as quiet as death. In a couple of hours it got
dark, and as soon as it did we were off. We talked matters over, you may
be sure. There weren't no denying we were cornered. There we were
without an ounce of flour or a bite of meat. The chief had caught up a
couple of buffalo rugs as soon as he sighted the red-skins. That gave us
just a chance, but it wasn't more. In the morning the red-skins would
know we had either sighted them or come on their trail, and would be
scattering all over the country in search of us. We agreed that we must
travel a good way apart, though keeping each other in sight. They would
have noticed that the trails were all single, and if they came upon two
together going straight away from the camp, would know for sure it was
us making off.

"You may think that with so many tracks as we had made in the fortnight
we had been there, they would not have an idea which was made the first
day and which was made the last, but that ain't so. In the first place,
the snow was packed hard, and the footprints were very slight. Then,
even when it is always freezing there is an evaporation of the snow, and
the footprints would gradually disappear; besides that, the wind on most
days had been blowing a little, and though the drift does not count for
much on packed snow, a fine dust is blown along, and if the prints don't
get altogether covered there is enough drift in them to show which are
old ones and which are fresh. We both knew that they could not make much
mistake about it, and that they would be pretty sure to hit on the trail
I had made in the morning when I went out, and on that of the chief to
the rocks, and following mine back to the same place would guess that we
had cached there till it was dark.

"I could have done that myself; one can read such a trail as that like a
printed book. The worst of it was, there were no getting out of the
valley without leaving sign. On the bare hillsides and among the rocks
we could travel safe enough, but above them was everywhere snow, and do
what we would there would be no hiding our trail. We agreed that the
only thing was to cross the snow as quick as possible, to keep on the
bare rock whenever we got a chance, and wherever we struck wood, and to
double sometimes one way sometimes another, so as to give the red-skins
plenty of work to do to follow our trail. We walked all that night, and
right on the next day till early in the afternoon. Then we lay down and
slept till sunset, and then walked again all night. We did not see any
game. If we had we should have shot, for we knew the red-skins must be a
long way behind. When we stopped in the morning we were not so very far
from the camp we had started from, for if we had pushed straight back to
the settlements we should have been caught sure, for the Utes would have
been certain to have sent off a party that way to watch the valleys we
should have had to pass through. We lay down among some trees and slept
for a few hours and then set out to hunt, for we had been two days
without food, and I was beginning to feel that I must have a meal.

"We had not gone far when we came across the track of a black bear. We
both felt certain that the trail was not many hours old. We followed it
for two miles, and found it went up to a slide of rocks; they had come
down from a cliff some years before, for there were bushes growing among
them. As a rule a black bear will always leave you alone if you leave
him, and hasn't much fight in him at the best; so up we went, thinking
we were sure of our bear-steak without much trouble in getting it. I was
ahead, and had just climbed up on to a big rock, when, from a bush in
front, the bear came out at me with a growl. I expect it had cubs
somewhere, I had just time to take a shot from the hip and then he was
on me, and gave me a blow on the shoulder that ripped the flesh down to
the elbow.

"But that was not the worst, for the blow sent me over the edge, and I
fell seven or eight feet down among the sharp rocks. I heard the chief's
rifle go off, and it was some time after that before I saw or heard
anything more. When I came to I found he had carried me down to the foot
of the slide and laid me there. He was cutting up some sticks when I
opened my eyes. 'Have you got the bear, Leaping Horse?'

"'The bear is dead,' he said. 'My brother is badly hurt.'

"'Oh, never mind the hurt,' I said, 'so that we have got him. What are
you doing, chief? You are not going to make a fire here, are you?'

"'My brother's leg is broken,' he said. 'I am cutting some sticks to
keep it straight.'

"That brought me round to my senses, as you may guess. To break one's
leg up in the mountains is bad at any time, but when it is in the middle
of winter, and you have got a tribe of red-skins at your heels, it means
you have got to go under. I sat up and looked at my leg. Sure enough,
the left one was snapt like a pipe-stem, about half-way between the knee
and the ankle. 'Why, chief,' I said, 'it would have been a sight better
if you had put a bullet through my head as I lay up there. I should have
known nothing about it.'

"'The Utes have not got my white brother yet.'

"'No,' said I, 'but it won't be long before they have me; maybe it will
be this afternoon, and maybe to-morrow morning.' The chief said nothing,
but went on with his work. When he had got five or six sticks about
three feet long and as many about a foot, and had cut them so that they
each had one flat side, he took off his buckskin shirt, and working
round the bottom of it cut a thong about an inch wide and five or six
yards long. Then he knelt down and got the bone in the right position,
and then with what help I could give him put on the splints and bandaged
them tightly, a long one and a short one alternately. The long ones he
bandaged above the knee as well as below, so that the whole leg was
stiff. I felt pretty faint by the time it was done, and Leaping Horse
said, 'Want food; my white brother will lie quiet, Leaping Horse will
soon get him some.'

"He set to work and soon had a fire going, and then went up to the rocks
and came down again with the bear's hams and about half his hide. It was
not long before he had some slices cooked, and I can tell you I felt
better by the time we had finished. We had not said much to each other,
but I had been thinking all the time, and when we had done I said, 'Now,
chief, I know that you will be wanting to stay with me, but I ain't
going to have it. You know as well as I do that the Utes will be here
to-morrow at latest, and there ain't more chance of my getting away from
them than there is of my flying. It would be just throwing away your
scalp if you were to stop here, and it would not do me a bit of good,
and would fret me considerable. Now before you start I will get you to
put me somewhere up among those stones where I can make a good fight of
it. You shall light a fire by the side of me, and put a store of wood
within reach and a few pounds of bear's flesh. I will keep them off as
long as I can with the rifle, then there will be five shots with my
Colt. I will keep the last barrel for myself; I ain't going to let the
Utes amuse themselves by torturing me for a few hours before they finish
me. Then you make straight away for the settlements; they won't be so
hot after you when they have once got me. The next time you go near
Denver you can go and tell Pete Hoskings how it all came about.'

"'My white brother is weak with the pain,' the chief said quietly; 'he
is talking foolishly. He knows that Leaping Horse will stay with his
friend. He will go and look for a place.' Without listening to what I
had to say he took up his rifle and went up the valley, which was a
steep one. He was away better than half an hour and then came back.
'Leaping Horse found a place,' he said, 'where he and his brother can
make a good fight. Straight Harry get on his friend's back.' It was
clear that there weren't no use talking to him. He lifted me up on to my
feet, then he got me well up on to his back, as if I had been a sack of
coal, and went off with me, striding along pretty near as quick as if I
had not been there. It might have been half a mile, when he turned up a
narrow ravine that was little more than a cleft in the rock that rose
almost straight up from the valley. It did not go in very far, for there
had been a slide, and it was blocked up by a pile of rocks and earth,
forty or fifty feet high. It was a big job even for the chief to get me
up to the top of them. The snow had drifted down thick into the ravine,
and it was a nasty place to climb even for a man who had got nothing but
his rifle on his shoulder. However, he got me up safely, and laid me
down just over the crest. He had put my buffalo robe over my shoulders
before starting, and he rolled me up in this and said, 'Leaping Horse
will go and fetch rifles and bear-meat,' and he set straight off and
left me there by myself."




CHAPTER IX

A BAD TIME


"Even to me," Harry went on, after refilling and lighting his pipe, "it
did not seem long before the chief was back. He brought a heavy load,
for besides the rifles and bear's flesh he carried on his back a big
faggot of brushwood. After laying that down he searched among the rocks,
and presently set to work to dig out the snow and earth between two big
blocks, and was not long before he scooped out with his tomahawk a hole
big enough for the two of us to lie in comfortably. He laid the
bear's-skin down in this, then he carried me to it and helped me in and
then put the robes over me; and a snugger place you would not want to
lie in.

"It was about ten feet below the level of the crest of the heap of
rocks, and of course on the upper side, so that directly the red-skins
made their appearance he could help me up to the top. That the two of us
could keep the Utes back I did not doubt; we had our rifles, and the
chief carried a revolver as well as I did. After they had once caught a
glimpse of the sort of place we were on, I did not think they would
venture into the ravine, for they would have lost a dozen men before
they got to the mound. I had looked round while the chief was away, and
I saw that a hundred yards or so higher up, the ravine came to an end,
the sides closing in, so there was no fear of our being attacked from
there. What I was afraid of was that the Indians might be able to get up
above and shoot down on us, though whether they could or not depended on
the nature of the ground above, and of course I could not see beyond the
edge of the rocks.

"But even if they could not get up in the daylight, they could crawl up
at night and finish us, or they could camp down at the mouth of the
ravine and starve us out, for there was no chance of our climbing the
sides, even if my leg had been all right. I was mighty sorry for the
chief. He had just thrown his life away, and it must come to the same in
the end, as far as I was concerned. Even now he could get away if he
chose, but I knew well enough it weren't any good talking to him. So I
lay there, just listening for the crack of his rifle above. He would
bring down the first man that came in, sartin, and there would be plenty
of time after that to get me up beside him, for they would be sure to
have a long talk before they made any move. I did not expect them until
late in the afternoon, and hoped it might be getting dark before they
got down into the valley. There had been a big wind sweeping down it
since the snow had fallen, and though it had drifted deep along the
sides, the bottom was for the most part bare. I noticed that the chief
had picked his way carefully, and guessed that, as they would have no
reason for thinking we were near, they might not take up the trail till
morning. Of course they would find our fire and the dead bear, or all
that there was left of him, and they would fancy we had only stopped to
take a meal and had gone on again. They would see by the fire that we
had left pretty early in the day. I heard nothing of the chief until it
began to get dark; then he came down to me.

"'Leaping Horse will go out and scout,' he said. 'If Utes not come soon,
will come back here; if they come, will watch down at mouth of valley
till he sees Utes go to sleep.' 'Well, chief,' I said; 'at any rate you
may as well take this robe; one is enough to sleep with in this hole,
and I shall be as snug as a beaver wrapped up in mine. Half your hunting
shirt is gone, and you will find it mighty cold standing out there.'

"In an hour he came back again. 'Utes come,' he said. 'Have just lighted
fire and going to cook. No come tonight. Leaping Horse has good news for
his brother. There are no stars.'

"That is good news indeed,' I said. 'If it does but come on to snow
to-night we may carry our scalps back to the settlement yet.'

"'Leaping Horse can feel snow in the air,' he said. 'If it snows before
morning, good; if not, the Utes will tell their children how many lives
the scalps of the Englishman and the Seneca cost.'

"The chief lay down beside me. I did not get much sleep, for my leg was
hurting me mightily. From time to time he crawled out, and each time he
returned saying, 'No snow.' I had begun to fear that when it came it
would be too late. It could not have been long before daybreak when he
said, as he crawled in: 'The Great Manitou has sent snow. My brother can
sleep in peace.' An hour later I raised myself up a bit and looked out.
It was light now. The air was full of fine snow, and the earth the chief
had scraped out was already covered thickly. I could see as much as
that, though the chief had, when he came in for the last time, drawn the
faggot in after him. I wondered at the time why he did it, but I saw
now. As soon as the snow had fallen a little more it would hide up
altogether the entrance to our hole. Hour after hour passed, and it
became impossible to get even a peep out, for the snow had fallen so
thickly on the leafy end of the brushwood, which was outward, that it
had entirely shut us in. All day the snow kept on, as we could tell from
the lessening light, and by two o'clock only a faint twilight made its
way in.

"'How long do you think we shall be imprisoned here, chief?' I asked.

"'Must not hurry,' he replied. 'There are trees up the valley, and the
Utes may make their camp there and stay till the storm is over. No use
to go out till my brother can walk. Wait till snow is over; then stay
two or three days to give time for Utes to go away. Got bear's flesh to
eat; warm in here, melt snow.' This was true enough, for I was feeling
it downright hot. Just before night came on the chief pushed the end of
his ramrod through the snow and looked out along the hole.

"'Snow very strong,' he said. 'When it is dark can go out if wish.'

"There is not much to tell about the next five days. The snow kept
falling steadily, and each evening after dark the chief went outside for
a short time to smoke his pipe, while I sat at the entrance and smoked
mine, and was glad enough to get a little fresh air. As soon as he came
in again the faggot was drawn back to its place, and we were imprisoned
for another twenty-four hours. One gets pretty tired after a time of
eating raw bear's flesh and drinking snow-water, and you bet I was
pretty glad when the chief, after looking out through a peephole, said
that the snow had stopped falling and the sun was shining. About the
middle of that day he said suddenly: 'I hear voices.'

"It was some time before I heard anything, but I presently made them
out, though the snow muffled them a good deal. They did not seem far
off, and a minute or two later they ceased. We lay there two days
longer, and then even the chief was of opinion that they would have
moved off. My own idea was that they had started the first afternoon
after the snow had stopped falling.

"'Leaping Horse will go out to scout as soon as it is dark,' he said.
'Go to mouth of ravine. If Utes are in wood he will see their fires and
come back again. Not likely come up here again and find his traces.'

"That is what I had been saying for the last two days, for after some of
them had been up, and had satisfied themselves that there was no one in
the gully, they would not be likely to come through the snow again. When
the chief returned after an hour's absence, he told me that the Utes had
all gone. 'Fire cold,' he said; 'gone many hours. Leaping Horse has
brought some dry wood up from their hearth. Can light fire now.' You may
guess it was not long before we had a fire blazing in front of our den,
and I never knew how good bear-steak really was till that evening.

"The next morning the chief took off the splints and rebandaged my leg,
this time putting on a long strip of the bear's skin, which he had
worked until it was perfectly soft while we had been waiting there. Over
this he put on the splints again, and for the first time since that bear
had knocked me off the rock I felt at ease. We stayed there another
fortnight, by the end of which time the bones seemed to have knit pretty
fairly. However, I had made myself a good strong crutch from a straight
branch with a fork at the end, that the chief had cut for me, and I had
lashed a wad of bear's skin in the fork to make it easy. Then we
started, making short journeys at first, but getting longer every day as
I became accustomed to the crutch, and at the end of a week I was able
to throw it aside.

"We never saw a sign of an Indian trail all the way down to the
settlements, and by the time we got there I was ready to start on a
journey again. The chief found plenty of game on the way down, and I
have never had as much as a twinge in my leg since. So you see this
affair ain't a circumstance in comparison. Since then the chief and I
have always hunted together, and the word brother ain't only a mode of
speaking with us;" and he held out his hand to the Seneca, who gravely
placed his own in it.

"That war a tight corner, Harry, and no blamed mistake. Did you ever
find out whether they could have got on the top to shoot down on you?"

"Yes, the chief went up the day after the Utes had left. It was level up
there, and they could have sat on the edge and fired down upon us, and
wiped us out without our having a show."

"And you have never since been to that place you struck the day the Utes
came down, Harry?" Jerry asked. "I have heard you talk of a place you
knew of, just at the edge of the bad lands, off the Utah hills. Were
that it?"

Harry nodded. "I have never been there since. I went with a party into
Nevada the next spring, and last year the Utes were all the time upon
the war-path. I had meant to go down this fall, but the Utes were too
lively, so I struck up here instead; but I mean to go next spring
whether they are quiet or not, and to take my chances, and find out
whether it is only good on the surface and peters out to nothing when
you get in, or whether it is a real strong lode. Ben and Sam, and of
course the chief, will go with me, and Tom here, now he has come out,
and if you like to come we shall be all glad."

"You may count me in," Jerry said, "and I thank you for the offer. I
have had dog-goned bad luck for some time, and I reckon it is about time
it was over. How are you going to share?"

"We have settled that. The chief and I take two shares each as
discoverers. You four will take one share each."

"That is fair enough, Harry. Those are mining terms, and after your
nearly getting rubbed out in finding it, if you and the chief had each
taken three shares there would have been nothing for us to grunt at.
They are a 'tarnal bad lot are the Utes. I reckon they are bad by
nature, but the Mormons have made them worse. There ain't no doubt it's
they who set them on to attack the caravans. They could see from the
first that if this was going to be the main route west there would be so
many coming along, and a lot perhaps settle there, that the Gentiles, as
they call the rest of us, would get too strong for them. What they have
been most afeard of is, that a lot of gold or silver should be found up
in the hills, and that would soon put a stop to the Mormon business.
They have been wise enough to tell the red-skins that if men came in and
found gold there would be such a lot come that the hunting would be all
spoilt. There is no doubt that in some of the attacks made on the
caravans there have been sham Indians mixed up with the real ones.
Red-skins are bad enough, but they are good men by the side of
scoundrels who are false to their colour, and who use Indians to kill
whites. That is one reason I want to see this railway go on till it
jines that on the other side. It will be bad for game, and I reckon in a
few years the last buffalo will be wiped out, but I will forgive it
that, so that it does but break up the Saints as they call themselves,
though I reckon there is about as little of the saint among them as you
will find if you search all creation."

"Right you are, Jerry," Sam Hicks said. "They pretty nigh wiped me out
once, and if Uncle Sam ever takes to fighting them you may bet that I am
in it, and won't ask for no pay."

"How did it come about, Sam?" Jerry asked. "I dunno as I have ever heard
you tell that story."

"Waal, I had been a good bit farther east, and had been doing some
scouting with the troops, who had been giving a lesson to the red-skins
there, that it was best for them to let up on plundering the caravans
going west. We had done the job, and I jined a caravan coming this way.
It was the usual crowd, eastern farmers going to settle west, miners,
and such like. Among them was two waggons, which kept mostly as far
apart from the others as they could. They was in charge of two fellows
who dressed in store clothes, and had a sanctimonious look about them.
There was an old man and a couple of old women, and two or three boys
and some gals. They did not talk much with the rest, but it got about
that they were not going farther than Salt Lake City, and we had not
much difficulty in reckoning them up as Mormons. There ain't no law
perviding for the shooting of Mormons without some sort of excuse, and
as the people kept to themselves and did not interfere with no one,
nothing much was said agin them. On a v'yage like that across the
plains, folks has themselves to attend to, and plenty to do both on the
march and in camp, so no one troubles about any one else's business.

"I hadn't no call to either, but I happened to go out near their waggons
one evening, and saw two or three bright-looking maids among them, and
it riled me to think that they was going to be handed over to some rich
old elder with perhaps a dozen other wives, and I used to feel as it
would be a satisfaction to pump some lead into them sleek-looking
scoundrels who had them in charge. I did not expect that the gals had
any idea what was in store for them. I know them Mormons when they goes
out to get what they call converts, preaches a lot about the prophet,
and a good deal about the comforts they would have in Utah. So much land
for nothing, and so much help to set them up, and all that kind of
thing, but mighty little about polygamy and the chance of their being
handed over to some man old enough to be their father, and without their
having any say in the matter. Howsoever, I did not see as I could
interfere, and if I wanted to interfere I could not have done it;
because all those women believed what they had been taught, and if I a
stranger, and an ill-looking one at that, was to tell them the contrary,
they wouldn't believe a word what I had said. So we went on till we got
within four or five days' journey of Salt Lake City, then one morning,
just as the teams were being hitched up, two fellows rode into camp.

"As we were in Utah now, there weren't nothing curious about that, but I
reckoned them up as two as hard-looking cusses as I had come across for
a long time. After asking a question or two they rode to the Mormon
waggons, and instead of starting with the rest, the cattle was taken out
and they stopped behind. Waal, I thought I would wait for a bit and see
what they were arter. It weren't no consarn of mine noways, but I knew I
could catch up the waggons if I started in the afternoon, and I
concluded that I would just wait; so I sat by the fire and smoked. When
the caravan had gone on the Mormons hitched up their cattle again. They
were not very far away from where I was sitting, and I could see one of
the men in black pointing to me as he talked with the two chaps who had
just jined them. With that the fellow walked across to where I was
sitting.

"'Going to camp here?' says he.

"'Waal,' I says, 'I dunno, as I haven't made up my mind about it. Maybe
I shall, maybe I sha'n't.'

"'I allow it would be better for you to move on.'

"'And I allow,' says I, 'it would be better for you to attend to your
own affairs.'

"'Look here,' says he, 'I hear as you have been a-spying about them
waggons.'

"'Then,' says I, 'whosoever told you that, is an all-fired liar, and you
tell him so from me.'

"I had got my hand on the butt of my Colt, and the fellow weakened.

"'Waal,' he said, 'I have given you warning, that is all.'

"'All right,' says I, 'I don't care none for your warnings; and I would
rather anyhow be shot down by white skunks dressed up as red-skins, than
I would have a hand in helping to fool a lot of innercent women.'

"He swore pretty bad at this, but I could see as he wasn't real grit,
and he went off to the waggons. There was considerable talk when he got
there, but as the Mormons must have known as I had been a scout, and had
brought a lot of meat into the camp on the way, and as the chap that
came across must have seen my rifle lying handy beside me, I guess they
allowed that I had better be left alone. So a bit later the waggons
started, and as I expected they would, went up a side valley instead of
going on by the caravan route. The fellow had riz my dander, and after
sitting for a bit I made up my mind I would go after 'em. I had no
particular motive, it wur just out of cussedness. I was not going to be
bluffed from going whar I chose. This air a free country, and I had as
much right to go up that valley as they had."

"I should have thought yer had had more common sense, Sam Hicks," Jerry
said reproachfully, "than to go a-mixing yourself up in a business in
which you had no sort of consarn. Ef one of them women had asked you to
help her, or if you had thought she was being taken away agin her will,
you or any other man would have had a right to take a hand in the game;
but as it was, you war just fooling with your life to interfere with
them Mormons in their own country."

"That is so, Jerry, and I ain't a word to say agin it. It war just a
piece of cussedness, and I have asked myself forty-eleven times since,
what on arth made me make such a blame fool of myself. Afore that fellow
came over to bluff me I hadn't no thought of following the waggons, but
arter that I felt somehow as if he dared me to do it. I reckoned I was
more nor a match for the two fellows who just jined them, and as for the
greasy-faced chaps in black, I did not count them in, one way or the
other. I had no thought of getting the gals away, nor of getting into
any muss with them if they left me alone. It was just that I had got a
right to go up that valley or any other, and I was not going to be
bluffed out of it. So I took up my shooting-iron, strapped my blanket
over my shoulder, and started. They war maybe a mile away when I turned
into the valley. I wasn't hungry for a fight, so I didn't keep up the
middle, but just skirted along at the foot of the hill where it did not
seem likely as they would see me. I did not get any closer to them, and
only caught sight of them now and then.

"As far as I could make out there was only one horseman with them, and I
reckoned the other was gone on ahead; looking for a camping-ground
maybe, or going on to one of the Mormon farms to tell them to get things
ready there. What I reckoned on doing, so far as I reckoned at all, was
to scout up to them as soon as it got dark and listen to their talk, and
try to find out for certain whether the women war goin' willing. Then I
thought as I would walk straight up to their fires and just bluff those
four men as they tried to bluff me. Waal, they went on until late in the
afternoon, unhitched the cattle, and camped. I waited for a bit, and now
that I war cooled down and could look at the thing reasonable, I allowed
to myself that I had showed up as a blamed fool, and I had pretty well
made up my mind to take back tracks and go down the valley, when I heard
the sound of some horses coming down fast from the camp.

"Then the thought that I was a 'tarnal fool came to me pretty strong,
you bet. One of those fellows had ridden on and brought down some of the
Regulators, as we used to call them in the mining camps, but I believe
the Mormons call them Destroying Angels, though there is mighty little
of angels about them. I hoped now that they had not caught sight of me
during the day, and that the band were going right down to the waggon
camp; but as I had not taken any particular pains to hide myself, I
reckoned they must have made me out. It war pretty nigh dark, and as I
took cover behind a bush I could scarce see them as they rode along.
They went down about two hundred yards and then stopped, and I could
hear some of them dismount.

"'You are sure we are far enough?' one said.

"'Yes; I can swear he was higher up than this when we saw him just
before we camped.'

"'If you two fellows hadn't been the worst kind of curs,' a man said
angrily, 'you would have hidden up as soon as you made out he was
following you and shot him as he came along.'

"'I told you,' another voice said, 'that the man is an Indian fighter,
and a dead shot. Suppose we had missed him.'

"'You could not have missed him if you had waited till he was close to
you before you fired; then you might have chucked him in among the
bushes and there would have been an end of it, and we should have been
saved a twenty-mile ride. Now then, look sharp for him and search every
bush. Between us and Johnson's party above we are sure to catch him.'

"I didn't see that, though I did wish the rocks behind had not been so
'tarnal steep. I could have made my way up in the daylight, though even
then it would have been a tough job, but without light enough to see the
lay of the ledges and the best places for getting from one to another,
it was a business I didn't care about. I was just thinking of making
across to the other side of the valley when some horsemen came galloping
back.

"'You stop here, brother Ephraim, and keep your ears well open, as well
as your eyes. You stop fifty yards higher up, Hiram, and the others at
the same distance apart. When the men among the rocks come abreast of
you, Ephraim, ride on and take your place at the other end of the line.
You do the same, Hiram, and so all in turn; I will ride up and down.'

"It was clear they meant business, and I was doubting whether I would
take my chance of hiding or make for the cliff, when I saw a light
coming dancing down from the camp, and knew it was a chap on horseback
with a torch. As he came up the man who had spoken before said: 'How
many torches have you got, brother Williams?'

"'A dozen of them.'

"'Give me six, and take the other six down to the men below. That is
right, I will light one from yours.'

"You may guess that settled me. I had got to git at once, so I began to
crawl off towards the foot of the cliffs. By the time I had got there,
there war six torches burning a hundred yards below, and the men who
carried them were searching every bush and prying under every rock.
Along the middle of the valley six other torches were burning fifty
yards apart. There was one advantage, the torches were pitch-pine and
gave a fairish light, but not so much as tarred rope would have done;
but it was enough for me to be able to make out the face of the cliff,
and I saw a break by which I could get up for a good bit anyhow. It was
where a torrent came down when the snows were melting, and as soon as I
had got to the bottom I made straight up. There were rocks piled at its
foot, and I got to the top of these without being seen.

"I hadn't got a dozen feet higher when my foot set a boulder rolling,
and down it went with a crash. There were shouts below, but I did not
stop to listen to what they said, but put up the bed of the torrent at a
two-forty gait. A shot rang out, and another and another, but I was
getting now above the light of their torches. A hundred feet higher I
came to a stand-still, for the rock rose right up in front of me, and
the water had here come down from above in a fall. This made it a tight
place, you bet. There war no ledge as I could see that I could get
along, and I should have to go down a good bit afore I got to one. They
kept on firing from below, but I felt pretty sure that they could not
see me, for I could hear the bullets striking high against the face of
the rock that had stopped me.

"You may bet I was careful how I went down again, and I took my time,
for I could see that the men with the torches had halted at the foot of
the heap of rocks below, not caring much, I expect, to begin to mount,
while the horsemen kept on firing, hoping to hear my body come rolling
down; besides, they must have known that with their torches they made a
pretty sure mark for me. At last I got down to the ledge. It war a
narrow one, and for a few yards I had to walk with my face to the rock
and my arms spread out, and that, when I knew that at any moment they
might make me out, and their bullets come singing up, warn't by no means
pleasant. In a few yards the ledge got wider and there was room enough
on it for me to lie down. I crawled along for a good bit, and then sat
down with my back against the rock and reckoned the matter up. All the
torches war gathered round where I had gone up. Four more men had come
down from the camp on horseback, and five or six on foot with torches
were running down the valley. They had been searching for me among the
bushes higher up, and when they heard the firing had started down to
jine the others. The leader was shouting to the men to climb up after
me, but the men didn't seem to see it.

"'What's the use?' I heard one fellow say; 'he must be chock-full of
bullets long ago. We will go up and find his carcass in the morning.'

"'But suppose he is not dead, you fool.'

"'Well, if he ain't dead he would just pick us off one after another as
we went up with torches.'

"'Well, put your torches out, then. Here, I will go first if you are
afraid,' and he jumped from his horse.

"You can bet your boots that my fingers itched to put a bullet into him.
But it warn't to be done; I did not know how far the ledge went or
whether there might be any way of getting off it, and now I had once got
out of their sight it would have been chucking away my life to let them
know whar I lay. So I got up again and walked on a bit farther. I came
on a place where the rock had crumbled enough for me to be able to get
up on to the next ledge, and after a lot of climbing up and down I got
to the top in about two hours, and then struck across the hills and came
down at eight o'clock next morning on to the caravan track. I hid up
till evening in case they should come down after me, and next morning I
came up to the caravan just as they were hitching the teams up for a
start."

"You got out of that better than you deserved," Harry said. "I wouldn't
have believed that any man would have played such a fool's trick as to
go meddling with the Mormons in their own country without any kind of
reason. It war worse than childishness."

The other two miners assented vigorously, and Sam said: "Waal, you can't
think more meanly of me over that business than I do of myself. I have
never been able to make out why I did it, and you may bet it ain't often
I tells the story. It war a dog-goned piece of foolishness, and, as
Harry says, I didn't desarve to get out of it as I did. Still, it ain't
made me feel any kind of love for Mormons. When about two hundred shots
have been fired at a man it makes him feel kinder like as if he war
going to pay some of them back when he gets the chance, and you may bet
I mean to."

"Jee-rusalem!"

The exclamation was elicited by the fall of a heavy mass of snow on to
the fire, over which the kettle had just begun to boil. The tripod from
which it hung was knocked over. A cloud of steam filled the place, and
the party all sprung to their feet to avoid being scalded.

"It might have waited a few minutes longer," Jerry grumbled, "then we
should have had our tea comfortable. Now the fire is out and the water
is spilt, and we have got to fetch in some more snow; that is the last
lot there was melted."

"It is all in the day's work, Jerry," Harry said cheerfully, "and it is
just as well we should have something to do. I will fetch the snow in if
the rest of you will clear the hearth again. It is a nuisance about the
snow, but we agreed that there is no help for it, and we may thank our
stars it is no worse."

It was not long before the fire was blazing again, but it took some time
before water was boiling and tea made, still longer before the bread
which had been soddened by the water from the kettle was fit to eat. By
this time it was dark. When the meal was over they all turned in for the
night. Tom was just going off to sleep, when he was roused by Leaping
Dog suddenly throwing off his buffalo robe and springing to his feet
with his rifle in his hand.

"Hist!" he said in a low tone. "Something comes!"

The men all seized their rifles and listened intently. Presently they
heard a soft step on the snow outside, then there was a snuffing sound.

"B'ar!" the Indian said.

A moment later a great head reared itself over the bushes at the
entrance. Five rifles rang out, the two Indians reserving their fire;
the report was followed by the dull sound of a heavy fall outside.

"Wait a moment," Harry said sharply, as the others were preparing to
rush out, "let us make sure he is dead."

"He is dead enough," Jerry said. "I reckon even a grizzly cannot walk
off with five bullets in his head."

Harry looked over the screen. "Yes, he is dead enough; anyhow he looks
so. Waal, this is a piece of luck." They all stepped out on to the
platform.

"Is it a grizzly, uncle?" Tom asked excitedly.

"He is a grizzly, sure enough. You don't want to see his colour to know
that. Look at his size."

"Why, he is as big as a cow."

"Ay, lad, and a big cow too. You go in and make up the fire while we cut
off enough meat for supper."

The fact that they had eaten a meal but half an hour before, went for
nothing; slices of bear-meat were soon frizzling, and as hearty a meal
was eaten as if no food had been tasted since the previous day. The men
were in the highest spirits; the fact that they were out of meat had
been the greatest drawback to the prospect of being shut up for perhaps
a week, for badly-baked bread is but a poor diet to men accustomed to
live almost exclusively upon meat.

"What brought the bear down here?" Tom asked.

"Curiosity at first perhaps, and then hunger," his uncle replied. "I
expect he was going along on the path above when he saw the light among
the leaves, and then no doubt he smelt the bread, and perhaps us and the
horses, and came down to see what he could get.

"Curiosity is a bad fault, Tom. You have had two lessons in that this
evening. Bear in mind that in this part of the world the safest plan is
always to attend strictly to your own business."

All thought of sleep was for the present dissipated; their pipes were
again lighted, and it was midnight before they lay down. In the morning
the bear was with some difficulty skinned and cut up, the joints being
left outside to freeze through. The snow still fell steadily, but the
wind had almost died down. Sallying out they cut five or six long poles,
and with some difficulty fixed these from above across from the cliff to
the outstanding rock, pushed the bear's-skin across them, and lashed it
there, its bulk being sufficient to cover the space above the fire and a
considerable portion of their dwelling room.

After breakfast snow was again melted for the horses, and the work for
the day thus done they seated themselves contentedly round the fire.




CHAPTER X

AN AVALANCHE


"You don't think, chief," Harry asked, "that there is any chance of the
'Rappahoes taking it into their heads to come up to have a look round?"

"Indians keep in lodges, no like cold; they think we have gone on over
pass. If weather gets fine perhaps they come to look for our guns and
packs. They think sure we die in snow-storm when we up in pass. When
snow stops falling, we make no more fire; but path from valley all shut
up by snow now."

"Yes, I don't think anyone would try to climb it till the sun has
cleared the track; it was a pretty bad place when we came up," Harry
said. "I don't say that men on foot could not make their way up; but as
you say, the red-skins are not likely to try it until the weather has
cleared a bit, though I don't say that they wouldn't if they knew we
were camped here close to the top."

"What noise is that?" Tom asked. "I have heard it several times before,
but not so loud as that."

"Snow-slide," Leaping Horse said. "Snow come down from mountains; break
off trees, roll rocks down. Bad place all along here."

"Yes. I saw that you looked up at the hills behind there before you
looked over the edge here, chief," Ben Gulston said, "and I reckoned
that you had snow-slides in your mind. I thought myself that it was like
enough the snow might come tumbling over the edge of that high wall and
then come scooting down over where we war, and there would have been no
sort of show for us if we had been camped whar the trail goes along."

"Leaping Horse has heard from his red brothers with whom he has spoken
that trail from top of valley very bad when snow falls. Many Indians
stopping too long at fort, to trade goods, have been swept away by
snow-slides when caught in storm here."

"I thought it looked a bad place," Harry remarked. "There ain't no
fooling with a snow-slide anyway. I have come across bones once or twice
lying scattered about in snug-looking valleys--bones of horses and men,
and it was easy to see they had been killed by a snow-slide coming down
on them. Rocks were heaped about among them, some of the bones were
smashed. They had been hunting or trapping, and sheltered up in a valley
when the storm came on and the slide had fallen on them, and there they
had laid till the sun melted the snow in summer, when the coyotes and
the vultures would soon clean the bones." He broke off suddenly; there
was a dull sound, and at the same moment a distinct vibration of the
ground, then a rustling murmur mingled with a rumbling as of a waggon
passing over a rocky ground.

"There is another one," Jerry exclaimed, "and it is somewhere just above
us. Keep your backs to the wall, boys."

[Illustration: "There Is Another Avalanche, Keep Your Backs To The Wall,
Boys"]

Louder and louder grew the sound; the tremor of the earth increased, the
horses neighed with fright, the men stood with their backs against the
rock next to the hill. Suddenly the light was darkened as a vast mass of
snow mingled with rocks of all sizes leapt like a torrent over the edge
of the cliff, the impetus carrying it over the outer wall of their
shelter and down into the ravine. There was a mighty sound of the
crashing of trees, mingled with a thumping and rolling of the rocks as
they clashed against the side of the ravine and went leaping down into
the valley. The ground shook with a continuous tremor, and then the
light returned as suddenly as it had been cut off, and a few seconds
later a dead stillness succeeded the deafening roar from below. The
passage of the avalanche overhead had lasted but a minute, though to the
men standing below it the time had seemed vastly longer. Instinctively
they had pressed themselves against the rock, almost holding their
breath, and expecting momentarily that one of the boulders in its
passage would strike the top of the outside wall and fall in fragments
among them. The silence that followed was unbroken for some seconds, and
then Sam Hicks stepped a pace forward.

"Jee-rusalem!" he said, "that was a close call. I don't know how you
felt, boys, but it seemed as if all the sand had gone out of me, and I
weakened so that my knees have not done shaking yet."

The men, accustomed as they were to danger, were all equally affected.
Tom felt relieved to see that the others all looked pale and shaken, for
he was conscious that he had been in a terrible fright, and that his
legs would scarcely support his weight.

"I am glad to hear you say so, Sam, for I was in an awful funk; but I
should not have said so if you hadn't spoken."

"You needn't be ashamed of that, Tom," his uncle put in. "You showed
plenty of pluck when we were in trouble with the red-skins, but I am
sure there was not one of us that did not weaken when that snow-slide
shot over us; and none of us need be ashamed to say so. A man with good
grit will brace up, keep his head cool and his fingers steady on the
trigger to the last, though he knows that he has come to the end of his
journey and has got to go down; but it is when there is nothing to do,
no fight to be made, when you are as helpless as a child and have no
sort of show, that the grit runs out of your boots. I have fought
red-skins and Mexicans a score of times; I have been in a dozen shooting
scrapes in saloons at the diggings; but I don't know that I ever felt so
scared as I did just now. Ben, there is a jar of whisky in our outfit;
we agreed we would not touch it unless one of us got hurt or ill, but I
think a drop of medicine all round now wouldn't be out of place."

There was a general assent. "But before we take it," he went on, "we
will take off our hats and say 'Thank God' for having taken us safe
through this thing. If He had put this shelter here for us express, He
could not have planted it better for us, and the least we can do is to
thank Him for having pulled us through it safe."

The men all took off their hats, and stood silent for a minute or two
with bent heads. When they had replaced their hats Ben Gulston went to
the corner where the pack-saddles and packs were piled, took out a small
keg, and poured out some whisky for each of the white men. The others
drank it straight; Tom mixed some water with his, and felt a good deal
better after drinking it. Ben did not offer it to the Indians, neither
of whom would touch spirits on any occasion.

"It is a good friend and a bad enemy," Harry said as he tossed off his
portion. "As a rule there ain't no doubt that one is better without it;
but there is no better medicine to carry about with you. I have seen
many a life saved by a bottle of whisky. Taken after the bite of a
rattlesnake, it is as good a thing as there is. In case of fever, and
when a man is just tired out after a twenty-four hours' tramp, a drop of
it will put new life into him for a bit. But I don't say as it hasn't
killed a sight more than it has cured. It is at the bottom of pretty
nigh every shooting scrape in the camps, and has been the ruin of
hundreds of good men who would have done well if they could but have
kept from it."

"But you ain't a temperance man yourself, Harry?"

"No, Sam; but then, thank God, I am master of the liquor, and not the
liquor of me. I can take a glass, or perhaps two, without wanting more.
Though I have made a fool of myself in many ways since I have come out
here, no man can say he ever saw me drunk; if liquor were to get the
better of me once, I would swear off for the rest of my life. Don't you
ever take to it, Tom; that is, not to get so as to like to go on
drinking it. In our life we often have to go for months without it, and
a man has got to be very careful when he goes down to the settlements,
else it would be sure to get over him."

"I don't care for it at all, uncle."

"See you don't get to care for it, Tom. There are plenty start as you
do, and before they have been out here long they do get to like it, and
from that day they are never any good. It is a big temptation. A man has
been hunting or trapping, or fossicking for gold in the hills for
months, and he comes down to a fort or town and he meets a lot of mates.
One says 'Have a drink?' and another asks you, and it is mighty hard to
be always saying 'no'; and there ain't much to do in these places but to
drink or to gamble. A man here ain't so much to be blamed as folks who
live in comfortable houses, and have got wives and families and decent
places of amusement, and books and all that sort of thing, if they take
to drink or gambling. I have not any right to preach, for if I don't
drink I do gamble; that is, I have done; though I swore off that when I
got the letter telling me that your father had gone. Then I thought what
a fool I had made of myself for years. Why, if I had kept all the gold I
had dug I could go home now and live comfortably for the rest of my
life, and have a home for my nieces, as I ought to have. However, I have
done with it now. And I am mighty glad it was the cards and not drink
that took my dust, for it is a great deal easier to give up cards than
it is to give up liquor when you have once taken to it. Now let us talk
of something else; I vote we take a turn up on to the trail, and see
what the snow-slide has done."

Throwing the buffalo robes round their shoulders the party went outside.
The air was too thick with snow to enable them to perceive from the
platform the destruction it had wrought in the valley below, but upon
ascending the path to the level above, the track of the avalanche was
plainly marked indeed. For the width of a hundred yards, the white
mantle of snow, that covered the slope up to the point where the wall of
cliff rose abruptly, had been cleared away as if with a mighty broom.
Every rock and boulder lying upon it had been swept off, and the surface
of the bare rock lay flat, and unbroken by even a tuft of grass. They
walked along the edge until they looked down upon their shelter. The
bear's hide was still in its place, sloping like a pent-house roof, from
its upper side two or three inches below the edge of the rock, to the
other wall three feet lower. It was, however, stripped of its hair, as
cleanly as if it had been shorn off with a razor, by the friction of the
snow that had shot down along it.

"That is the blamedest odd thing I ever saw," Sam Hicks said. "I wonder
the weight of the snow didn't break it in."

"I expect it just shot over it, Sam," Harry said. "It must have been
travelling so mighty fast that the whole mass jumped across, only just
rubbing the skin. Of course the boulders and stones must have gone clean
over. That shows what a narrow escape we have had; for if that outer
rock had been a foot or so higher, the skin would have caved in, and our
place would have been filled chock up with snow in a moment. Waal, we
may as well turn in again, for I feel cold to the bones already."

On the evening of the fifth day the snow ceased falling, and next
morning the sky was clear and bright. Preparations were at once made for
a start. A batch of bread had been baked on the previous evening. Some
buckets of hot gruel were given to the horses, a meal was hastily eaten,
the horses saddled and the packs arranged, and before the sun had been
up half an hour they were on their way. The usual stillness of the
mountains was broken by a variety of sounds. From the valley at their
feet came up sharp reports, as a limb of a tree, or sometimes the tree
itself, broke beneath the weight of the snow. A dull rumbling sound,
echoing from hill to hill, told of the falls of avalanches. Scarcely had
the echoes of one ceased, than they began again in a fresh quarter. The
journey was toilsome in the extreme, for the horses' hoofs sank deep in
the freshly-fallen snow, rendering their progress exceedingly slow.

"If we had been sure that this weather would hold, chief, it would have
been better to have waited a few days before making our start, for by
that time the snow would have been hard enough to travel on."

The chief shook his head. "Winter coming for good," he said, waving his
hand towards the range of snowy summits to the north. "Clouds there
still; if stop, not able to cross pass till next summer."

"That is so; we agreed as to that yesterday, and that if we don't get
over now the chances are we shall never get over at all. Yet, it is a
pity we can't wait a few days for a crust to form on the snow."

Twice in the course of the next hour avalanches came down from the hills
above them; the first sweeping down into the valley a quarter of a mile
behind them, the next but two or three hundred yards ahead of them.
Scarcely a word was spoken from end to end of the line. They travelled
in Indian file, and each horse stepped in the footprints of its
predecessor. Every few hundred yards they changed places, for the labour
of the first horse was very much heavier than of those following. At the
end of an hour the men drew together for a consultation. There was a
wide break in the line of cliffs, and a valley ran nearly due south.

"What do you think, chief? This confounded snow has covered up all signs
of the trail, and we have got to find our own way. There is no doubt
this valley below is running a deal too much to the west, and that the
trail must strike off somewhere south. It looks to me as if that were a
likely valley through the cliff. There is no hiding the fact that if we
take the wrong turn we are all gone coons."

"Leaping Horse knows no more than his brother," the chief said gravely.
"He knows the pass is on the western side of the great peak. The great
peak lies there," and he pointed a little to the west of the break in
the hills up which they were looking.

"It may be that we must cross the hills into another valley, or perhaps
this will turn west presently."

"I tell you what, Harry," Sam Hicks said, "my opinion is, that our best
plan by a long chalk will be to go back to our last place and to stop
there for a bit. We have got b'ar's flesh enough for another fortnight,
and we may kill some more game afore that is done. Ef this is but a
spell of snow it may melt enough in another ten days for us to make out
the trail and follow it. Ef, as the chief thinks, we have got winter
right down on us, we must wait till the snow crust hardens ef it is a
month or double. Anything is better than going on like this. What with
this soft snow and these 'tarnal snow-slides, there ain't no more chance
of our getting over that pass in one day's journey, than there air in
our flying right down to Salt Lake City. Ef the worst comes to the
worst, I tell yer I would rather go back and take our chance of
following the Big Wind River down, and fighting the red-skins, than I
would of crossing over these dog-goned hills."

The other three men were of the same opinion.

"Well, what do you say, chief?" Harry asked the Indian.

"Leaping Horse thinks that the trail will not be found until next
summer," the chief replied quietly. "Heap of hills in front and heap of
snow. If snow-storm catch us in the hills no find way anywhere. Leaping
Horse is ready to do whatever his white brother thinks."

"Well, I am with the others," Harry said. "I don't like the look of
those clouds. They are quiet enough now, but they may begin to shift any
time, and, as you say, if we are caught in a snow-storm on the hills
there is an end of us. I think Sam is right. Even if we have to rustle
all through the winter in that hut there, I would rather face it than
keep on."

That settled it. The horses' heads were turned, and they retraced their
steps until they reached the shelter. The bear's-skin had been left
where it was, the fire was soon set going, and there was a general
feeling of satisfaction as they laid out the robes and blankets again.

"Look here, boys," Harry said, "this is not going to be a holiday time,
you bet. We have got to make this place a sight snugger than it is now,
for, I tell you, when the winter sets in in earnest, it will be cold
enough here to freeze a buffalo solid in an hour. We have got to set to
work to make a roof all over this place, and we have got to hunt to lay
in a big stock of meat. We have got to get a big store of food for the
horses, for we must be mighty careful with our flour now. We can wait a
fortnight to see how things go, but if it is clear then that we have got
to fight it out here through the winter, we must shoot the pack-ponies
at once, and I reckon the others will all have to go later. However, we
will give them a chance as long as we can."

"Take them down into the valley," the chief said. "All Indian horses."

"Ah, I didn't think of that, chief. Yes, they are accustomed to rustle
for their living, and they may make a shift to hold on down there. I
don't think there is much fear of Indians coming up."

"No Indians," Leaping Horse said. "Indians go away when winter set in.
Some go to forest, some go to lodges right down valley. No stop up here
in mountains. When winter comes plenty game--big-horn, wapiti."

"Ah, that is a more cheerful look-out, chief. If we can get plenty of
meat we can manage without flour, and can go down and give the ponies a
pail of hot gruel once a week, which will help them to keep life
together. The first thing, I take it, is to cut some poles for the roof.
I am afraid we shall have to go down to the bottom for them."

"Waal, we needn't begin that till to-morrow," Sam Hicks said. "If we had
them, we have got no skins to cover them."

"Cut brushwood," Indian said. "First put plenty of brushwood on poles,
then put skins over."

"Yes, that is the plan, chief. Well, if we get down there we shall have
to take our shovels and clear the snow off some of the narrow ledges. If
we do that we can lead one of the horses down to pack the poles up
here."

The chief went out on to the platform. "No use clear snow now. Clouds
moving. In two hours snow fall again."

The others joined him outside. "I reckon you are right, chief," Jerry
said. "It is mighty lucky we didn't go on. It can't be much worse here
than it was before."

At three in the afternoon it began to snow heavily again. There was less
wind than there had been on the previous occasion, and the snow drifted
through the entrance less than before. Just as they were turning in for
the night an ominous crack was heard above. All leapt from their
blankets, and looking up they could see by the light of the fire that
the poles supporting the skin were all bent in a curve downwards.

"Jee-rusalem!" Sam Hicks exclaimed, "the whole outfit will be coming
down on us."

"That it will, Sam. You see, there is no wind as there was before, and
one of our jobs will be keeping the roof clear of snow. Turn out, boys;
we must get rid of it somehow."

They at once set to work to lash two poles, some eight feet long, to the
handles of the shovels, and as soon as this was done they all turned
out. On reaching the edge of the ravine above the roof, they first
cleared away the snow down to the rock so as to have firm standing, and
then proceeded to shovel the snow off the surface of the skin. It was
easier work than they expected, for as soon as it was touched it slid
down the incline, and in a very few minutes the whole was cleared off.

"I think that is good until morning now," Harry said. "As long as the
snow lasts we shall have to do it every few hours. Directly we get a
spell of fine weather we must put some more poles under it to strengthen
it."

For six days the snow continued to fall without intermission. At
daybreak, at mid-day, and the last thing before they turned in at night
the snow was cleared off the hide. With this exception they did not stir
out of the shelter. They had also each day to clear out the inner
portion of the fissure, as the snow now frequently broke through the
trees in masses, startling the horses, and keeping them in a state of
restlessness. The sixth day it stopped snowing, and the next morning the
sky was bright and clear. The whole party at once started out, two of
them taking shovels, and the rest brooms that they had made during the
long hours of their confinement. By the middle of the day they had
cleared the path down into the valley, and on their way back to dinner
each carried up a large bundle of faggots.

The meal was cooked and eaten hastily, and the whole of the horses were
then led down into the valley. Here a couple of dozen stout poles for
the roof were cut by the whites, the two Indians at once going up the
valley in search of game. In half an hour two rifle-shots were heard,
and presently Hunting Dog ran in with the news that they had killed two
wapiti. Jerry and Sam Hicks at once went off with him, leading two
horses, and presently returned with the dead deer fastened across their
backs.

"They are very like pictures I have seen of moose," Tom said to his
uncle as he examined the great stags.

"New-comers often call them moose, Tom; but there is a difference
between them, though what the difference is I cannot tell you, for I
have never hunted moose. I believe the wapiti are peculiar to the West.
They often go in great herds of three or four hundreds together."

"The chief says there are a great many of them up the valley," Jerry put
in. "They made off when he fired, but I could see their foot-tracks
myself all about. He says they have been driven down here by the storm
for shelter. He has gone round with the lad to head them back."

"That is good news, Jerry. The meat we have got already will last some
time, but it is as well to lay in a good stock, and we want the skins
badly to make our roof. You had better lead these horses to the foot of
the path, and then we will all take our post behind trees across the
valley."

An hour later they heard the reports of two rifles a long way up the
valley, and all stood in readiness. A few minutes later there was a dull
trampling sound, and almost directly afterwards a herd of wapiti came
along at a heavy trot, ploughing their way but slowly through the snow.

"Don't use your revolvers, boys," Harry had said, "except to finish off
a stag you have wounded with your rifle. The chance is all against your
bringing them down, and the poor brutes would only get away to die."

One after another the rifles rang out. Tom and his uncle both had the
satisfaction of seeing the stags they had aimed at, plunge forward
before they had gone many yards farther, and roll over dead. The other
three had each hit the animal they aimed at, but as these kept on their
course they dashed out in pursuit, firing their Colts, which in their
hands were as deadly weapons as a rifle, and the three stags all fell,
although one got nearly half a mile down the valley before he succumbed.
A carcass was hoisted on to each of the horses' backs, and the loaded
animals were then led up the track.

"Shall I wait until the Indians come back, uncle, and tell them why you
have gone up?"

"There is no occasion for that, Tom; they would hear the shots, and will
have guessed what has happened."

The poles were divided among the men and carried up to the top of the
path, and laid down just above the shelter. Harry and Sam Hicks at once
proceeded to cut them up into proper lengths, while the others skinned
and cut up the deer. A number of thongs were cut from one of the hides
for lashing cross-poles across those that were to act as ridge-poles.
The bear's-skin was removed and additional poles placed at that spot,
and all working together the framework of the roof was completed by
nightfall. The Indians had returned soon after the party began their
work, and taking their horses down fetched up the deer they had killed.

In the morning the roof was completed, hides being stretched over the
framework and securely lashed to it with thongs. The whole of the trees
and brushwood were then chopped down close to the ground so as to leave
a level floor. The foliage was given to the horses, and the wood cut up
and piled for fuel. The chief reported that at the upper end of the
valley there was a thick pine-wood, which would give good shelter to the
horses. Near it were plenty of bushes, and a level tract which had been
a beaver meadow, and was thickly covered with grass, as he could see
where the wapiti had scratched away the snow to get at it. This was
excellent news, for the question of how the horses could be fed through
the winter had troubled them much more than that of their own
maintenance. The joints of venison were hung up on a pole outside what
they now called their hut, one or two hams being suspended from the
rafters over the fire, to be smoked.

"We shall have to rig up a b'ar-trap outside," Ben said, "or we shall be
having them here after the meat; and a b'ar's ham now and then will make
a change. Wapiti flesh ain't bad, but we should get dog-goned tired of
it arter a bit."

"You may bet we shall, Ben," Jerry agreed; "but I reckon that we shall
be able to get a lot of game through the winter. That valley down there
is just the place for them to shelter in, and I hope we shall get a
big-horn now and then. It will be a difficult thing to make a b'ar-trap
outside. A grizzly wants a pretty strong pen to keep him in, and though
the horses might drag up some big beams from below, there ain't no
fastening them in this rock."

"No; I don't think we can make that sort of trap," Harry said. "We must
contrive something else. We need not do all our work at once; we have
got plenty of time before us. We want three or four more skins to finish
our hut."

"You mean to fill up the entrance?"

"Yes; we will sew them together, and make a curtain to hang from the
edge of the roof to the ground. I tell you it is going to be mighty cold
here, and besides, it will keep the snow from drifting in."

"I wish to goodness we could make a chimney," Tom said. "The smoke went
up through the leaves all right, but my eyes are watering now, and if
you fill up the end with skins it will be something awful."

"You will get accustomed to it, Tom; but, of course, we must make a hole
at the top when we fill up the entrance. What do you think is the next
thing to be done, chief?"

"Get wood," the chief said emphatically. "Must fill all the end of hut
with wood."

"That will be a big job, chief, but there is no doubt we must lay in a
great store of it. Well, there is plenty of timber down in the valley,
and with ten horses we can bring up a tidy lot every day."

"Let us cut quick before snow comes again."

"We will begin to-morrow morning, chief. I agree with you, the sooner
the better."

Accordingly the next morning they went down to the valley. They had but
two axes, and Jerry and Sam Hicks, who had both done a good deal of
wood-cutting, undertook this portion of the work. The others took the
horses up to the beaver meadow, where they at once began scraping at the
snow, and were soon munching away at the rich grass.

"Why do you call it a beaver meadow, uncle? I don't see any beavers."

"They have gone long ago, perhaps a hundred years. As we know, this
valley is occupied by the Indians in summer, and they would soon clear
out the beavers. But it is called a beaver meadow because it was made by
them. They set to work and dammed up the stream, and gradually all this
flat became a lake. Well, in time, you know, leaves from the woods
above, and soil and dead wood and other things brought down by the
stream, gradually filled up the bottom. Then the beavers were killed,
and their dams went to ruin and the water drained off, and in a short
time grass began to grow. There are hundreds, ay, and thousands of
beaver meadows among the hills, and on the little streams that run into
the big rivers, and nowhere is the grass so rich. You will often see an
Indian village by one of these meadows. They grow their roots and plant
their corn there. The horses will do first-rate here through the winter
if the snow don't get too deep for them, and, anyhow, we can help them
out with a bucket of gruel occasionally."

"It will be awfully cold for them, though."

"It will be coldish, no doubt, but Indian ponies are accustomed to it."

"I should think, uncle, it would not take much trouble to make them a
sort of shed up among the trees there."

Sam laughed, and even the chief smiled.

"It would not be a bad plan, Tom," his uncle said; "not so much for the
sake of the warmth, though there is no doubt that the warmer they are
the less they can do with to eat, but if they have a place to go to they
are less likely to wander away, and we shall not have the trouble of
hunting for them. Well, we will think it over."

Following the valley up, they found that it extended some ten miles
farther, for the last two of which it was but a narrow canon a few yards
wide. They shot a black bear and four small deer, and returned carrying
the skins, the hind-quarters of the deer, and the bear's hams.

"We seem to have got meat enough for anything," Tom remonstrated when
they shot the deer.

"Seven men will get through a lot of meat, Tom, when they have nothing
else to go with it; and we may be weeks before we can put our heads out
of our hut. Besides, the skins will be useful. We shall want deer-skin
shirts, trousers, and socks and caps; and the skin of these deer is
softer and more pliable than that of the wapiti. I don't want to kill
more than I can help, lad, for I hate taking life without there is a
necessity for it, but we can do with a lot more skins before we are
stocked."

When, driving the horses before them, they returned to the woodcutters,
they found they had cut down and chopped into logs a number of trees;
and Tom was quite astonished at the great pile of firewood that had been
got ready by them in the course of a day's work. The logs were made up
into bundles, each weighing about eighty pounds. These were tied
together with the horses' lariats, and then secured, one on each side of
the saddle, two of the horses carrying the meat. Harry took the bridle
of his horse and started up the path, the others following at once.

"That is a good day's work," Harry said as the logs were piled at the
inner end of the hut. "That is about half a ton of wood. If we have but
a week of open weather we shall have a good store in our cellar."

The work continued steadily for a week. The horses were each day taken
to feed at the meadow, the two wood-choppers continued their work, while
the rest of the party hunted. The Indians had on the second day gone
down the valley, and returned with the report that the Indian lodges had
all disappeared and that the valley was entirely deserted. Eight more
wapiti were killed during the week, and fourteen smaller deer. Of an
evening they occupied themselves in sewing the skins together with
thongs of leather, the holes being made with their knives; and a curtain
at the mouth of the hut was completed and hung. Four wide slabs of wood
had been cut. These had been bound together with thongs so as to form a
sort of chimney four feet high, and with a good deal of difficulty this
was secured by props in its position over a hole cut through the skins,
above the fire.

"The first avalanche will carry it away, Tom."

"Yes, uncle; but we have had one avalanche here, and it seems to me the
chances are strongly against our having another in exactly the same
place."

The skins of the smaller deer were carefully scraped with knives on the
inner side, smeared with bears' fat, and then rubbed and kneaded until
they were perfectly soft.




CHAPTER XI

WINTER


The erection of Tom's shed for the horses did not take long. The whole
party, with the exception of the two Indians,--who, as usual, went
hunting,--proceeded to the pine-wood above the beaver meadow. After a
little search six trees were found conveniently situated with regard to
each other. The axemen cut down three young firs. One was lashed by the
others between the two central trees, to form a ridge-pole eight feet
from the ground; the others against the other trees, at a height of
three feet, to support the lower ends of the roof. They were but ten
feet apart, so that the roof might have a considerable pitch. Numbers of
other young trees were felled and fixed, six inches apart, from the
ridge down to the eaves. On these the branches of the young fir-trees
were thickly laid, and light poles were lashed lengthways over them to
keep them in their places.

As the poles of the roof had been cut long enough to extend down to the
ground, no side walls were necessary. The ends were formed of poles
lashed across to the side trees, but extending down only to within four
feet six of the ground, so as to allow the horses to pass under, and
were, like the roof, thickly covered with boughs. The lower ends were
left open for a width of four feet in the middle, uprights being driven
into the ground and the sides completed as before.

"What do you want a doorway at both ends for?" Tom asked. "It would have
been easier and quicker to have shut one end up altogether, and it would
be a good deal warmer."

"So it would, Tom; but if a grizzly were to appear at the door, what
would the horses do? They would be caught in a trap."

"Do you think they are likely to come, uncle?"

"The likeliest thing in the world, Tom. Horses can smell bear a good
distance off, and if they heard one either coming down or going up the
valley, they would bolt through the opposite door. They will do
first-rate here; they will stand pretty close together, and the warmth
of their bodies will heat the place up. They won't know themselves, they
will be so comfortable. It has only taken us a day's work to make the
shed; and though we laughed at your idea at first, I think now that the
day has been well spent in getting them up such a good shelter. Jerry
has got the big pail boiling over his fire, and we will put in a few
handfuls of the flour we brought down. Bring the horses in from the
meadow, and we will give them each a drink of gruel in the shed. They
will soon learn that it is to be their home."

For two more days the open weather continued, and the horses took up
three loads of wood each afternoon, as they had done the previous week.
Then, as there were signs of change, they were given a good feed at
their shed; the saddles were taken off and hung up on some cross-poles
over their heads.

The party had scarcely returned to the hut when the snow began to fall.
They were, however, weather-proof, and felt the immense additional
comfort of the changes they had made. Their stock of firewood was now a
very large one. At each journey the horses had brought up about fifteen
hundredweight; and as the work had gone on for nine days, they had, they
calculated, something like fourteen tons of firewood neatly stacked.
They had also a stock of poles in case the roof should require
strengthening. A certain amount of light found its way in at the edges
of the curtain across the entrance, but they depended principally upon
the fire-light. The smoke, however, was a serious grievance, and even
the men were forced occasionally to go outside into the open air to
allay the smarting of their eyes.

"Don't you think, uncle, we might do something to dry the wood?"

"I can't see that we can do more than we are doing, Tom. We always keep
a dozen logs lying round the fire to dry a bit before they are put on."

"I should think we might make a sort of stage about four feet above the
fire and keep some logs up there. We might pile them so that the hot air
and smoke could go up through them. They would dry a great deal faster
there than merely lying down on the ground."

"I think the idea is a very good one, Tom; but we shall have to make the
frame pretty strong, for if it happened to come down it might break some
of our legs."

The men all agreed that the idea was a capital one, and after some
consultation they set to to carry it out. Two strong poles were first
chosen. These were cut carefully to the right length, and were jambed
between the rocks at a height of seven feet above the floor and five
feet apart. They were driven in and wedged so tightly that they could
each bear the weight of two men swinging upon them without moving. Then
four upright poles were lashed to them, five feet apart, and these were
connected with cross-poles.

"That is strong enough for anything," Jerry said when the structure had
been so far completed. "If a horse were to run against one of the poles
he would hardly bring the thing down."

Four other short poles were now lashed to the uprights three feet below
the upper framework, and were crossed by others so as to form a
gridiron. On this, the logs were laid in tiers crossing each other,
sufficient space being left between them to allow for the passage of the
hot air.

"That is a splendid contrivance," Harry said when they took their seats
on the buffalo robes round the fire and looked up admiringly at their
work. "The logs will get as dry as chips, and in future we sha'n't be
bothered with the smoke. Besides, it will do to stand the pail and pots
full of snow there, and keep a supply of water, without putting them
down into the fire and running the risk of an upset."

They had occupation now in manufacturing a suit of clothes a-piece from
the deer-skins. As the work required to be neater than that which
sufficed for the making of the curtain, pointed sticks hardened in the
fire were used for making the holes, and the thongs that served as
thread were cut as finely as possible; this being done by the Indians,
who turned them out no thicker than pack-thread.

There was no occasion for hurry, and there was much laughing and joking
over the work. Their hunting-shirts and breeches served as patterns from
which to cut out the skins; and as each strove to outvie the others, the
garments when completed were very fair specimens of work. The
hunting-shirts were made with hoods that, when pulled over the head,
covered the whole face except the eyes, nose, and mouth. As they had
plenty of skin, the hoods and shirts were made double, so that there was
hair both inside and out. They were made to come down half-way to the
knee, being kept close at the waists by their belts. The leggings were
made of single thickness only, as they would be worn over their
breeches; they were long and reached down below the ankle. The Indians
made fresh moccasins for the whole party; they were made higher than
usual, so as to come up over the bottom of the leggings. In addition
each was provided with long strips of hide, which were to be wound round
and round the leggings, from the knee to below the ankle, covering
tightly the tops of the moccasins, and so preventing the snow from
finding its way in there. Gloves were then manufactured, the fingers
being in one and the thumb only being free.

The work occupied them a fortnight, broken only by one day's spell of
fine weather, which they utilized by going down into the valley, taking
with them their kettles and pail, together with a few pounds of flour.
They found the horses out in the meadow, and these, as soon as they saw
them, came trotting to meet them with loud whinnies of pleasure. A fire
was lit near the shed, the snow melted, and an allowance of warm gruel
given to each horse. At Tom's suggestion a few fir-boughs were hung from
the bar over each entrance. These would swing aside as the horses
entered, and would keep out a good deal of wind. When at the end of a
fortnight the sky cleared, the chief said that he thought that there
would be but little more snow.

"If storm come, sure to bring snow, but not last long. Winter now set
in; soon snow harden. Now make snowshoes."

The hunters had all been accustomed to use these in winter. They had
found the last expedition through the deep snow a very toilsome one, and
they embraced the idea eagerly. Some of the poles were split into eight
feet lengths. These were wetted and hung over the fire, the process
being repeated until the wood was sufficiently softened to be bent into
the required shape. This was done by the chief. Two cross-pieces were
added, to stiffen them and keep them in the right shape when they dried;
and the wood was then trimmed up and scraped by the men. When it had
dried and hardened, the work of filling up the frame with a
closely-stretched network of leather was undertaken. This part of the
work occupied three or four days. The straps were attached to go across
the toe and round the heel, and they were then ready to set off.

The weather was now intensely cold, but as there was but little wind it
was not greatly felt; at the same time they were glad of their furs when
they ventured outside the hut. On the first day after their snow-shoes
were finished, the rest of the party started off to visit the horses,
Hunting Dog remaining behind to give Tom instructions in the use of the
snow-shoes, and to help him when he fell down.

Tom found it difficult work at first, the toe of the shoe frequently
catching in the snow, and pitching him head foremost into it, and he
would have had great difficulty in extricating himself, had not the
young Indian been at hand. Before the day was over, however, he could
get on fairly well; and after two or three more days' practice had made
such progress that he was considered capable of accompanying the rest.

The wood-drying apparatus had succeeded excellently. The wood was now
dried so thoroughly before being put on to the fire that there was no
annoyance from the smoke inside the hut, and scarce any could be
perceived coming from the chimney. Upon Harry's remarking upon this with
satisfaction the first time they went out after using the dry wood, Tom
said:

"What does it matter? There are no Indians in the valley."

"That is so, Tom; but as soon as the weather sets in clear, the
red-skins will be hunting again. Winter is their best time for laying in
their stock of pelts for trading. At other times the game is all high up
in the mountains, and it is very difficult to get within range of it. In
the winter the animals come down to the shelter of the forests and
valleys, and they can be shot in numbers; especially as the Indians in
their snow-shoes can get along almost as quickly as the wapiti can
plough through the snow. At present the red-skins think that we must
have been overtaken by that first storm and have all gone under; but as
soon as they begin to venture out of their lodges to hunt, a column of
smoke here would be sure to catch their eyes, and then we should be
having them up the valley to a certainty. The first thing they would do
would be to find our horses and drive them off, and the next thing would
be to set themselves to work to catch us."

"But we could hold the path against them, uncle."

"Yes; but we should have to keep watch every day, which would be a
serious trouble. Besides, there must be other places they could get up.
No doubt their regular trail comes up here, because it is the
straightest way to the pass, and possibly there may be no other point at
which loaded animals could mount anywhere about here. But there must be
plenty of places where Indians could climb, and even if it took them a
detour of fifty miles they would manage it. As long as there is no smoke
we may hope they will not discover us here, though any hunting party
might come upon the horses. That is what has bothered me all along; but
the chief and I have talked it over a dozen times, and can see no way of
avoiding the risk.

"We can't keep the horses up here because we can't feed them; and even
if we were to bring ourselves to leave this comfortable place and to
build a hut down in the valley, we might be surprised and rubbed out by
the red-skins. Of course we might bring them up here every night and
take them down again in the morning, but it would be a troublesome
business. We have agreed that we won't do much more shooting down in the
valley, and that in coming and going to the horses we will keep along
close to the foot of the cliffs this side, so that if two or three
Indians do come up they won't see any tracks on the snow, unless they
happen to come close up to the cliff. Of course if they go up as far as
the beaver flat they will light upon the horses. There is no help for
that; but the chief and I agreed last night that in future two of us
shall always stay up here, and shall take it by turns to keep watch. It
won't be necessary to stand outside. If the curtain is pulled aside
three or four inches one can see right down the valley, and any Indians
coming up could be made out. If the party is a strong one a gun would be
fired as a signal to those away hunting, and some damp wood thrown on
the fire. They might possibly push on up the valley to have a look at
the place, but the two up here with their rifles would soon stop them.
After that, of course, the horses would have to be brought up here at
night, and a watch kept by night as well as by day."

Two or three mornings later they found on going out that two joints of
venison had been carried off, and footprints in the snow showed that it
had been done by a grizzly bear. This turned their attention again to
the construction of a trap, which had not been thought of since the day
it was first mentioned. A young tree of four or five inches in diameter
was cut below and brought up. The butt was cut in the shape of a wedge,
and this was driven strongly into a fissure in the rock. A rope with a
running noose had been fastened to the tree, and this was bent down by
the united strength of four men, and fixed to a catch fastened in the
ground, the noose being kept open by two sticks placed across it.

A foot beyond the noose a joint of venison was hung, the rope passing
over a pole and then down to the catch, so that upon the joint being
pulled the catch would be loosened, when the tree would fly up and the
noose catch anything that might be through it.

A week later they were disturbed by an outburst of violent growling.
Seizing their rifles they rushed out. A huge bear was caught by one of
his paws. The animal's weight was too great for it to be lifted from the
ground, but it was standing upright with its paw above its head, making
furious efforts to free itself. A volley of bullets at once put an end
to its life. The tree was bent down again and the noose loosed, and they
at once returned to their rugs, leaving the bear where it fell. Four
times during the winter did they thus capture intruders, providing
themselves with an ample supply of bear's flesh, while the skins would
sell well down at the settlements.

Otherwise sport was not very good. No more wapiti came up, but black and
white tail deer were occasionally shot, and five or six big-horn sheep
also fell to their rifles. One day on approaching the beaver meadow the
chief pointed to some deep footprints. No explanation was needed. All
knew that they were made by a big grizzly, and that the animal was going
up the valley. No horses were in view on the flat, and grasping their
rifles they hurried towards the wood. Just as they reached it the horses
came galloping to meet them, whinnying and snorting.

"They have been scared by the critter," Jerry said. "Do you see their
coats are staring. Gosh, look at this pack-pony--the bear has had his
paw on him!"

The animal's hind-quarters were indeed badly torn.

"I wonder how it got away," Harry said. "When a grizzly once gets hold,
it don't often leave go."

"There is something in front of the hut," Tom exclaimed.

"It's the grizzly, sure enough," Harry said. "It is a rum place for it
to go to sleep."

They advanced, holding their rifles in readiness to fire, when Leaping
Horse said:

"Bear dead."

"What can have killed him?" Harry asked doubtfully.

"Horses kill him," the chief replied. They hurried up to the spot. The
bear was indeed dead, and there were signs of a desperate struggle.
There was blood on the snow from a point near the door of the hut to
where the animal was lying ten yards away. Round it the snow was all
trampled deeply. The bear's head was battered out of all shape; its jaw
was broken, and one of its eyes driven out. The Indians examined the
ground closely.

"Well, what do you make of it, chief?" Harry asked.

"Bear walk round hut, come in other end. Horses not able to get out in
time. Pack-horse last, bear catch him by hind-quarters. Horse drag him a
little way and then fall. Then other horses come back, form ring round
bear and kick him. Look at prints of fore-feet deep in snow. That is
where they kick; they break bear's jaw, break his ribs, keep on kick
till he dead."

"I suppose that is how it came about, chief. I should not have thought
they would have done it."

The Seneca nodded. "When wild horses with young foals attacked by bear
or mountain-lion, they form circle with colts in the middle, stand heads
in and kick. Bears and mountain-lion afraid to attack them."

"Waal, I should hardly have believed if I had not seen it," Sam Hicks
said, "that horses would come back to attack a grizzly."

"Not come back," the chief said, "if not for friend. Friend cry out
loud, then horses come back, fight bear and kill him."

"Well, it was mighty plucky of them," Harry said. "I am afraid this pony
won't get over it; he is terribly torn."

The chief examined the horse's wounds again. "Get over it," he said.
"Cold stop wounds bleeding, get some fat and put in."

"I reckon you will find plenty inside the grizzly," Jerry said. The
chief shook his head.

"Bear's fat bad; other horses smell him, perhaps keep away from him,
perhaps kick him. Leaping Horse will bring fat from the big-horn he shot
yesterday."

The animal lay where it had fallen, a mile up the valley. They went up
and tied the great sheep's feet together, and putting a pole through
them brought it down to the hut. Partly skinning it, they obtained some
fat and melted this in a kettle over the fire. Sam Hicks had remained
behind at the fire, the horses all standing near him, excited at the
prospect of their usual meal. As soon as the fat was melted it was
poured into the horse's wounds. The mess of gruel was then prepared and
given to the animals. The bear was skinned and the hams cut off, then by
a united effort it was dragged some distance from the hut, and the
carcass of the big-horn, the bear's flesh and hide, were afterwards
carried up to the hut.

Early in February the cold reached its extreme point, and in spite of
keeping up a good fire they had long before this been compelled to build
up the entrance with a wall of firewood, the interstices being stuffed
with moss; the hut was lighted by lamps of bear and deer fat melted down
and poured into tin drinking-cups, the wicks being composed of strips of
birch bark. A watch was regularly kept all day, two always remaining in
the hut, one keeping watch through a small slip cut in the curtain
before the narrow orifice in the log wall, that served as a door, the
other looking after the fire, keeping up a good supply of melted snow,
and preparing dinner ready for the return of the hunters at sunset. Of
an evening they told stories, and their stock of yarns of their own
adventures and of those they had heard from others, seemed to Tom
inexhaustible.

Hunting Dog had made rapid advances with his English, and he and Tom had
become great friends, always hunting together, or when their turn came,
remaining together on guard. The cold was now so intense that the
hunting party was seldom out for more than two or three hours. Regularly
twice a week the horses were given their ration of hot gruel, and
although they had fallen away greatly in flesh they maintained their
health, and were capable of work if called upon to do it. It was one day
in the middle of February, that Hunting Dog, who was standing at the
peep-hole, exclaimed:

"'Rappahoes!"

Tom sprang up from the side of the fire, and running to the entrance
pulled aside the curtain and looked out. Six Indians on snow-shoes were
coming up the valley. He ran out on to the platform and fired his ride.
As the sound of the report reached the Indians' ears they stopped
suddenly.

"Shall I throw some green wood on the fire, Hunting Dog?"

"No need," the Indian replied. "The others only gone an hour, not
farther than horses' hut; hear gun plain enough. Perhaps 'Rappahoes go
back."

The Indians remained for some time in consultation.

"Not know where gun fired," Hunting Dog said. "Soon see hut, then know."

After a time the red-skins continued their way up the valley, but
instead of coming on carelessly in the centre they separated, and going
to the other side crept along among the fallen boulders there, where
they would have escaped observation had it not been for their figures
showing against the white snow.

"Must fire now," the young Indian said, "then Leaping Horse know
'Rappahoes coming up."

They went out on to the platform and opened fire. They knew that their
chance of hitting one of the Indians was small indeed; the other side of
the valley was a quarter of a mile away, and the height at which they
were standing rendered it difficult to judge the elevation necessary for
their rifles. However, they fired as fast as they could load.

The Indians made no reply, for their guns would not carry anything like
the distance. They occasionally gathered when they came upon a boulder
of rock sufficiently large to give shelter to them all, and then moved
on again one at a time. When opposite the lower end of the pathway they
again held a consultation.

"No go further," Hunting Dog said. "Afraid we come down path and stop
them. See, Leaping Horse among rocks."

It was some time before Tom could detect the Indian, so stealthily did
he move from rock to rock.

"Where are the others?"

"No see, somewhere in bushes. Leaping Horse go on to scout; not know how
many 'Rappahoes."

Presently they saw the chief raise his head behind a rock within a
hundred yards of that behind which the 'Rappahoes were sheltering.

"He see them now," Hunting Dog said. "See, he going to fire." There was
a puff of smoke and a sharp report, and almost simultaneously rose an
Indian yell, and the war-cry of the Seneca. Then five Indians leapt out
from behind the rock and made down the valley at full speed, while from
a clump of trees two hundred yards above the spot from which the chief
had fired the four white men hurried out rifle in hand. The chief waited
until they joined him, for the bend in the valley prevented him from
seeing that the 'Rappahoes were making straight down it, and it would
have been imprudent to have ventured out until his white allies came up.

"They have gone right down," Tom shouted at the top of his voice. Harry
waved his arm to show that he heard the words, and then the five men ran
to the corner. The Indians were already a quarter of a mile away, and
were just entering the wood below. The whites were about to fire, when
the chief stopped them. "No use fire," he said. "Stand back behind
rocks; no good let 'Rappahoes count our rifles."

"That is true enough, chief," Harry said, as they all sprang among the
rocks. "All they know at present is, that there are two up on the top
there and one down here. If we were sure that we could wipe them all out
it would be worth following and making a running fight of it, but there
would be no chance of that, and it is better to let them go without
learning more about us. Well, I should say the first thing is to get up
the horses."

The chief nodded.

"Get up," he said, "but no fear 'Rappahoes come back to-night. Many
hours' journey down to villages, then great council. Next night scouts
come up valley, look all about for sign, and then go back and tell
friends."

"I dare say you are right, chief. Anyhow, I shall feel a great deal more
comfortable when we have got the critters up."

It was late in the afternoon before they reached the hut. Some hours
were spent in collecting tufts of grass in places sheltered from the
snow, and in cutting off great bundles of young fir-branches and the
heads of evergreen bushes, and the horses arrived almost hidden under
the load of grass and foliage they carried. Little was said until some
hot tea had been drunk and the bear steaks in readiness were disposed
of, for although they had worked hard and kept themselves comparatively
warm down in the valley, they had as they moved slowly up the path with
the horses become chilled to the bone.

"Now then, chief," Harry said, when they had lighted their pipes with
the mixture of tobacco and willow bark that they had taken to, as soon
as they found that they were likely to be imprisoned all the winter, "we
must hold a council. We have been longer than I expected without
disturbance by these varmint, but it has come now, and the question is
what are we to do? We have agreed all along that there is no getting
over the pass till the spring comes."

"Too cold," the chief said, "deep drift snow. Indians all say no can
pass over hills in winter."

"That air a fact," Jerry said. "Down in the valley there it is all
right, but up here the cold pretty near takes one's breath away. We
ain't sure about the way. We couldn't get over the pass in one day's
tramp, and we should be all stiff before morning. There would be no
taking the horses, and there is a hundred miles to be done over the snow
before we reach the fort. It ain't to be thought of. I would a sight
rather go down the valley and fight the hull tribe."

"I agree with you, Jerry. We might, with luck, get down the valley, but
I don't think there is a possibility of our crossing the pass till the
winter breaks."

"No can go down valley," Leaping Horse said; "they find trail on snow,
sure."

"That is so, chief, and in that case it is evident that we have got to
fight it out here."

"Good place to stop," the Seneca said; "no good place to fight."

This was self-evident. An enemy on the rock above would be able to fire
down through the roof, without their having a chance of making an
effectual reply.

"The only way I can see," Harry said after a long pause, "is to build a
sort of fort up above. If we put it just at the top of this pathway, we
should have them whether they came up by the trail from below or climbed
up anywhere else and came along above. It need not be a very big place,
only just big enough for us all to fire over. We might make a sort of
shelter in it with a fire, and keep guard there by turns." The chief
nodded, and there was a general exclamation of assent from the others.

"The worst of it is," Jerry said, "the ground is so 'tarnal hard that
there will be no driving posts into it. We have cut down all the trees
near the bottom of the pass, and it would be a risky thing to go up
higher, when we might have the red-skins come whooping up the valley at
any time."

"Why not make a snow fort?" Tom suggested. "There is four feet of snow
up there, and with the shovels we could make a wall ten feet high in a
very short time."

"So we might, Tom; that is a capital idea. The difficulty is, the snow
does not bind in this bitter cold as it does in England."

"If it was hammered down it would, I should think, uncle. You know the
Esquimaux make snow houses, and it is as cold there as it is here. The
snow at the top is light enough, but I should think as it gets down it
would be hard enough to cut out in blocks. We have plenty of water, and
if we pour it over each layer of blocks it would freeze into solid ice
directly. When we finish it we might pour more water down over the
outside, and it would make a regular wall of ice that no one could climb
up."

"Hooray! Bully for you, Tom!" Jerry shouted, while similar exclamations
of approval broke from all the others, while the chief said gravely, "My
young brother has the head of a man; he is able to teach warriors."

"You shall be engineer-in-chief, Tom," Harry said. "It is certain we may
sleep quietly to-night; at daybreak to-morrow we will begin the job."

The first thing in the morning a semicircular line was traced out at the
top of their pathway. It was thirty feet across, for, as Tom said, the
walls ought to be at least four feet thick; and six feet would be
better, as they would want a parapet at least two feet thick to fire
over. It was agreed that the whites should use the two shovels by turns.
The Indians were unaccustomed to the work, and were to undertake that of
scouting along the hillside, and of watching by turns at night. The
frying-pan was brought into requisition, a wooden handle being made for
it. The hard upper crust was removed with the shovels, and the layer
beneath this was sufficiently soft for the instrument to be used as a
shovel. Below that it hardened, and could be cut out in great blocks.
The loose snow was thrown inside of the line traced out.

As fast as the blocks were cut out they were carried and piled regularly
to form the face. Tom's share of the work was to keep on melting snow,
and to bring it up and pour between and over the blocks. As fast as a
line of these were made the loose snow was thrown in behind it and
trampled down hard. Except for meals there was no rest. The chief said
that as there was little chance of the 'Rappahoes coming up so soon,
Hunting Dog had better stay behind and help, and he lent his aid in
carrying the blocks of snow on a rough stretcher they made for the
purpose. By the time it became dark the wall had risen to a height of
three feet above the general level of the snow, and was already
sufficient to form an excellent breastwork.

At the end farthest from the side from which the Indians were likely to
come, a gap was left between it and the edge of the ravine three feet
wide, in order that if necessary the horses could pass out. When it
became dark the chief returned. He had gone many miles along towards the
main valley, but had seen no sign of any Indians. After supper was over
he took one of the wapiti skins and his buffalo robe, went up to the
"fort," as they had already called it, and laid the deer-skin down on
the slope of snow behind the wall, wrapped the buffalo robe round him,
and lay down upon it. Hunting Dog then threw another robe over him,
projecting a foot beyond his head, so that he could from time to time
raise it and look out over the snow. The night was a dark one, but any
object moving across the unbroken white surface could be seen at a
considerable distance.

"I feel sure I should go to sleep," Tom said, "if I were to lie down
like that."

"I have no doubt you would, Tom, but there is no fear with the chief. An
Indian never sleeps on the watch, or if he does sleep, it is like a dog:
he seems to hear as well as if he were awake, and every minute or two
his eyes open and he takes a look round. I would rather have an Indian
sentry than half a dozen white ones, unless it is in the open, where
there is no tree to lean against, and a man must keep moving."

Hunting Dog threw himself down as soon as he returned to the hut, and
was almost instantly asleep. Three hours later he rose and went out, and
Leaping Horse a minute or two later returned.

"All quiet," he said; and then after smoking for a short time also lay
down.




CHAPTER XII

THE SNOW FORT


The hut was quiet at an unusually early hour, for the men had done a
very hard day's work, and felt the strain after the long weeks of
inactivity. At daybreak they were up and about, but could remain out but
a few minutes, for the cold was so intense that they felt unable to face
it until they had taken some hot tea and eaten something. Half an hour
sufficed for this early breakfast. Hunting Dog was again left behind by
the chief when he started.

"Two eyes enough," the latter said. "Hunting Dog more use here."

The wall of blocks was raised three more feet during the day, as it was
agreed to devote all their efforts to this, and to defer the work of
thickening it until the next day, for the snow had now been cleared so
far from its foot that it could no longer be thrown inside. Though but
six feet above the snow level, it was at least three feet more above the
level of the rock, and its face was a solid sheet of ice, Tom having,
during the two days, made innumerable journeys backwards and forwards
with snow-water.

"Another couple of feet and it will be high enough for anything," Harry
said. "I don't believe that the Indians will venture to attack us, but
it is just as well to have it so high that they can't help each other up
to the top. If they knew how strong it is, I am sure they would not
attack, and would leave us alone altogether, but if a hundred of them
creep up in the dark and make a rush, they will do their best to try to
climb it. Anyhow we sha'n't need to make the bank behind very high. If
it goes to within four feet and a half of the top, so that we can stand
and fire over the wall, that is all that is wanted."

Leaping Horse returned at dusk as before. He uttered a warm approval of
the work when he had examined it.

"Good fort," he said, "better than palisades. Indian no climb over it.
No opening to fire through, good as wall of town house."

"I think they will be puzzled when they get here, chief."

"Must watch well to-night," the chief said. "Indian scout sure to come.
Two men keep on watch; two better than one."

"That is so, chief; we will change every hour. But it will be mighty
cold. I don't see why we shouldn't rig up a shelter against the wall,
and have a bit of a fire there. Then the two on watch can take it by
turns every few minutes to come in and get a warm."

With poles and skins a lean-to was speedily constructed against the
wall. The snow was hammered down, and a hearth made of half a dozen logs
packed closely together. Some brands were brought up from the fire in
the hut, and the skins across the end of the lean-to dropped, so that
the air within could get warm while they were at supper.

"Hunting Dog and Tom shall take the first watch," Harry said; "Sam and I
will take the next, Jerry and Ben the third, then you, chief, can take
the next."

"Leaping Horse watch by himself," the Seneca said; "his eyes will be
open."

"Very well, chief. I know you are as good as any two of us, so that will
give us each one hour out and three hours in bed."

Wrapping buffalo robes round them, Tom and the young Indian went up to
the fort. Tom drew aside one of the skins and looked into the shelter.
The hearth was in a glow, and two logs lying on it were burning well.
The night was very still, except for the occasional rumble of some
distant snow-slide. For a few minutes they stood looking over the wall,
but keeping far back, so that only their heads were above its level.

"Tom go in by the fire," the Indian said. "All white, no need for four
eyes."

"Very well, I will go in first; but mind, you have got to go in
afterwards. I sha'n't go in if you don't."

After waiting for a few minutes in the shelter Tom went out again, and
Hunting Dog took his place. It was his first war-path, and nothing would
have persuaded him to retire from the watch had he not felt sure that
even white men's eyes could not fail to detect any dark object moving on
the surface of the snow. But although all white the surface was not
level; here and there were sudden elevations marking rises in the rock
beneath. Still it seemed impossible to Tom that anyone could approach
unseen.

In spite of the protection of the buffalo robe it was intensely cold
outside, and he was glad each time when his turn came for a warm by the
fire. The changes, too, made the time pass quickly, and he was quite
surprised when his uncle and Sam came out to relieve them. The other two
men and the chief were still smoking by the fire. There was tea in the
kettle, and they evidently did not mean to lie down until after their
first watch. Every few minutes the chief got up and went out to the
platform, and stood listening there intently for a short time. Just
before it was time to change the guard again he said when he returned:

"Indian down in valley."

"Have you heard them, chief?"

"Leaping Horse heard a dead stick crack."

"That might have been a deer," Ben suggested.

The chief shook his head. "'Rappahoe; heard gun strike tree."

"Then I reckon they will be up in our watch," Ben said. "Well, we shall
be ready for them."

"Perhaps come, perhaps not come; perhaps scout up valley first see if
some of us there, and look for horses. Perhaps some come up path; but
crawl up slow, not know whether look-out there."

"Well, I don't envy them if they have got much crawling to do to-night;
it is cold enough to freeze one's breath."

"'Rappahoe not like cold," the chief said, "but wants scalp bad; that
makes his blood warm."

"I will let some of it out," Jerry said wrathfully, "if I get a chance
to lay a bead on one of them. Don't you be afeard, chief; we will look
out sharp enough, you bet. Waal, I reckon it is about our time to turn
out, Ben."

"Jerry tells me that you have heard noises below, chief," Harry said
when he came in. "We heard nothing, but it ain't easy to hear well with
these hoods over one's head."

"Hoods bad for hear," the chief assented. "Leaping Horse heard plain,
Indians down below."

"Well, it is only what we expected, chief. Anyhow, we are ready for them
when they come."

Tom lay down now, and knew nothing more till Hunting Dog touched him.

"Time to go and watch," he said.

"Has everything been quiet?"

The Indian nodded. "No come yet."

Leaping Horse remained at his post after they came out to relieve him.
Tom made no comment. Harry had impressed upon him the necessity for
absolute silence.

"If they hear voices they will never come near us," he had said, "and we
would rather they came than stopped away. The sooner we get this job
over the better."

The chief stood with his head slightly bent forward and the hood of his
hunting-shirt thrown back, listening attentively. Then he touched
Hunting Dog, and stooping low down whispered something in his ear, and
then both stood again listening. Tom, too, threw back his hood, but he
could hear nothing whatever, and was soon glad to pull it forward over
his ears again. He strained his eyes in the direction towards which they
were listening, which was apparently towards the edge of the ravine
where the Indian trail came up from below. All seemed to him to be white
and bare.

Presently the chief's rifle went up to his shoulder; there was a sharp
crack, a dark figure leapt up from the snow fifty yards away and then
fell headlong down again. It seemed to Tom almost magical. His eyes had
been fixed in that direction for the last five minutes, and he could
have sworn that the surface of the snow was unbroken. A minute later the
other four men came running up.

"What is it, chief?" Harry whispered.

Leaping Horse pointed to the dark figure stretched out on the snow.

"So you have got the varmint. Good! Do you think there are any more of
them about?"

"More there sure," the chief said, pointing to the path up from below.
"Perhaps more there," and he pointed to a broad black line from the foot
of the cliffs to the edge of the ravine, where, three days before, an
avalanche from the hills above had swept the rock clear of snow.

"They must have made sure that we were all asleep, or that fellow would
never have shown himself on the snow," Harry said.

"He did not show himself, uncle. How he got there I don't know; but I
was looking at the spot when the chief fired, and I saw no signs of him
whatever. How he hid himself I don't know. If it had been anywhere else
I should have said he must have had a white sheet over him."

"It certainly was not that whatever it was, Tom. However, we shall see
in the morning. Well, we may as well turn in again. Will they try again,
do you think, chief?"

"Not try to-night, too cold; if any there, will hide up till daybreak.
Now they know we are awake, will not venture on snow."

Half an hour later a great fire was lighted out of gunshot range lower
down the valley, and three or four figures could be seen round it.

"Too cold," Hunting Dog said to Tom. "All gone down to get warm."

The watches were relieved regularly through the night, but there was no
further alarm until just after daylight had broken, when Sam Hicks
suddenly discharged his rifle. The others all turned out at once. He had
fired at a bush just at the point where the trail came up from below,
and he declared that he had seen a slight movement there, and that some
pieces of the snow had dropped from the leaves.

"We will make sure that there is no one there," Harry said, "and then we
will turn out and have a look. It is like enough that one of the
red-skins from below came up the path to have a look at us this
morning."

He took a steady aim and fired.

"Fetch up an axe, Tom; we will cut that bush away at once. It is lucky
that Sam caught sight of the red-skin. If he had not done so he might
have got a bullet in his own head, for when the red-skin had finished
taking a view of the fort he would certainly have picked off Sam or
myself before he went down. It is a weak point, that from here one can't
command the path. If they come in force we shall have to keep watch on
the platform too. From there you can get a sight of two or three of its
turnings."

[Illustration: "They Went Out To Look At The Indian The Chief Had
Shot."]

They went out together, and as they passed, stopped to look at the body
of the Indian the chief had shot. He was a young brave of two-or
three-and-twenty, and the manner of his advance so far unperceived was
now evident. Favoured by a slight fall in the ground, he had crawled
forward, scooping a trench wide enough for his body a foot in depth,
pushing the snow always forward, so that it formed a sort of bank in
front of him and screened him from the sight of those on watch. The
chief's keen eye had perceived a slight movement of the snow, and after
watching a moment had fired at the point where he judged anyone
concealed by it must be. He had calculated accurately. The ball had
struck on the shoulder close to the neck, and had passed down through
the body. The Indian had brought no rifle with him, but had knife and
tomahawk in his belt.

"Poor young fellow," Harry said. "He wanted to win a name for himself by
a deed of desperate bravery. It has cost him his life, but as he would
have taken ours if he had had a chance it is of no use regretting it."

They now went on to the bush.

"You were right, Sam," he went on, as they saw the impression on the
snow made by a figure lying down behind it. "There was an Indian here
sure enough, and here is the mark of the stock of his rifle, and no
doubt he would have picked off one of us if you had not scared him. I
don't expect you hit him; there are no signs of blood."

"Fire too high," the chief said, pointing to a twig that had been
freshly cut off two feet from the ground. "Always shoot low at man
behind bush. Man cannot float in air."

There was a general laugh at Sam, who replied: "I did not suppose he
could, chief. I just fired where I saw the snow fall, without thinking
about it one way or the other. I was an all-fired fool, but I shall know
better next time."

The bush was cut down, and also two or three others that grew along by
the edge of the ravine. On their way back to the hut Harry stopped by
the dead Indian.

"Fetch me a shovel, Tom," he said, "I will dig a hole in the snow; it
ain't a pleasant object to be looking at anyway."

Tom fetched the shovel, Harry dug down in the snow till he reached the
rock, then he and Jerry laid the body in it and filled in the snow
again. The chief looked on.

"Bears get him," he said when they had finished.

"That is like enough, chief, but we have done the best we can for him.
There is no digging into the rock."

"I thought the Indians always scalped enemies they shot?" Tom afterwards
said to his uncle.

"So they do, Tom; but you see the chief is a sort of civilized Indian.
He has consorted for years with whites, and he knows that we don't like
it. I don't say he wouldn't do it if he were on the war-path by himself,
but with us he doesn't, at any rate not openly. I have no doubt it went
against his grain to see the red-skin buried with his hair on, for the
scalp would have been a creditable one, as it would not have been got
without a clear eye and good judgment in shooting. I have no doubt he
has got some scalps about him now, though he don't show them; but they
will be hung up some day if he ever settles down in a wigwam of his own.

"Well, chief, and what do you think," he asked Leaping Horse, as, after
returning to the hut, they sat down to breakfast, "will they come or
won't they?"

"I think they no come," the chief said. "Scout behind bush will tell
them fort too strong to take; must cross snow, and many fall before they
get to it. Very hard to climb. No like cold, Leaping Horse thinks they
will stop in wigwams."

"No fools either," Jerry agreed; "a man would be worse than a natural if
he were to go fooling about in this weather, and run a pretty good big
risk of getting shot and nothing much to gain by it. They know we have
left their country now, and ain't likely to come back again either to
hunt there or to dig gold, and that all we want is to get away as soon
as we can. I allow that the chief is right, and that we sha'n't hear no
more of them, anyhow not for some time."

The chief nodded. "If come again, not come now. Wait a moon, then think
perhaps we sleep sound and try again; but more likely not try."

"Much more likely," Harry assented. "Unless they can do it by a
surprise. Indians are not fond of attacking; they know we shoot
straighter than they do and have better rifles. You remember that time
when you and I and Jersey Dick kept off a party of Navahoes from sunrise
till sunset down near the Emigrant trail? It was lucky for us that a
post-rider who was passing along heard the firing, and took the news to
a fort, and that the officer there brought out fifty troopers just as
the sun went down, or we should have been rubbed out that night sure."

The Seneca nodded.

"How was it, Harry?" Sam Hicks asked.

"It was just the usual thing, Sam. We had left the trail two days
before, and were hunting on our own account when the Navahoes came down.
We had just time to throw the three horses and lie down behind them.
They were within two hundred yards when I began and fetched the chief,
who was leading them, out of his saddle. Leaping Horse brought down
another one and Jersey Dick held his fire, and instead of keeping
straight on they began to straggle round. And they kept at that all day.
Sometimes they would get in pretty close, but each time they did the
chief brought down a horse, and when his rider, who was of course
hanging on the other side of him, got up to run, I fetched him down.
Dick wasn't much of a shot, so we would not let him fire. It discourages
red-skins mightily when they see that there is never a shot thrown
away, and that it is sure death whenever one draws a trigger. So at last
they got careful and held off, knowing as they would get us at night,
when they could have crawled up on foot and made a rush when they got
close to us.

"The worst of it was we hadn't struck water the evening before, and it
was just one of the hottest days on the plains, and we were pretty nigh
mad with thirst before evening. I believe when the soldiers rode up I
was about as glad to get a drink from one of their bottles as I was that
the Navahoes bolted when they saw them coming. No, the red-skins ain't
any good for an open attack; they would have lost fewer men by riding
straight at us than they did by fooling round, but they could not bring
themselves to do it, and I reckon that is what it will be here. They
may, as the chief says, try, say six weeks on, when the frost begins to
break, in hopes that we may have given up keeping watch: but if they
find us awake they will never try an open attack, for they could not
reckon on taking the place without losing a score of men in doing so. If
the snow was off the ground it would be different. Then of a dark night
they could crawl up close and make a rush."

After breakfast the chief and Hunting Dog went out scouting. When they
returned they brought news that three Indians had come over the snow
along the side of the hills, that three others had come up the valley,
and that in a wood half a mile below where they had seen the fire, there
had been a large party encamped.

"I reckoned that would be about it, chief. Three fellows came along over
the hill, in case we should be keeping guard at the top of the path, and
they had a big force somewhere down below, so that if the scouts
reported that there was nothing to prevent them falling on us they would
come up before morning and wipe us out. I suppose they have all ridden
off?"

"All gone. Leaping Horse and Hunting Dog followed right down valley. No
stop anywhere, gone back to lodges."

"Then in that case, Harry, we had best get the critters down to their
shed again. They have eaten all that stuff they brought up three days
ago, I gave them the last of it this morning. The Indians know that we
keep a pretty sharp look-out during the day and there ain't no fear of
their coming up here when it is light."

As the chief was also of opinion that there was no danger, the horses
were taken down the path into the valley, where on having their bridles
unbuckled they at once trotted off of their own accord towards the
beaver meadow.

For the next six weeks a watch was kept regularly, but by only one man
at a time. The horses were driven down to the valley every morning and
brought up again before sunset. There was little hunting now, for they
had as many skins as they could carry comfortably, and a supply of
frozen meat sufficient to last well into the spring. In March the
weather became perceptibly warmer, and the snow in the valley began to
melt where the full power of the sun at mid-day fell upon it. Day by
day the crashes of distant avalanches became more frequent, and they
began to look forward to the time when they should be able to proceed on
their journey.

One night towards the end of the month Tom was on watch, when he heard a
rustling sound far up beyond the wall of cliff in front of him. It grew
louder and rose to a roar, and then a white mass came pouring down over
the cliff. Leaping from the wall he dashed down the path to the hut. It
needed no word to call the men to their feet, for a deep rumbling filled
the air and the rock seemed to quiver. The horses struggled to break
their head-ropes and snorted with fright.

"Your backs to the wall!" Harry shouted, and as all leapt across at his
order there was a crash overhead. The roof above them fell in and a mass
of snow followed; a, minute later a deep silence followed the deafening
roar.

"Anyone hurt?" Harry shouted, and the replies came in muffled tones. Tom
was jambed against the rock by the snow; he was nearest to the entrance,
his uncle was next to him.

"I am all right at present, uncle, but I feel half smothered."

"All right, lad; I am pretty free, and I will soon clear you a bit."

The snow was pushed away from before Tom's face, his left arm was
cleared, and then his uncle with a vigorous pull brought him back close
to him. Here he was comparatively free, for a part of the roof had
fallen close to the wall and had partially kept off the snow. Then Harry
turned, and with some difficulty managed to get Jerry, who was next to
him, freed from the snow.

"Now, Jerry, you work along that way and get at the others. Tom and I
will try to burrow a way out."

It was a difficult task. Once through the passage in the log wall they
pushed to the left towards the edge of the platform, taking it by turns
to go first until the snow became lighter; then by a vigorous effort
Harry rose to his feet, sending a mass of snow tumbling over the edge of
the platform. As soon as Tom had joined him they set to work with hands
and knives, and soon cleared a passage back to the entrance. Just as
they did so Jerry crawled out from within.

"Are they all right, Jerry?"

"Yes, the others are coming; only about twelve feet of the roof caved
in, and the two Indians and Sam soon got in among the horses. I had a
lot of trouble with Ben; he had been knocked down, and I thought that he
was gone when I got him out; but he is all right now, though he can't
walk yet. The Indians and Sam have got the shovels, and are working away
to clear a passage along by the wall; there is no getting Ben out
through that rabbit-hole you have made."

"Thank God we are all right," Harry said; "it does not matter a bit, now
that we know no one is badly hurt. We will begin at this end, but we
sha'n't be able to do much until we get the shovels, the snow will fall
in as fast as we get it out."

They soon found that they could do nothing in this way.

"We will try to tunnel again," Harry said, "it is not more than ten feet
along. If we get in and hump ourselves, we shall soon get it big enough
to drag Ben out, then the others can follow, and we can set to work with
the spades to clear the place."

After a good deal of effort they succeeded in enlarging the hole, and
then got Ben through it, one crawling backwards and pulling him while
the other shoved at his legs.

"How do you feel, Ben?" Harry asked him when they laid him down outside.

"I dunno, Harry; I am afraid my back is badly hurt. I don't seem to feel
my legs at all. I expect they are numbed from the weight of snow on
them."

"I will crawl into our store and fetch out the keg."

"I reckon a drop of whisky will do me good if anything will," Ben said.
"I was crushed pretty near flat, and if my head hadn't been against the
wall I should have been smothered. Are you all right, young Tom?"

"Yes, I am not hurt at all. The snow squeezed me against the rock, and I
could not move an inch, but uncle managed to get me a little free and
then pulled me out of it."

Harry soon came back with the whisky, and was followed by the Indians
and Sam, who found that they could do nothing with the snow, which fell
in as fast as they cleared it. Their first step was to dig out a buffalo
robe to wrap Ben in. His voice was stronger after he had drank some
spirit, and he said that he felt better already. The others at once set
to work with the shovels. They first cleared the platform along by the
wall to the entrance, and then attacked the snow which filled the space
between the two rock walls to the top.

Two of them worked with poles, loosening the snow above, and bringing it
down in masses, while those with shovels cast it out on to the platform,
going out occasionally to throw it over into the ravine. Hunting Dog
made his way up over the snow to the top of the path, and called down to
say that the fort was entirely swept away, and the chief told him to
take up his post at once at the top of the path leading from below.

"He need not have told us that the fort was gone," Jerry grumbled. "If
it had been made of cast-iron it would not have stood. The sooner we get
our rifles out the better."

This could not be done for a time, for the loosening of the snow above
had caused that below to slip, and the passage along by the wall had
fallen in. The Indians, however, who had slept beyond the part filled by
snow, had brought their pieces out with them, and could have defended
the path alone. Several times those at work were buried by falls of
snow, and had to be dragged out by the others. By daylight a
considerable gap had been made in the snow, and they were able to get
into the space beyond the fall. A number of logs, and a joint of meat
that had been taken in the day before to thaw, were brought out, and a
fire was soon blazing on the platform.

"I wonder why the snow did not shoot over as it did before?" Ben, who
was now able to sit up, remarked.

"I reckon it is the fort did it," Harry said. "Of course it went, but it
may have checked the rush of the snow for a moment, and those thick
walls couldn't have got the same way on as the rest of the snow had."

"But the fort wasn't over the roof, uncle," Tom remarked.

"No, but it may have blocked the slide a little, and thrown some of it
sideways; you see it is only this end that gave, while it shot right
over the rest of the roof just as before."

"It is mighty lucky it did not break in all along," Sam Hicks said, "for
it would have left us without horses if it had; and it would have been
mighty rough on us to have lost them, just as we are going to want them,
after our taking such pains with them all through the winter."

The chief took Hunting Dog's place as soon as he had finished his meal,
and remained on watch all day. The men worked without ceasing, but it
was not until sunset that the snow was completely cleared away.

"I reckon that we shall have to be starting before long," Jerry said as
they sat round the fire in what they before called their store-room,
having driven the horses as far in as possible to make room. "We could
have held out before as long as we liked, but it is different now. The
rock's cleared now for a hundred yards on each side of us, our fort's
gone, and there is nothing to prevent the redskins from crawling close
up the first dark night and making a rush. They are like enough to be
sending scouts up the valley occasionally, and it won't be long before
they hear that our fort has gone and the ground cleared of snow."

Leaping Horse nodded. "Two men must watch at top of path," he said.

"That is right enough, chief; but we know three of them came along the
hills before, and it is like enough they will all come that way next
time. They are safe to reckon that we shall hold the path."

"It is very unfortunate," Harry said; "in another month, we should have
been able to travel. Anyhow, it seems to me that we have got to try now;
it would never do to be caught in here by the red-skins. If we are to
go, the sooner the better. All our meat has been carried over the edge.
This is about the time we expected the Indians back, and it would be
dangerous to scatter hunting. It is a big risk, too, taking the horses
down to the meadow. No, I think we can manage to get over the pass. The
snow gets softer every day when the sun is on it; but it freezes at
night. We have the moon, too, so we shall be able to travel then; and
even if we take three or four days getting over the divide we can sleep
in the daytime."

"We must get a little more meat anyhow before we start," Jerry said.
"This joint ain't more than enough for another square meal for us, and
though I reckon the bighorns will be coming up to the hills again now,
it won't do to risk that."

"We have the pack-horses, Jerry."

"Yes, I did not think of them. Horseflesh ain't so bad on a pinch; but I
don't want to lose our skins."

"Better our skins than our hair," Sam laughed.

"That is right enough, Sam, but I would like to save both."

"Perhaps there is some of the meat under the snow," Tom suggested. "It
hung near the wall, and the snow must have come straight down on it from
above, as it did in here."

"That is so, Tom; we will have a look the first thing in the morning. I
am so tired now I would not dig for it if it were gold."

As soon as it was light the next morning they began to clear the snow
from the rest of the platform, and found to their great satisfaction
four bear hams. The rest of the meat had been swept over the edge. The
two Indians had not shared in the work, having started away early
without saying where they were going. They returned to breakfast, each
carrying a hind-quarter of venison, which they had found in the snow
below.

It was agreed that a start should be made that evening. By sunset the
horses were loaded, and half an hour later they moved away. Ben Gulston
had to be assisted on to his horse, for although in other respects
recovered, it was found that he had so severely strained his back across
the loins that he was scarcely able to walk a foot. The moon was shining
brightly, and as soon as they were on the snow they could see as plainly
as if it were day. All were in high spirits that they had left the spot
where for six months they had been prisoners. They had difficulty in
restraining themselves from shouting and singing, but the chief before
starting had warned them of the necessity for travelling silently.
"Snow-slides very bad now; shouting might set them going."

The others looked rather incredulous, but Harry said:

"I know he is right, boys; for I have heard that in the Alps the guides
always forbid talking when they are crossing places exposed to
avalanches. At any rate we may as well give the snow as little chance as
may be of going for us."

They travelled in Indian file from habit rather than necessity, for the
snow was firm and hard, and the horses made their way over it without
difficulty. There had been some debate as to the way they should go; but
they determined at last to take the valley through the cliff wall, and
to strike to the right whenever they came upon a likely spot for
crossing. Two such attempts were made in vain, the upper slopes of snow
being found too steep for the horses to climb; but at the third, which
was made just after morning broke, they succeeded in getting up the hill
to their right, and, after great difficulty, descended into another
valley. This they had little doubt was the one that led to the pass, for
from the hill they could see the great peak along whose foot the trail
ran.

It was ten o'clock before they got down into the valley. The snow was
beginning to be soft on the surface, and the horses were tired out. They
therefore halted, made a fire with two or three of the logs they had
brought with them for the purpose, boiled water and had breakfast, and
gave half a bucket of gruel to each of the animals. Then wrapping
themselves in their buffalo robes they lay down and slept till late in
the afternoon. The journey was resumed at sunset, and before morning
they had crossed the divide; and when the sun rose obtained a view over
the country far to the south.




CHAPTER XIII

A FRESH START


In the evening they camped on the banks of the Green River, here a
stream of but small size, except when the melting snow swelled its
waters into a torrent. At the spot where they halted a rivulet ran into
the stream from a thickly-wooded little valley. It was frozen, but
breaking the ice with their axes they found that water was flowing
underneath. They had observed that there was a marked difference in
temperature on this side of the mountains, upon which the strength of
the southern sun had already in many places cleared away the snow.

"It is a comfort to be able to sit by a fire without the thought that
red-skins maybe crawling up towards you," Sam Hicks said heartily, "and
to sleep without being turned out to stand watch in the cold.

"You say the country ahead is bad, chief?"

"Bad lands both sides of Green River. Deep canons and bare rock."

"Well, we need not follow it; it don't make any difference to us whether
we get down to the fort in a fortnight or six weeks."

"None at all," Harry said. "We have agreed that when summer fairly sets
in we will try that place I hit on just as the Utes came down on us. It
is the richest place I have ever seen, and if the Indians will but let
us alone for a month we ought to bring back a big lot of dust; and if we
do, we can sell our share in it for a big sum, and take down enough men
to thrash the Utes out of their boots if they interfere with us. By our
reckoning it is the end of March now, though we don't at all agree as to
the day; but at any rate, it is there or thereabouts. That gives us a
good six weeks, and if we start in the middle of May it will be time
enough. So I propose that we strike more to the west, or to the east,
whichever you think is the best, chief, and try and pick up a few more
pelts so as to lay in a fresh stock of goods for our next trip."

"Bad hills everywhere," the chief said; "better go west, plenty of game
there."

"No fear of Indians?"

"Indians there peaceable; make good trade with whites. Ten years ago
fight, but lose many men and not get much plunder. Trappers here good
friends with them. Traders bring up powder and cloth and beads. Indians
no give trouble."

For the next six weeks, therefore, they travelled slowly, camping
sometimes for two or three days on a stream, and then making a long
march until they again came to water. The beaver traps had been left
behind, but they were fortunate enough to come upon several beaver
villages, and by exercising patience they were able to shoot a good
many, getting in all some fifty skins. Tom used to go out in the evening
and lie down to watch the beavers at work, but he would not take a gun.

"I could not shoot them down in cold blood, uncle. It is almost like
looking at a village of human beings at work. One can shoot a man who is
wanting to shoot you, without feeling much about it, but to fire at a
man labouring in the fields is murder. Of course, if we wanted the flesh
for food it would be different."

"I did not see you refuse that beaver-tail soup we had last night, Tom."

"No, and it was very good, uncle; but I would very much rather have gone
without it than shoot the beaver the tail belonged to."

"Well, Tom, as we have all got guns, and as none of us have any scruples
that way, there is no occasion whatever for you to draw a trigger on
them. They take some shooting, for if you hit them in the water they
sink directly, and you have got to kill them dead when they are on land,
otherwise they make for the water at once and dive into their houses and
die there."

They killed a good many other animals besides the beaver, including
several wolverines, and by the time they got down to the fort in the
middle of May they had had to give up riding and pack all the animals
with the skins they had obtained. None of these were of any great value,
but the whole brought enough to buy them a fresh outfit of clothes, a
fresh stock of provisions and powder, and to give them a hundred dollars
each.

The evening after the sale was effected Tom wrote home to his sisters,
giving them a brief account of what had taken place since the letter he
had posted to them before starting for the mountains, but saying very
little of their adventures with Indians. "I am afraid you have been in a
great fright about me," he said, "but you must never fidget when you
don't get letters. We may often be for a long time away from any place
where we can post them, or, as they call it here, mail them, though I
certainly do not expect to be snowed up again for a whole winter. Owing
to the Indians being hostile we did not do nearly so well as we
expected, for we could not go down to hunt in the valleys. So after
getting a fresh outfit for our next journey our share is only a hundred
dollars each. I did not want to take a share, for of course I was not of
much use to them, though I have learnt a lot in the last six months, and
can shoot now as well as any of them, except the two Indians.

"However, they all insisted on my having the same share as the rest.
Uncle wanted me to take his hundred dollars and send them home to you
with mine, but I told him that I would not do so, for I know you have
money enough to go on with, even if your school has turned out a
failure. So I think it would be as well for us to keep our money in hand
for the present. There is never any saying what may happen; we may lose
our horses and kit, and it would be very awkward if we hadn't the money
to replace them. As soon as we get more we will send it off, as you know
I always intended to do. I have still some left of what I brought out
with me, but that and the two hundred dollars would not be more than
enough to buy an entirely new outfit for us both.

"I hope you got the five hundred dollars uncle sent you. He told me he
sent it off from Denver, and it ought to have got home a few weeks after
I left. It is horrid to think that there may be letters from you lying
at Denver, but it serves me right for being so stupid as not to put in
the short note I wrote you from here before I started, that you had
better direct to me at Fort Bridger, as I shall almost be sure to come
back to it before I go to Denver. I like uncle awfully; it seems to me
that he is just what I expected he would be. I suppose they all put in
equal shares, but the other men quite look upon him as their leader.
Sometimes when he is talking to me he speaks just as people do at home.
When he talks to the men he uses the same queer words they do. He is
taller than father was, and more strongly built. What I like in him is,
he is always the same. Sometimes the others used to get grumbly when we
were shut up so long, but it never seemed to make any difference in him.

"I told you when I wrote from Denver that he was called 'Straight
Harry,' because he always acted straightforwardly, and now I know him I
can quite understand their calling him so. One feels somehow that one
could rely upon his always being the same, whatever happened. Leaping
Horse is a first-rate fellow, and so is Hunting Dog, though of course he
does not know nearly as much as the chief does, but he knows a lot. The
other three are all nice fellows, too, so we were a very jolly party.
They know a tremendous lot of stories about hunting and red-skins and
that sort of thing. Some of them would make all you girls' hairs stand
on end. We are going to start off in two or three days to hunt up a gold
mine uncle found three years ago. The Indians are going, too; they will
hunt while the rest of us work. It will be quite a different journey to
the last, and I expect it will be just as hot this time as it was cold
last. We may be away for four months, and perhaps we may not come back
till the snow sets in, so don't expect a letter till you see it."

This was by far the longest letter Tom had ever written, and it took him
several hours to get through. He had the room to himself, for the others
were talking over their adventures with old friends they had met at the
fort. His uncle returned about ten o'clock.

"Where are the others?" Tom asked.

"In the saloon; but they are not drinking, that is, not drinking much. I
told them that if they were to get drunk one of them would be sure to
blab as to where we were going, or at any rate to say enough to excite
suspicion among some of the old miners, that we knew of a good thing,
and in that case we should get a lot of men following us, and it would
interfere with our plans altogether. A party as small as ours may live
for months without a red-skin happening to light on us, but if there
were many more they would be certain to find us. There would be too much
noise going on, too much shooting and driving backward and forward with
food and necessaries. We want it kept dark till we thoroughly prove the
place. So I made them all take an oath this morning that they would keep
their heads cool, and I told them that if one of them got drunk, or said
a word about our going after gold, I would not take him with us. I have
given out that we are going on another hunting party, and of course our
having brought in such a lot of skins will make them think that we have
hit on a place where game is abundant and are going back there for the
summer."

Two more pack-ponies had been added to the outfit. They might be away
for five or six months, and were determined to take a good supply of
flour this time, for all were tired of the diet of meat only, on which
they had existed for the last six months, having devoted by far the
greater part of the flour to the horses.

When they started next day they turned their faces north, as if they
intended to hunt in the mountains where they had wintered. They made but
a short march, camped on a stream, and long before daybreak started
again, travelling for some hours to the west and then striking directly
south. For two days they travelled rapidly, Tom going out every morning
with the Indians hunting, while the others kept with the pack-horses.
Ben had now quite recovered from the strain which had crippled him for
the first three weeks of their march down to Fort Bridger. They were now
fairly among the Ute hills, and at their third camping-place Harry said:

"We must do no more shooting now till we get to our valley. We have got
a supply of deer-flesh for a week at least, and we must be careful in
future. We heard at the fort that several miners have been cut off and
killed by the Utes during the winter, and that they are more set than
ever against white men entering their country. Everyone says those
rascally Saints are at the bottom of it. We must hide our trail as much
as we can. We are just at the edge of the bad lands, and will travel on
them for the next two days. The red-skins don't go out that way much,
there being nothing either to hunt or to plunder, so there is little
fear of their coming on our trail on the bare rocks, especially as none
of the horses are shod. On the third day we shall strike right up into
their mountains."

"Are you sure that you will know the place again, Harry?"

"I reckon I could find it, but I should not feel quite certain about it
if I had not the chief with me. There is no fear of his going wrong.
When a red-skin has once been to a place he can find his way straight
back to it again, even if he were a thousand miles off."

"You said when we were talking of it among the hills, uncle," Tom said,
as he rode beside him the next morning, "that Leaping Horse and you each
took two shares. I wonder what he will do with his if it turns out
well."

"He won't do anything with it, Tom. The chief and I are like brothers.
He does not want gold, he has no use for it; and, besides, as a rule,
Indians never have anything to do with mining. He and Hunting Dog really
come as hunters, and he has an understanding with me that when the
expedition is over I shall pay them the same as they would earn from any
English sportsman who might engage them as guides and hunters, and that
I shall take their shares in whatever we may make. I need not say that
if it turns out as well as we expect, the Indians will get as many
blankets and as much ammunition as will last them their lives. You can't
get a red-skin to dig. Even the chief, who has been with us for years,
would consider it degrading to do work of that kind; and if you see an
Indian at mining work, you may be sure that he is one of the fellows who
has left his tribe and settled down to loaf and drink in the
settlements, and is just doing a spell to get himself enough fire-water
to make himself drunk on.

"The Seneca would be just as willing to come and hunt for us for
nothing. He would get his food and the skins, which would pay for his
tobacco and ammunition, and, occasionally, a new suit of leggings and
hunting-shirt, made by an Indian woman, and with this he would be happy
and contented. He doesn't mind taking money in return for skins, and he
and Hunting Dog had their full share in the division at the fort. When I
last talked to him about this business, he said, 'Leaping Horse doesn't
want money. Of what use is it to him? He has got a bagful hidden at
home, which he has been paid when he was scouting with the army, and for
the skins of beasts he has shot. It is enough to buy many horses and
blankets, and all that a chief can want. He is going with his friend to
hunt, and to fight by his side if the Utes come; he wants none of the
gold.' I explained the matter to him, and he said carelessly: 'Leaping
Horse will take the two shares, but it will be for his brother, and that
he may send it to the girls, the sisters of his friend Tom, of whom he
spoke one night by the fire.'

"Hunting Dog is like Leaping Horse, he will take no gold. I have told
the three men how matters stand. Of course, it makes no difference to
them whether the Indians keep their share or hand it over to me, but at
the same time I thought they ought to know how we stood. They said it
was no business of theirs; that as I was the discoverer I had a right to
sell the whole thing if I chose, and that they thought I had done the
friendly thing by them in letting them in as partners. So you see it is
all right and square. It is like enough, too, that we shall find some
other lodes, and of course there they will come in on even terms with
us. So they are pleased with the look-out, and know well enough it is
likely to be the best strike they ever made in their lives."

They kept near the edge of the bad lands, as had they gone farther out
they would have been obliged to make long detours to get round the head
of the canons made by rivers running down into the Colorado. They had
filled their water-skins at the last stream where they had camped, and
had taken with them enough dried wood for their fires. These they lit
each night in a hollow, as from the upper slopes of the Ute hills a view
could be obtained for a great distance over the flat rocky plateau. Tom
was heartily glad when the two days' journey was over. Not a living
creature had met their eyes; there was no grass on which beasts could
exist, no earth in which prairie-dogs could burrow; even birds shunned
the bare waste of rock.

"It is a desolate country," he said, as they sat round the fire; "it
would be enough to give one the horrors if one were alone. It is hot
now, and in the height of summer the heat and glare from the rock must
be awful."

"It is, Tom; many and many a man has died of thirst in the bad lands.
And what makes it more terrible is, that they can perhaps see water a
thousand feet below them and yet die from the want of it."

"When we were camped on the Green River, uncle, you said that no one had
ever followed it down."

"That is so, lad. One knows whereabouts it goes, as men driven by thirst
have followed canons down to it; and in some places it runs for many
miles across low land before it plunges into another canon. Then it cuts
its way for two or three hundred miles, perhaps, through the hills, with
walls two or three thousand feet high. No one, so far as I know, has
gone down these big canons, but it is certain there are rapids and
whirlpools and rocks in them. Two or three parties have gone down
through some of the shorter canons to escape Indians, and most of them
have never been heard of again, but one or two have got down some
distance and managed to escape.

"No one has followed the course by land. They could not do so unless
they carried all their provisions, and drink and food for their animals,
and even then the expedition would take months, perhaps years to do; for
every spring from the hills runs down a canon to the river, sometimes
fifty miles, sometimes a hundred long, and each time the party came upon
one of these they would have to work up to the mountains to get round
it. It is over a thousand miles in a straight line from the place where
the Green River first enters a canon to where the Colorado issues out on
to the plains, and it may be quite twice that distance if one could
follow all its windings. Some day when the country fills up attempts
will no doubt be made to find out something about it; but it will be a
big job whenever it is tried, and may cost a lot of lives before the
canons are all explored."

In the morning they started westward for the hills. The greatest care
was observed on the march. They took advantage of every depression, and
when obliged to pass over level ground moved at a distance apart, as a
clump or string of moving animals would be made out at a distance from
which a solitary one would be unnoticed. By noon they had left the bare
rock, and were travelling up a valley clothed with grass and dotted with
clumps of trees. In the first of these they halted.

"We will stay here until it begins to get dusk," Harry said, "and then
move on as fast as we can go. If we don't lose our way we shall be there
before morning."

There was no moon, but the stars shone brilliantly, and the mountains,
with their summits still covered with snow, could be seen ahead. The
chief went on in front. Sometimes they proceeded up valleys, sometimes
crossed shoulders and spurs running down from the hills. They moved in
Indian file, and at times proceeded at a brisk pace, at other times more
slowly; but there was no halt or sign of hesitation on the part of their
leader. At last, just as morning was breaking, the chief led them into a
clump of trees. He moved a little distance in, and then reined in his
horse and dismounted.

"Does my brother remember that?" he said to Harry, pointing to something
on the ground.

"Jee-hoshaphat!" Harry exclaimed; "if that ain't my old pack-saddle!
This is the very spot where we camped, boys. Well, chief, you are
certainly a wonder. I doubt whether I could have found my way here in
the daytime. Half a dozen times to-night it seemed to me that you were
going in the wrong direction altogether, and yet you bring us as
straight to the spot as if all the time you had been following a main
road."

"Bully for the chief!" Jerry said warmly. "I am blamed if that ain't a
fust-rate piece of tracking. Waal, here we are at our journey's end.
Can we make a fire?"

"Make small fire, but must put screen round."

"Very well; we will leave the fire to you, and we will unpack the
critters. There is a bundle of dry wood left, so we sha'n't have the
bother of looking for it now."

Before lighting the fire the two Indians stretched some blankets some
six feet above it, to prevent the light falling upon the foliage; then
by their directions Sam cut a dozen short poles, and fixed them in a
circle round the fire. Half a dozen more blankets were fastened to the
poles, forming a wall round the fire, which the chief then lighted. The
nights were, at that height above the sea-level, cool enough to make the
heat pleasant, and there was just room for the, seven men to sit between
the blanket wall and the fire.

"Do you mean this to be our permanent camp, Harry?"

"What do you think, Leaping Horse?"

"Wait till me go up gold valley," the Seneca said. "If can't find a good
place there better stay here; if go backwards and forwards every day
make trail Indian squaw would notice."

"That is so, chief; but by what Harry says it is a mere gully, and the
horses will have to range."

"Horses must feed," the chief said. "If we find a place up there, make
hut, take saddles and outfit there. Tie up horses here, and let them
loose to feed at night. No regular track then. But talk after sleep."

"It will be broad daylight by the time that we have finished our meal,"
Jerry said, "and I reckon none of us will be wanting to sleep till we
have got a sight of Harry's bonanza."

As soon as they had finished their meal, the mining implements, which
had been carefully hidden among the rest of their goods when they
started from the fort, were brought out. Among these were a dozen light
pick-heads and half a dozen handles, as many shovels, a flat iron plate
for crushing ore upon, and a short hammer, with a face six inches in
diameter, as a pounder; also a supply of long nails, to be used in
fastening together troughs, cradles, or any other woodwork that might be
required; three or four deep tin dishes, a bottle of mercury, a saw, and
a few other tools. Three of the pick-heads were now fastened to their
handles, and taking these, a couple of shovels, two of the tin basins, a
sledge hammer, and some steel wedges, and the peculiar wooden platter,
in shape somewhat resembling a small shield with an indentation in the
middle, called a vanner, and universally used by prospectors, the five
whites and Leaping Horse started from their camp for the spot where
Harry had found the lode. It lay about a mile up a narrow valley,
running into the larger one. A rivulet trickled down its centre.

"I reckoned on that," Harry said. "Of course it was frozen when we were
here, but I could see that there was water in summer. You see this
hollow runs right up into that wood, and there is sure to be water in it
for the next three months anyhow."

They had gone but a short distance up when they stopped at a spot where
the streamlet widened out into a pool.

"Let us try here," Jerry said, "and see if there is any sign."

Half a shovelful of sand was placed in the vanner with a small quantity
of water, and while Harry and Sam proceeded to wash some gravel roughly
in the pans, Tom stood watching Jerry's operations. He gave a gentle
motion to the vanner that caused its contents to revolve, the coarser
particles being thrown towards the edges while the finer remained in the
centre. The water was poured away and the rougher particles of gravel
and sand swept off by the hand; fresh water was then added, and the
process repeated again and again, until at last no more than a spoonful
of fine sand remained in the centre. A sideway action of the vanner
caused this to slope gradually down towards the edge. At the very bottom
three tiny bits of yellow metal were seen. They were no bigger than
pins' heads. It seemed to Tom that this was a miserably small return for
five minutes' labour, but the others seemed well satisfied, and were
still more pleased when, on the two pans being cleaned out, several
little pieces of gold were found, one of which was nearly as large as a
small pea.

"That is good enough," Ben said; "it will run a lot richer when we get
down on to the rock."

At two other places on their way up they tried the experiments, with
increasingly good results.

"There is some tall work to be done here with washing," Harry said. "Now
come on to the vein. I only saw one of them, but there must be a lot
more or you would not find so much metal in the sand. However, the one I
saw is good enough for anything." They went on again to a point where
the rock cropped boldly out on both sides of the valley; Harry led them
a few paces up the side, and pointed to some white patches in the rock.
"That is where I chipped it off, lads, three years ago."

The face of the lode, discoloured by age and weather, differed but
little from the rock surrounding it; but where it had been broken off it
was a whitish yellow, thickly studded with little bits of dull yellow
metal sticking out of it. Tom was not greatly impressed; but he saw from
the faces of his companions that they were at once surprised and
delighted.

"By gosh, Harry, you have done it this time!" Sam Hicks exclaimed. "You
have struck it rich, and no mistake. I thought from the way you talked
of it it must be something out of the way, but I am blamed if I thought
it was like this."

"Stand back, you chaps," Jerry said, lifting the heavy sledge hammer;
"let me get a drive at it. Here is a crack. Put one of them wedges in,
Ben."

The wedge was placed in the fissure, and Ben held it while Jerry gave a
few light blows to get it firmly fixed.

"That will do, Ben; take away your hand and let me drive at it."
Swinging the hammer round his head Jerry brought it down with tremendous
force on the head of the wedge. Again and again the heavy hammer rose
and fell, with the accuracy of a machine, upon the right spot, until the
wedge, which was nine inches long, was buried in the crevice.

"Now another one, Ben. Give me a longer one this time."

This time Ben held the wedge until it was half buried, having perfect
confidence in Jerry's skill. It was not until the fourth wedge had been
driven in that a fragment of rock weighing four or five hundredweight
suddenly broke out from the face. All bent eagerly over it, and the
miners gave a shout of joy. The inner surface, which was white, but
slightly stained with yellow, with blurs of slate colour here and there,
was thickly studded with gold. It stuck out above the surface in thin,
leafy plates with ragged edges, with here and there larger spongy
masses.

"I reckon that is good enough," Jerry said, wiping the sweat from his
forehead. "Ef there is but enough of it, it is the biggest thing that
ever was struck. There ain't no saying how rich it is, but I will bet my
boots it's over five hundred ounces to the ton. It ain't in nature that
it is going to run far like that, but it is good enough for anything.
Well, what is the next thing, Harry?"

"We will break it up," Harry said, "and carry it down with us to the
camp. If the Utes came down on us tomorrow, and we could get off with
it, that would be plenty to show if we want to make a sale."

It took them a long time to break up the rock, for the quartz was hard,
and was so bound together by the leafy gold running through it that each
of the four men had several spells with the hammer before it was broken
up into fragments weighing some twenty pounds apiece. As soon as this
was done the men collected earth, filled up the hole in the face of the
rock, and planted several large tufts of grass in it, and poured four or
five tins of water over them; then they smeared with mud the patches
where Harry had before broken pieces off.

"What is all that for, Jerry?" Tom asked.

"It is to hide up the traces, lad. We may have to bolt away from here
to-morrow morning for anything we know, and before we come back again
someone else may come along, and though we shall locate our claims at
the mining register, there would be a lot of trouble if anyone else had
taken possession, and was working the vein when we got back."

"It is not likely that anyone else would come along here, Jerry."

"Waal, I reckon that is so, but one ain't going to trust to chance when
one has struck on such a place as this."

The Seneca had been the only unmoved person in the party.

"What do you think of that, chief?" Harry asked him.

"If my white brother is pleased Leaping Horse is glad," he replied. "But
the Indian does not care for gold. What can he do with it? He has a good
gun, he does not want twenty. He does not want many hunting suits. If he
were to buy as many horses as would fill the valley he could not ride
them all, and he would soon tire of sitting in his lodge and being
waited upon by many wives. He has enough for his needs now. When he is
old it will be time to rest."

"Well, that is philosophy, chief, and I don't say you are wrong from
your way of looking at it. But that gold means a lot to us. It means
going home to our people. It means living in comfort for the rest of our
lives. It means making our friends happy."

"Leaping Horse is glad," the chief said gravely. "But he cannot forget
that to him it means that the white brother, with whom he has so long
hunted and camped and fought bad Indians, will go away across the great
salt water, and Leaping Horse will see him no more."

"That is so, chief," Harry said, grasping the Indian's hand warmly, "and
I was a selfish brute not to think of it before. There is one thing I
will promise you. Every year or so I will come out here and do a couple
of months' hunting with you. The journey is long, but it is quickly made
now, and I know that after knocking about for twenty years I shall never
be content if I don't take a run out on the plains for a bit every
summer. I will give you my word, Leaping Horse, that as long as I have
health and strength I will come out regularly, and that you shall see
your white brother's friendship is as strong as your own."

The Seneca's grave face lit up with pleasure. "My white brother is very
good," he said. "He has taken away the thorn out of the heart of Leaping
Horse. His Indian brother is all glad now."

The quartz was placed in sacks they had brought with them to carry down
samples, and they at once returned to the camp, where, after smoking a
pipe, they lay down to sleep; but it was some time before all went off,
so excited were they at the thought of the fortune that seemed before
them.

In the afternoon they took one of the pieces of stone, weighing, by a
spring balance, twenty pounds, and with the flat plate and the
crushing-hammer went to the stream. The rock was first broken with the
sledge into pieces the size of a walnut. These were pulverized on the
iron plate and the result carefully washed, and when the work was
finished the gold was weighed in the miner's scales, and turned the
four-ounce weight.

"That is nearly five hundred ounces to the ton," Harry said, "but of
course it is not going to run like that. I reckon it is a rich pocket;
there may be a ton of the stuff, and there may be fifty. Now let's go up
and have a quiet look for the lode, and see if we can trace it. We ought
to see it on the rock the other side."

A careful search showed them the quartz vein on the face of the rock
some fifty feet higher up the valley, and this showed them the direction
of the run of the lode. It was here, however, only six inches wide
instead of being two feet, as at the spot where it was first found. Some
pieces were broken off: there was gold embedded in it, but it was
evident that it was nothing like so rich as on the other side. A piece
of ten pounds was pounded up, it returned only a little over a
pennyweight of gold.

"About twelve ounces to the ton," Harry said. "Not bad, but a mighty
falling off from the other. To-morrow morning we will follow the lode on
the other side and see if we can strike an outcrop."

The next day they found the lode cropping up through the rock some
thirty yards from their great find. It was about nine inches wide. They
dug it out with their picks to a depth of two feet so as to get a fair
sample. This when crushed gave a return at the rate of twenty ounces.

"That is rich enough again, and would pay splendidly if worked by
machinery. Of course the question is, how far it holds on as rich as we
found it at the face, and how it keeps on in depth? But that is just
what we can't find. We want drills and powder, as picks are no sort of
good on this hard quartz. Supposing it goes off gradually from the face
to this point, there would be millions of dollars in it, even supposing
it pinched in below, which there is no reason in the world to suppose.
We may as well take a few of these chunks of rock, they will show that
the gold holds fairly a good way back anyhow."

A few pieces were put aside and the rest thrown into the hole again,
which was stamped down and filled up with dust. The party then went back
to dinner, and a consultation was held as to what was next to be done.

"Of course we must stake out our claims at once," Harry said. "In the
first place there are our own eight claims--two for each of the
discoverers and one each for the others. Hunting Dog will not have a
share, but will be paid the regular rate as a hunter. Then we will take
twenty claims in the names of men we know. They wouldn't hold water if
it were a well-known place, and everyone scrambling to get a claim on
the lode; but as there is no one to cut in, and no one will know the
place till we have sold it and a company sends up to take possession and
work it, it ain't likely to be disputed. The question is, What shall we
do now? Shall we make back to the settlements, or try washing a bit?"

"Try washing, I should say," Jerry said. "You may be some time before
you can sell the place. Anyone buying will know that they will have to
send up a force big enough to fight the Utes, and besides they will want
someone to come up here to examine it before they close the bargain. I
vote we stick here and work the gravel for a bit so as to take enough
away to keep us till next spring. I reckon we shall find plenty of stuff
in it as we go down, and if that is so we can't do better than stick to
it as long as there is water in the creek."

"I agree with you there, Jerry; but it will never do to risk losing
those first samples. I am ready to stay here through the summer, but I
vote we sew them up in deer-hide, and put two or three thicknesses of
skin on them so as to prevent accidents. Two of us had best go with them
to the fort and ask the Major to let us stow them away in his magazine,
then, if we have to bolt, we sha'n't be weighted down with them.
Besides, we might not have time for packing them on the horses, and
altogether it would be best to get them away at once, then come what
might we should have proofs of the value of the mine."

This proposal was cordially agreed to, and it was settled that on the
following morning Harry himself should, with Hunting Dog and two
pack-horses, start for the fort, following the same route they came,
while the rest should set to work to construct a cradle, and troughs for
leading the water to it.




CHAPTER XIV

AN INDIAN ATTACK


A couple of trees were felled in the middle of the clump in which they
were still encamped. They were first roughly squared and then sawn into
planks, the three men taking it by turns to use the saw. The question of
shifting the camp up to the spot where they intended to work was
discussed the night before Harry started, but it was agreed at last that
it would be better to remain where they were.

"If Utes come, sure to find traces," the chief said. "Many horses in
valley make tracks as plain as noonday. Gold valley bad place for
fight."

"That is so," Jerry agreed. "We should not have a show there. Even if we
made a log-house, and it would be a dog-goned trouble to carry up the
logs,--we might be shut up in it, and the red-skins would only have to
lie round and shoot us down if we came out. I reckon we had best stay
here after all, Harry. We could keep them outside the range of our
rifles anyhow by day."

"I don't see that that would be much good to us, Jerry; for if they came
by day they would not find us here. Still I don't know that it ain't
best for us to stay here; it would give us a lot of trouble to build a
place. I reckon two of us had better stay here all the day with the
horses. If the red-skins come, they can fire a couple of shots, and we
shall hear them up at the washing-place. The red-skins would be safe to
draw off for a bit to talk it over before they attacked, as they would
not know how many there were among the trees. That would give the rest
time to come down."

It took three days' hard work to saw the planks and make the cradle, and
troughs sufficiently long to lead the water down into it from the stream
higher up. These were roughly but strongly made, the joints being
smeared with clay to prevent the water from running through. A dam was
then made to keep back the water above the spot where they intended to
begin, which was about fifty yards below the quartz vein, and from this
dam the trough was taken along on strong trestles to the cradle.

The horses were brought into the camp at daybreak every morning and tied
up to the trees, and were let out again at nightfall. Tom remained in
camp, the chief being with him. The latter, however, was, during the
time Harry was away, twice absent for a day on hunting excursions lower
down the valley, which was there thickly wooded. The first time, he
returned with the hams and a considerable portion of the rest of the
flesh of a bear. The second time, he brought up the carcass of a deer.

"How far does the valley run?" Tom asked.

"Valley last ten miles. Sides get steep and high, then canon begin."

"That will run right down to the Colorado?"

The chief nodded. "Leaping Horse go no farther. Canon must go down to
the river."

"How far is it before the sides of the valley get too steep to climb?"

"Two miles from here. Men could climb another mile or two, horses not."

"Is there much game down there, chief?"

The Seneca nodded.

"That is a comfort, we sha'n't be likely to run out of fresh meat."

The chief was very careful in choosing the wood for the fire, so that in
the daytime no smoke should be seen rising from the trees. When the dead
wood in the clump of trees was exhausted he rode down the valley each
day, and returned in an hour with a large faggot fastened behind him on
the horse. He always started before daybreak, so as to reduce the risk
of being seen from the hills. On the sixth day the men began their work
at the gravel. The bottle of mercury was emptied into the cradle, the
bottom of which had been made with the greatest care, so as to prevent
any loss from leakage. Two of the men brought up the gravel in buckets
and pans, until the cradle was half full. Then water was let in, and the
third man rocked the machine and kept on removing the coarse stuff that
worked up to the top, while the others continued bringing up fresh
gravel.

"Well, what luck?" Tom asked, when they returned in the evening.

"We have not cleaned up yet; we shall let it run for three or four days
before we do. We are only on the surface yet, and the stuff wouldn't pay
for the trouble of washing out."

On the eighth day after their departure Harry and Hunting Dog returned.

"Well, boys, it is all stowed away safely," he said. "I know the Major
well, and he let me have a big chest, which he locked up, after I had
put the bags in, and had it stowed away in the magazine; so there is no
fear of its being touched. Any signs of the red-skins?"

"Nary a sign. We have none of us been up the valley beyond this, so that
unless they come right down here, they would find no trail. The horses
are always driven down the valley at night."

"How is the work going on, Jerry?"

"We began washing two days ago; to-morrow night we shall clean up. We
all think it is going to turn out pretty good, for we have seen gold in
the sand several times as we have carried it up in the pails."

The next day Tom went up with the others, the Indians remaining in camp.
Two men now worked at the cradle, while the other three brought up the
sand and gravel. Towards evening they began the work of cleaning up. No
more stuff was brought up to the machine, but the water was still run
into it. As fast as the shaking brought the rough gravel to the top it
was removed, until only a foot of sand remained at the bottom. The water
was now stopped and the sand dug out, and carefully washed in the pans
by hand. At the bottom of each pan there remained after all the sand had
been removed a certain amount of gold-dust, the quantity increasing as
the bottom was approached. The last two panfuls contained a considerable
amount.

"It does not look much," Tom said when the whole was collected together.

"It is heavy stuff, lad," Harry replied. "What do you think there is,
Jerry? About twelve ounces, I should fancy."

"All that, Harry; nigher fourteen, I should think."

The pan was now put at the bottom of the cradle, a plug pulled out, and
the quicksilver run into it. A portion of this was poured on
wash-leather, the ends of which were held up by the men so as to form a
bag. Harry took the leather, and holding it over another pan twisted it
round and round. As the pressure on the quicksilver increased it ran
through the pores of the leather in tiny streams, until at last a lump
of pasty metal remained. This was squeezed again and again, until not a
single globule of quicksilver passed through the leather. The ball,
which was of the consistency of half-dried mortar was then taken out,
and the process repeated again and again until the whole of the
quicksilver had been passed through the leather. Six lumps of amalgam
about the size of small hens' eggs remained.

"Is that good, uncle?" Tom asked.

"Very fair, lad; wonderfully good indeed, considering we have not got
down far yet. I should say we shall get a pound and a half of gold out
of it."

"But how does the gold get into it, uncle?"

"There is what is called an affinity between quicksilver and gold. The
moment gold touches quicksilver it is absorbed by it, just as a drop of
water is taken up by a lump of salt. It thickens the quicksilver, and as
it is squeezed through the leather the quicksilver is as it were
strained out, and what remains behind becomes thicker and thicker,
until, as you see, it is almost solid. It is no good to use more
pressure, for if you do a certain amount of the gold would be squeezed
through the leather. You see, as the stuff in the cradle is shaken, the
gold being heavier than the sand finds its way down to the bottom, and
every particle that comes in contact with the quicksilver is swallowed
up by it."

"And how do you get the quicksilver out of those lumps?"

"We put them in one of those clay crucibles you saw, with a pinch of
borax, cover them up, and put them in a heap of glowing embers. That
evaporates the quicksilver, and leaves the gold behind in the shape of a
button." This was done that evening, and when the buttons were placed in
the scales they just turned the two-pound weight.

"Well, boys, that is good enough for anything," Harry said. "That, with
the dust, makes a pound a day, which is as good as the very best stuff
in the early days of California."

They worked steadily for the next seven weeks. Contrary to their
expectations the gravel was but little richer lower down than they had
found it at the end of the first wash-up, but continued about equally
good, and the result averaged about a pound weight of gold a day. This
was put into little bags of deer-skin, each containing five pounds'
weight, and these bags were distributed among the saddle-bags, so that
in case of sudden disturbance there would be no risk of their being left
behind. The Indians took it by turns to hunt; at other times they
remained on guard in camp, Tom only staying when one of them was away.
One day when the mining party stopped work, and sat down to eat some
bread and cold meat,--which they had from the first brought up, so as to
save them the loss of time entailed by going to the camp and back,--the
report of a gun came upon their ears. All started to their feet and
seized their rifles, and then stood listening intently. A minute later
two more shots were heard at close intervals.

"Red-skins for sure!" Jerry exclaimed. "I thought as how our luck were
too good to last." They started at a run down the little valley, and
only paused when they reached its mouth. Harry then advanced cautiously
until he could obtain a view of the main valley. He paused for a minute
and then rejoined his companions.

"There are fifty of them," he said, "if there is one. They are Utes in
their war-paint. They are a bit up the valley. I think if we make a rush
we can get to the trees before they can cut us off."

"We must try anyhow," Sam Hicks said, "else they will get the two
Indians and our horses and saddles and all. Just let us get breath for a
moment, and then we will start."

"Keep close together as you run," Harry said, "and then if they do come
up we can get back to back and make a fight of it." After a short pause
they started. They had not gone twenty yards when a loud yell proclaimed
that the Indians had seen them. They had, however, but three hundred
yards to run, while the Utes were double that distance from the clump.

When the miners were within fifty yards of the trees two rifle-shots
rang out, and two of the Utes, who were somewhat ahead of the rest; fell
from their horses, while the rest swerved off, seeing that there was no
hope of cutting the party off. A few more yards and the miners were
among the trees.

"So the Utes have found us out, chief," Harry said as he joined Leaping
Horse, who had just reloaded his ride.

"Must have tracked us. They are a war-party," the Seneca replied.
"Hunter must have found tracks and taken news back to the villages."

"Well, we have got to fight for it, that is clear enough," Harry said.
"Anyhow, now they see there are seven of us they are not likely to
attack until it gets dark, so we have time to think over what had best
be done. We had just begun our meal when we heard your shot, and the
best thing we can do is to have a good feed at once. We may be too busy
later on."

The chief said a word to the young Indian, and, leaving him on the
watch, accompanied the others to the fire. They had scarcely sat down
when Hunting Dog came up.

"More Utes," he said briefly, pointing across the valley.

They at once went to the outer line of trees. On the brow of the rise
opposite were a party of horsemen between twenty and thirty strong.

"That shows they have learnt all about our position," Harry said. "Those
fellows have been lying in wait somewhere over the hill to cut us off if
we took to our horses on seeing the main body. Let us have a look the
other side."

Crossing the clump of trees, they saw on the brow there another party of
Utes.

"I reckon they must have crossed that valley we were working in just
after we got through," Jerry said. "It is mighty lucky they did not come
down on us while we were washing, for they could have wiped us all out
before we had time to get hold of our guns. Well, Harry, we are in a
pretty tight fix, with fifty of them up the valley and five-and-twenty
or so on each side of us. We shall have to be dog-goned smart if we are
to get out of this scrape."

"Hand me your rifle, Tom," his uncle said, "it carries farther than
mine, and I will give those fellows a hint that they had best move off a
bit."

Steadying his piece against a tree, he took a careful aim and fired. One
of the Indians swerved in his saddle, and then fell forward on the neck
of his horse, which turned and galloped off with the rest.

"Now we will have our meal and take council, chief," Harry said as he
turned away. "If we have got to fight there is no occasion to fight
hungry."

The fire was made up; there was no need to be careful now. Strips of
deer's flesh were hung over it, and the meal was soon ready. But little
was said while it was being eaten, then they all lighted their pipes and
each put a pannikin of hot tea beside him.

"Now, chief," Harry said, "have you arrived at any way out of this? It
is worse than it was the last time we got caught in this valley."

The chief shook his head. "No good fight here," he said; "when night
come they creep up all round."

"Yes, I see that we have got to bolt, but the question is, how? If we
were to ride they would ride us down, that is certain. Jerry and Tom
might possibly get away, though that ain't likely. Their critters are
good, but nothing downright extraordinary, and the chances are that some
of the Utes have got faster horses than theirs. As for the rest of us,
they would have us before we had ridden an hour."

"That ain't to be thought of," Jerry said. "It seems to me our best
chance would be to leave the critters behind, and to crawl out the
moment it gets dark, and try and get beyond them."

"They will close in as soon as it gets dark, Jerry. They will know well
enough that that is the time we shall be moving. I reckon we should not
have a chance worth a cent of getting through. What do you say, chief?"

Leaping Horse nodded in assent.

"Well, then," Sam Hicks said, "I vote we mount our horses and go right
at them. I would rather do that and get rubbed out in a fair fight than
lie here until they crawl up and finish us."

No one answered, and for some minutes they smoked on without a word
being spoken, then Harry said:

"There is only one chance for us that I can see, and that is to mount
now and to ride right down the valley. The chief says that in some
places it is not more than fifty yards wide, with steep cliffs on each
side, and we could make a much better fight there, for they could only
attack us in front. There would be nothing for them then but to dismount
and close in upon us from tree to tree, and we could make a running
fight of it until we come to the mouth of the canon. There must be
places there, that we ought to be able to hold with our seven rifles
against the lot of them."

"Bully for you, Harry! I reckon that would give us a chance anyhow. That
is, if we ain't cut off before we get to the wood."

"Let us have a look round and see what they are doing," Harry said. "Ah!
here comes Hunting Dog. He will tell us all about it."

"Utes on hills all gone up and joined the others," the young Indian said
as he came up.

"It could not be better news!" Harry exclaimed. "I reckon they have
moved away to tempt us to make a start for the fort, for they know if we
go that way they will have us all, sure. They have not reckoned on our
riding down the valley, for they will be sure we must have found out
long ago that there ain't any way out of it. Well, we had best lose no
time. There is some meat ready, Hunting Dog, and you had best fill up
while we get ready for a start."

The blankets and buffalo rugs were wrapped up and strapped behind the
saddles, as soon as these were placed behind the horses. They had only a
small quantity of meat left, as the chief was going out hunting the next
morning, but they fastened this, and eighty pounds of flour that still
remained, on to one of the pack-horses. They filled their powder-horns
from the keg, and each put three or four dozen bullets into his
holsters, together with all the cartridges for their pistols; the rest
of the ammunition was packed on another horse. When all was completed
they mounted.

"We may get a couple of hundred yards more start before we are seen,"
Harry said. "Anyhow, we have got five hundred yards, and may reckon on
making the two miles to where the valley narrows before they catch us."

The instant, however, they emerged from the wood, two loud yells were
heard from Indians who had been left lying down on watch at the top of
the slopes on either side. Sam, who was the worst shot of the party, had
volunteered to lead the string of pack-horses, while Ben was ready to
urge them on behind.

"You may want to stop some of the leading varmint, and I should not be
much good at that game, so I will keep straight on without paying any
attention to them."

A loud answering yell rose from the Indians up the valley.

"We shall gain fifty yards or so before they are fairly in the saddle,"
Harry said as they went off at the top of their speed, the horses
seeming to know that the loud war-cry boded danger. They had gone half a
mile before they looked round. The Indians were riding in a confused
mass, and were some distance past the grove the miners had left, but
they still appeared as far behind as they had been when they started.
Another mile and the mass had broken up; the best-mounted Indians had
left the rest some distance behind, and considerably decreased the gap
between them and the fugitives. Another five minutes and the latter
reached the wood, that began just where the valley narrowed and the
cliffs rose almost perpendicularly on each side. As soon as they did so
they leapt from their horses, and each posting himself behind a tree
opened fire at their pursuers, the nearest of whom were but two hundred
yards away. Four fell to the first seven shots; the others turned and
galloped back to the main body, who halted at once.

"They won't try a charge," Harry said; "it isn't in Indian nature to
come across the open with the muzzles of seven rifles pointed at them.
They will palaver now; they know they have got us in a trap, and they
will wait till night. Now, chief, I reckon that you and I and Hunting
Dog had best stay here, so that if they try, as they are pretty sure to
do, to find out whether we are here still, we can give them a hint to
keep off. The other four had better ride straight down the canon, and go
on for a bit, to find out the best place for making a stand, and as soon
as it is dark we will go forward and join them. There will be no
occasion for us to hurry. I reckon the skunks will crawl up here soon
after it is dark; but they won't go much farther, for we might hide up
somewhere and they might miss us. In the morning they will come down on
foot, sheltering behind the trees as much as they can, till at last they
locate us."

The chief nodded his approval of the plan, and Tom and the three miners
at once started, taking the pack-horses with them. On the way down they
came upon a bear. Ben was about to fire, but Jerry said: "Best leave him
alone, Ben; we are only three miles down, and these cliffs would echo
the sound and the red-skins would hear it and know that some of us had
gone down the valley, and might make a rush at once." In an hour and a
half they came down to a spot where the valley, after widening out a
good bit, suddenly terminated, and the stream entered a deep canon in
the face of the wall of rock that closed it in.

"I reckon all this part of the valley was a lake once," Jerry said.
"When it got pretty well full it began to run over where this canon is
and gradually cut its way out down to the Colorado. I wonder how far it
is to the river."

They had gone but a hundred yards down the canon when they came to a
place where a recent fall of rocks blocked it up. Through these the
stream, which was but a small one, made its way.

"There is a grist of water comes down here when the snow melts in the
spring," Ben remarked. "You can see that the rocks are worn fifty feet
up. Waal, I reckon this place is good enough for us, Jerry."

"I reckon so, too," the latter agreed. "It will be a job to get our
horses over; but we have got to do it anyhow, if we have to carry them."
The animals, however, managed to scramble up the rocks that filled the
canon to the height of some thirty feet. The distance between the rock
walls was not more than this in width.

"We could hold this place for a year," Ben said, "if they didn't take to
chucking rocks down from above."

"Yes, that is the only danger," Jerry agreed; "but the betting is they
could not get nigh enough to the edge to look down. Still, they might do
it if the ground is level above; anyhow, we should not show much at this
depth, for it is pretty dark down here, and the rocks must be seven or
eight hundred feet high."

It was, indeed, but a narrow strip of sky that they saw as they looked
up, and although still broad daylight in the valley they had left, it
was almost dark at the bottom of the deep gorge, and became pitch dark
as soon as the light above faded.

"The first job in the morning," Jerry said, "will be to explore this
place down below. I expect there are places where it widens out. If it
does, and there are trees and anything like grass, the horses can get a
bite of food; if not, they will mighty soon go under, that is if we
don't come upon any game, for if we don't we sha'n't be able to spare
them flour."

"It is almost a pity we did not leave them in the valley to take their
chance," Tom said.

"Don't you make any mistake," Jerry said. "In the first place they may
come in useful to us yet, and even if we never get astride of them again
they may come in mighty handy for food. I don't say as we mayn't get a
bear if there are openings in the canon, or terraces where they can come
down, but if there ain't it is just horse-meat we have got to depend on.
Look here, boys, it is 'tarnal dark here; I can't see my own hand. I
vote we get a light. There is a lot of drift-wood jammed in among the
stones where we climbed up, that will do to start a fire, and I saw a
lot more just at the mouth of this gap. We know the red-skins ain't near
yet, so I vote we grope our way up and bring some down. It will be a
first-rate thing, too, to make a bit of fire half-way between here and
the mouth; that would put a stop to their crawling up, as they are like
enough to try to do, to make out whereabouts we are. Of course we shall
have to damp our own fire down if they come, else we should show up agin
the light if we went up on the rock."

The others agreed at once, for it was dull work sitting there in the
black darkness. All had matches, and a piece of dry fir was soon found.
This was lighted, and served as a torch with which to climb over the
rocks. Jammed in between these on the upper side was a large quantity of
drift-wood. This was pulled out, made into bundles, and carried over the
rock barrier, and a fire was soon blazing there. Then taking a brand and
two axes they went up to the mouth of the gorge, cut up the arms of some
trees that had been brought down by the last floods and left there as
the water sank. The greater part of these were taken down to their
camping-place; the rest, with plenty of small wood to light them, were
piled halfway between the barrier and the mouth of the canon, and were
soon blazing brightly.

They were returning to their camping-place, when Ben exclaimed that he
heard the sound of horses' hoofs. All stopped to listen.

"There are not more than three of them," Ben said, "and they are coming
along at a canter. I don't expect we shall hear anything of the
red-skins until tomorrow morning."

They heard the horses enter the canon, then Jerry shouted: "Are you all
right, Harry?"

"Yes; the red-skins were all quiet when we came away. Why, where are
you?" he shouted again when he came up to the fire.

"A hundred yards farther on I will show you a light."

Two or three blazing brands were brought up. Harry and the Indians had
dismounted at the first fire, and now led their horses up to the stone
barrier.

"What on arth have you lit that other fire for, Jerry?" Harry asked as
he stopped at the foot of the barrier.

"Because we shall sleep a dog-goned sight better with it there. As like
as not they may send on two or three young warriors to scout. It is as
black as a wolf's mouth, and we might have sat listening all night, and
then should not have heard them. But with that fire there they dare not
come on, for they would know they could not pass it without getting a
bullet in them."

"Well, it is a very good idea, Jerry; I could not think what was up when
I got there and did not see anybody. I see you have another fire over
the other side. I could make it out clear enough as we came on."

"It will burn down a bit presently," Jerry said. "I should not try to
get those horses up here now, Harry. It was a bad place to come up in
daylight, and like enough they would break their legs if they tried it
now. They will do just as well there as they would on this side, and you
can get them over as soon as the day breaks."

"I would rather get them over, Jerry; but I see it is a pretty rough
place."

Leaving the horses, Harry and the Indians climbed over the barrier, and
were soon seated with the others round their fire, over which the meat
was already frizzling.

"So the Indians kept quiet all the afternoon, Harry?"

"As quiet as is their nature. Two or three times some of them rode down,
and galloped backwards and forwards in front of us to make out if we
were there. Each time we let them fool about for a good long spell, and
then when they got a bit careless sent them a ball or two to let them
know we were still there. Hunting Dog went with the three horses half a
mile down the valley soon after you had gone, so that they might not
hear us ride off.

"As soon as it began to get dusk we started. We had to come pretty slow,
for it got so dark under the trees we could not make out the trunks, and
had to let the horses pick their own way. But we knew there was no
hurry, for they would not follow till morning, though of course their
scouts would creep up as soon as it was dark, and wouldn't be long
before they found out that we had left."

"I reckon they will all come and camp in the wood and wait for daylight
before they move, though I don't say two or three scouts may not crawl
down to try and find out where we are. They will move pretty slow, for
they will have to pick their way, and will know well enough that if a
twig cracks it will bring bullets among them. I reckon they won't get
here under four or five hours. It is sartin they won't try to pass that
fire above. As soon as they see us they will take word back to the
others, and we shall have the whole lot down here by morning."

"We shall have to get the horses over, the first thing. Two of us had
best go down, as soon as it is light enough to ride without risking our
necks, to see what the canon is like below."

"Yes, that is most important, Jerry; there may be some break where the
red-skins could get down, and so catch us between two fires."

"I don't care a red cent for the Utes," Jerry said. "We can lick them
out of their boots in this canon. What we have been thinking of, is
whether there is some place where the horses can get enough to keep them
alive while we are shut up here. If there is game, so much the better;
if there ain't, we have got to take to horseflesh."

"How long do you suppose that the Indians are likely to wait when they
find that they can't get at us?" Tom asked.

"There ain't no sort of saying," his uncle replied. "I reckon no one
ever found out yet how long a red-skin's patience will last. Time ain't
nothing to them. They will follow up this canon both sides till they are
sartin that there ain't no place where a man can climb up. If there
ain't, they will just squat in that valley. Like enough they will send
for their lodges and squaws and fix themselves there till winter comes,
and even then they might not go. They have got wood and water. Some of
them will hunt and bring in meat, which they will dry for the winter;
and they are just as likely to stay here as to go up to their villages."

A vigilant watch was kept up all night, two of them being always on
guard at the top of the barrier. As soon as morning broke, the three
horses were got over, and half an hour later Harry and Sam Hicks rode
off down the canon, while the others took their places on guard, keeping
themselves well behind the rocks, between which they looked out. They
had not long to wait, for an Indian was seen to dart rapidly across the
mouth of the canon. Two rifles cracked out, but the Indian's appearance
and disappearance was so sudden and quick that they had no reason to
believe that they had hit him.

"They will know now that we are here, and are pretty wide awake," Ben
said. "You may be sure that he caught sight of these rocks."

A minute or two later several rifles flashed from among the fallen
stones at the mouth of the gorge.

"Keep your eyes open," Jerry said, "and when you see the slightest
movement, fire. But don't do it unless you feel certain that you make
out a head or a limb. We've got to show the Utes that it is sartin death
to try and crawl up here."

Almost immediately afterwards a head appeared above the stones, the
chief's rifle cracked, and at the same instant the head disappeared.

"Do you think you got him, chief?"

"Think so, not sure. Leaping Horse does not often miss his mark at two
hundred yards."

Almost directly afterwards Tom fired. An Indian sprang to his feet and
bounded away.

"What did you fire at, Tom?"

"I think it was his arm and shoulder," Tom replied. "I was not sure
about it, but I certainly saw something move."

"I fancy you must have hit him, or he would not have got up. Waal, now I
reckon we are going to have quiet for a bit. They must have had a good
look at the place while they were lying there, and must have seen that
it air too strong for them. I don't say they mayn't come on again
tonight--that they may do, but I think it air more likely they won't try
it. They would know that we should be on the watch, and with seven
rifles and Colts we should account for a grist of them afore they got
over. What do you say, chief?"

"Not come now," the Indian said positively. "Send men first along top
see if can get down. Not like come at night; the canons of the Colorado
very bad medicine, red-skins no like come into them. If no way where we
can get up, then Utes sit down to starve us."

"That will be a longish job, chief. A horse a week will keep us for
three months."

"If no food for horse, horse die one week."

"So they will, chief. We must wait till Harry comes back, then we shall
know what our chances are."

It was six hours before Harry and Sam returned. There was a shout of
satisfaction from the men when they saw that they had on their saddles
the hind-quarters of a bear.

"Waal, what is the news, Harry?"

"It ain't altogether good, Ben. It goes down like this for about twelve
miles, then it widens out sudden. It gets into a crumbly rock which has
got worn away, and there is a place maybe about fifty yards wide and
half a mile long, with sloping sides going up a long way, and then cliff
all round. The bottom is all stones; there are a few tufts of coarse
grass growing between them. On the slopes there are some bushes, and on
a ledge high up we made out a bear. We had two or three shots at him,
and at last brought him down. There may be more among the bushes; there
was plenty of cover for them."

"There was no place where there was a chance of getting up, Harry?"

"Nary a place. I don't say as there may not be, but we couldn't see
one."  "But the bear must have got down."

"No. He would come down here in the dry season looking for water-holes,
and finding the place to his liking he must have concluded to settle
there. It is just the place a bear would choose, for he might reckon
pretty confident that there weren't no chance of his being disturbed.
Well, we went on beyond that, and two miles lower the canon opened
again, and five minutes took us down on to the bank of the Colorado.
There was no great room between the river and the cliff, but there were
some good-sized trees there, and plenty of bush growing up some
distance. We caught sight of another bear, but as we did not want him we
left him alone."

"Waal, let us have some b'ar-meat first of all," Jerry said. "We
finished our meat last night, and bread don't make much of a meal, I
reckon. Anyhow we can all do with another, and after we have done we
will have a talk. We know what to expect now, and can figure it up
better than we could before."




CHAPTER XV

THE COLORADO


"Well, boys," Harry Wade began after they had smoked for some time in
silence, "we have got to look at this matter squarely. So far we have
got out of a mighty tight place better than we expected. Yesterday it
seemed to us that there weren't much chance of our carrying our hair
away, but now we are out of that scrape. But we are in another pretty
nigh as bad, though there ain't much chance of the red-skins getting at
us."

"That air so, Harry. We are in a pretty tight hole, you bet. They ain't
likely to get our scalps for some time, but there ain't no denying that
our chance of carrying them off is dog-goned small."

"You bet there ain't, Jerry," Sam Hicks said. "Them pizon varmint will
camp outside here; for they know they have got us in a trap. They mayn't
attack us at present, but we have got to watch night and day. Any dark
night they may take it into their heads to come up, and there won't be
nothing to prevent them, for the rustling of the stream among the rocks
would cover any little noise they might make. The first we should know
of it would be the yell of the varmint at the foot of this barrier, and
afore we could get to the top the two on guard would be tomahawked, and
they would be down on us like a pack of wolves. I would a'most as soon
put down my rifle and walk straight out now and let them shoot me, if I
knew they would do it without any of their devilish tortures, as go on
night after night, expecting to be woke up with their war-yell in my
ears.

"Of course they will be always keeping a watch there at the mouth of the
canon,--a couple of boys are enough for that,--for they will know that
if we ride out on our horses we must go right up the valley, and it is a
nasty place to gallop through in the dark; besides, some of them will no
doubt be placed higher up to cut us off, and if we got through, which
ain't likely, they could ride us down in a few hours. If we crept out on
foot and got fairly among the trees we should be no better off, for they
would take up our trail in the morning and hunt us down. I tell you
fairly, boys, I don't see any way out of it. I reckon it will come to
our having to ride out together, and to wipe out as many of the Utes as
possible afore we go down. What do you say, chief?"  "Leaping Horse
agrees with his white brother, Straight Harry, whose mind he knows."

"Waal, go on then, Harry," Sam said. "I thought that you had made an end
of it or I wouldn't have opened out. I don't see no way out of it at
present, but if you do I am ready to fall in with it whatever it is."

"I see but one way out of it, boys. It is a mighty risky thing, but it
can't be more risky than stopping here, and there is just a chance. I
spoke to the chief last night, and he owned that it didn't seem to him
there was a chance in that or any other way. However, he said that if I
went he would go with me. My proposal is this, that we take to the river
and try and get through the canons."

There was a deep silence among the men. The proposal took them by
surprise. No man had ever accomplished the journey. Though two parties
similarly attacked by Indians had attempted to raft down some of the
canons higher up; one party perished to a man, one survivor of the other
party escaped to tell the tale; but as to the canons below, through
which they would have to pass, no man had ever explored them. The
Indians regarded the river with deep awe, and believed the canons to be
peopled with demons. The enterprise was so stupendous and the dangers to
be met with so terrible, that ready as the western hunters were to
encounter dangers, no one had ever attempted to investigate the windings
and turnings of the river that for two thousand miles made its way
through terrific precipices, and ran its course some three thousand feet
below the surrounding country, until it emerged on to the plains of
Mexico.

"That was why I was so anxious to reach the river," Harry went on after
a pause. "I wanted to see whether there were some trees, by which we
could construct a raft, near its bank. Had there not been, I should have
proposed to follow it up or down, as far as we could make our way, in
hopes of lighting on some trees. However, as it is they are just handy
for us. I don't say as we shall get through, boys, but there is just a
chance of it. I don't see any other plan that would give us a show."

Jerry was the first to speak.

"Waal, Harry, you can count me in. One might as well be drowned in a
rapid or carried over a fall as killed, or, wuss, taken and tortured by
the red-skins."

"That is so, Jerry," Sam Hicks agreed. While Ben said: "Waal, if we git
through it will be something to talk about all our lives. In course
there ain't no taking the horses?"

"That is out of the question, Ben. We shall not have much time to spare,
for the Utes may take it into their heads to attack us any night; and,
besides, we have no means of making a big raft. We might tie two or
three trunks together with the lariats and spike a few cross-pieces on
them, we might even make two such rafts; that is the outside. They will
carry us and our stores, but as for the horses, we must either leave
them down in the hollow for the Indians to find, or put a bullet through
their heads. I expect the latter will be the best thing for them, poor
beasts."

"No want trees," the chief said. "Got horses' skins; make canoes."

"You are right, chief," Harry exclaimed; "I never thought of that. That
would be the very thing. Canoes will go down the rapids where the
strongest rafts would be dashed to pieces, and if we come to a bad fall
we can make a shift to carry them round."

The others were no less pleased with the suggestion, and the doubtful
expression of their faces as they assented to the scheme now changed to
one of hopefulness, and they discussed the plan eagerly. It was agreed
that not a moment should be lost in setting to work to carry it out, and
that they should forthwith retreat to the mouth of the lower canon; for
all entertained a secret misgiving that the Utes might make their attack
that night, and felt that if that attack were made in earnest it would
succeed. It was certain they would be able to find some point at which
the lower gorge could be held; and at any rate a day would be gained,
for at whatever hour of the night the Indians came up they would not
venture farther until daybreak, and there would probably be a long
palaver before they would enter the lower canon.

Tom had not spoken. He recognized the justice of Harry's reasoning, but
had difficulty in keeping his tears back at the thought of his horse
being killed. For well-nigh a year it had carried him well; he had
tended and cared for it; it would come to his call and rub its muzzle
against his cheek. He thought that had he been alone he would have
risked anything rather than part with it.

"Don't you like the plan, Tom?" Harry said to him, as, having packed and
saddled the horses, they rode together down the canon. "I don't suppose
the passage is so terrible after all."

"I am not thinking of the passage at all, uncle," Tom said almost
indignantly; "it will be a grand piece of adventure; but I don't like--I
hate--the thought of my horse being killed. It is like killing a dear
friend to save one's self."

"It is a wrench, lad," Harry said kindly; "I can quite understand your
feelings, and don't like the thought myself. But I see that it has got
to be done, and after all it will be better to kill the poor brutes than
to let them fall into the hands of the Indians, who don't know what
mercy to their beasts means, and will ride them till they drop dead
without the least compunction."

"I know it is better, uncle, ever so much better--but it is horrible all
the same. Anyhow, don't ask me to do it, for I could not."

"I will see to that, Tom. You shall be one of the guards of the canon.
You would not be of much use in making the canoes, and you won't have to
know anything about it till you go down and get on board."

Tom nodded his thanks; his heart was too full for him to speak, and he
felt that if he said a word he should break down altogether. They rode
rapidly along, passed through the little valley where the bear had been
killed, without stopping, and went down the lower canon, carefully
examining it to fix upon the most suitable point for defence. There had
been no recent fall, and though at some points great boulders lay
thickly, there was no one place that offered special facilities for
defence.

"Look here, boys," Harry said, reining up his horse at a point within
two hundred yards of the lower end, "we can't do better than fix
ourselves here. An hour's work will get up a wall that will puzzle the
red-skins to get over, and there is the advantage that a shot fired here
by the guard will bring our whole force up in a couple of minutes. I
vote we ride the horses down to the river and let them pick up what they
can, and then come back here and build the wall. It will be getting dark
in an hour's time, and we may as well finish that job at once. Ben and
Sam, you may as well pick out a couple of young fir-trees and bring
them down at once, then there will be no time lost. Five of us will be
enough for the wall. Keep your eyes open. Likely enough there is a bear
or two about, and it would be a great thing for us to lay in a stock of
meat before we start."

As soon as they issued from the gorge the horses were unsaddled and the
stores taken off the pack-animals. As they were doing this Harry said a
few words in a low tone to Sam. He then carefully examined the trees,
and picked out two young firs. Sam and Ben took their axes, and the
other five went up the gorge again, and were soon hard at work
collecting boulders and piling them in a wall.

"There is a gun, uncle," Tom exclaimed presently.

"Well, I hope they have got sight of a bear, we shall want a stock of
meat badly."

A dozen shots were fired, but Tom thought no more of it as he proceeded
with his work. The bottom of the canon was but fifteen feet wide, and by
the time it was dark they had a solid wall across it nearly six feet
high, with places for them to stand on to fire over.

"Now then, Tom, you may as well take post here at once. I will send Sam
or Ben up to watch with you. I don't think there is a shadow of chance
of their coming to-night, but there is never any answering for
red-skins. I would leave Hunting Dog with you, but we shall want him to
help make the framework for the canoes; the Indians are a deal handier
than we are in making lashings. I will send your supper up here, lad,
and your buffalo robes. Then you can take it by turns to watch and
sleep. I reckon we shall be at work all night; we have got to get the
job finished as quick as we can."

A quarter of an hour later Sam Hicks came up.

"Have you got the trees down, Sam?"

"Lor' bless you, it didn't take a minute to do that. We got them down
and split them up, then lit a fire and got the meat over it and the
kettle, and mixed the dough."

"Did you kill another bear? We heard you firing."

"No; the critter was too high up, and I ain't much good at shooting.
Perhaps they will get sight of him tomorrow, and Harry and the chief
will bring him down if he is within range of their shooting-irons. It is
'tarnal dark up here."

In twenty minutes two lights were seen approaching, and Harry and
Hunting Dog came up carrying pine-wood torches. Each had a great faggot
of wood fastened on his back, and Harry also carried the frying-pan, on
which were a pile of meat and two great hunks of bread, while Hunting
Dog brought two tin pannikins of hot tea.

"That will make it more cheerful for you," Harry said, as he unfastened
the rope that tied the faggot to his shoulders. "Now, Hunting Dog, get a
good fire as soon as you can, and then come down again to us."

The fire was soon blazing merrily, and Tom and Sam sat down to enjoy
their meal.

"Don't you think one of us ought to keep watch, Sam?"

"Not a bit of it," Sam said. "The red-skins will never dare to enter
that canon until after dark, and if they started now and made their way
straight on, they would not be here for another three or four hours. I
would bet my boots they don't come at all tonight; even if they were not
scared at us, they would be scared at coming near the river in the dark.
No, we will just take our meal comfortable and smoke a pipe, and then I
will take first watch and you shall take a sleep. We ain't closed an eye
since the night before last."

Tom, indeed, was nearly asleep before he had finished his pipe, and felt
that he really must get a nap. So saying to Sam, "Be sure and wake me in
two hours," he rolled himself in his robe and instantly fell asleep.

It seemed to him that he had only just gone off when Sam roused him. He
leapt to his feet, however, rifle in hand.  "Anything the matter, Sam?"

"Everything quiet," the miner replied.

"What did you wake me for then? I have not been asleep five minutes."

"According to my reckoning, mate, you have been asleep better'n five
hours. It was about half-past eight when you went off, and I reckon it
is two now, and will begin to get light in another hour. I would not
have waked you till daybreak, but I found myself dropping off."

"I am awfully sorry," Tom began.

"Don't you trouble, young un. By the time you have been as long in the
West as I have you won't think anything of two nights' watch. Now you
keep a sharp lookout. I don't think there is much chance of their
coming, but I don't want to be woke up with a red-skin coming right down
on the top of me."

"I see you have let the fire out, Sam," Tom said, with a little shiver.

"I put it out hours ago," Sam said, as he prepared to lie down. "It
would never have done to keep it all night, for a red-skin would see my
head over the top of the wall, while I should not get a sight of him
till he was within arm's-length."

Tom took up his post, and gazed earnestly into the darkness beyond the
wall. He felt that his sense of vision would be of no use whatever, and
therefore threw all his faculties into that of listening. Slight as was
the chance of the Indians coming, he yet felt somewhat nervous, and it
was a satisfaction to him to see beyond the mouth of the canon the glow
of the fire, by which, as he knew, the others were hard at work.

In an hour the morning began to break, and as soon as he could see well
up the canon he relighted the fire, jumping up to take a look over the
wall every minute or so. It was not long before he saw his uncle
approaching with a kettle.

"I saw your smoke, Tom, and guessed that you would be glad of a mug of
hot tea. You have seen no signs of Indians, I suppose?"

"We have heard nothing, uncle. As to seeing, up to half an hour ago
there was no possibility of making out anything. But I have not even
been listening; Sam went on guard directly we had finished supper, and I
asked him to call me in two hours, but he did not wake me until two
o'clock."

"He is a good fellow," Harry said. "Well, don't wake him now. I can't
leave you the kettle, for we have to keep boiling water going, but you
can put his tin into the ashes and warm it up when he wakes. Here are a
couple of pieces of bread."

"Why do you have to keep the kettle boiling, uncle?"

"To bend the wood with. The piece we are working on is kept damp with
boiling water. We hold it for a time over the fire, pouring a little
water on as fast as it evaporates; that softens the wood, and we can
bend it much more evenly than we could if we did it by force. Besides,
when it is fastened into its position it remains, when it is dry, in
that shape, and throws no strain on to anything."

"Are you getting on well?"

"Capitally. We should have done both the frames by now, but we were
obliged to make them very strong so as to resist the bumps they are sure
to get against rocks. When they are finished you might almost let them
drop off the top of a house, they will be so strong and elastic. If the
Indians will but give us time we shall make a first-rate job of them."

Three hours later Harry came up again with the kettle and some cooked
meat. Sam had just woke up, and was quite angry with Tom for not rousing
him before. "The others have been working all night," he said, "and here
have I been asleep for five hours; a nice sort of mate they will think
me."

"Well, but you were watching five hours, Sam; and I would a deal rather
work all night than stand here for two hours in the dark, wondering all
the time whether the Indians are crawling up, and expecting at any
moment to hear a rush against the wall."

"I am going to take your place, Sam, when you have finished your
breakfast," Harry said, as he came up. "If the Utes found out last night
that we had gone, their scouts may be coming down before long. My rifle
shoots a bit straighter than yours does."

"It ain't the rifle, Harry," Sam said good-temperedly; "it is the eye
that is wrong, not the shooting-iron. I never had much practice with
these long guns, but when it comes to a six-shooter, I reckon I can do
my share as well as most. But they won't give me a chance with it."

"I hope they won't, Sam. I am sure they won't as long as there is light,
and I hope that before it gets dark they will conclude to leave us
alone."

A vigilant watch was kept now.

"I think I saw a head look out from that corner," Tom exclaimed
suddenly, two hours after Sam had left them.

"I am quite sure I did, Tom. We must wait until he shows himself a bit
more. I reckon it is a good three hundred yards off, and a man's head is
a precious small mark at that distance. Stand a bit higher and lay your
rifle on the wall. Don't fire if he only puts his head out. They know we
can shoot, so there is not any occasion to give them another lesson. I
don't hold to killing, unless you have got to do it. Let him have a good
look at us.

"When he goes back and tells the tribe that there is a three hundred
yards' straight passage without shelter, and a strong wall across the
end of it, and two white men with rifles ready to shoot, I reckon they
will know a good deal better than to try to come up it, as long as there
is light. Besides, they won't think there is any occasion to hurry, for
they won't count on our taking to the river, and will know that we shall
be keeping watch at night. So it may very well be that they will reckon
on wearing us out, and that we may not hear of them for a week. There is
the fellow's head again!"

The head remained visible round the corner of the rock for two or three
minutes.

"He knows all about it now, Tom. You won't see any more of him to-day. I
will go down and lend them a hand below."

Tom asked no questions about the horses; he had thought of them a score
of times as he stood on guard, and the thought had occurred to him that
it was possible the shots he had heard while they were building the wall
on the previous afternoon, had been the death shots of the horses. It
did not occur to him when Sam was telling the story about the bear, that
this was a got-up tale, but when he came to think it over, he thought it
probable that it was so. Sam himself was not much of a shot, but Ben,
although inferior to Harry or either of the two Indians, shot as well as
Jerry, and would hardly have missed a bear three or four times running.
Each time the thought of the horses occurred to him he resolutely put it
aside, and concentrated his mind upon the probable perils of the passage
down the canons and the wonderful gorges they would traverse, and the
adventures and excitement they were sure to pass through. He thought how
fortunate it was they had taken the precaution of sending their
specimens of quartz back to the fort; for were they in the canoes, the
fruits of the journey would be irrevocably lost were these to upset; for
now the Indians had twice discovered the presence of whites in the
valley they would be sure to watch it closely, and it would not be
possible to go up to the mine again unless in strong force.

The day passed quietly. Harry brought up Tom's meals, and late in the
afternoon all hands came up, and the wall of stones was raised four
feet, making it almost impregnable against a sudden attack. The two
Indians took post there with Tom, and watched alternately all night. The
Utes, however, remained perfectly quiet. They probably felt sure that
the fugitives must sooner or later be forced to surrender, and were
disinclined to face the loss that must occur before so strong a
position, defended by seven men armed with rifles and revolvers, could
be carried.

At three o'clock on the following afternoon Hunting Dog came up. "Tom go
down and get dinner," he said, "Hunting Dog will watch."

Tom took his rifle and started down the canon.

"Come on, lad," his uncle shouted. "We are pretty near ready for a
start, and have all had our dinner; so be quick about it. We want to get
well away from here before night."

Tom went to the fire and ate his meal. As he sat down he saw that the
stores, blankets, and robes had all been carried away. When he finished,
his uncle led him down to the river. Two canoes were floating in the
water, and the other men were standing beside them.

"There, Tom, what do you think of them?"

"They are splendid, uncle; it seems impossible that you can have built
them in two days."

"Five hands can do a lot of canoe-building in forty-eight hours' work,
Tom."

The canoes were indeed models of strength if not of beauty. They were
each about twenty feet long and five feet wide. Two strong pieces of
pine two inches square ran along the top of each side, and one of the
same width but an inch deeper formed the keel. The ribs, an inch wide
and three-quarters of an inch thick, were placed at intervals of
eighteen inches apart. The canoes were almost flat-bottomed. The ribs
lay across the keel, which was cut away to allow them to lie flush in
it, a strong nail being driven in at the point of junction--these being
the only nails used in the boat's construction. The ribs ran straight
out to almost the full width of the canoe, and were then turned sharp
up, the ends being lashed with thongs of hide to the upper stringers.

Outside the ribs were lashed longitudinal wattles of tough wood about an
inch wide. They were placed an inch apart, extending over the bottom and
halfway up the side. Over all was stretched the skin, five horses' hides
having been used for each boat. They were very strongly sewed together
by a double row of thongs, the overlaps having, before being sewed, been
smeared with melted fat. Cross-pieces of wood at the top kept the upper
framework in its place. The hair of the skin was outward, the inner
glistened with the fat that had been rubbed into it.

"They are strong indeed," Tom said. "They ought to stand anything,
uncle."

"Yes, I think they would stand a blow against any rock if it hadn't a
cutting edge. They would just bound off as a basket would. Of course
they are very heavy for canoes; but as they won't have to carry more
than the weight of four men each, they will draw little over a couple of
inches or so of water.

"That is why we made them so wide. We could not get strength without
weight; and as there is no saying what shallows there may be, and how
close in some places rocks may come up to the surface, we were obliged
to build them wide to get light draught. You see we have made ten
paddles, so as to have a spare one or two in case of breakage. We have
two spare hides, so that we shall have the means of repairing damages."

Tom said nothing about the horses. Manufactured into a boat, as the
skins were, there was not much to remind him of them; but he pressed his
uncle's hand and said, "Thank you very much, uncle; I don't mind so much
now, but I should not like to have seen them before."

"That is all right, Tom; it was a case of necessity. Sam and Ben shot
them directly we got here."

The stores were all laid by the boats, being divided between them so
that the cargoes were in all respects duplicates of each other. Before
Tom came down some had already been placed in each boat, with a blanket
thrown over them.

"You have got the gold, I suppose, uncle?"

"You may bet that we did not leave that behind. There is half in each
boat, and the bags are lashed to the timbers, so that if there is an
upset they cannot get lost."

"How are we going?"

"We have settled that you and I and the two Indians shall go together,
and the rest in the other boat. The Indians know nothing of canoeing,
and won't be of very much use. I know you were accustomed to boats, and
I did some rowing when I was a young man. I wish we had a couple of
Canadian Indians with us, or of half-breeds; they are up to this sort of
work, and with one in the stern of each canoe it would be a much less
risky business going down the rapids. However, no doubt we shall get
handy with the paddles before long."

When everything was ready Harry fired his rifle, and in a couple of
minutes Hunting Dog came running down. The others had already taken
their seats. He stepped into Harry's boat, and they at once pushed off.

The river was running smoothly here, and Harry said, "Directly we get
down a little way we will turn the boat's head up stream and practise
for a bit. It would never do to get down into rough water before we can
use the paddles fairly."

Tom sat in the bow of his boat, Hunting Dog was next to him, then came
the chief, and Harry sat in the stern. A paddle is a much easier
implement to manage for a beginner than is an oar, and it was not long
before they found that they could propel the boats at a fair rate. In a
short time they had passed the end of the shelf at the mouth of the
canon, and the cliffs on that side rose as abruptly as they did on the
other. The river was some eighty yards wide.

"We will turn here," Harry said, "and paddle up. We sha'n't do more than
keep abreast of these rocks now, for the stream runs fast though it is
so smooth."

They found, indeed, that they had to work hard to hold their position.

"Now, Tom," Harry sang out, "it is you and I do the steering, you know.
When you want the head to go to the right you must work your paddle out
from the boat, when you want to go to the left you must dip it in the
water rather farther out and draw it towards the boat. Of course when
you have got the paddle the other side you must do just the contrary.
You must sing out right or left according as you see rocks ahead, and I
shall steer with my paddle behind. I have a good deal more power over
the boat than you have, and you must depend upon me for the steering,
unless there is occasion for a smart swerve."

At first the two boats shot backwards and forwards across the stream in
a very erratic way, but after an hour's practice the steersmen found the
amount of force required. An hour later Harry thought that they were
competent to make a start, and turning they shot rapidly past the
cliffs. In a couple of miles there was a break in the rocks to the left.

"We will land there," Harry said. "There are trees near the water and
bushes farther up. We will make a camp there. There is no saying how far
we may have to go before we get another opportunity. We have done with
the Utes for good, and can get a sound night's sleep. If you, chief,
will start with Hunting Dog as soon as we land, we will get the things
ashore and light the fire. Maybe you will be able to get a bear for us."

They did not trouble to haul up the canoes, but fastened them by the
head-ropes, which were made from lariats, to trees on the shore.
Daylight was beginning to fade as they lighted the fire. No time was
lost before mixing the dough, and it was in readiness by the time that
there were sufficient glowing embers to stand the pot in. The kettle was
filled and hung on a tripod over the fire. In a short time the Indians
returned empty-handed.

"No find bear," the chief said, "getting too dark to hunt. To-morrow
morning try."

Harry got up and went to the boats, and returned directly with a joint
of meat. Tom looked up in surprise.

"It is not from yours, Tom," Jerry said as he saw him looking at it. "We
took the hind-quarters of the four pack-ponies, but left the others
alone. It was no use bringing more, for it would not keep."

"So it is horseflesh!" Tom rather shrank from the idea of eating it, and
nothing would have induced him to touch it had he thought that it came
from his own favourite. Some steaks were cut and placed in the
frying-pan, while strips were hung over the fire for those who preferred
the meat in that way. Tom felt strongly inclined to refuse altogether,
but when he saw that the others took their meat as a matter of course,
and proceeded to eat with a good appetite, he did not like to do so. He
hesitated, however, before tasting it; but Harry said with a laugh,
"Fire away, Tom. You can hardly tell it from beef, and they say that in
Paris lots of horseflesh is sold as beef."

Thus encouraged, Tom took a mouthful, and found it by no means bad, for
from their long stay in the valley the animals were all in excellent
condition, and he acknowledged to himself that he would not have known
the flesh from beef.

"I call it mighty good for a change." Terry said. "Out on the plains,
where one can get buffalo, one would not take horse for choice, but as
we have been eating deer and bear meat for about a year, horse-meat
ain't bad by no means. What! You won't take another bit, Tom?"

"Not to-night, Jerry; next time I shall be all right. But it is my first
trial, you know, and though I can't say it is not good, it gives me a
queer feeling, so I will stick to the bread."

"Well, boys," Harry said presently, "we have made a first-rate start,
and have got out of a big scrape, easier than I ever looked for. We
could not have got two better canoes for our work if we had had them
brought special from Canada, and it seems to me that they ought to go
down pretty near anywhere without much damage. We shall get real handy
with our paddles in two or three days, and I hope we sha'n't meet with
any big rapids until we have got into the way of managing them well."

"You bet, Harry, we have got out well," said Jerry. "I tell you it
looked downright ugly, and I wouldn't have given a continental for our
chances. As for the rapids, I guess we shall generally find rocks one
side or the other where we can make our way along, and we can let down
the canoes by the ropes. Anyhow, we need not get skeery over them. After
getting out of that valley with our hair on, the thought of them does
not trouble me a cent."




CHAPTER XVI

AFLOAT IN CANOES


The two Indians were off long before daylight, and just as the others
were having a wash at the edge of the river they heard the crack of a
rifle some distance up the cliff.

"Bear!" Jerry exclaimed; "and I reckon they have got it, else we should
have heard another shot directly afterwards. That will set us up in food
for some time. Get the fire made up, Tom, you won't have to eat horse
steak for breakfast unless you like."

The Indians returned half an hour later laden with as much bear-flesh as
they could carry.

"I vote we stop here for two days," Harry said. "We have got a lot of
meat now, but it won't keep for twenty-four hours in this heat, so I
vote we cut it up and dry it as the Indians do buffalo-meat; it will
keep any time. Besides, we deserve a couple of days' rest, and we can
practise paddling while the meat dries. We got on very well yesterday,
but I do want us to get quite at home in the boats before we get to a
bad bit."

The proposal was agreed to, and as soon as breakfast was over the whole
of the meat was cut up into thin slices and hung up on cords fastened
from tree to tree.

"It ought to take three days to do it properly, and four is better,"
Harry said. "Still, as we have cut it very thin, I should think two days
in this hot sun ought to be enough."

"Are there any fish in the river, uncle?"

"I have no doubt there are, Tom, grists of them, but we have got no
hooks."

"Jerry has got some, he told me he never travelled without them, and we
caught a lot of fish with them up in the mountains just after we started
before. I don't know about line, but one might unravel one of the
ropes."

"I think you might do better than that, Tom. The next small animal we
shoot we might make some lines from the gut. They needn't be above five
or six feet long. Beyond that we could cut a strip of thirty or forty
feet long from one of the hides. However, we can do nothing at present
in that way. Now let us get into the canoes and have a couple of hours'
paddling. After dinner we will have another good spell at the work."

By evening there was a marked improvement in the paddling over that of
the previous day, and after having had another day's practice all felt
confident that they should get on very well. By nightfall on the second
day, the meat was found to be thoroughly dried, and was taken down and
packed in bundles, and the next morning they started as soon as it was
light. It was agreed that the boats should follow each other at a
distance of a hundred yards, so that the leader could signal to the one
behind if serious difficulties were made out ahead, and so enable it to
row to the bank in time. Were both drawn together into the suck of a
dangerous rapid they might find themselves without either boats or
stores, whereas if only one of the boats was broken up, there would be
the other to fall back upon. Harry's boat was to take the lead on the
first day, and Tom, as he knelt in the bows, felt his heart beat with
excitement at the thought of the unknown that lay before them, and that
they were about to make their way down passes probably unpenetrated by
man. Passing between what had seemed to them the entrance to a narrow
canon, they were surprised to rind the river widen out. On their right a
great sweep of hills bent round like a vast amphitheatre, the
resemblance being heightened by the ledges running in regular lines
along it, the cliff being far from perpendicular.

"I should think one could climb up there," Tom said, half-turning round
to his uncle.

"It looks like it, Tom, but there is no saying; some of those steps may
be a good deal steeper than they look. However, I have no doubt one
could find places where it would be possible to climb if there were any
use in doing so, but as we should only find ourselves up on bad lands we
should gain nothing by it."

"I don't mean we should want to climb up now, uncle; but it seemed a
sort of satisfaction to know that there are places where one could climb
in case we got the boats smashed up."

"If we had to make our way up, lad, it would be much better to go by one
of the lateral canons like the one we came down by. I can see at least
half a dozen of them going up there. We should certainly find water, and
we might find game, but up on the plateau we should find neither one nor
the other."

On the left-hand bank of the river the cliffs fell still farther back in
wide terraces, that rose one behind the other up to a perpendicular
cliff half a mile back from the river. There was a shade of green here
and there, and the chief pointed far up the hill and exclaimed "Deer!"

"That is good," Harry said. "There are sure to be more of these places,
and I should think we are not likely to starve anyhow. We can't spare
time to stop now; we want to have a long day's paddle to see what it is
going to be like, and we have got meat enough for the present. If we
happen to see a deer within rifle-shot, so that we can get at him
without much loss of time, we will stop, for after all fresh meat is
better eating than dry."

"I should think it would be, uncle," Tom said. "From the look of the
stuff I should think it would be quite as tough as shoe leather and as
tasteless."

"It needs a set of sharp teeth, Tom, but if you are hard set I have no
doubt you will be able to get through it, and at any rate it constitutes
the chief food of the Indians between the Missouri and the Rockies."

For the next three hours they paddled along on the quiet surface of the
river. The other canoe had drawn up, since it was evident that here at
least there was no reason why they should keep apart.

"I didn't expect we should find it as quiet as this, Harry," Jerry
Curtis said. "It is a regular water-party, and I should not mind how
long I was at it if it were all like this."

"We shall have rough water enough presently, Jerry, and I expect we
shall look back on this as the pleasantest part of the trip. It seems to
me that the hills close in more towards the end of this sweep. It has
made a regular horseshoe."

"I reckon it depends upon the nature of the rock," Ben put in.

"That is it, you may be sure, Ben. Wherever it is soft rock, in time it
crumbles away like this; where it is hard the weather don't affect it
much, and we get straight cliffs. I expect it is there we shall find the
rapids worst. Well, we shall soon make a trial of them, I fancy. It
looks like a wall ahead, but the road must go through somewhere."

A quarter of an hour later Harry said: "You had better drop back now,
Jerry, there is the gap right ahead. If you see me hold up my paddle you
row ashore. When we come to a bad rapid we had better all get out, and
make our way down on the rocks as far as we can, to see what it is like.
It will never do to go at it blind. Of course we may find places where
the water comes to the wall faces on both sides, and then there is
nothing to do but to take our chance, but I don't propose to run any
risks that I can avoid."

There was a perceptible increase in the rate of the current as they
neared the gorge, and when they came within a short distance of it Harry
gave the signal to the boat behind, and both canoes made for the shore.
As they stepped out on to the rocks the chief pointed to a ledge far
above them. "There will be time for Hunting Dog to shoot a deer," he
said, "while we go down to see canon."

Tom in vain endeavoured to make out the object at which the Indian was
pointing. Hunting Dog had evidently noticed it before landing, and upon
Harry giving a nod of assent, started off with his rifle. The others
waited until Jerry and his companions joined them, and then started
along the rocks that had fallen at the foot of the cliffs. They were
soon able to obtain a far better view of the gorge than they had done
from the canoe. The river ran for a bit in a smooth glassy flood, but a
short distance down, it began to form into waves, and beyond that they
could see a mass of white foam and breakers. They made their way along
the rocks for nearly two miles. It seemed well-nigh impossible to Tom
that the boats could go down without being swamped, for the waves were
eight or ten feet high, with steep sides capped with white. At last the
gorge widened again, and although the cliff to the right rose
perpendicularly, on the other side it became less steep, and seemed
lower down to assume the same character as that above the gorge.

"It looks pretty bad," Harry said, speaking for almost the first time
since they had started, for the roar of the water against the rocks,
echoed and re-echoed by the cliffs, rendered conversation an
impossibility. "It looks bad, but as far as I can see there are no rocks
that come up near the surface, and the canoes ought to go through the
broken water safely enough."

"It is an all-fired nasty-looking place," Jerry said; "but I have heard
men who had been in the north talk about rapids they had gone through,
and from what they said about them they must have been worse than this.
We have got to keep as near the side as we can; the waves ain't as high
there as they are in the middle, and we have got to keep the boat's head
straight, and to paddle all we know. If we do that, I reckon the canoes
will go through."

They retraced their steps up the gorge. Hunting Dog was standing by the
boat with the dead deer at his feet. Jerry picked it up. "I had better
take this, I reckon, Harry. You have got one man more than we have;" and
he and his two companions went on to their boat.

"Now, what do you think, Tom?" his uncle said. "Can you trust your head
to keep cool? It will need a lot of nerve, I can tell you, and if her
head swerves in the slightest she will swing round, and over she will
go, and it would want some tall swimming to get out of that race. You
paddle as well as the chief,--better, I think,--but the chief's nerves
are like iron. He has not been practising steering as you have, but as
there seem to be no rocks about, that won't matter so much. I ought to
be able to keep her straight, if you three paddle hard. It may need a
turn of the paddle now and then in the bow, but that we can't tell. So
it shall be just as you like, lad. If you think your nerves can stand it
you take your usual place, but if you have doubts about it, it were best
to let the chief go there."

"I think I could stand it, uncle, for I have been out in wherries in
some precious rough seas at Spithead; but I think it would be best for
the chief to take my place this time, and then I shall see how I feel."

Harry said a few words to the chief in his own language, and Leaping
Horse without a word stepped into the bow, while Tom took the seat
behind him.

"We sha'n't be long going down," Harry said, "I reckon the stream is
running ten miles an hour, and as we shall be paddling, it will take us
through in ten minutes. We had all better sit farther aft, so as to take
her bow right out of water. She will go through it ever so much easier
so."

They shifted their seats until daylight could be seen under the keel a
foot from the bow.

"I think that is about the right trim," Harry said. "Now paddle all."

The boat shot off from the shore. A minute later it darted into the
gorge, the Indian setting a long sweeping stroke. There were two or
three long heaves, and then they dashed into the race. Tom held his
breath at the first wall of water, but, buoyant and lightly laden as the
canoe was, with fully a foot of free board, she rose like a feather over
it, and darted down into the hollow beyond. Tom kept his eyes fixed on
the back of the chief's head, clinched his teeth tightly, and paddled
away with all his strength. He felt that were he to look round he should
turn giddy at the turmoil of water. Once or twice he was vaguely
conscious of Harry's shouts, "Keep her head inshore!" or "A little
farther out!" but like a man rowing a race he heeded the words but
little. His faculties were concentrated on his work, but he could see a
slight swerve of the Indian's body when he was obeying an order.

He was not conscious of any change of motion, either in the boat or in
the water round, when Harry shouted, "Easy all!" and even then it was
the chief's ceasing to paddle rather than Harry's shout which caused him
to stop. Then he looked round and saw that the race was passed, and that
the canoe was floating in comparatively quiet water.

"She is a daisy!" Harry shouted; "we could not do better if we had been
all Canadian half-breeds, chief. Now, we had better set to and bale her
out as quickly as we can."

Tom now for the first time perceived that he was kneeling in water, and
that the boat was nearly half-full.

Their tea pannikins had been laid by their sides in readiness, and
Hunting Dog touched him and passed forward his tin and the chief's, both
of which had been swept aft. The Seneca at once began to throw out the
water, but Tom for a minute or two was unable to follow his example. He
felt as weak as a child. A nervous quivering ran through his body, and
his hand trembled so that he could not grasp the handle of the tin.

"Feel bad, Tom?" his uncle asked cheerily from behind. "Brace up, lad;
it was a pretty warm ten minutes, and I am not surprised you feel it.
Now it is over I am a little shaky myself."

"I shall be all right presently, uncle." A look at the chief's back did
more to steady Tom's nerves than his own efforts. While he himself was
panting heavily, and was bathed in perspiration, the chief's breath came
so quietly that he could scarce see his shoulders rise and fall, as he
baled out the water with perfect unconcern. With an effort the boy took
hold of his dipper, and by the time the boat was empty his nerves were
gaining their steadiness, though his breath still came quickly. As he
laid down his tin he looked round.

"Heap water," Hunting Dog said with a smile; "run like herd of buffalo."

The other boat lay twenty yards behind them, and was also engaged in
baling.

"All right now, Tom?"

"All right, uncle; but it is lucky you put the chief in the bows. I
should have made a mess of it; for from the time we got into the waves
it seemed nothing but confusion, and though I heard your voice I did not
seem to understand what you said."

"It was a trial to the nerves, Tom, but we shall all get accustomed to
it before we get through. Well, thank God, we have made our first run
safely. Now paddle on, we will stop at the first likely place and have a
meal."

A mile farther they saw a pile of drift-wood on the left bank, and Harry
at once headed the canoe to it, and drawing the boat carefully alongside
they got out. A minute later the other canoe joined them.

"Jee-hoshaphat, Harry!" Jerry exclaimed as he stepped out; "that was
worse nor a cyclone. I would rather sit on the back of the worst kind of
bucker than jump over those waves again. If we are going to have much of
this I should say let us find our way back and ask the Utes to finish us
off."

"It was a rough bit, Jerry; but it might have been a deal worse if there
had been rocks in the stream. All we had to do was to keep her straight
and paddle."

"And a pretty big all, too," Jerry grumbled. "I felt skeered pretty nigh
out of my wits, and the other two allow they were just as bad. If it
hadn't been for your boat ahead I reckon we should never have gone
through it, but as long as you kept on straight, there didn't seem any
reason why we shouldn't. I tell you I feel so shaky that if there were a
grizzly twenty yards off I am blamed if I could keep the muzzle of my
rifle on it."

Tom had been feeling a good deal ashamed of his nervousness, and was
much relieved at hearing that these seasoned men had felt somewhat the
same as he had done.

"What do you say, boys," Harry asked when breakfast had been cooked and
eaten, "if we stop here for to-day? Likely enough we may get some game,
and if not it won't matter, for the deer will last us a couple of days."

"You bet," Ben Gulston said; "I think we have had enough of the water
for to-day. I don't feel quite sure now I ain't going round and round,
and I don't think any of us will feel right till we have had a night's
sleep. Besides, all the rugs and blankets are wet and want spreading out
in the sun for a bit, and the flour will want overhauling."

"That settles it, Ben; let us get all the outfit out of the boats at
once."

After the things had been laid out to dry the two Indians went off in
search of game; but none of the others felt any inclination to move, and
they spent the rest of the day lying about smoking and dozing. The
Indians brought back a big-horn, and the next morning the canoes dropped
down the stream again. For some miles the river flowed quietly along a
wide valley. At the end of that time it made an abrupt turn and entered
the heart of the mountains. As before, Harry's canoe went in advance.
The canon was here a deep gloomy chasm, with almost perpendicular sides,
and for some distance the river ran swiftly and smoothly, then white
water was seen ahead, so the two boats rowed in to the rocks at the foot
of the precipice, and the occupants proceeded to explore the pass ahead.
It was of a different character to the last. Black rocks rose everywhere
above the surface, and among these the river flowed with extraordinary
force and rapidity, foaming and roaring.

All agreed that it was madness to think of descending here, and that a
portage was necessary. The contents of the boats were lifted out, and
then one of them was carried down over the rocks by the united strength
of the party. They had gone half a mile when they came to a spot where
they could go no farther, as the water rushed along against the rock
wall itself. Some fifty yards further down they could see that the ledge
again began.

"We must go and fetch the other boat," Harry shouted above the din of
the water, "and let them down one by one. There is no other way to do
it."

The second boat was brought down, and another journey was made to bring
down the stores. The lariats were then tied together.

"Let us sit down and smoke a pipe before we do anything more," Jerry
said. "Three times up and down them rocks is worse nor thirty miles on a
level."

All were glad to adopt this suggestion, and for half an hour they sat
watching the rushing waters. As they did so they discussed how they had
better divide their forces, and agreed that Harry's boat should, as
before, go down first. Three men would be required to let the boat down,
and it would need at least four to check the second boat when it came
abreast of them. Although all felt certain that a single line of the
plaited hide would be sufficient, they determined to use two lines to
ensure themselves against risk.

"I should let them run out fast at first, Jerry, only keeping enough
strain on them to keep her head well up stream. Begin to check her
gradually, and let her down only inch by inch. When you see we are close
to the rocks, hold her there while we get her alongside, and don't leave
go till we lift her from the water. Directly we are out, fasten the
ropes to the bow of your canoe, then launch her carefully; and whatever
you do, don't let go of the rope. Launch her stern first close to the
wall, then two get in and get well towards the stern, while the other
holds the rope until the last moment. Then those two in the boat must
begin to paddle as hard as they can, while the last man jumps in and
snatches up his paddle. Keep her head close to the wall, for if the
current catches it and takes her round she would capsize in a moment
against those rocks. Paddle all you know; we shall haul in the rope as
fast as you come down. When you come abreast two of us will check her,
and the others will be on the rocks to catch hold of her side as she
swings in."

The first canoe was launched stern foremost, the four men took their
seats in her and began to paddle against, the stream with all their
strength, while Jerry and his companions let the lines run through their
fingers. The boat glanced along by the side of the wall. The men above
put on more and more strain, giving a turn of the ropes round a smooth
water-worn rock they had before picked out as suitable for the purpose.
The water surged against the bow of the canoe, lifting it higher and
higher as the full strain of the rope came upon it. The chief was
kneeling in the stern facing the rocks below, and as the canoe came
abreast of them he brought her in alongside. Harry held up his paddle,
the men above gave another turn of the ropes round the rock, and the
canoe remained stationary. Hunting Dog sprang out on to the rocks, and
taking hold of the blade of the chief's paddle, brought the canoe in so
close that the others were able to step ashore without difficulty. The
baggage was taken out, and the canoe lifted from the water, turned
upside down, and laid on the rocks.

Harry held up his hand to show that they were ready, having before he
did so chosen a stone round which to wind the lariats. The other boat
was then launched. Sam and Ben took their places astern and began to
paddle against the stream. As they were in the back-water below the
ledge of rock they were able to keep her stationary while Jerry took his
place and got out his paddle. When all were ready, they paddled her out
from the back-water. As soon as the current caught her she flew past the
cliff like an arrow, although the three men were now paddling at the top
of their speed. Harry and the chief pulled in the rope hand over hand,
while Hunting Dog and Tom went a short way down the rocks.

"Don't check her too suddenly, chief," Harry shouted. "Let the rope run
out easy at first and bring the strain on gradually."

"The ropes will hold," the chief said. "One stop buffalo in gallop, two
stop boat."

"Yes, but you would pull the head out of the canoe; chief, if you
stopped her too suddenly."

The chief nodded. He had not thought of that. In spite of the efforts of
the oarsmen the canoe's head was swerving across the stream just as she
came abreast of them. A moment later she felt the check of the rope.

"Easy, chief, easy!" Harry shouted, as the water shot up high over the
bow of the canoe. "Wait till she gets a bit lower or we shall capsize
her."

The check of the bow had caused the stern to swerve out, and when they
again checked her she was several lengths below them with her head
inclined to shore. More and more strain was put on the ropes, until they
were as taut as iron bars. A moment later Tom and Hunting Dog seized two
paddles held out to them, and the boat came gently in alongside.

"Gosh!" Ben exclaimed, as he stepped ashore, "it has taken as much out
of me as working a windlass for a day. I am blamed if I did not think
the hull boat was coming to pieces. I thought it was all over with us
for sure, Harry; when she first felt the rope, the water came in right
over the side."

"It was touch and go, Ben; but there was a rock just outside you, and if
we had not checked her a bit her head would have gone across it, and if
it had, I would not have given a red cent for your lives."

All day they toiled on foot, and by nightfall had made but four miles.
Then they camped for the night among the rocks. The next four days were
passed in similar labour. Two or three times they had to cross the
torrent in order to get on to fallen rocks on the other side to that
which they were following. These passages demanded the greatest caution.
In each case there were rocks showing above water in the middle of the
channel. One of these was chosen as most suited to their purpose, and by
means of the ropes a canoe was sheered out to it. Its occupants then
took their places on the rock, and in turn dropped the other boat down
to the next suitable point, the process being repeated, step by step,
until the opposite bank was reached.

At the end of the fourth day the geological formation changed. The rock
was softer, and the stream had worn a more even path for itself, and
they decided to take to the boats again. There was no occasion for
paddling now, it was only when a swell on the surface marked some hidden
danger below that a stroke or two of the paddle was needed to sweep them
clear of it. For four hours they were carried along at the rate of fully
twelve miles an hour, and at the end of that time they shot out from
between the overhanging walls into a comparatively broad valley. With a
shout of delight they headed the boats for shore, and leapt out on to a
flat rock a few inches above the water.

"If we could go on at that pace right down we should not be long before
we were out of the mountains," Tom said.

"We could do with a bit slower, Tom; that is too fast to be pleasant.
Just about half that would do--six miles an hour. Twelve hours a day
would take us out of the canons in a fortnight or so. We might do that
safely, but we could not calculate on having such good luck as we have
had to-day, when going along at twelve miles an hour. The pace for the
last four days has been just as much too slow as this is too fast. Four
miles a day working from morning till night is heart-breaking. In spite
of our run to-day, we cannot have made much over a hundred miles since
we started. Well, there is one comfort, we are in no great hurry. We
have got just the boats for the work, and so far as we can see, we are
likely to find plenty of food. A job like this isn't to be reckoned
child's play. So far I consider we have had good luck; I shall be well
content if it averages as well all the way down. The fear is we may get
to falls where we can neither carry nor let the boats down. In that case
we should have to get out of the canon somewhere, pack as much flour as
we could carry, and make our way across country, though how far we might
have to travel there is no knowing. I hope it mayn't come to that; but
at any rate I would rather go through even worse places than that canon
above than have to quit the boats."

"Right you are, Harry," Jerry agreed. "I would rather tote the canoe on
my back all the way down to Mexico, than have to try and make my way
over the bad lands to the hills. Besides, when we get a bit farther we
shall be in the Navahoe country, and the Utes ain't a sarcumstance to
them. The Ute ain't much of a fighter anyway. He will kill white men he
finds up in his hills, 'cause he don't want white men there, but he has
to be five or six to one before he will attack him. The Navahoe kills
the white man 'cause he is a white man, and 'cause he likes killing. He
is a fighter, and don't you forget it. If it had been Navahoes instead
of Utes that had caught us up in the hills, you may bet your bottom
dollar our scalps would be drying in their lodges now."

"That is so, Jerry," Ben put in. "Besides, the Navahoes and the Apaches
have got no fear of white men. They have been raiding Mexico for
hundreds of years, and man to man they can whip Mexikins out of their
boots. I don't say as they haven't a considerable respect for western
hunters; they have had a good many lessons that these can out-shoot them
and out-fight them; still they ain't scared of them as plain Indians
are. They are a bad lot, look at them which way you will, and I don't
want to have to tramp across their country noways. It was pretty hard
work carrying that boat along them rocks, but I would rather have to do
so, right down to the plains, then get into a muss with the Navahoes."

"How far does the Navahoe country come this way?"

"There ain't no fence, Tom, I expect. They reckon as it's their country
just as far as they like to come. They don't come up as far north as
this, but where they ends and where the Utes begin no one knows but
themselves; and I reckon it shifts according as the Navahoes are busy
with the Mexicans in the south, or have got a quiet spell, and take it
into their heads to hunt this way."

For many days they continued their journey, sometimes floating quietly
along a comparatively wide valley, sometimes carrying their boats past
dangerous rapids, sometimes rushing along at great speed on the black,
deep water, occasionally meeting with falls where everything had to be
taken out of the canoes, and the boats themselves allowed to shoot over
the falls with long ropes attached, by which they were drawn to shore
lower down. It was seldom that they were without meat, as several
big-horns and two bears were shot by the Indians. They had no doubt that
they could have caught fish, but as a rule they were too tired when they
arrived at their halting-place to do more than cook and eat their
suppers before they lay down to rest.

"I reckon it won't be very long before we come upon a Mexican village,"
Harry said one day, after they had been six weeks on their downward
course. "I have heard there is one above the Grand Canon."

The scenery had varied greatly. In some of the valleys groves of trees
bordered the river; sometimes not even a tuft of grass was to be seen.
Occasionally the cliffs ran in an even line for many miles, showing that
the country beyond was a level plateau, at other times rugged peaks and
pinnacles resembling ruined castles, lighthouses, and churches could be
seen. Frequently the cliffs rose three or four thousand feet in an
almost unbroken line, but more often there were rounded terraces, where
it would have been easy to ascend to the upper level. Everywhere the
various strata were of different colours: soft grays and browns, orange,
vermilion, purple, green, and yellow. They soon learned that when they
passed through soft strata, the river ran quietly; where the rocks were
hard there were falls and rapids; where the strata lay horizontal the
stream ran smoothly, though often with great rapidity; where they dipped
up stream there were dangerous rapids and falls.

Since the start the river had been largely swollen by the junctions of
other streams, and was much wider and deeper than it had been where they
embarked; and even where the rapids were fiercest they generally found
comparatively quiet water close to the bank on one side or the other.
Twice they had had upsets, both the boats having been capsized by
striking upon rocks but an inch or two below the surface of the water.
Little harm was done, for the guns and all other valuable articles were
lashed to the sides of the boats, while strips of hide, zigzagged across
the ends of the canoes at short distances apart, prevented the blankets
and rugs and other bulky articles from dropping out when the boat
capsized.

Since the river had become wider and the dangers less frequent, the
boats always kept near each other. Upsets were therefore only the
occasion for a hearty laugh; for it took but a few minutes to right the
canoe, bale it out, and proceed on their way. Occasionally they had
unpleasant visitors at their camp, and altogether they killed ten or
twelve rattle-snakes. In some of the valleys they found the remains of
the dwellings of a people far anterior to the present Indian races. Some
of these ruins appeared to have been communal houses. At other points
they saw cliff-dwellings in the face of the rock, with rough sculptures
and hieroglyphics. The canons varied in length from ten to a hundred and
fifty miles, the comparatively flat country between them varying equally
in point of appearance and in the nature of the rocks. As they got lower
they once or twice saw roughly-made rafts, composed of three or four
logs of wood, showing where Indians had crossed the river. The journey
so far had been much more pleasant than they had expected, for as the
river grew wider the dangers were fewer and farther apart, and more
easily avoided; and they looked forward to the descent of the Grand
Canon, from which they knew they could not be far distant, without much
fear that it would prove impracticable.




CHAPTER XVII

THE GRAND CANON


Passing from a short canon, the boats emerged into a valley with flat
shores for some distance from the river. On the right was a wide side
canon, which might afford a passage up into the hills. Half a mile lower
down there were trees and signs of cultivation; and a light smoke rose
among them. At this, the first sign of human life they had seen since
they took to the boats, all hands paddled rapidly. They were approaching
the shore, when Leaping Horse said to Harry: "No go close. Stop in river
and see, perhaps bad Indians. Leaping Horse not like smoke."

Harry called to the other canoe, and they bore out into the stream
again. The chief stood up in the boat, and after gazing at the shore
silently for a moment said:

"Village burnt. Burnt little time ago, post still burning." As he
resumed his seat Harry stood up in turn.

"That is so, chief. There have only been five or six huts; whether
Indian or white, one can't tell now."

Just at this moment an Indian appeared on the bank. As his eye fell on
the boats he started. A moment later he raised a war-yell.

"Navahoe," the chief said. "Navahoe war-party come down, kill people and
burn village. Must row hard."

The yell had been answered from the wood, and in two or three minutes as
many score of Indians appeared on the banks. They shouted to the boats
to come to shore, and as no attention was paid, some of them at once
opened fire. The river was about a quarter of a mile wide, and although
the shots splashed round them the boats were not long in reaching the
farther bank, but not unharmed, for Ben had dropped his paddle and
fallen back in the boat.

"Is he badly hurt?" Harry asked anxiously, as the canoes drew alongside
each other near the bank, and Sam turned round to look at his comrade.

"He has finished his journey," Sam said in a hoarse voice. "He has gone
down, and a better mate and a truer heart I never met. The ball has hit
him in the middle of the forehead. It were to be, I guess, for it could
only have been a chance shot at that distance."

Exclamations of sorrow and fury broke from the others, and for a few
minutes there was no thought of the Indians, whose bullets were still
falling in the water, for the most part short of the boats. A sharp tap
on the side of Harry's canoe, followed by a jet of water, roused them.

"We mustn't stop here," Harry said, as Hunting Dog plugged the hole with
a piece of dried meat, "or poor Ben won't be the only one."

"Let us have a shot first," Jerry said. "Young Tom, do you take a shot
with Plumb-centre. It is about four hundred and fifty yards as near as I
can reckon, and she will carry pretty true that distance."

"We will give them a shot all round," Harry said, as he took up his
rifle.

Six shots were discharged almost at the same moment. One of the Indians
was seen to fall, the rest bounded away to a short distance from the
bank. Then Hunting Dog at a word from the chief stepped into the other
canoe. Keeping close under the bank they paddled down. The Indians had
ceased firing, and had disappeared at a run.

"What are they up to now, chief?"

"Going down to mouth of canon, river sure to be narrow; get there before
us."

"Wait, Jerry," Harry shouted to the other boat, which was some twenty
yards ahead. "The chief thinks they have gone to cut us off at the head
of the canon, which is likely enough. I don't suppose it is fifty yards
wide there, and they will riddle us if we try to get through in
daylight. We had better stop and have a meal and talk it over."

The boats were rowed ashore, and the men landed and proceeded to light a
fire as unconcernedly as if no danger threatened them. Ben's death had
cast a heavy gloom over them, and but few words were spoken, until the
meal was cooked and eaten.

"It is a dog-goned bad business," Jerry said. "I don't say at night as
we mayn't get past them without being hit, but to go rushing into one of
those canons in the dark would be as bad as standing their fire, if not
wuss. The question is--could we leave the boats and strike across?"

"We could not strike across this side anyhow," Harry said. "There are no
settlements west of the Colorado. We know nothing of the country, and it
is a hundred to one we should all die of thirst even if we could carry
enough grub to last us. If we land at all it must be on the other side,
and then we could not reckon on striking a settlement short of two
hundred miles, and two hundred miles across a country like this would be
almost certain death."

"As the Navahoes must have ridden down, Harry, there must be water. I
reckon they came down that canon opposite."

"Navahoe on track in morning," the chief said quietly. "When they see we
not go down river look for boat, find where we land and take up trail.
Canon very plain road. Some go up there straight, take all our scalps."

No one spoke for a moment or two. What the Seneca said was so evident to
them that it was useless to argue. "Well, chief, what do you advise
yourself?" Harry asked at length.

"Not possible go on foot, Harry. Country all rocks and canons; cannot
get through, cannot get water. Trouble with Navahoes too. Only chance
get down in boat to-night. Keep close under this bank; perhaps Indians
not see us, night dark."

"Do you think they can cross over to this side?"

"Yes, got canoe. Two canoes in village, Leaping Horse saw them on bank.
When it gets dark, cross over."

"We will get a start of them," Harry said. "Directly it is dark we can
be off too. The shore is everywhere higher than our heads as we sit in
the canoes, and we can paddle in the shadow without being seen by them
on the other side, while they won't venture to cross till it is pitch
dark. As the stream runs something like three miles an hour, I reckon
that they are hardly likely to catch us. As for the rapids, they don't
often begin until you are some little distance in. At any rate we shall
not have to go far, for the red-skins will not dare to enter the canon,
so we can tie up till morning as soon as we are a short distance in. We
have got to run the gauntlet of their fire, but after all that is better
than taking our chances by leaving the boats. If we lie down when we get
near them they may not see us at all; but if they do, a very few strokes
will send us past them. At any rate there seems less risk in that plan
than in any other."

The others agreed.

"Now, boys, let us dig a grave," he went on, as soon as the point was
settled. "It is a sort of clay here and we can manage it, and it is not
likely we shall find any place, when we are once in the canon, where we
can do it." They had neither picks nor shovels with them, for their
mining tools had been left at the spot where they were at work, but with
their axes and knives they dug a shallow grave, laid Ben's body in it,
covered it up, and then rolled a number of boulders over it.

Ben's death affected Tom greatly. They had lived together and gone
through many perils and risks for nearly a year, and none had shown more
unflagging good-humour throughout than the man who had been killed. That
the boats might upset and all might perish together, was a thought that
had often occurred to him as they made their way down the river, but
that one should be cut off like this had never once been contemplated by
him. Their lives from the hour they met on the Big Wind River had seemed
bound up together, and this sudden loss of one of the party affected him
greatly. The others went about their work silently and sadly, but they
had been so accustomed to see life lost in sudden frays, and in one or
other of the many dangers that miners and hunters are exposed to, that
it did not affect them to the same extent as it did Tom.

Except two or three men who remained on watch on the opposite bank,
though carefully keeping out of rifle-range, they saw no signs of the
Navahoes during the day. As soon as it became so dark that they were
sure their movements could not be seen from the other side, they
silently took their places in the boats, and pushed off into the
current. For a quarter of an hour they lay in the canoes, then at a
signal from Harry knelt up, took their paddles and began to row very
quietly and cautiously, the necessity for dropping their paddles
noiselessly into the water and for avoiding any splashing having been
impressed on all before starting.

"There is no occasion for haste," Harry said. "Long and gentle strokes
of the paddle will take us down as fast as we need go. If those fellows
do cross over, as I expect they will, they will find it difficult to
travel over the rocks in the dark as fast as we are going now, and there
is no fear whatever of their catching us if we go on steadily."

After an hour's rowing they could make out a dark mass rising like a
wall in front of them, and Harry passed the word back to the other
canoe, which was just behind them, that they should now cease paddling,
only giving a stroke occasionally to keep the head of the canoe
straight, and to prevent the boat from drifting out from under the
shelter of the bank, in the stillness of the night they could hear a low
roaring, and knew that it was caused by a rapid in the canon ahead.
Higher and higher rose the wall of rock, blotting out the stars in front
of them till the darkness seemed to spread half-way over the sky.

They could see that the boat was passing the shore more rapidly, as the
river accelerated its course before rushing into the gorge. Suddenly
there was a shout on the right, so close that Tom was startled, then
there was a rifle-shot, and a moment later a wild outburst of yells and
a dozen other shots. At the first shout the paddles dipped into the
water, and at racing speed the boats shot along. Eight or ten more
rifle-shots were fired, each farther behind them.

"Anyone hurt?" Harry asked.

There was a general negative.

"I don't believe they really saw us," Harry said. "The first fellow may
have caught sight of us, but I expect the others fired merely at random.
Now let us row in and fasten up, for judging from that roaring there
must be a big rapid close ahead."

The boats were soon fastened up against the rocks, and the chief stepped
ashore, saying:

"Leaping Horse and Hunting Dog will watch. Navahoes may come down here.
Don't think they will be brave enough to enter canon, too dark to see.
Still, better watch."

"Just as you like, chief," Harry said, "but I have no belief that they
will come down here in the dark; it would be as much as they would dare
do in broad daylight. Besides, these rocks are steepish climbing anyway,
and I should not like myself to try to get over them, when it is so dark
that I can't see my own hand, except by putting it up between my eyes
and the stars."

"If it was not for that," Jerry said, "I would crawl along to the mouth
and see if I couldn't get a shot at them varmint on the other side."

"You would not find them there, Jerry. You may be sure that when they
saw us go through they would know it was of no use waiting there any
longer. They would flatter themselves that they had hit some of us, and
even if they hadn't, it would not seem to matter a cent to them, as the
evil spirit of the canon would surely swallow us up."

"Well, they have been wrong in their first supposition, uncle," Tom
said, "and I hope they will be equally wrong in the second."

"I hope so, Tom. Now we may as well go to sleep. As soon as there is any
light we must explore as far as we can go, for by the noise ahead it
must be either a fall or a desperately bad rapid."

When daylight broke, the whites found Hunting Dog sitting with his rifle
across his knees on a rock above them.

"Where is the chief?" Harry asked him.

"Leaping Horse went up the rocks to see if Navahoes have gone."

"Very well. Tell him when he comes back we have gone down to have a look
at the rapid. Tom, you may as well stay here. There is plenty of
drift-wood among those rocks, and we will breakfast before we start
down. I reckon we shall not have much time for anything of that sort
after we are once off."

Tom was by no means sorry to be saved a heavy climb. He collected some
wood and broke it up into suitable pieces, but at the suggestion of
Hunting Dog waited for the chief's return before lighting it. The chief
came down in a few minutes.  "Navahoes all gone," he said briefly.

"Then I can light a fire, chief?"

Leaping Horse nodded, and Tom took out the tightly-fitting tin box in
which he kept his matches. Each of the party carried a box, and to
secure against the possibility of the matches being injured by the water
in case of a capsize, the boxes were kept in deer's bladders tightly
tied at the mouth. The fire was just alight when the others returned.

"It is better ahead than we expected," Harry said; "the noise was caused
by the echo from the smooth faces of the rocks. It is lucky we hauled in
here last night, for these rocks end fifty yards on, and as far as we
can see down, the water washes the foot of the wall on both sides. We
were able to climb up from them on to a narrow ledge, parallel with the
water, and went on to the next turn, but there was no change in the
character of the river. So we shall make a fair start anyway."

More wood was put on the fire, and in a quarter of an hour the kettle
was boiling and slices of meat cooked. Half an hour later they took
their places in the canoes and started. The canon was similar to the one
they had last passed; the walls were steep and high, but with irregular
shelves running along them. Above these were steep slopes, running up to
the foot of smooth perpendicular cliffs of limestone. The stream was
very rapid, and they calculated that in the first half-hour they must
have run six miles. Here the walls receded to a distance, and ledges of
rock and hills of considerable heights intervened between the river and
the cliffs. They checked the pace of their canoes just as they reached
this opening, for a deep roar told of danger ahead. Fortunately there
were rocks where they were able to disembark, and a short way below they
found that a natural dam extended across the river.

"There has been an eruption of trap here," Harry said, looking at the
black rock on either side. "There has been a fissure, I suppose, and the
lava was squeezed up through it. You see the river has cut a path for
itself some hundreds of feet deep. It must have taken countless ages,
Tom, to have done the work."

Over this dam the water flowed swiftly and smoothly, and then shot down
in a fall six feet high. Below for a distance of two or three hundred
yards was a furious rapid, the water running among black rocks. With
considerable difficulty they made a portage of the boats and stores to
the lower end of the rapid. This transit occupied several hours, and
they then proceeded on their way. Five more miles were passed; several
times the boats were brought to the bank in order that falls ahead might
be examined. These proved to be not too high to shoot, and the boats
paddled over them. When they had first taken to the river they would
never have dreamt of shooting such falls, but they had now become so
expert in the management of the boats, and so confident in their
buoyancy, that the dangers which would then have appalled them were now
faced without uneasiness.

They now came to a long rapid, presenting so many dangers that they
deemed it advisable to let down the boats by lines. Again embarking they
found that the wall of rocks closed in and they entered a narrow gorge,
through which the river ran with great swiftness, touching the walls on
each side. Great care was needed to prevent the boats being dashed
against the rock, but they succeeded in keeping them fairly in the
middle of the stream. After travelling four miles through this gorge it
opened somewhat, and on one side was a strip of sand.

"We will land there," Harry said. "It looks to me like granite ahead,
and if it is we are in for bad times, sure."

The boats were soon pulled up, and they proceeded to examine the cliffs
below. Hitherto the danger had been in almost exact proportion to the
hardness of the rock, and as they were entering a far harder rock than
they had before encountered, greater difficulties than those they had
surmounted were to be expected.

They could not see a long distance down, but what they saw was enough to
justify their worst anticipations. The canon was narrower than any they
had traversed, and the current extremely swift. There seemed but few
broken rocks in the channel, but on either side the walls jutted out in
sharp angles far into the river, with crags and pinnacles.

"Waal, it is of no use looking at it," Jerry said after a pause. "It is
certain we can't get along the sides, so there is nothing to do but to
go straight at it; and the sooner it is over the better."

Accordingly they returned to the boats, and soon darted at the speed of
an arrow into the race. Bad as it was at starting it speedily became
worse: ledges, pinnacles, and towers of rock rose above the surface of
the stream breaking it into falls and whirlpools. Every moment it seemed
to Tom that the boat must inevitably be dashed to pieces against one of
these obstructions, for the light boats were whirled about like a
feather on the torrent, and the paddlers could do but little to guide
their course. The very strength of the torrent, however, saved them from
destruction, the whirl from the rocks sweeping the boat's head aside
when within a few feet of them, and driving it past the danger before
they had time to realize that they had escaped wreck. Half an hour of
this, and a side canon came in. Down this a vast quantity of boulders
had been swept, forming a dam across the river, but they managed to
paddle into an eddy at the side, and to make a portage of the boats to
the water below the dam, over which there was a fall of from thirty to
forty feet high. Three more similar dams were met with. Over one the
canoes were carried, but on the others there was a break in the boulder
wall, and they were able to shoot the falls.

After three days of incessant labour, they heard, soon after starting
from their last halting-place, a roar even louder and more menacing than
they had yet experienced. Cautiously they got as close as possible to
the side, and paddling against the stream were able to effect a landing
just above the rapid. On examining it they found that it was nearly half
a mile long, and in this distance the water made a fall of some eighty
feet, the stream being broken everywhere with ledges and jagged rocks,
among which the waves lashed themselves into a white foam. It seemed
madness to attempt such a descent, and they agreed that at any rate they
would halt for the day. The rocks through which the canon ran were fully
a thousand feet high, but they decided that, great as the labour might
be, it would be better to make a portage, if possible, rather than
descend the cataract.

"There is a gulch here running up on to the hill," Tom said. "Hunting
Dog and I will start at once and see if it is possible to get up it, and
if so how far it is to a place where we can get down again."

Harry assented; Leaping Horse without a word joined the explorers, and
they set off up the gulch. It was found that the ravine was steep, but
not too steep to climb. When they were nearly at the top Hunting Dog
pointed to the hillside above them, and they saw a big-horn standing at
the edge of the rock. The three fired their rifles simultaneously, and
the wild sheep made a spring into the air and then came tumbling down
the side of the ravine. As fresh meat was beginning to run short this
was a stroke of good fortune, and after reloading their guns they
proceeded up the ravine until they reached the crest of the hill. The
soil was disintegrated granite, and tufts of short grass grew here and
there. After walking about a mile, parallel to the course of the river,
they found that the ground descended again, and without much difficulty
made their way down until they reached the foot of a little valley;
following this they were soon standing by the side of the river. Above,
its surface was as closely studded with rocks as was the upper cataract;
below, there was another fall that looked impracticable, except that it
seemed possible to pass along on the rocks by the side. It was getting
dark by the time they rejoined their comrades.

"Your report is not a very cheerful one," Harry said, "but at any rate
there seems nothing else to be done than to make the portage. The meat
you have got for us will re-stock our larder, and as it is up there we
sha'n't have the trouble of carrying it over."

The next day was a laborious one. One by one the canoes were carried
over, but the operation took them from daybreak till dark. The next
morning another journey was made to bring over the rugs and stores, and
they were able in addition to these to carry down the carcass of the
sheep, after first skinning it and cutting off the head with its great
horns. Nothing was done for the rest of the day beyond trying whether
another portage could be made. This was found to be impracticable, and
there was nothing for them but to attempt the descent. They breakfasted
as soon as day broke, carried the boats down over the boulder dam with
which the rapids commenced, and put them into the water. For some little
distance they were able to let them down by ropes, then the rocks at the
foot of the cliffs came to an end. Fortunately the seven lariats
furnished them with a considerable length of line, and in addition to
these the two Indians had on their way down plaited a considerable
length of rope, with thongs cut from the skins of the animals they had
killed.

The total available amount of rope was now divided into two lengths, the
ends being fastened to each canoe. One of the boats with its crew on
board was lowered to a point where the men were able to get a foothold
on a ledge. As soon as they had done so the other boat dropped down to
them, and the ropes were played out until they were in turn enabled to
get a footing on a similar ledge or jutting rock, sometimes so narrow
that but one man was able to stand. So alternately the boats were let
down. Sometimes when no foothold could be obtained on the rock wall, the
pinnacles and ledges in the stream were utilized. All the work had to be
done by gesture, for the thunder of the waters was so tremendous that
the loudest shout could not be heard a few yards away. Hour passed after
hour. Their progress was extremely slow, as each step had to be closely
considered and carried out with the greatest care.

At last a terrible accident happened. Harry, Leaping Horse, and Tom were
on a ledge. Below them was a fall of three feet, and in the foaming
stream below it, rose several jagged rocks. Jerry's canoe was got safely
down the fall, but in spite of the efforts of the rowers was carried
against the outer side of one of these rocks. They made a great effort
to turn the boat's head into the eddy behind it, but as the line touched
the rock its sharp edge severed the rope like a knife, and the boat shot
away down the rapid. Those on the ledge watched it with breathless
anxiety. Two or three dangers were safely passed, then to their horror
they saw the head of the canoe rise suddenly as it ran up a sunken ledge
just under the water. An instant later the stern swept round, bringing
her broadside on to the stream, and she at once capsized.

"Quick!" Harry exclaimed, "we must go to their rescue. Keep close to the
wall, chief, till we see signs of them. It is safest close in."

In an instant they were in their places, and as they released the canoe
she shot in a moment over the fall. For a short distance they kept her
close to the side, but a projecting ledge threw the current sharply
outwards, and the canoe shot out into the full force of the rapid. The
chief knelt up in the bow paddle in hand, keeping a vigilant eye for
rocks and ledges ahead, and often with a sharp stroke of the paddle,
seconded by the effort of Harry in the stern, sweeping her aside just
when Tom thought her destruction inevitable. Now she went headlong down
a fall, then was caught by an eddy, and was whirled round and round
three or four times before the efforts of the paddlers could take her
beyond its influence. Suddenly a cry came to their ears. Just as they
approached a rocky ledge some thirty feet long, and showing a saw-like
edge a foot above the water, the chief gave a shout and struck his
paddle into the water.

"Behind the rock, Tom, behind the rock!" Harry exclaimed as he swept the
stern round. Tom paddled with all his might, and the canoe headed up
stream. Quickly as the movement was done, the boat was some twelve yards
below the rock as she came round with her nose just in the lower edge of
the eddy behind it, while from either side the current closed in on her.
Straining every nerve the three paddlers worked as for life. At first
Tom thought that the glancing waters would sweep her down, but inch by
inch they gained, and drove the boat forward from the grasp of the
current into the back eddy, until suddenly, as if released from a vice,
she sprang forward. Never in his life had Tom exerted himself so
greatly. His eyes were fixed on the rock in front of him, where Hunting
Dog was clinging with one hand, while with the other he supported
Jerry's head above water. He gave a shout of joy as the chief swept the
head of the canoe round, just as it touched the rock, and laid her
broadside to it.

"Stick your paddle between two points of the rock, Tom," Harry shouted,
"while the chief and I get them in. Sit well over on the other side of
the boat."

With considerable difficulty Jerry, who was insensible, was lifted into
the boat. As soon as he was laid down Hunting Dog made his way hand over
hand on the gunwale until close to the stern, where he swung himself
into the boat without difficulty.

"Have you seen Sam?" Harry asked.

The young Indian shook his head. "Sam one side of the boat," he said,
"Jerry and Hunting Dog the other. Boat went down that chute between
those rocks above. Only just room for it. Jerry was knocked off by rock.
Hunting Dog was near the stern, there was room for him. He caught
Jerry's hunting-shirt, but could not hold on to boat. When came down
here made jump at corner of rock. Could not hold on, but current swept
him into eddy. Then swam here and held on, and kept calling. Knew his
brothers would come down soon."

"Here is a spare paddle," Harry said, as he pulled one out from below
the network, "there is not a moment to lose. Keep your eyes open,
chief." Again the boat moved down the stream. With four paddles going
the steersman had somewhat more control over her, but as she flew down
the seething water, glanced past rocks and sprang over falls, Tom
expected her to capsize every moment. At last he saw below them a
stretch of quiet water, and two or three minutes later they were
floating upon it, and as if by a common impulse all ceased rowing.

"Thanks be to God for having preserved us," Harry said reverently. "We
are half-full of water; another five minutes of that work and it would
have been all over with us. Do you see any signs of the canoe, chief?"

The chief pointed to a ledge of rock extending out into the stream.
"Canoe there," he said. They paddled across to it. After what the young
Indian had said they had no hopes of finding Sam with it, but Harry gave
a deep sigh as he stepped out on to the ledge.

"Another gone," he said. "How many of us will get through this place
alive? Let us carry Jerry ashore."

There was a patch of sand swept up by the eddy below the rock, and here
Jerry was taken out and laid down. He moaned as they lifted him.

"Easy with him," Harry said. "Steady with that arm. I think he has a
shoulder broken, as well as this knock on the head that has stunned
him."

As soon as he was laid down Harry cut open his shirt on the shoulder.
"Broken," he said shortly. "Now, chief, I know that you are a good hand
at this sort of thing. How had this better be bandaged?"

"Want something soft first."

Tom ran to the canoe, brought out the little canvas sack in which he
carried his spare flannel shirt, and brought it to the chief. The latter
tore off a piece of stuff and rolled it into a wad. "Want two pieces of
wood," he said, holding his hands about a foot apart to show the length
he required. Harry fetched a spare paddle, and split a strip off each
side of the blade. The chief nodded as he took them. "Good," he said. He
tore off two more strips of flannel and wrapped them round the splints,
then with Harry's aid he placed the shoulder in its natural position,
laid the wad of flannel on the top of it, and over this put the two
splints. The whole was kept in its place by flannel bandages, and the
arm was fastened firmly across the body, so that it could not be moved.
Then the little keg of brandy was brought out of the canoe, a spoonful
poured into the pannikin, with half as much water, and allowed to
trickle between Jerry's lips, while a wad of wet flannel was placed on
his head.

"There is nothing more we can do for him at present," Harry said. "Now
we will right the other boat, and get all the things out to dry."

Three or four pounds of flour were found to be completely soaked with
water, but the main store was safe, as the bag was sewn up in bear-skin.
This was only opened occasionally to take out two or three days' supply,
and then carefully closed again. On landing, Hunting Dog had at once
started in search of drift-wood, and by this time a fire was blazing. A
piece of bear's fat was placed in the frying-pan, and the wetted flour
was at once fried into thin cakes, which were tough and tasteless; but
the supply was too precious to allow of an ounce being wasted. Some
slices of the flesh of the big-horn were cooked.

"What is my white brother going to do?" the chief asked Harry.

"There is nothing to do that I can see, chief, but to keep on pegging
away. We agreed that it would be almost impossible to find our way over
these barren mountains. That is not to be thought of, now that one of
our number cannot walk. There is no choice left, we have got to go on."

"Leaping Horse understand that," the chief said. "He meant would you
take both canoes? One is big enough to take five."

"Quite big enough, chief, but it would be deeper in the water, and the
heavier it is the harder it will bump against any rock it meets; the
lighter they are the better. You see, this other canoe, which I dare say
struck a dozen times on its way down, shows no sign of damage except the
two rents in the skin, that we can mend in a few minutes. Another thing
is, two boats are absolutely necessary for this work of letting down by
ropes, of which we may expect plenty more. If we had only one, we should
be obliged to run every rapid. The only extra trouble that it will give
us is at the portages. I think we had better stay here for two or three
days, so as to give Jerry a chance of coming round. No doubt we could
carry him over the portages just as we can carry the boats, but after
such a knock on the head as he has had, it is best that he should be
kept quiet for a bit. If his skull is not cracked he won't be long in
getting round. He is as hard as nails, and will pull round in the tenth
of the time it would take a man in the towns to get over such a knock.
It is a pity the halt is not in a better place. There is not a shadow of
a chance of finding game among these crags and bare rocks."

From time to time fresh water was applied to the wad of flannel round
Jerry's head.

"Is there any chance, do you think, of finding poor Sam's body?"

The chief shook his head. "No shores where it could be washed up, rocks
tear it to pieces; or if it get in an eddy, might be there for weeks. No
see Sam any more."

The fire was kept blazing all night, and they took it by turns to sit
beside Jerry and to pour occasionally a little brandy and water between
his lips. As the men were moving about preparing breakfast the next
morning Jerry suddenly opened his eyes. He looked at Tom, who was
sitting beside him.

"Time to get up?" he asked. "Why did you not wake me?" And he made an
effort to move. Tom put his hand on him.

"Lie still, Jerry. You have had a knock on the head, but you are all
right now."

The miner lay quiet. His eyes wandered confusedly over the figures of
the others, who had, when they heard his voice, gathered round him.

"What in thunder is the matter with me?" he asked. "What is this thing
on my head? What is the matter with my arm, I don't seem able to move
it?"

"It is the knock you have had, Jerry," Harry said cheerfully. "You have
got a bump upon your head half as big as a cocoa-nut, and you have
damaged your shoulder. You have got a wet flannel on your head, and the
chief has bandaged your arm. I expect your head will be all right in a
day or two, but I reckon you won't be able to use your arm for a bit."

Jerry lay quiet without speaking for a few minutes, then he said: "Oh, I
remember now; we were capsized. I had hold of the canoe, and I remember
seeing a rock just ahead. I suppose I knocked against it."

"That was it, mate. Hunting Dog let go his hold and caught you, and
managed to get into an eddy and cling to the rocks till we came down and
took you on board."

Jerry held out his hand to the Indian. "Thankee," he said. "I owe you
one, Hunting Dog. If I ever get the chance you can reckon on me sure,
whatever it is. But where is Sam? Why ain't he here?"

"Sam has gone under, mate," Harry replied. "That chute you went down was
only just wide enough for the boat to go through, and no doubt he was
knocked off it at the same time as you were; but as the Indian was on
your side, he saw nothing of Sam. I reckon he sank at once, just as you
would have done if Hunting Dog hadn't been behind you."

Jerry made no reply, but as he lay still, with his eyes closed, some big
tears made their way through the lids and rolled down his bronzed face.
The others thought it best to leave him by himself, and continued their
preparations for breakfast.




CHAPTER XVIII

BACK TO DENVER


"When are you going to make a start again?" Jerry asked, after drinking
a, pannikin of tea.

"We are not going on to-day; perhaps not to-morrow. It will depend on
how you get on."

"I shall be a nuisance to you anyway," the miner said, "and it would be
a dog-goned sight the best way to leave me here; but I know you won't
do that, so it ain't no use my asking you. I expect I shall be all right
to-morrow except for this shoulder, but just now my head is buzzing as
if there was a swarm of wild bees inside."

"You will be all the better when you have had a good sleep; I reckon we
could all do a bit that way. Young Tom and Hunting Dog are going to try
a bit of fishing with those hooks of yours. We talked about it when we
started, you know, but we have not done anything until now. We want a
change of food badly. We may be a month going down this canon for
anything I know, and if it keeps on like this there ain't a chance of
seeing a head of game. It ought to be a good place for fish at the foot
of the rapids--that is, if there are any fish here, and I reckon there
should be any amount of them. If they do catch some, we will wait here
till we can dry a good stock. We have nothing now but the dried flesh
and some of the big-horn. There ain't above twenty pounds of flour left,
and we could clear up all there is in the boat in a week. So you need
not worry that you are keeping us."

Half an hour later Hunting Dog and Tom put out in one of the canoes, and
paddling to the foot of the rapids let the lines drop overboard, the
hooks being baited with meat. It was not many minutes before the Indian
felt a sharp pull. There was no occasion to play the fish, for the line
was strong enough to hold a shark, and a trout of six pounds weight was
soon laid in the bottom of the boat.

"My turn now," Tom said; and the Indian with a smile took the paddle
from his hand, and kept the boat up stream while Tom attended to the
lines. Fish after fish was brought up in rapid succession, and when
about mid-day a call from below told them that it was time for dinner,
they had some thirty fish averaging five pounds' weight at the bottom of
the boat.

There was a shout of satisfaction from Harry as he looked down into the
canoe, and even the chief gave vent to a grunt that testified his
pleasure.

"Hand me up four of them, Tom; I did not know how much I wanted a change
of food till my eyes lit on those beauties. We saw you pulling them out,
but I did not expect it was going to be as good as this."

The fish were speedily split open, and laid on ramrods over the fire.

"I reckon you will want another one for me," Jerry, who had been asleep
since they started, remarked. "I don't know that I am good for one as
big as those, but I reckon I can pick a bit anyhow."

A small fish was put on with the others, and as soon as they were
grilled, all set to at what seemed to Tom the best meal he had ever
eaten in his life. He thought when he handed them to Harry that two
would have been amply sufficient for them all, but he found no
difficulty whatever in disposing of a whole one single-handed.

"Now, Tom, the chief and I will take our turn while you and Hunting Dog
prepare your catch. He will show you how to do it, it is simple enough.
Cut off the heads, split and clean them, run a skewer through to keep
them flat, and then lay them on that rock in the sun to dry. Or wait, I
will rig up a line between two of the rocks for you to hang them on.
There is not much wind, but what there is will dry them better than if
they were laid flat."

Jerry went off to sleep again as soon as the meal was finished, and the
bandages round his head re-wetted. The paddle from which the strips had
been cut furnished wood for the skewers, and in the course of half an
hour the fish were all hanging on a line. Twenty two more were brought
in at sunset. Some of these, after being treated like the others, were
hung in the smoke of the fire, while the rest were suspended like the
first batch.

The next morning Jerry was able to move about, and the fishing went on
all day, and by night a quantity, considered sufficient, had been
brought ashore.

"There are over four hundred pounds altogether," Harry said, "though by
the time they are dried they won't be more than half that weight. Two
pounds of dried fish a man is enough to keep him going, and they will
last us twenty days at that rate, and it will be hard luck if we don't
find something to help it out as we go down."

They stopped another day to allow the drying to be completed. The fish
were taken down and packed on board that evening, and at daylight they
were afloat again. For the next ten days their labours were continuous.
They passed several rapids as bad as the one that had cost them so dear;
but as they gained experience they became more skilful in letting down
the boats. Some days only two or three miles were gained, on others they
made as much as twelve. At last they got out of the granite; beyond this
the task was much easier, and on the fifteenth day after leaving their
fishing-ground, they emerged from the canon.

By this time Jerry had perfectly recovered, and was with great
difficulty persuaded to keep his arm bandaged. He had chafed terribly at
first at his helplessness, and at being unable to take any share in the
heavy labours of the others; but after the rapids were passed he was
more contented, and sat quietly at the bottom of the boat smoking, while
Harry and Tom paddled, the two Indians forming the crew of the other
canoe. The diet of fish had been varied by bear's flesh, Leaping Horse
having shot a large brown bear soon after they got through the rapids. A
shout of joy was raised by the three whites as they issued from the
gorge into a quiet valley, through which the river ran, a broad tranquil
stream. Even the Indians were stirred to wave their paddles above their
heads and to give a ringing whoop as their companions cheered. The boats
were headed for the shore, and the camp was formed near a large clump of
bushes.

Their joy at their deliverance from the dangers of the canon was dashed
only by the thought of the loss of their two comrades. The next day
three short canons were passed through, but these presented no
difficulties, and in the afternoon they reached the mouth of the Rio
Virgen, and continuing their journey arrived five days later at Fort
Mojarve. This was a rising settlement, for it was here that the traders'
route between Los Angeles and Santa Fe crossed the Colorado. Their
appearance passed almost unnoticed, for a large caravan had arrived that
afternoon and was starting east the next morning.

"We had best hold our tongues about it altogether," Harry said, as soon
as he heard that the caravan was going on the next morning. "In the
first place they won't believe us, and that would be likely to lead to
trouble; and in the next place we should be worried out of our lives
with questions. Besides, we have got to get a fresh outfit, for we are
pretty near in rags, and to buy horses, food, and kit. We can leave the
boats on the shore, no one is likely to come near them."

"I will stop and look after them," Tom said. "There are the saddles,
buffalo-robes, blankets, and ammunition. This shirt is in rags, and the
last moccasins Hunting Dog made me are pretty nearly cut to pieces by
the rocks. I would rather stay here and look after the boats than go
into the village; besides, it will save you the trouble of carrying all
these bags of gold about with you."

Harry nodded, cut two of the little bags free from their lashings and
dropped them into his pocket, and then went up to the Fort with Jerry
and the Indians. Tom cut the other bags loose and put them on the ground
beside him, threw a buffalo-robe over them, and then sat for some hours
watching the quiet river and thinking over all they had gone through. It
was almost dark when the others returned.

"It has taken us some time, Tom," his uncle said as they threw some
bundles down beside him; "the stores and clothes were easy enough, but
we had a lot of trouble to find horses. However, we did not mind much
what we paid for them, and the traders were ready to sell a few at the
prices we offered. So we have got five riding horses and two
pack-ponies, which will be enough for us. That bundle is your lot,
riding breeches and boots, three pairs of stockings, two flannel shirts,
a Mexican hat, and a silk neck handkerchief. We may as well change at
once and go up to the village."

The change was soon effected. Harry and Jerry Curtis had clothes similar
to those they had bought for Tom, while the Indians wore over their
shirts new deer-skin embroidered hunting-shirts, and had fringed Mexican
leggings instead of breeches and boots. They, too, had procured Mexican
sombreros. Taking their rifles and pistols, and hiding their stock of
ammunition, the gold, and their buffalo-robes and blankets, they went up
to the village. It was by this time quite dark: the houses were all lit
up, and the drinking-shops crowded with the teamsters, who seemed bent
on making a night of it, this being the last village through which they
would pass until their arrival at Santa Fe.

They slept as usual, wrapped up in their buffalo-robes by the side of
the boats, as all agreed that this was preferable to a close room in a
Mexican house.

They were all a-foot as soon as daylight broke, and went up and
breakfasted at a fonda, Tom enjoying the Mexican cookery after the
simple diet he had been accustomed to. Then they went to the stable
where the horses, which were strong serviceable-looking animals, had
been placed, and put on their saddles and bridles.

The pack-horses were then laden with flour, tea, sugar, bacon, and other
necessaries. By the time all was ready the caravan was just starting.
Harry had spoken the afternoon before to two of its leaders, and said
that he and four companions would be glad to ride with them to Santa Fe.
Permission was readily granted, the traders being pleased at the
accession of five well-armed men; for although Indian raids were
comparatively rare along this trail, there was still a certain amount of
danger involved in the journey. Some hours were occupied in crossing the
river in two heavy ferry-boats, and the process would have been still
longer had not half the waggons been sent across on the previous
afternoon.

The long journey was made without incident, and no Indians were met
with. A few deer were shot, but as it was now late in the autumn the
scanty herbage on the plains was all withered up, and the game had for
the most part moved away into deep valleys where they could obtain food.

The tale of their passage of the canons was told more than once, but
although it was listened to with interest, Harry perceived that it was
not really believed. That they had been hunting, had been attacked by
Indians, had made canoes and passed through some of the canons was
credible enough, but that they should have traversed the whole of the
lower course of the Colorado, seemed to the traders, who were all men
experienced in the country, simply incredible. The party stopped at
Santa Fe a few days, and then started north, travelling through the
Mexican villages, and finally striking across to Denver. At Santa Fe
they had converted the contents of their bags into money, which had been
equally shared among them. The Indians were not willing to accept more
than the recognized monthly pay, but Harry would not hear of it.

"This has been no ordinary business, Leaping Horse," he said warmly; "we
have all been as brothers together, and for weeks have looked death in
the face every hour, and we must share all round alike in the gold we
have brought back. Gold is just as useful to an Indian as it is to a
white man, and when you add this to the hoard you spoke of, you will
have enough to buy as many horses and blankets as you can use all your
lifetime, and to settle down in your wigwam and take a wife to yourself
whenever you choose. I fancy from what you said, Hunting Dog has his eye
on one of the maidens of your tribe. Well, he can buy her father's
favour now. The time is coming, chief, when the Indians of the plains
will have to take to white men's ways. The buffaloes are fast dying out,
and in a few years it will be impossible to live by hunting, and the
Indians will have to keep cattle and build houses and live as we do.
With his money Hunting Dog could buy a tidy ranche with a few hundred
head of cattle. Of course, he can hunt as much as he likes so long as
there is any game left, but he will find that as his cattle increase, he
will have plenty to look after at home."

"We will take the gold if my brother wishes it," the chief replied
gravely. "He is wise, and though now it seems to Leaping Horse that
red-skins have no need of gold, it may be that some day he and Hunting
Dog may be glad that they have done as their brother wished."

"Thank you, Leaping Horse. It will make my heart glad when I may be far
away from you across the great salt water to know that there will always
be comfort in my brother's wigwam."

On arriving at Denver they went straight to the Empire. As they entered
the saloon Pete Hoskings looked hard at them.

"Straight Harry, by thunder!" he shouted; "and Jerry Curtis, and young
Tom; though I would not have known him if he hadn't been with the
others. Well, this air a good sight for the eyes, and to-morrow
Christmas-day. I had begun to be afeard that something had gone wrong
with you, I looked for news from you nigh three months ago. I got the
message you sent me in the spring, and I have asked every old hand who
came along east since the end of August, if there had been any news of
you, and I began to fear that you had been rubbed out by the Utes."

"We have had a near escape of it, Pete; but it is a long story. Can you
put us all up? You know Leaping Horse, don't you? The other is his
nephew."

"I should think I do know Leaping Horse," Pete said warmly, and went
across and shook the Indian's hand heartily.

"I was looking at you three, and did not notice who you had with you. In
that letter the chap brought me, you said that the chief was going with
you, and Sam Hicks and Ben Gulston. I did not know them so well; that
is, I never worked with them, though they have stopped here many a
time."

"They have gone under, Pete. Sam was drowned in the Colorado, Ben shot
by the Navahoes. We have all had some close calls, I can tell you. Well
now, can you put us up?"

"You need not ask such a question as that, Harry," Pete said in an
aggrieved tone, "when you know very well that if the place was
chock-full, I would clear the crowd out to make room for you. There are
three beds in the room over this that will do for you three; and there
is a room beside it as Leaping Horse and his nephew can have, though I
reckon they won't care to sleep on the beds."

"No more shall we, Pete. We have been fifteen months and more sleeping
in the open, and we would rather have our buffalo-robes and blankets
than the softest bed in the world."

"You must have had a cold time of it the last three months up in those
Ute hills, where you said you were going."

"We left there five months ago, Pete. We have been down as low as Fort
Mojarve, and then crossed with a caravan of traders to Santa Fe"

Pete began pouring out the liquor.

"Oh, you won't take one, chief, nor the young brave. Yes; I remember you
do not touch the fire-water, and you may be sure I won't press you.
Well, luck to you all, and right glad I am to see you again. Ah! here is
my bartender. Now we will get a good fire lit in another room and hurry
up supper, and then we will talk it all over. You have put your horses
up, I suppose?"

"Yes; we knew you had no accommodation that way, Pete."

The room into which Pete now led them was not his own sanctum, but one
used occasionally when a party of miners coming in from the hills wanted
to have a feast by themselves, or when customers wished to talk over
private business. There was a table capable of seating some twelve
people, a great stove, and some benches. A negro soon lighted a large
fire; then, aided by a boy, laid the table, and it was not long before
they sat down to a good meal. When it was over, Pete said:

"Lend me a hand, Jerry, to push this table aside, then we will bring the
benches round the stove and hear all about it. I told the bar-tender
that I am not to be disturbed, and that if anyone wants to see me he is
to say that he has got to wait till to-morrow, for that I am engaged on
important business. Here are brandy and whisky, and tobacco and cigars,
and coffee for the chief and his nephew."

"I think you may say for all of us, Pete," Harry said. "After being a
year without spirits, Jerry, Tom, and I have agreed to keep without
them. We wouldn't say no to you when you asked us to take a drink, and
we have not sworn off, but Jerry and I have agreed that we have both
been all the better without them, and mean to keep to it; and as for
Tom, he prefers coffee."

"Do as you please," Pete said; "I am always glad to hear men say no. I
have made a lot of money out of it, but I have seen so many fellows
ruined by it that I am always pleased to see a man give up drink."

"There is one thing, Pete," Tom said, "before we begin. We left our
bundles of robes and blankets in the next room, if you don't mind I
would a deal rather spread them out here--and I am sure the chief and
Hunting Dog would--and squat down on them, instead of sitting on these
benches. It is a long story uncle will have to tell you."

"We will fetch ours too," Harry agreed. "Benches are all well enough for
sitting at the table to eat one's dinner, but why a man should sit on
them when he can sit on the ground is more than I can make out."

Pete nodded. "I will have my rocking-chair in," he said, "and then we
shall be fixed up for the evening."

The arrangements were soon made; pipes were lighted; the landlord sat in
his chair at some little distance back from the front of the stove; Tom
and the two Indians sat on their rugs on one side; Harry and Jerry
Curtis completed the semicircle on the other.

"Well, in the first place, Pete," Harry began, "you will be glad to hear
that we have struck it rich--the biggest thing I have ever seen. It is
up in the Ute country. We have staked out a claim for you next our own.
There are about five hundred pounds of samples lying at Fort Bridger, and
a bit of the rock we crushed, panned out five hundred ounces to the ton."

"You don't say!" Pete exclaimed. "If there is much of that stuff, Harry,
you have got a bonanza."

"There is a good bit of it anyhow, Pete. It is a true vein, and though
it is not all like that, it keeps good enough. Fifty feet back we found
it run twenty ounces. That is on the surface, we can't say how it goes
down in depth. Where we struck it on the face it was about fourteen feet
high, and the lode kept its width for that depth anyhow."

"That air good enough," the landlord said. "Now, what do you reckon on
doing?"

"The place is among the hills, Pete, and the Utes are hostile, and went
very nigh rubbing us all out. We reckon it ought to be worked by a party
of thirty men at least. They ought to be well armed, and must build a
sort of fort. I don't think the Utes would venture to attack them if
they were of that strength. There is a little stream runs close to the
vein, and if it were dammed up it would drive a couple of stamps, which,
with a concentrator and tables and blankets, would be quite enough for
such stuff as that. I reckon fifteen men will be quite enough to work,
and to hold the fort. The other fifteen men would include three or four
hunters, and the rest would go backwards and forwards to Bridger for
supplies, and to take the gold down. They would be seven or eight days
away at a time; and if there should be trouble with the red-skins they
would always be back before those at the fort were really pressed. But
we should not be alone long, the news that a rich thing had been struck
would bring scores of miners up in no time.

"We have taken up our own ten claims, which will include, of course, the
rich part. Then we have taken up the next eight or ten claims for our
friends. As I said, we put yours next to ours. We have not registered
them yet, but that will be the first job; and of course you and the
others will each have to put a man on your claims to hold them. The lode
shows on the other side of the creek, though not so rich; still plenty
good enough to work. But as we shall practically get all the water, the
lode cannot be worked by anyone but ourselves. Still the gravel is rich
all down the creek, as rich as anything I have seen in California, and
will be sure to be taken up by miners as soon as we are at work. So
there will be no real danger of trouble from the Indians then. What we
propose is this. We don't what to sell out, we think it is good enough
to hold, but we want to get a company to find the money for getting up
the machinery, building a strong block-house with a palisade, laying in
stores, and working the place. Jerry, Tom, and I would of course be in
command, at any rate for the first year or so, when the rich stuff was
being worked."

"How much money do you think it will want, and what share do you think
of giving, Harry?"

"Well, I should say fifty thousand dollars, though I believe half that
would be enough. Not a penny would be required after the first ton of
rock goes through the stamps. But we should have to take the stamps and
ironwork from the railway terminus to Bridger, and then down. We might
calculate on a month or six weeks in getting up the fort, making the
leat and water-wheel, putting up the machinery, and laying down the
flumes. Say two months from the time we leave Bridger to the time we
begin to work. There would be the pay of the men all that time, the cost
of transporting stores, and all that sort of thing; so it would be
better to say fifty thousand dollars. What share ought we to offer for
that?"

"Well, if you could bring that five hundredweight of stuff here and get
it crushed up, and it turns out as good as you say, I could get you the
money in twenty-four hours. I would not mind going half of it myself,
and I should say that a quarter share would be more than good enough."

"Well, we thought of a third, Pete."

"Well, if you say a third you may consider that part of the business is
done. You won't be able to apply for claims in the names of Sam and Ben,
and if you did it would be no good, because they could not assign them
over to the company. There are eight claims without them, and the one
you have put down in my name is nine. Well, I can get say eleven men in
this place, who will give you an assignment of their claims for five
dollars apiece. That is done every day. I just say to them, I am
registering a share in your name in the Tom Cat Mine, write an
assignment to me of it and I am good for five dollars' worth of liquor,
take it out as you like. The thing is as easy as falling off a log.
Well, what are you thinking of doing next?"

"We shall buy a light waggon and team to-morrow or next day and drive
straight over to Bridger, then we shall go to Salt Lake City and
register our claims at the mining-office there. We need not give the
locality very precisely. Indeed, we could not describe it ourselves so
that anyone could find it, and nobody would go looking for it before
spring comes and the snow clears. Besides, there are scores of wild-cat
claims registered every year. Until they turn out good no one thinks
anything of them. When we have got that done we will go back to Bridger,
and fetch the rock over here. We will write to-morrow to Pittsburg for
the mining outfit, for all the ironwork of the stamps, the concentrator,
and everything required, with axes, picks, and shovels, blasting tools
and powder, to be sent as far as they have got the railway."

"But they will want the money with the order, Harry," Pete said in a
tone of surprise.

"They will have the money. We washed the gravel for a couple of months
before the Utes lit on us, and after buying horses and a fresh outfit
for us all at Fort Mojarve, we have between us got something like five
thousand dollars in gold and greenbacks."

"Jee-hoshaphat!" Pete exclaimed; "that was good indeed for two months'
work. Well, look here, there is no hurry for a few days about your
starting back to Bridger. Here we are now, nearly at the end of
December. It will take you a month to get there, say another fortnight
to go on to Salt Lake City and register your claim and get back to
Bridger, then it would be a month getting back here again; that would
take you to the middle of March. Well, you see it would be pretty nigh
the end of April before you were back at Bridger, then you would have to
get your waggons and your men, and that would be too late altogether.

"You have got to pick your miners carefully, I can tell you; and it is
not a job to be done in a hurry. When they see what gold there is in the
rock they will soon set to work washing the gravel, and the day they do
they will chuck up your work altogether. I will tell you what I would
rather do, and that is, pick up green hands from the east. There are
scores of them here now; men who have come as far as this, and can't
start west till the snows melt. You need not think anything more about
the money. You tell me what you crushed is a fair sample of that five
hundred pounds, and that is quite good enough for me, and the gravel
being so rich is another proof of what the lode was when the stream cut
through it. I can put the twenty-five thousand dollars down, and there
are plenty of men here who will take my word for the affair and plank
their money down too. If there weren't I would put a mortgage on my
houses, so that matter is done. To-morrow I will get the men whose names
you are to give in for a claim each; it will be time in another two
months to begin to look about for some steady chaps from the east,
farmers' sons and such like. That is, if you think that plan is a good
one. I mean to see this thing through, and I shall go with you myself,
and we three can do the blasting."

"We shall be wanted to look after the stamps and pans," Harry said. "We
had best get three or four old hands for the rock."

"Yes, that is best," Pete said. "Between us it is hard if we can't lay
our hands upon men we can trust, and who will give us their word to stay
with us if we offer them six dollars a day."

"We might offer them ten dollars," Harry said, "without hurting
ourselves; but we can say six dollars to begin with, and put some more
on afterwards."

"There is old Mat Morgan," Jerry put in. "I don't know whether he is
about here now. I would trust him. He is getting old for prospecting
among the hills now, but he is as good a miner as ever swung a
sledge-hammer, and as straight as they make them."

"Yes, he is a good man," Pete agreed. And after some talk they settled
upon three others, all of whom, Pete said, were either in the town or
would be coming in shortly.

"Now, you stop here for a week or two, or a month if you like, Harry,
then you can go to Salt Lake City as you propose, and then go back to
Bridger. If as you pass through you send me five-and-twenty pounds of
that rock by express, it will make it easier for me to arrange the money
affair. When you get back you might crush the rest up and send me word
what it has panned out, then later on you can go down again to Salt Lake
City and buy the waggons and flour and bacon, and take them back to
Bridger. When March comes in, I will start from here with some waggons.
We want them to take the machinery, and powder and tools, and the tea
and coffee and things like that, of which we will make a list, on to
Bridger, with the four men we pick out, if I can get them all; if not,
some others in their place, and a score of young emigrants. I shall have
no difficulty in picking out sober, steady chaps, for in a place like
this I can find out about their habits before I engage them. However,
there will be plenty of time to settle all those points. Now, let us
hear all about your adventures. I have not heard about you since Tom
left, except that he wrote me a short letter from Bridger saying that
you had passed the winter up among the mountains by the Big Wind River.
That you had had troubles with the Indians, and hadn't been able to do
much trapping or looking for gold."

"Well, we will tell it between us," Harry said, "for it is a long yarn."

It was, indeed, past midnight before the story was all told. Long before
it was finished the two Indians had taken up their rugs and gone up to
their room, and although the other three had taken by turns to tell the
tale of their adventures, they were all hoarse with speaking by the time
they got through. Pete had often stopped them to ask question at various
points where the narrators had been inclined to cut the story short.

"That beats all," he said, when they brought it to an end. "Only to
think that you have gone down the Grand Canon. I would not have minded
being with you when you were fighting the 'Rappahoes or the Utes, but I
would not try going down the canons for all the gold in California.
Well, look here, boys, I know that what you tell me is gospel truth, and
all the men who know you well, will believe every word you say, but I
would not tell the tale to strangers, for they would look on you as the
all-firedest liars in creation."

"We have learnt that already, Pete," Harry laughed, "and we mean to keep
it to ourselves, at any rate till we have got the mine at work. People
may not believe the story of a man in a red shirt, and, mind you, I have
heard a good many powerful lies told round a miner's fire, but when it
is known we have got a wonderfully rich gold mine, I fancy it will be
different. The men would say, if fellows are sharp enough to find a
bonanza, it stands to reason they may be sharp enough to find their way
down a canon. Now, let us be off to bed, for the heat of the stove has
made me so sleepy that for the last hour I have hardly been able to keep
my eyes open, and have scarcely heard a word of what Jerry and Tom have
been saying."

They only remained a few days at Denver. After the life they had been
leading they were very speedily tired of that of the town, and at the
end of a week they started on horseback, with a light waggon drawn by a
good team, to carry their stores for the journey and to serve as a
sleeping-place. There had been no question about the Indians
accompanying them, this was regarded as a matter of course. It was by no
means a pleasant journey. They had frequent snow-storms and biting
wind, and had sometimes to work for hours to get the waggon out of deep
snow, which had filled up gullies and converted them into traps. After a
stay of three days at Fort Bridger to rest the animals, they went on to
Utah, having forwarded the sample of quartz to Pete Hoskings.

A fortnight was spent at Salt Lake City. Waggons, bullocks, and stores
were purchased, and Harry arranged with some teamsters to bring the
waggons out to Fort Bridger as soon as the snow cleared from the ground.




CHAPTER XIX

A FORTUNE


On their return to Fort Bridger Harry and his companions pounded up the
quartz that had been left there, and found that its average equalled
that of the piece they had tried at the mine. The gold was packed in a
box and sent to Pete Hoskings. A letter came back in return from him,
saying that five of his friends had put in five thousand dollars each,
and that he should start with the stores and machinery as soon as the
track was clear of snow. The season was an early one, and in the middle
of April he arrived with four large waggons and twenty active-looking
young emigrants, and four miners, all of whom were known to Harry. There
was a good deal of talk at Bridger about the expedition, and many
offered to take service in it. But when Harry said that the lode they
were going to prospect was in the heart of the Ute country, and that he
himself had been twice attacked by the red-skins, the eagerness to
accompany him abated considerably.

The fact, too, that it was a vein that would have to be worked by
machinery, was in itself sufficient to deter solitary miners from trying
to follow it up. Scarce a miner but had located a score of claims in
different parts of the country, and these being absolutely useless to
them, without capital to work them with, they would gladly have disposed
of them for a few dollars. It was not, therefore, worth while to risk a
perilous journey merely on the chance of being able to find another vein
in the neighbourhood of that worked by Harry and the men who had gone
into it with him. There was, however, some surprise among the old hands
when Pete Hoskings arrived with the waggons.

"What! Have you cut the saloon, Pete, and are you going in for mining
again?" one of them said as he alighted from his horse.

Pete gave a portentous wink.

"I guess I know what I am doing, Joe Radley. I am looking after the
interests of a few speculators at Denver, who have an idea that they are
going to get rich all of a sudden. I was sick of the city, and it just
suited me to take a run and to get out of the place for a few months."

"Do you think it is rich, Pete?"

"One never can say," Hoskings replied with a grin. "We are not
greenhorns any of us, and we know there is no saying how things are
going to turn out. Straight Harry has had a run of bad luck for the last
two years, and I am glad to give him a shoulder up, you know. I reckon
he won't come badly off any way it turns out."

It was not much, but it was quite enough to send a rumour round the fort
that Pete Hoskings had been puffing up a wild-cat mine in Denver for the
sake of getting Straight Harry appointed boss of the expedition to test
it.

Everything was ready at Bridger, and they delayed but twenty-four hours
there. The teams had arrived from Salt Lake City with the stores a week
before, and the eight waggons set off together. Pete, the three
partners, the two Indians, and the four miners were all mounted. There
were eight other horses ridden by as many of the young fellows Pete had
brought with him, the rest walked on foot. They marched directly for the
mine, as with such a force it was not necessary to make a detour over
the bad lands. At the first halting-place some long cases Pete had
brought with him were opened, and a musket handed to each of the
emigrants, together with a packet of ammunition.

"Now," Pete said, "if the Utes meddle with us we will give them fits.
But I reckon they will know better than to interfere with us."

The rate of progress with the heavy waggons was necessarily very much
slower than that at which the party had travelled on their previous
journey, and it was not until the afternoon of the eighth day after
starting, that they came down into the valley. A halt was made at the
former camping-place in the grove of trees, and the next morning Pete
and the miners went up with Harry and his friends to choose a spot for
the fort, and to examine the lode. As soon as the earth was scraped away
from the spot from which the rock had been taken, exclamations of
astonishment broke from the miners. They had been told by Pete that
Harry had struck it rich, but all were astonished at the numerous
particles and flakes of gold that protruded from the rock. Pete had
forwarded early in the spring to Harry the list of the claimants to the
mine, and the latter and Tom had ridden over to Salt Lake City a few
days before the waggons came up from there to register the claims at the
mining-office, and the first step was to stake out these claims upon the
lode.

"It doesn't run like this far," Harry said to the miners, "and I reckon
that beyond our ground it doesn't run above two ounces to the ton, so I
don't think it is worth while your taking up claims beyond. Of course,
you can do so if you like, and we will allow you an hour off every few
days during the season to work your claims enough to keep possession,
and of an evening you can do a bit of washing down below. You will find
it good-pay dirt everywhere. At least we did as far as we tried it."

They now fixed on the site for the fort. It was upon the top of the
bank, some twenty yards above the lode, and it was settled there should
be a strong double palisade running down from it to the stream, so that
in case of siege they could fetch water without being exposed to the
bullets of an enemy taking post higher up the creek. Among the men from
Denver were two or three experienced carpenters, and a blacksmith, for
whose use a portable forge had been brought in the waggons.

The party returned to breakfast, and as soon as this was over the teams
were put in and the waggons were brought up and unloaded, the stores
being protected from wet by the canvas that formed the tilts. Some of
the men accustomed to the use of the axe had been left in the valley to
fell trees, and as soon as the waggons were unloaded they were sent down
to bring up timber. All worked hard, and at the end of the week a
log-hut fifty feet long and twenty-five feet wide had been erected. The
walls were five feet high, and the roof was formed of the trunks of
young trees squared, and laid side by side.

As rain fell seldom in that region it was not considered necessary to
place shingles over them, as this could, in case of need, be done later
on. The door opened out into the passage between the palisades down to
the water, and the windows were all placed on the same side, loopholes
being cut at short intervals round the other three sides. Another
fortnight completed the preparations for work. The stamps were erected,
with the water-wheel to work them; the stream dammed a hundred yards up,
and a leat constructed to bring the water down to the wheel.

The waggons were formed up in a square. In this the horses were shut
every night, four of the men by turns keeping guard there. During the
last few days the miners had been at work blasting the quartz, and as
soon as the stamps and machinery were in position they were ready to
begin. The men were all told off to various duties, some to carry the
rock down to the stamps, others to break it up into convenient sizes;
two men fed the stamps, others attended to the concentrator and
blankets, supervised by Harry. It was the duty of some to take the
horses down to the valley and guard them while they were feeding, and
bring them back at night. Two men were to bake and cook, Pete Hoskings
taking this special department under his care. Jerry worked with the
miners, and Tom was his uncle's assistant.

The stamps were to be kept going night and day, and each could crush a
ton in twenty-four hours. To their great satisfaction each of the men
was allowed one day a week to himself, during which he could prospect
for other lodes or wash gravel as he pleased. The old cradle was found
where it had been left, and as five of the men were off duty each day,
they formed themselves into gangs and worked the cradle by turns, adding
very considerably to the liberal pay they received. The two Indians
hunted, and seldom returned without game of some sort or other. As the
quicksilver in the concentrator was squeezed by Harry or Tom, and the
blankets washed by them, none but themselves knew what the returns were.
They and their partners were, however, more than satisfied with the
result, for although the lode was found to pinch in as they got lower,
it maintained for the first six weeks the extraordinary average of that
they had first crushed.

At the end of that time the Indians reported that they had seen traces
of the Utes having visited the valley. The number of men who went down
with the horses was at once doubled, one or other of the Indians staying
down with them, preceding them in the morning by half an hour to see
that the valley was clear. A week later the horses were seen coming back
again a quarter of an hour after they had started. The men caught up
their guns, which were always placed handy for them while at work, and
ran out to meet the returning party.

"What is it, Hunting Dog?"

"A large war-party," the Indian replied. "Three hundred or more."

The horses were driven into the inclosure, half the men took their
places among the waggons, and the others, clustered round the hut,
prepared to enter it as soon as the Indians made their appearance.

The partners had already arranged what course to take if the Indians
should come down on them, and were for all reasons most anxious that
hostilities should if possible be avoided.

Presently the Indians were seen approaching at a gallop. As soon as they
caught sight of the log-house and the inclosure of waggons they reined
in their horses. The men had been ordered to show themselves, and the
sight of some forty white men all armed with rifles brought the Indians
to a dead stand-still.

Pete Hoskings went forward a little and waved a white cloth, and then
Harry and the chief, leaving their rifles behind them stepped up to his
side and held their arms aloft. There was a short consultation among the
Indians, and then two chiefs dismounted, handed their rifles and spears
to their men, and in turn advanced. Harry and Leaping Horse went forward
until they met the chiefs halfway between the two parties. Harry began
the conversation.

"Why do my red brothers wish to fight?" he asked. "We are doing them no
harm. We are digging in the hills. Why should we not be friends?"

"The white men killed many of the Utes when they were here last year,"
one of the chiefs replied. "Why do they come upon the Utes' land?"

"It was the fault of the Utes," Harry said. "The white men wished only
to work in peace. The Utes tried to take their scalps, and the white men
were forced against their will to fight. No one can be blamed for
defending his life. We wish for peace, but, as the Utes can see, we are
quite ready to defend ourselves. There are forty rifles loaded and
ready, and, as you may see, a strong house. We have no fear. Last time
we were but few, but the Utes found that it was not easy to kill us. Now
we are many, and how many of the Utes would die before they took our
scalps? Nevertheless we wish for peace. The land is the land of the
Utes, and although we are strong and could hold it if we chose, we do
not wish to take it by force from our red brothers. We are ready to pay
for the right to live and work quietly. Let the chiefs go back to their
friends and talk together, and say how many blankets and how many guns
and what weight of ammunition and tobacco they will be content with.
Then if they do not ask too much, the white men will, so long as they
remain here, pay that amount each year in order that they may live in
peace with the Utes."

The two Indians glanced at each other. "My white brother is wise," one
said. "Why did he not tell the Utes so last year?"

"Because you never gave us time, chief. If you had done so we would have
said the same to you then, and your young men would be with you now; but
you came as enemies upon us, and when the rifle is speaking the voice is
silent."

"I will speak with my braves," the chief said gravely. And turning round
they walked back to their party, while Harry and the chief returned to
the huts.

"What do you think, chief? Will it be peace?"

Leaping Horse nodded. "Too many rifles," he said. "The Utes will know
they could never take block-house."

It was nearly two hours before the two Utes advanced as before, and
Harry and the Seneca went out to meet them.

"My white brother's words are good," the chief said. "The Utes are great
warriors, but they do not wish to fight against the white men who come
as friends. The chiefs have talked with their braves, and the hatchets
will be buried. This is what the Utes ask that the white men who have
taken their land shall pay them."

Harry had arranged that the chief, who spoke the Ute language more
perfectly than he did, should take charge of the bargaining. On the list
being given Leaping Horse assumed an expression of stolid indifference.

"The land must be very dear in the Ute country," he said. "Do my
brothers suppose that the white men are mad that they ask such terms?
Peace would be too dear if bought at such a price. They are willing to
deal liberally with the Utes, but not to give as much as would buy
twenty hills. They will give this." And he enumerated a list of
articles, amounting to about one quarter of the Indians' demands.

The bargaining now went on in earnest, and finally it was settled that a
quantity of goods, amounting to about half the Indians' first demand,
should be accepted, and both parties returned to their friends well
satisfied.

A certain amount of goods had been brought out with a view to such a
contingency, and half the amount claimed was handed over to the Utes.
They had, indeed, more than enough to satisfy the demands, but Leaping
Horse had suggested to Harry that only a portion should be given, as
otherwise the Indians might suppose that their wealth was boundless. It
would be better to promise to deliver the rest in three months' time. A
dozen of the principal men of the Utes came over. The goods were
examined and accepted, the calumet of peace was smoked and a solemn
covenant of friendship entered into, and by the next morning the Indians
had disappeared.

One end of the hut had been partitioned off for the use of the leaders
of the party, and the gold obtained each day was carried by them there
and deposited in a strong iron box, of which several had been brought by
Pete Hoskings from Denver.

The day after the Indians left, a waggon, was sent off under the escort
of eight mounted labourers to Bridger, and this continued to make the
journey backward and forward regularly with the boxes of gold, Jerry and
Pete Hoskings taking it by turns to command the escort. Harry and Pete
had had a talk with the officer in command at Bridger on the evening
before they had started on the expedition.

"You think you are going to send in a large quantity of gold?" the
officer asked.

"If the mines are such as we think, Major, we may be sending down two or
three hundredweight a month."

"Of course, the gold will be perfectly safe as long as it is in the
fort, but if it gets known how much there is, you will want a strong
convoy to take it across to the railway, and it would not be safe even
then. Of course, the bulk is nothing. I should say at any rate you had
better get it in here with as little fuss as possible."

"If you will keep it here for awhile," Pete said, "we will think over
afterwards how it is to be taken further."

The officer nodded. "It mayn't turn out as difficult a business as you
think," he said with a smile. "You are both old hands enough to know
that mines very seldom turn out as rich as they are expected to do."

"We both know that," Pete Hoskings agreed. "I dunno as I ever did hear
of a mine that turned out anything nigh as good as it ought to have done
from samples, but I reckon that this is going to be an exception."

When within a few miles of the fort the escort always placed their
rifles in the waggon and rode on some distance ahead of it, only one or
two with their leader remaining by it. The boxes, which were of no great
size, were covered by a sack or two thrown down in the corner of the
waggon, and on its arrival in the fort it was taken first to the store,
where a considerable quantity of provisions, flour, molasses, bacon, tea
and sugar, currants and raisins, and other articles were purchased and
placed in it. This was the ostensible purpose of the journey to the
fort. Late in the evening Jerry or Pete, whichever happened to be the
leader, and one of the men, carried the boxes across to the Major's
quarters and stored them in a cellar beneath it.

There was a real need of provisions at the mine, for the population of
the valley rapidly increased as the season went on. The upper part of
the bed of the stream had been staked out into claims, the miners and
other men each taking up one, but below them the ground was of course
open to all, and although not nearly so rich as the upper gravel it was
good enough to pay fairly for working. A stout palisading now surrounded
the ground taken up by the machinery and the mine itself, and no one
except those engaged by the company were allowed to enter here.
Considerable surprise was felt in the camp when the first two or three
miners came up and staked out claims on the stream.

"I wonder how they could have heard of it," Tom said to his uncle.

"The fact that we are remaining out here is enough to show that we are
doing something, anyhow. The men who go in are always strictly ordered
to say no word about what our luck is, but the mere fact that they hold
their tongues--and you may be sure they are questioned sharply--is
enough to excite curiosity, and these men have come to find out and see
what the country is like, and to prospect the hills round where we are
working. You will see a lot of them here before long."

As more came up it was determined to open a store. In the first place it
furnished an explanation for the waggon going down so often, and in the
second the fact that they were ready to sell provisions at cost prices
would deter others from coming and setting up stores. There was no
liquor kept on the mine, and Pete and Harry were very anxious that no
places for its sale should be opened in the valley.

During the winter and spring Tom had received several letters from his
sisters. They expressed themselves as very grateful for the money that
he and their uncle had sent on their return to Denver, but begged them
to send no more, as the school was flourishing and they were perfectly
able to meet all their expenses.  "It is very good of you, Tom," Carry
said. "Of course, we are all very pleased to know that you have been
able to send the money, because it relieves our anxiety about you; but
we really don't want it, and it makes us afraid that you are stinting
yourself. Besides, even if you are not, it would be much better for you
to keep the money, as you may find some opportunity of using it to your
advantage, while here it would only lie in the bank and do no good. It
would be different if we had nothing to fall back upon in case of
anything happening, such as some of us getting ill, or our having a case
of fever in the school, or anything of that sort, but as we have only
used fifty pounds of mother's money we have plenty to go on with for a
very long time; so that really we would very much rather you did not
send us any over. Now that we know your address and can write to you at
Fort Bridger, it seems to bring you close to us. But we have had two
very anxious times; especially the first, when we did not hear of you
for six months. The second time was not so bad, as you had told us that
it might be a long time before we should hear, and we were prepared for
it, but I do hope it will never be so long again."

There had been some discussion as to whether the mine should be shut
down in winter, but it was soon decided that work should go on
regularly. Six more stamps were ordered to be sent from the east, with a
steam-engine powerful enough to work the whole battery, and in September
this and other machinery had reached the mine. Fresh buildings had been
erected--a storehouse, a house for the officers, and a shed covering the
whole of the machinery and yard. By the time this was all ready and in
place the valley below was deserted, the gravel having been washed out
to the bed-rock. No other lodes of sufficient richness to work had been
discovered by the prospectors, and with winter at hand there was no
inducement for them to stay longer there.

Only two or three of the men at the mine wished to leave when their
engagement for the season terminated. All had been well paid, and had in
addition made money at gold-washing. Their food had been excellent, and
their comforts attended to in all ways. Accordingly, with these
exceptions all were ready to renew their engagements.

An arrangement was made with the Major at Fort Bridger for an escort
under a subaltern officer to proceed with two waggons with the treasure
to Denver. Pete Hoskings and Jerry were to remain as managers of the
mine throughout the winter. Harry and Tom had made up their minds to go
to England and to return in the spring. The ore was now very much poorer
than it had been at first. The lode had pinched out below and they had
worked some distance along it. The falling off, however, was only
relative; the mine was still an extraordinarily rich one, although it
contained little more than a tenth of the gold that had been extracted
from the first hundred and fifty tons crushed.

None but Harry, Pete Hoskings, Jerry, and Tom had any idea of the amount
of gold extracted in less than six months, although the miners were well
aware that the amount must be very large. It was so indeed, for after
repaying the amount expended in preliminary expenses, together with the
new machinery, the wages of the men, provisions, and all outgoings, they
calculated the treasure sent down to be worth one hundred and
twenty-eight thousand pounds, while the mine if sold would fetch at
least double that sum. After a hearty farewell to Pete and Jerry, Harry
and Tom with the two Indians rode with the last waggon down to Bridger.
The iron boxes had all been sewn up in deer-skins when they were sent
down, and at night they were placed in the waggons by Harry and his
companions. Over them were placed the provisions for the journey, as it
was just as well that even the soldiers should not suspect the amount of
treasure they were escorting.

They encountered some severe snow-storms by the way, but reached Denver
without incident. The place had wonderfully changed since Tom had
arrived there more than two years before. It had trebled in size; broad
streets and handsome houses had been erected, and the town had spread in
all directions. They drove straight to the bank, to which Pete Hoskings
had sent down a letter a fortnight before they had started, and the
boxes were taken out of the waggon and carried down into the vaults of
the bank. A handsome present was made to each of the soldiers of the
escort, a brace of revolvers was given by Harry to the subaltern, and
the handsomest watch and chain that could be purchased in Denver was
sent by him to the Major, with an inscription expressing the thanks of
the company to him for his kindness.

"Well, Tom, I am thankful that that is off my mind," Harry said. "I have
had a good many troubles in the course of my life, but this is the first
time that money has ever been a care to me. Well, we are rich men, Tom,
and we shall be richer, for the mine will run another two or three years
before it finishes up the lode as far as we have traced it, and as we
have now filed claims for a quarter of a mile farther back, it may be
good for aught I know for another ten years. Not so good as it has been
this year, but good enough to give handsome profits. Have you calculated
what our share is?"

"No, uncle. I know it must be a lot, but I have never thought about what
each share will be."

"Well, to begin with, a third of it goes to Pete Hoskings and his
friends, that leaves eighty-five thousand. The remainder is divided into
seven shares; I was to have two, the Indians three between them, you
one, and Jerry one. His share is then about twelve thousand, which
leaves seventy-three thousand between you and me. Of course, we shall
divide equally."

"No, indeed, uncle; that would be ridiculous. I have been of very little
use through it all, and I certainly ought not to have as much as Jerry.
You and the chief discovered it, and it was entirely owing to you that
any of the rest of us have a share of the profits, and of course your
arrangement with the two Indians is only because the chief is so fond of
you."

"Partly that, Tom; but chiefly because it is in accordance with red-skin
customs. They are hunters, fighters, and guides, but they are not
miners, and they never go in for shares in an enterprise of this sort.
It went very much against the grain for Leaping Horse to take that three
or four hundred pounds that came to him at the end of the last
expedition, and he would be seriously offended if I were to press upon
him more than his ordinary payment now; he would say that he has been
simply hunting this year, that he has run no risks, and has had nothing
to do with the mine. To-morrow morning we will go out to see what there
is in the way of horse-flesh in Denver, and will buy him and Hunting Dog
the two best horses in the town, whatever they may cost, with saddles,
bridles, new blankets, and so on. If I can get anything special in the
way of rifles I shall get a couple of them, and if not I shall get them
in New York, and send them to him at Bridger. These are presents he
would value infinitely more than all the gold we have stowed away in the
bank to-day. He is going back to his tribe for the winter, and he and
Hunting Dog will be at the mine before us next spring."

In the morning Harry was two hours at the bank, where he saw the gold
weighed out, and received a receipt for the value, which came to within
a hundred pounds of what they had calculated, as the dust had been very
carefully weighed each time it was sent off. In accordance with the
arrangement he had made with Pete Hoskings and Jerry the amount of their
respective shares was placed to their credit at the bank. Drawing a
thousand pounds in cash, he received a draft for the rest upon a firm at
New York, where he would be able to exchange it for one on London. He
then inquired at the hotel as to who was considered to possess the best
horses in the town, and as money was no object to him, he succeeded in
persuading the owners to sell two splendid animals; these with the
saddles were sent to the hotel. He then bought two finely finished
Sharpe's rifles of long range, and two brace of silver-mounted
revolvers.

"Now, Tom," he said, "I shall give one of these outfits to the chief and
you give the other to Hunting Dog; he has been your special chum since
we started, and the presents will come better from you than from me. I
expect them here in half an hour; I told them I should be busy all the
morning."

The two Indians were delighted with their presents, even the chief being
moved out of his usual impassive demeanour. "My white brothers are too
good. Leaping Horse knows that Straight Harry is his friend; he does not
want presents to show him that; but he will value them because he loves
his white brothers, even more than for themselves." As for Hunting Dog,
he was for a long time incredulous that the splendid horse, the rifle
and pistols could really be for him, and he was so exuberant in his
delight that it was not until Leaping Horse frowned at him severely that
he subsided into silent admiration of the gifts.

"Here are papers, chief, that you and Hunting Dog had better keep: they
are the receipts for the two horses, and two forms that I have had
witnessed by a lawyer, saying that we have given you the horses in token
of our gratitude for the services that you have rendered; possibly you
may find them useful. You may fall in with rough fellows who may make a
pretence that the horses have been stolen. Oh, yes! I know that you can
hold your own; still, it may avoid trouble."

They had now no further use for their horses, so these were sold for a
few pounds. They purchased a stock of clothes sufficient only for their
journey to England.

"You may as well put your revolver in your pocket, Tom," Harry said as
they prepared to start the next day. "I have sewn up the draft in the
lining of my coat, but sometimes a train gets held up and robbed, and as
we have six hundred pounds in gold and notes in our wallets, I certainly
should not give it up without a fight."

The Indians accompanied them to the station. "Now, chief, you take my
advice and look out for a nice wife before next spring. You are forty
now, and it is high time you thought of settling down."

"Leaping Horse will think over it," the Seneca said gravely. "It may be
that in the spring he will have a wigwam in the valley."

A few minutes later the train started east, and five days later they
reached New York. A steamer left the next day for England, and in this
they secured two first-class berths; and although Tom had managed very
well on his way out, he thoroughly enjoyed the vastly superior comfort
of the homeward trip. They went straight through to Southampton, for, as
Harry said, they could run up to London and get their clothes any day;
and he saw that Tom was in a fever of excitement to get home. Harriet
came to the door of the little house at Southsea when they knocked. She
looked surprised at seeing two gentlemen standing there. In the two
years and a half that had passed since Tom had left he had altered
greatly. He had gone through much toil and hardship, and the bronze of
the previous summer's sun was not yet off his cheeks; he had grown four
or five inches, and the man's work that he had been doing had made
almost a man of him.

"Don't you know me, Harriet?" Tom said.

The girl at once recognized the voice, and with a loud cry of delight
threw her arms round his neck. The cry brought Carry out from the
parlour. "Why, Harriet," she exclaimed, "have you gone mad?"

"Don't you see it's Tom?" Harriet said, turning round, laughing and
crying together.

"It is Tom, sure enough, Carry; you need not look so incredulous; and
this is Uncle Harry."

There were a few minutes of wild joy, then they calmed down and
assembled in the sitting-room.

"It is lucky the girls have all gone home to dinner," Carry said, "or
they would certainly have carried the news to their friends that we were
all mad. It is a half-holiday too, nothing could be more fortunate. Now
we want to hear everything. Tom's letters were so short and
unsatisfactory, uncle, that he told us next to nothing, except that you
had found a mine, and that you were both working there, and that it was
satisfactory."

"Well, my dears, that is the pith of the thing," Harry said. "The first
thing for you to do is to send round notes to the mothers of these
children saying that from unforeseen circumstances you have retired from
the profession, and that the school has finally closed from this
afternoon."

There was a general exclamation from the girls:

"What do you mean, uncle?"

"I mean what I say, girls. Tom and I have made our fortunes, and there
is no occasion for you to go on teaching any longer. We have not yet
made any plans for the future, but at any rate the first step is, that
there is to be no more teaching."

"But are you quite, quite sure, uncle?" Carry said doubtfully. "We are
getting on very nicely now, and it would be a pity to lose the
connection."

Harry and Tom both laughed.

"Well, my girl," the former said, "that is of course a point to be
thought of. But as Tom and I have over thirty-five thousand pounds
apiece, and the mine will bring us in a good round sum for some years to
come, I think we can afford to run the risk of the connection going."

After that it was a long while before they settled down to talk quietly
again.

A week later they all went up to London for a month, while what Harry
called "outfits" were purchased for the girls, as well as for him and
Tom, and all the sights of London visited. Before their story came to an
end, the grand consultation as to future plans had been held, and a
handsome house purchased at Blackheath.

Tom did not return to Utah in the spring; his uncle strongly advised him
not to do so.

"I shall go back myself, Tom; partly because I should feel like a fish
out of water with nothing to do here, partly because I promised the
chief to go back for a bit every year. I am beginning to feel dull
already, and am looking forward to the trip across the water, but it
will certainly be better for you to stay at home. You left school early,
you see, and it would be a good thing for you to get a man to come and
read with you for two or three hours a day for the next year or two. We
have settled that the three younger girls are to go to school; and I
don't see why you, Carry, and Janet, should not go, in the first place,
for two or three months on to the Continent. They have had a dull life
since you have been away, and the trip will be a treat for them, and
perhaps do you some good also. It will be time enough to settle down to
reading when you come back."

The mine returned large profits that year, the increased amount stamped
making up to some extent for the falling off in the value of the ore,
and the shares of the various proprietors were more than half what they
had been at the end of the first season's work. The third year it fell
off considerably. There was a further decrease the year after, and the
fifth year it barely paid its expenses, and it was decided to abandon
it. Harry Wade went over every season for many years, but spent only the
first at the mine. After that he went hunting expeditions with Leaping
Horse, who, to his amusement, had met him at his first return to the
mine with a pretty squaw, and Hunting Dog had also brought a wife with
him. Two wigwams were erected that year near the mine, but after that
they returned to their tribe, of which Leaping Horse became the leading
chief.

Tom's sisters all in due time married, each being presented on her
wedding-day with a cheque for ten thousand pounds, as a joint present
from her uncle and brother.

Tom himself did not remain a bachelor, but six years after his return to
England took a wife to himself, and the house at Blackheath was none too
large for his family. Harry Wade's home is with Tom, and he is still
hale and hearty. Up to the last few years he paid occasional visits to
America, and stayed for a while with his red brother Leaping Horse, when
they lamented together over the disappearance of game and the extinction
of the buffalo. Hunting Dog had, at Harry's urgent advice, settled down
in the ways of civilization, taking up a ranche and breeding cattle, of
which he now owns a large herd. Jerry Curtis and Pete Hoskings made a
journey together to Europe after the closing of the mine. They stayed
for a month at Blackheath, and ten years later Tom received a lawyer's
letter from Denver saying that Peter Hoskings was dead, and that he had
left his large house and other property in Denver to Mr. Thomas Wade's
children. Jerry still lives at the age of seventy-five in that city.




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