With us the damp, the chill, the gloom; With them the sunset's rosy bloom.
The dimness of earth with me, the light of heaven with them. Here, again, worship seemed the only attitude for a human spirit, and the question was ever present, "Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" I rode up and down hills laboriously in snow-drifts, getting off often to ease my faithful Birdie by walking down ice-clad slopes, stopping constantly to feast my eyes upon that changeless glory, always seeing some new ravine, with its depths of color or miraculous brilliancy of red, or phantasy of form. Then below, where the trail was locked into a deep canyon where there was scarcely room for it and the river, there was a beauty of another kind in solemn gloom. There the stream curved and twisted marvellously, widening into shallows, narrowing into deep boiling eddies, with pyramidal firs and the beautiful silver spruce fringing its banks, and often falling across it in artistic grace, the gloom chill and deep, with only now and then a light trickling through the pines upon the cold snow, when suddenly turning round I saw behind, as if in the glory of an eternal sunset, those flaming and fantastic peaks. The effect of the combination of winter and summer was singular. The trail ran on the north side the whole time, and the snow lay deep and pure white, while not a wreath of it lay on the south side, where abundant lawns basked in the warm sun.
The pitch pine, with its monotonous and somewhat rigid form, had disappeared; the white pine became scarce, both being displayed by the slim spires and silvery green of the miniature silver spruce. Valley and canyon were passed, the flaming ranges were left behind, the upper altitudes became grim and mysterious. I crossed a lake on the ice, and then came on a park surrounded by barren contorted hills, overtopped by snow mountains. There, in some brushwood, we crossed a deepish stream on the ice, which gave way, and the fearful cold of the water stiffened my limbs for the rest of the ride. All these streams become bigger as you draw nearer to their source, and shortly the trail disappeared in a broad rapid river, which we forded twice. The trail was very difficult to recover. It ascended ever in frost and snow, amidst scanty timber dwarfed by cold and twisted by storms, amidst solitudes such as one reads of in the High Alps; there were no sounds to be heard but the crackle of ice and snow, the pitiful howling of wolves, and the hoot of owls. The sun to me had long set; the peaks which had blushed were pale and sad; the twilight deepened into green; but still "Excelsior!" There were no happy homes with light of household fires; above, the spectral mountains lifted their cold summits. As darkness came on I began to fear that I had confused the cabin to which I had been directed with the rocks. To confess the truth, I was cold, for my boots and stockings had frozen on my feet, and I was hungry too, having eaten nothing but raisins for fourteen hours. After riding thirty miles I saw a light a little way from the track, and found it to be the cabin of the daughter of the pleasant people with whom I had spent the previous night. Her husband had gone to the Plains, yet she, with two infant children, was living there in perfect security. Two pedlars, who were peddling their way down from the mines, came in for a night's shelter soon after I arrived—ill-looking fellows enough. They admired Birdie in a suspicious fashion, and offered to "swop" their pack horse for her. I went out the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning to see that "the powny" was safe, for they were very importunate on the subject of the "swop." I had before been offered 150 dollars for her. I was obliged to sleep with the mother and children, and the pedlars occupied a room within ours. It was hot and airless. The cabin was papered with the Phrenological Journal, and in the morning I opened my eyes on the very best portrait of Dr. Candlish I ever saw, and grieved truly that I should never see that massive brow and fantastic face again.
Mrs. Link was an educated and very intelligent young woman. The pedlars were Irish Yankees, and the way in which they "traded" was as amusing as "Sam Slick." They not only wanted to "swop" my pony, but to "trade" my watch. They trade their souls, I know. They displayed their wares for an hour with much dexterous flattery and persuasiveness, but Mrs. Link was untemptable, and I was only tempted into buying a handkerchief to keep the sun off. There was another dispute about my route. It was the most critical day of my journey. If a snowstorm came on, I might be detained in the mountains for many weeks; but if I got through the snow and reached the Denver wagon road, no detention would signify much. The pedlars insisted that I could not get through, for the road was not broken. Mrs. L. thought I could, and advised me to try, so I saddled Birdie and rode away.
More than half of the day was far from enjoyable. The morning was magnificent, but the light too dazzling, the sun too fierce. As soon as I got out I felt as if I should drop off the horse. My large handkerchief kept the sun from my neck, but the fierce heat caused soul and sense, brain and eye, to reel. I never saw or felt the like of it. I was at a height of 12,000 feet, where, of course, the air was highly rarefied, and the snow was so pure and dazzling that I was obliged to keep my eyes shut as much as possible to avoid snow blindness. The sky was a different and terribly fierce color; and when I caught a glimpse of the sun, he was white and unwinking like a lime-ball light, yet threw off wicked scintillations. I suffered so from nausea, exhaustion, and pains from head to foot, that I felt as if I must lie down in the snow. It may have been partly the early stage of soroche, or mountain sickness. We plodded on for four hours, snow all round, and nothing else to be seen but an ocean of glistening peaks against that sky of infuriated blue. How I found my way I shall never know, for the only marks on the snow were occasional footprints of a man, and I had no means of knowing whether they led in the direction I ought to take. Earlier, before the snow became so deep, I passed the last great haunt of the magnificent mountain bison, but, unfortunately, saw nothing but horns and bones. Two months ago Mr. Link succeeded in separating a calf from the herd, and has partially domesticated it. It is a very ugly thing at seven months old, with a thick beard, and a short, thick, dark mane on its heavy shoulders. It makes a loud grunt like a pig. It can outrun their fastest horse, and it sometimes leaps over the high fence of the corral, and takes all the milk of five cows.
The snow grew seriously deep. Birdie fell thirty times, I am sure. She seemed unable to keep up at all, so I was obliged to get off and stumble along in her footmarks. By that time my spirit for overcoming difficulties had somewhat returned, for I saw a lie of country which I knew must contain South Park, and we had got under cover of a hill which kept off the sun. The trail had ceased; it was only one of those hunter's tracks which continually mislead one. The getting through the snow was awful work. I think we accomplished a mile in something over two hours. The snow was two feet eight inches deep, and once we went down in a drift the surface of which was rippled like sea sand, Birdie up to her back, and I up to my shoulders!
At last we got through, and I beheld, with some sadness, the goal of my journey, "The Great Divide," the Snowy Range, and between me and it South Park, a rolling prairie seventy-five miles long and over 10,000 feet high, treeless, bounded by mountains, and so rich in sun-cured hay that one might fancy that all the herds of Colorado could find pasture there. Its chief center is the rough mining town of Fairplay, but there are rumors of great mineral wealth in various quarters. The region has been "rushed," and mining camps have risen at Alma and elsewhere, so lawless and brutal that vigilance committees are forming as a matter of necessity. South Park is closed, or nearly so, by snow during an ordinary winter; and just now the great freight wagons are carrying up the last supplies of the season, and taking down women and other temporary inhabitants. A great many people come up here in the summer. The rarefied air produces great oppression on the lungs, accompanied with bleeding. It is said that you can tell a new arrival by seeing him go about holding a blood-stained handkerchief to his mouth. But I came down upon it from regions of ice and snow; and as the snow which had fallen on it had all disappeared by evaporation and drifting, it looked to me quite lowland and livable, though lonely and indescribably mournful, "a silent sea," suggestive of "the muffled oar." I cantered across the narrow end of it, delighted to have got through the snow; and when I struck the "Denver stage road" I supposed that all the difficulties of mountain travel were at an end, but this has not turned out to be exactly the case.
A horseman shortly joined me and rode with me, got me a fresh horse, and accompanied me for ten miles. He was a picturesque figure and rode a very good horse. He wore a big slouch hat, from under which a number of fair curls hung nearly to his waist. His beard was fair, his eyes blue, and his complexion ruddy. There was nothing sinister in his expression, and his manner was respectful and frank. He was dressed in a hunter's buckskin suit ornamented with beads, and wore a pair of exceptionally big brass spurs. His saddle was very highly ornamented. What was unusual was the number of weapons he carried. Besides a rifle laid across his saddle and a pair of pistols in the holsters, he carried two revolvers and a knife in his belt, and a carbine slung behind him. I found him what is termed "good company." He told me a great deal about the country and its wild animals, with some hunting adventures, and a great deal about Indians and their cruelty and treachery. All this time, having crossed South Park, we were ascending the Continental Divide by what I think is termed the Breckenridge Pass, on a fairly good wagon road. We stopped at a cabin, where the woman seemed to know my companion, and, in addition to bread and milk, produced some venison steaks. We rode on again, and reached the crest of the Divide (see engraving), and saw snow-born streams starting within a quarter of a mile from each other, one for the Colorado and the Pacific, the other for the Platte and the Atlantic. Here I wished the hunter good-bye, and reluctantly turned north-east. It was not wise to go up the Divide at all, and it was necessary to do it in haste. On my way down I spoke to the woman at whose cabin I had dined, and she said, "I am sure you found Comanche Bill a real gentleman"; and I then knew that, if she gave me correct information, my intelligent, courteous companion was one of the most notorious desperadoes of the Rocky Mountains, and the greatest Indian exterminator on the frontier—a man whose father and family fell in a massacre at Spirit Lake by the hands of Indians, who carried away his sister, then a child of eleven. His life has since been mainly devoted to a search for this child, and to killing Indians wherever he can find them.
After riding twenty miles, which made the distance for that day fifty, I remounted Birdie to ride six miles farther, to a house which had been mentioned to me as a stopping place. The road ascended to a height of 11,000 feet, and from thence I looked my last at the lonely, uplifted prairie sea. "Denver stage road!" The worst, rudest, dismallest, darkest road I have yet traveled on, nothing but a winding ravine, the Platte canyon, pine crowded and pine darkened, walled in on both sides for six miles by pine-skirted mountains 12,000 feet high! Along this abyss for fifty miles there are said to be only five houses, and were it not for miners going down, and freight wagons going up, the solitude would be awful. As it was, I did not see a creature. It was four when I left South Park, and between those mountain walls and under the pines it soon became quite dark, a darkness which could be felt. The snow which had melted in the sun had re-frozen, and was one sheet of smooth ice. Birdie slipped so alarmingly that I got off and walked, but then neither of us could keep our feet, and in the darkness she seemed so likely to fall upon me, that I took out of my pack the man's socks which had been given me at Perry's Park, and drew them on over her fore-feet—an expedient which for a time succeeded admirably, and which I commend to all travelers similarly circumstanced. It was unutterably dark, and all these operations had to be performed by the sense of touch only. I remounted, allowed her to take her own way, as I could not see even her ears, and though her hind legs slipped badly, we contrived to get along through the narrowest part of the canyon, with a tumbling river close to the road. The pines were very dense, and sighed and creaked mournfully in the severe frost, and there were other EERIE noises not easy to explain. At last, when the socks were nearly worn out, I saw the blaze of a camp-fire, with two hunters sitting by it, on the hill side, and at the mouth of a gulch something which looked like buildings. We got across the river partly on ice and partly by fording, and I found that this was the place where, in spite of its somewhat dubious reputation, I had been told that I could put up.
A man came out in the sapient and good-natured stage of intoxication, and, the door being opened, I was confronted by a rough bar and a smoking, blazing kerosene lamp without a chimney. This is the worst place I have put up at as to food, lodging, and general character; an old and very dirty log cabin, not chinked, with one dingy room used for cooking and feeding, in which a miner was lying very ill of fever; then a large roofless shed with a canvas side, which is to be an addition, and then the bar. They accounted for the disorder by the building operations. They asked me if I were the English lady written of in the Denver News, and for once I was glad that my fame had preceded me, as it seemed to secure me against being quietly "put out of the way." A horrible meal was served—dirty, greasy, disgusting. A celebrated hunter, Bob Craik, came in to supper with a young man in tow, whom, in spite of his rough hunter's or miner's dress, I at once recognized as an English gentleman. It was their camp-fire which I had seen on the hill side. This gentleman was lording it in true caricature fashion, with a Lord Dundreary drawl and a general execration of everything; while I sat in the chimney corner, speculating on the reason why many of the upper class of my countrymen—"High Toners," as they are called out here—make themselves so ludicrously absurd. They neither know how to hold their tongues or to carry their personal pretensions. An American is nationally assumptive, an Englishman personally so. He took no notice of me till something passed which showed him I was English, when his manner at once changed into courtesy, and his drawl was shortened by a half. He took pains to let me know that he was an officer in the Guards, of good family, on four months' leave, which he was spending in slaying buffalo and elk, and also that he had a profound contempt for everything American. I cannot think why Englishmen put on these broad, mouthing tones, and give so many personal details. They retired to their camp, and the landlord having passed into the sodden, sleepy stage of drunkenness, his wife asked if I should be afraid to sleep in the large canvas-sided, unceiled, doorless shed, as they could not move the sick miner. So, I slept there on a shake-down, with the stars winking overhead through the roof, and the mercury showing 30 degrees of frost.
I never told you that I once gave an unwary promise that I would not travel alone in Colorado unarmed, and that in consequence I left Estes Park with a Sharp's revolver loaded with ball cartridge in my pocket, which has been the plague of my life. Its bright ominous barrel peeped out in quiet Denver shops, children pulled it out to play with, or when my riding dress hung up with it in the pocket, pulled the whole from the peg to the floor; and I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which I could feel it right to make any use of it, or in which it could do me any possible good. Last night, however, I took it out, cleaned and oiled it, and laid it under my pillow, resolving to keep awake all night. I slept as soon as I lay down, and never woke till the bright morning sun shone through the roof, making me ridicule my own fears and abjure pistols for ever.
I. L. B.
Deer Valley—Lynch law—Vigilance committees—The silver spruce—Taste and abstinence—The whisky fiend—Smartness—Turkey creek Canyon—The Indian problem—Public rascality—Friendly meetings—The way to the Golden City—A rising settlement—Clear Creek Canyon—Staging—Swearing—A mountain town.
DEER VALLEY, November.
To-night I am in a beautiful place like a Dutch farm—large, warm, bright, clean, with abundance of clean food, and a clean, cold little bedroom to myself. But it is very hard to write, for two free-tongued, noisy Irish women, who keep a miners' boarding-house in South Park, and are going to winter quarters in a freight wagon, are telling the most fearful stories of violence, vigilance committees, Lynch law, and "stringing," that I ever heard. It turns one's blood cold only to think that where I travel in perfect security, only a short time ago men were being shot like skunks. At the mining towns up above this nobody is thought anything of who has not killed a man—i.e. in a certain set. These women had a boarder, only fifteen, who thought he could not be anything till he had shot somebody, and they gave an absurd account of the lad dodging about with a revolver, and not getting up courage enough to insult any one, till at last he hid himself in the stable and shot the first Chinaman who entered. Things up there are just in that initial state which desperadoes love. A man accidentally shoves another in a saloon, or says a rough word at meals, and the challenge, "first finger on the trigger," warrants either in shooting the other at any subsequent time without the formality of a duel. Nearly all the shooting affrays arise from the most trivial causes in saloons and bar-rooms. The deeper quarrels, arising from jealousy or revenge, are few, and are usually about some woman not worth fighting for. At Alma and Fairplay vigilance committees have been lately formed, and when men act outrageously and make themselves generally obnoxious they receive a letter with a drawing of a tree, a man hanging from it, and a coffin below, on which is written "Forewarned." They "git" in a few hours.
When I said I spent last night at Hall's Gulch there was quite a chorus of exclamations. My host there, they all said, would be "strung" before long. Did I know that a man was "strung" there yesterday? Had I not seen him hanging? He was on the big tree by the house, they said. Certainly, had I known what a ghastly burden that tree bore, I would have encountered the ice and gloom of the gulch rather than have slept there. They then told me a horrid tale of crime and violence. This man had even shocked the morals of the Alma crowd, and had a notice served on him by the vigilants, which had the desired effect, and he migrated to Hall's Gulch. As the tale runs, the Hall's Gulch miners were resolved either not to have a groggery or to limit the number of such places, and when this ruffian set one up he was "forewarned." It seems, however, to have been merely a pretext for getting rid of him, for it was hardly a crime of which even Lynch law could take cognizance. He was overpowered by numbers, and, with circumstances of great horror, was tried and strung on that tree within an hour.
 Public opinion approved this execution, regarding it as a fitting retribution for a series of crimes.
I left the place this morning at ten, and have had a very pleasant day, for the hills shut out the hot sun. I only rode twenty-two miles, for the difficulty of riding on ice was great, and there is no blacksmith within thirty-five miles of Hall's Gulch. I met two freighters just after I left, who gave me the unwelcome news that there were thirty-miles of ice between that and Denver. "You'll have a tough trip," they said. The road runs up and down hill, walled in along with a rushing river by high mountains. The scenery is very grand, but I hate being shut into these deep gorges, and always expect to see some startling object moving among the trees. I met no one the whole day after passing the teams except two men with a "pack-jack," Birdie hates jacks, and rears and shies as soon as she sees one. It was a bad road, one shelving sheet of ice, and awfully lonely, and between the peril of the mare breaking her leg on the ice and that of being crushed by windfalls of timber, I had to look out all day. Towards sunset I came to a cabin where they "keep travelers," but the woman looked so vinegar faced that I preferred to ride four miles farther, up a beautiful road winding along a sunny gulch filled with silver spruce, bluer and more silvery than any I have yet seen, and then crossed a divide, from which the view in all the ecstasy of sunset color was perfectly glorious. It was enjoyment also in itself to get out of the deep chasm in which I had been immured all day. There is a train of twelve freight wagons here, each wagon with six horses, but the teamsters carry their own camping blankets and sleep either in their wagons or on the floor, so the house is not crowded.
It is a pleasant two-story log house, not only chinked but lined with planed timber. Each room has a great open chimney with logs burning in it; there are pretty engravings on the walls, and baskets full of creepers hanging from the ceiling. This is the first settler's house I have been in in which the ornamental has had any place. There is a door to each room, the oak chairs are bright with rubbing, and the floor, though unplaned, is so clean that one might eat off it. The table is clean and abundant, and the mother and daughter, though they do all the work, look as trim as if they did none, and actually laugh heartily. The ranchman neither allows drink to be brought into the house nor to be drunk outside, and on this condition only he "keeps travelers." The freighters come in to supper quite well washed, and though twelve of them slept in the kitchen, by nine o'clock there was not a sound. This freighting business is most profitable. I think that the charge is three cents per pound from Denver to South Park, and there much of the freight is transferred to "pack-jacks" and carried up to the mines. A railroad, however, is contemplated. I breakfasted with the family after the freight train left, and instead of sitting down to gobble up the remains of a meal, they had a fresh table-cloth and hot food. The buckets are all polished oak, with polished brass bands; the kitchen utensils are bright as rubbing can make them; and, more wonderful still, the girls black their boots. Blacking usually is an unused luxury, and frequently is not kept in houses. My boots have only been blacked once during the last two months.
DENVER, November 9.
I could not make out whether the superiority of the Deer Valley settlers extended beyond material things, but a teamster I met in the evening said it "made him more of a man to spend a night in such a house." In Colorado whisky is significant of all evil and violence and is the cause of most of the shooting affrays in the mining camps. There are few moderate drinkers; it is seldom taken except to excess. The great local question in the Territory, and just now the great electoral issue, is drink or no drink, and some of the papers are openly advocating a prohibitive liquor law. Some of the districts, such as Greeley, in which liquor is prohibited, are without crime, and in several of the stock-raising and agricultural regions through which I have traveled where it is practically excluded the doors are never locked, and the miners leave their silver bricks in their wagons unprotected at night. People say that on coming from the Eastern States they hardly realize at first the security in which they live. There is no danger and no fear. But the truth of the proverbial saying, "There is no God west of the Missouri" is everywhere manifest. The "almighty dollar" is the true divinity, and its worship is universal. "Smartness" is the quality thought most of. The boy who "gets on" by cheating at his lessons is praised for being a "smart boy," and his satisfied parents foretell that he will make a "smart man." A man who overreaches his neighbor, but who does it so cleverly that the law cannot take hold of him, wins an envied reputation as a "smart man," and stories of this species of smartness are told admiringly round every stove. Smartness is but the initial stage of swindling, and the clever swindler who evades or defines the weak and often corruptly administered laws of the States excites unmeasured admiration among the masses.
 May, 1878.—I am copying this letter in the city of San Francisco, and regretfully add a strong emphasis to what I have written above. The best and most thoughtful among Americans would endorse these remarks with shame and pain.—I. L. B.
I left Deer Valley at ten the next morning on a glorious day, with rich atmospheric coloring, had to spend three hours sitting on a barrel in a forge after I had ridden twelve miles, waiting while twenty-four oxen were shod, and then rode on twenty-three miles through streams and canyons of great beauty till I reached a grocery store, where I had to share a room with a large family and three teamsters; and being almost suffocated by the curtain partition, got up at four, before any one was stirring, saddled Birdie, and rode away in the darkness, leaving my money on the table! It was a short eighteen miles' ride to Denver down the Turkey Creek Canyon, which contains some magnificent scenery, and then the road ascends and hangs on the ledge of a precipice 600 feet in depth, such a narrow road that on meeting a wagon I had to dismount for fear of hurting my feet with the wheels. From thence there was a wonderful view through the rolling Foot Hills and over the gray-brown plains to Denver. Not a tree or shrub was to be seen, everything was rioting in summer heat and drought, while behind lay the last grand canyon of the mountains, dark with pines and cool with snow. I left the track and took a short cut over the prairie to Denver, passing through an encampment of the Ute Indians about 500 strong, a disorderly and dirty huddle of lodges, ponies, men, squaws, children, skins, bones, and raw meat.
The Americans will never solve the Indian problem till the Indian is extinct. They have treated them after a fashion which has intensified their treachery and "devilry" as enemies, and as friends reduces them to a degraded pauperism, devoid of the very first elements of civilization. The only difference between the savage and the civilized Indian is that the latter carries firearms and gets drunk on whisky. The Indian Agency has been a sink of fraud and corruption; it is said that barely thirty per cent of the allowance ever reaches those for whom it is voted; and the complaints of shoddy blankets, damaged flour, and worthless firearms are universal. "To get rid of the Injuns" is the phrase used everywhere. Even their "reservations" do not escape seizure practically; for if gold "breaks out" on them they are "rushed," and their possessors are either compelled to accept land farther west or are shot off and driven off. One of the surest agents in their destruction is vitriolized whisky. An attempt has recently been made to cleanse the Augean stable of the Indian Department, but it has met with signal failure, the usual result in America of every effort to purify the official atmosphere. Americans specially love superlatives. The phrases "biggest in the world," "finest in the world," are on all lips. Unless President Hayes is a strong man they will soon come to boast that their government is composed of the "biggest scoundrels" in the world.
As I rode into Denver and away from the mountains the view became glorious, as range above range crowned with snow came into sight. I was sure that three glistening peaks seventy miles north were the peerless shapeliness of Long's Peak, the king of the Rocky Mountains, and the "mountain fever" returned so severely that I grudged every hour spent on the dry, hot plains. The Range looked lovelier and sublimer than when I first saw it from Greeley, all spiritualized in the wonderful atmosphere. I went direct to Evans's house, where I found a hearty welcome, as they had been anxious about my safety, and Evans almost at once arrived from Estes Park with three elk, one grizzly, and one bighorn in his wagon. Regarding a place and life one likes (in spite of all lessons) one is sure to think, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant"; and all through my tour I had thought of returning to Estes Park and finding everything just as it was. Evans brought the unwelcome news that the goodly fellowship was broken up. The Dewys and Mr. Waller were in Denver, and the house was dismantled, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards alone remaining, who were, however, expecting me back. Saturday, though like a blazing summer day, was wonderful in its beauty, and after sunset the afterglow was richer and redder than I have ever seen it, but the heavy crimson betokened severe heat, which came on yesterday, and was hardly bearable.
I attended service twice at the Episcopal church, where the service was beautifully read and sung; but in a city in which men preponderate the congregation was mainly composed of women, who fluttered their fans in a truly distracting way. Except for the church-going there were few perceptible signs of Sunday in Denver, which was full of rowdies from the mountain mining camps. You can hardly imagine the delight of joining in those grand old prayers after so long a deprivation. The "Te Deum" sounded heavenly in its magnificence; but the heat was so tremendous that it was hard to "warstle" through the day. They say that they have similar outbreaks of solar fury all through the winter.
GOLDEN CITY, November 13.
Pleasant as Denver was, with the Dewys and so many kind friends there, it was too much of the "wearying world" either for my health or taste, and I left for my sixteen miles' ride to this place at four on Monday afternoon with the sun still hot. Passing by a bare, desolate-looking cemetery, I asked a sad-looking woman who was leaning on the gate if she could direct me to Golden City. I repeated the question twice before I got an answer, and then, though easily to be accounted for, it was wide of the mark. In most doleful tones she said, "Oh, go to the minister; I might tell you, may be, but it's too great a responsibility; go to the ministers, they can tell you!" And she returned to her tears for some one whose spirit she was doubtless thinking of as in the Golden City of our hopes. That sixteen miles seemed like one mile, after sunset, in the rapturous freshness of the Colorado air, and Birdie, after her two days' rest and with a lightened load, galloped across the prairie as if she enjoyed it. I did not reach this gorge till late, and it was an hour after dark before I groped my way into this dark, unlighted mining town, where, however, we were most fortunate both as to stable and accommodation for myself.
BOULDER, November 16.
I fear you will grow tired of the details of these journal letters. To a person sitting quietly at home, Rocky Mountain traveling, like Rocky Mountain scenery, must seem very monotonous; but not so to me, to whom the pure, dry mountain air is the elixir of life. At Golden City I parted for a time from my faithful pony, as Clear Creek Canyon, which leads from it to Idaho, is entirely monopolized by a narrow-gauge railroad, and is inaccessible for horses or mules. To be without a horse in these mountains is to be reduced to complete helplessness. My great wish was to see Green Lake, situated near the timber line above Georgetown (said to be the highest town in the United States), at a height of 9,000 feet. A single day took me from the heat of summer into the intense cold of winter.
Golden City by daylight showed its meanness and belied its name. It is ungraded, with here and there a piece of wooden sidewalk, supported on posts, up to which you ascend by planks. Brick, pine, and log houses are huddled together, every other house is a saloon, and hardly a woman is to be seen. My landlady apologized for the very exquisite little bedroom which she gave me by saying "it was not quite as she would like it, but she had never had a lady in her house before." The young "lady" who waited at breakfast said, "I've been thinking about you, and I'm certain sure you're an authoress." The day, as usual, was glorious. Think of November half through and scarcely even a cloud in the sky, except the vermilion cloudlets which accompany the sun at his rising and setting! They say that winter never "sets in" there in the Foot Hills, but that there are spells of cold, alternating with bright, hot weather, and that the snow never lies on the ground so as to interfere with the feed of cattle. Golden City rang with oaths and curses, especially at the depot. Americans are given over to the most atrocious swearing, and the blasphemous use of our Savior's name is peculiarly revolting.
Golden City stands at the mouth of Toughcuss, otherwise Clear Creek Canyon, which many people think the grandest scenery in the mountains, as it twists and turns marvellously, and its stupendous sides are nearly perpendicular, while farther progress is to all appearance continually blocked by great masses of rock and piles of snow-covered mountains. Unfortunately, its sides have been almost entirely denuded of timber, mining operations consuming any quantity of it. The narrow-gauge, steel-grade railroad, which runs up the canyon for the convenience of the rich mining districts of Georgetown, Black Hawk, and Central City, is a curiosity of engineering. The track has partly been blasted out of the sides of the canyon, and has partly been "built" by making a bed of stones in the creek itself, and laying the track across them. I have never seen such churlishness and incivility as in the officials of that railroad and the state lines which connect with it, or met with such preposterous charges. They have handsome little cars on the route, but though the passengers paid full fare, they put us into a baggage car because the season was over, and in order to see anything I was obliged to sit on the floor at the door. The singular grandeur cannot be described. It is a mere gash cut by the torrent, twisted, walled, chasmed, weather stained with the most brilliant coloring, generally dark with shadow, but its utter desolation occasionally revealed by a beam of intense sunshine. A few stunted pines and cedars, spared because of their inaccessiblity, hung here and there out of the rifts. Sometimes the walls of the abyss seemed to meet overhead, and then widening out, the rocks assumed fantastic forms, all grandeur, sublimity, and almost terror. After two hours of this, the track came to an end, and the canyon widened sufficiently for a road, all stones, holes, and sidings. There a great "Concord coach" waited for us, intended for twenty passengers, and a mountain of luggage in addition, and the four passengers without any luggage sat on the seat behind the driver, so that the huge thing bounced and swung upon the straps on which it was hung so as to recall the worst horrors of New Zealand staging. The driver never spoke without an oath, and though two ladies were passengers, cursed his splendid horses the whole time. Formerly, even the most profane men intermitted their profanity in the presence of women, but they "have changed all that." Every one I saw up there seemed in a bad temper. I suspect that all their "smart tricks" in mining shares had gone wrong.
The road pursued the canyon to Idaho Springs, a fashionable mountain resort in the summer, but deserted now, where we took a superb team of six horses, with which we attained a height of 10,000 feet, and then a descent of 1,000 took us into Georgetown, crowded into as remarkable a gorge as was ever selected for the site of a town, the canyon beyond APPARENTLY terminating in precipitous and inaccessible mountains, sprinkled with pines up to the timber line, and thinly covered with snow. The area on which it is possible to build is so circumcised and steep, and the unpainted gable-ended houses are so perched here and there, and the water rushes so impetuously among them, that it reminded me slightly of a Swiss town. All the smaller houses are shored up with young pines on one side, to prevent them from being blown away by the fierce gusts which sweep the canyon. It is the only town I have seen in America to which the epithet picturesque could be applied. But truly, seated in that deep hollow in the cold and darkness, it is in a terrible situation, with the alpine heights towering round it. I arrived at three, but its sun had set, and it lay in deep shadow. In fact, twilight seemed coming on, and as I had been unable to get my circular notes cashed at Denver, I had no money to stay over the next day, and much feared that I should lose Green Lake, the goal of my journey. We drove through the narrow, piled-up, irregular street, crowded with miners standing in groups, or drinking and gaming under the verandas, to a good hotel declivitously situated, where I at once inquired if I could get to Green Lake. The landlord said he thought not; the snow was very deep, and no one had been up for five weeks, but for my satisfaction he would send to a stable and inquire. The amusing answer came back, "If it's the English lady traveling in the mountains, she can have a horse, but not any one else."
The blight of mining—Green Lake—Golden City—Benighted—Vertigo—Boulder Canyon—Financial straits—A hard ride—The last cent—A bachelor's home—"Mountain Jim"—A surprise—A night arrival—Making the best of it—Scanty fare.
The answer regarding a horse (at the end of my former letter) was given to the landlord outside the hotel, and presently he came in and asked my name and if I were the lady who had crossed from Link's to South Park by Tarryall Creek; so news travels fast. In five minutes the horse was at the door, with a clumsy two-horned side-saddle, and I started at once for the upper regions. It was an exciting ride, much spiced with apprehension. The evening shadows had darkened over Georgetown, and I had 2,000 feet to climb, or give up Green Lake. I shall forget many things, but never the awfulness and hugeness of the scenery. I went up a steep track by Clear Creek, then a succession of frozen waterfalls in a widened and then narrowed valley, whose frozen sides looked 5,000 feet high. That is the region of enormous mineral wealth in silver. There are the "Terrible" and other mines whose shares you can see quoted daily in the share lists in the Times, sometimes at cent per cent premium, and then down to 25 discount.
These mines, with their prolonged subterranean workings, their stamping and crushing mills, and the smelting works which have been established near them, fill the district with noise, hubbub, and smoke by night and day; but I had turned altogether aside from them into a still region, where each miner in solitude was grubbing for himself, and confiding to none his finds or disappointments. Agriculture restores and beautifies, mining destroys and devastates, turning the earth inside out, making it hideous, and blighting every green thing, as it usually blights man's heart and soul. There was mining everywhere along that grand road, with all its destruction and devastation, its digging, burrowing, gulching, and sluicing; and up all along the seemingly inaccessible heights were holes with their roofs log supported, in which solitary and patient men were selling their lives for treasure. Down by the stream, all among the icicles, men were sluicing and washing, and everywhere along the heights were the scars of hardly-passable trails, too steep even for pack-jacks, leading to the holes, and down which the miner packs the ore on his back. Many a heart has been broken for the few finds which have been made along those hill sides. All the ledges are covered with charred stumps, a picture of desolation, where nature had made everything grand and fair. But even from all this I turned. The last miner I saw gave me explicit directions, and I left the track and struck upwards into the icy solitudes—sheets of ice at first, then snow, over a foot deep, pure and powdery, then a very difficult ascent through a pine forest, where it was nearly dark, the horse tumbling about in deep snowdrifts. But the goal was reached, and none too soon.
At a height of nearly 12,000 feet I halted on a steep declivity, and below me, completely girdled by dense forests of pines, with mountains red and glorified in the sunset rising above them, was Green Lake, looking like water, but in reality a sheet of ice two feet thick. From the gloom and chill below I had come up into the pure air and sunset light, and the glory of the unprofaned works of God. It brought to my mind the verse, "The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth"; and, as if in commentary upon it, were the hundreds and thousands of men delving in dark holes in the gloom of the twilight below.
O earth, so full of dreary noises! O men, with wailing in your voices, O delved gold, the wailer's heap, God strikes a silence through you all, He giveth His beloved sleep.
It was something to reach that height and see the far off glory of the sunset, and by it to be reminded that neither God nor His sun had yet deserted the world. But the sun was fast going down, and even as I gazed upon the wonderful vision the glory vanished, and the peaks became sad and grey. It was strange to be the only human being at that glacial altitude, and to descend again through a foot of untrodden snow and over sloping sheets of ice into the darkness, and to see the hill sides like a firmament of stars, each showing the place where a solitary man in his hole was delving for silver. The view, as long as I could see it, was quite awful. It looked as if one could not reach Georgetown without tumbling down a precipice. Precipices there were in plenty along the road, skirted with ice to their verge. It was the only ride which required nerve that I have taken in Colorado, and it was long after dark when I returned from my exploit.
I left Georgetown at eight the next morning on the Idaho stage, in glorious cold. In this dry air it is quite warm if there are only a few degrees of frost. The sun does not rise in Georgetown till eleven now; I doubt if it rises there at all in the winter! After four hours' fearful bouncing, the baggage car again received us, but this time the conductor, remarking that he supposed I was just traveling to see the country, gave me his chair and put it on the platform, so that I had an excellent view of that truly sublime canyon. For economy I dined in a restaurant in Golden City, and at three remounted my trusty Birdie, intending to arrive here that night. The adventure I met with is almost too silly to tell.
When I left Golden City it was a brilliant summer afternoon, and not too hot. They could not give any directions at the stable, and told me to go out on the Denver track till I met some one who could direct me, which started me off wrong from the first. After riding about two miles I met a man who told me I was all wrong, and directed me across the prairie till I met another, who gave me so many directions that I forgot them, and was irretrievably lost. The afterglow, seen to perfection on the open plain, was wonderful. Just as it grew dark I rode after a teamster who said I was then four miles farther from Boulder than when I left Golden, and directed me to a house seven miles off. I suppose he thought I should know, for he told me to cross the prairie till I came to a place where three tracks are seen, and there to take the best-traveled one, steering all the time by the north star. His directions did bring me to tracks, but it was then so dark that I could see nothing, and soon became so dark that I could not even see Birdie's ears, and was lost and benighted. I rode on, hour after hour, in the darkness and solitude, the prairie all round and a firmament of frosty stars overhead. The prairie wolf howled now and then, and occasionally the lowing of cattle gave me hope of human proximity. But there was nothing but the lone wild plain. You can hardly imagine the longing to see a light, to hear a voice, the intensely eerie feeling of being alone in that vast solitude. It was freezing very sharply and was very cold, and I was making up my mind to steer all night for the pole-star, much fearing that I should be brought up by one of the affluents of the Platte, or that Birdie would tire, when I heard the undertoned bellowing of a bull, which, from the snorting rooting up of earth, seemed to be disputing the right of way, and the pony was afraid to pass. While she was scuffling about, I heard a dog bark and a man swear; then I saw a light, and in another minute found myself at a large house, where I knew the people, only eleven miles from Denver! It was nearly midnight, and light, warmth, and a good bed were truly welcome.
You can form no idea of what the glory on the Plains is just before sunrise. Like the afterglow, for a great height above the horizon there is a shaded band of the most intense and glowing orange, while the mountains which reflect the yet unrisen sun have the purple light of amethysts. I left early, but soon lost the track and was lost; but knowing that a sublime gash in the mountains was Bear Canyon, quite near Boulder, I struck across the prairie for it, and then found the Boulder track. "The best-laid schemes of men and mice gang aft agley," and my exploits came to an untimely end to-day. On arriving here, instead of going into the mountains, I was obliged to go to bed in consequence of vertigo, headache, and faintness, produced by the intense heat of the sun. In all that weary land there was no "shadow of a great rock" under which to rest. The gravelly, baked soil reflected the fiery sun, and it was nearly maddening to look up at the cool blue of the mountains, with their stretches of pines and their deep indigo shadows. Boulder is a hideous collection of frame houses on the burning plain, but it aspires to be a "city" in virtue of being a "distributing point" for the settlements up the Boulder Canyon, and of the discovery of a coal seam.
I got up very early this morning, and on a hired horse went nine miles up the Boulder Canyon, which is much extolled, but I was greatly disappointed with everything except its superb wagon road, and much disgusted with the laziness of the horse. A ride of fifteen miles across the prairie brought me here early in the afternoon, but of the budget of letters which I expected there is not one. Birdie looks in such capital condition that my host here can hardly believe that she has traveled over 500 miles. I am feeling "the pinch of poverty" rather severely. When I have paid my bill here I shall have exactly twenty-six cents left. Evans was quite unable to pay the hundred dollars which he owed me, and, to save themselves, the Denver banks, though they remain open, have suspended payment, and would not cash my circular notes. The financial straits are very serious, and the unreasoning panic which has set in makes them worse. The present state of matters is—nobody has any money, so nothing is worth anything. The result to me is that, nolens volens, I must go up to Estes Park, where I can live without ready money, and remain there till things change for the better. It does not seem a very hard fate! Long's Peak rises in purple gloom, and I long for the cool air and unfettered life of the solitary blue hollow at its base.
ESTES PARK, November 20.
Would that three notes of admiration were all I need give to my grand, solitary, uplifted, sublime, remote, beast-haunted lair, which seems more indescribable than ever; but you will wish to know how I have sped, and I wish you to know my present singular circumstances. I left Longmount at eight on Saturday morning, rather heavily loaded, for in addition to my own luggage I was asked to carry the mail-bag, which was heavy with newspapers. Edwards, with his wife and family, were still believed to be here. A heavy snow-storm was expected, and all the sky—that vast dome which spans the Plains—was overcast; but over the mountains it was a deep, still, sad blue, into which snowy peaks rose sunlighted. It was a lonely, mournful-looking morning, but when I reached the beautiful canyon of the St. Vrain, the sad blue became brilliant, and the sun warm and scintillating. Ah, how beautiful and incomparable the ride up here is, infinitely more beautiful than the much-vaunted parts I have seen elsewhere.
There is, first, this beautiful hill-girdled valley of fair savannas, through which the bright St. Vrain curves in and out amidst a tangle of cotton-wood and withered clematis and Virginia creeper, which two months ago made the valley gay with their scarlet and gold. Then the canyon, with its fantastically-stained walls; then the long ascent through sweeping foot hills to the gates of rock at a height of 9,000 feet; then the wildest and most wonderful scenery for twenty miles, in which you cross thirteen ranges from 9,000 to 11,000 feet high, pass through countless canyons and gulches, cross thirteen dark fords, and finally descend, through M'Ginn's Gulch, upon this, the gem of the Rocky Mountains. It was a weird ride. I got on very slowly. The road is a hard one for any horse, specially for a heavily-loaded one, and at the end of several weeks of severe travel. When I had ridden fifteen miles I stopped at the ranch where people usually get food, but it was empty, and the next was also deserted. So I was compelled to go to the last house, where two young men are "baching."
There I had to decide between getting a meal for myself or a feed for the pony; but the young man, on hearing of my sore poverty, trusted me "till next time." His house, for order and neatness, and a sort of sprightliness of cleanliness—the comfort of cleanliness without its severity—is a pattern to all women, while the clear eyes and manly self-respect which the habit of total abstinence gives in this country are a pattern to all men. He cooked me a splendid dinner, with good tea. After dinner I opened the mail-bag, and was delighted to find an accumulation of letters from you; but I sat much too long there, forgetting that I had twenty miles to ride, which could hardly be done in less than six hours. It was then brilliant. I had not realized the magnificence of that ride when I took it before, but the pony was tired, and I could not hurry her, and the distance seemed interminable, as after every range I crossed another range. Then came a region of deep, dark, densely-wooded gulches, only a few feet wide, and many fords, and from their cold depths I saw the last sunlight fade from the brows of precipices 4,000 feet high. It was eerie, as darkness came on, to wind in and out in the pine-shadowed gloom, sometimes on ice, sometimes in snow, at the bottom of these tremendous chasms. Wolves howled in all directions. This is said to denote the approach of a storm. During this twenty-mile ride I met a hunter with an elk packed on his horse, and he told me not only that the Edwardses were at the cabin yesterday, but that they were going to remain for two weeks longer, no matter how uncongenial. The ride did seem endless after darkness came on. Finally the last huge range was conquered, the last deep chasm passed, and with an eeriness which craved for human companionship, I rode up to "Mountain Jim's" den, but no light shone through the chinks, and all was silent. So I rode tediously down M'Ginn's Gulch, which was full of crackings and other strange mountain noises, and was pitch dark, though the stars were bright overhead.
Soon I heard the welcome sound of a barking dog. I supposed it to denote strange hunters, but calling "Ring" at a venture, the noble dog's large paws and grand head were in a moment on my saddle, and he greeted me with all those inarticulate but perfectly comprehensible noises with which dogs welcome their human friends. Of the two men on horses who accompanied him, one was his master, as I knew by the musical voice and grace of manner, but it was too dark to see anyone, though he struck a light to show me the valuable furs with which one of the horses was loaded. The desperado was heartily glad to see me, and sending the man and fur-laden horse on to his cabin, he turned with me to Evans's; and as the cold was very severe, and Birdie was very tired, we dismounted and walked the remaining three miles. All my visions of a comfortable reception and good meal after my long ride vanished with his first words. The Edwardses had left for the winter on the previous morning, but had not passed through Longmount; the cabin was dismantled, the stores were low, and two young men, Mr. Kavan, a miner, and Mr. Buchan, whom I was slightly acquainted with before, were "baching" there to look after the stock until Evans, who was daily expected, returned. The other settler and his wife had left the park, so there was not a woman within twenty-five miles. A fierce wind had arisen, and the cold was awful, which seemed to make matters darker. I did not care in the least about myself. I could rough it, and enjoy doing so, but I was very sorry for the young men, who, I knew, would be much embarrassed by the sudden appearance of a lady for an indefinite time. But the difficulty had to be faced, and I walked in and took them by surprise as they were sitting smoking by the fire in the living room, which was dismantled, unswept, and wretched looking.
The young men did not show any annoyance, but exerted themselves to prepare a meal, and courteously made Jim share it. After he had gone, I boldly confessed my impecunious circumstances, and told them that I must stay there till things changed, that I hoped not to inconvenience them in any way, and that by dividing the work among us they would be free to be out hunting. So we agreed to make the best of it. (Our arrangements, which we supposed would last only two or three days, extended over nearly a month. Nothing could exceed the courtesy and good feeling which these young men showed. It was a very pleasant time on the whole and when we separated they told me that though they were much "taken aback" at first, they felt at last that we could get on in the same way for a year, in which I cordially agreed.) Sundry practical difficulties had to be faced and overcome. There was one of the common spring mattresses of the country in the little room which opened from the living room, but nothing upon it. This was remedied by making a large bag and filling it with hay. Then there were neither sheets, towels, nor table-clothes. This was irremediable, and I never missed the first or last. Candles were another loss, and we had only one paraffin lamp. I slept all night in spite of a gale which blew all Sunday and into Monday afternoon, threatening to lift the cabin from the ground, and actually removing part of the roof from the little room between the kitchen and living room, in which we used to dine. Sunday was brilliant, but nearly a hurricane, and I dared not stir outside the cabin. The parlor was two inches deep in the mud from the roof. We nominally divide the cooking. Mr. Kavan makes the best bread I ever ate; they bring in wood and water, and wash the supper things, and I "do" my room and the parlor, wash the breakfast things, and number of etceteras. My room is easily "done," but the parlor is a never-ending business. I have swept shovelfuls of mud out of it three times to-day. There is nothing to dust it with but a buffalo's tail, and every now and then a gust descends the open chimney and drives the wood ashes all over the room. However, I have found an old shawl which answers for a table-cloth, and have made our "parlor" look a little more habitable. Jim came in yesterday in a silent mood, and sat looking vacantly into the fire. The young men said that this mood was the usual precursor of an "ugly fit."
Food is a great difficulty. Of thirty milch cows only one is left, and she does not give milk enough for us to drink. The only meat is some pickled pork, very salt and hard, which I cannot eat, and the hens lay less than one egg a day. Yesterday morning I made some rolls, and made the last bread into a bread-and-butter pudding, which we all enjoyed. To-day I found part of a leg of beef hanging in the wagon shed, and we were elated with the prospect of fresh meat, but on cutting into it we found it green and uneatable. Had it not been for some tea which was bestowed upon me at the inn at Longmount we should have had none. In this superb air and physically active life I can eat everything but pickled pork. We breakfast about nine, dine at two, and have supper at seven, but our MENU never varies.
To-day I have been all alone in the park, as the men left to hunt elk after breakfast, after bringing in wood and water. The sky is brilliant and the light intense, or else the solitude would be oppressive. I keep two horses in the corral so as to be able to explore, but except Birdie, who is turned out, none of the animals are worth much now from want of shoes, and tender feet.
A dismal ride—A desperado's tale—"Lost! Lost! Lost!"—Winter glories—Solitude—Hard times—Intense cold—A pack of wolves—The beaver dams—Ghastly scenes—Venison steaks—Our evenings.
I must attempt to put down the trifling events of each day just as they occur. The second time that I was left alone Mr. Nugent came in looking very black, and asked me to ride with him to see the beaver dams on the Black Canyon. No more whistling or singing, or talking to his beautiful mare, or sparkling repartee.
His mood was as dark as the sky overhead, which was black with an impending snowstorm. He was quite silent, struck his horse often, started off on a furious gallop, and then throwing his mare on her haunches close to me, said, "You're the first man or woman who's treated me like a human being for many a year." So he said in this dark mood, but Mr. and Mrs. Dewy, who took a very deep interest in his welfare, always treated him as a rational, intelligent gentleman, and in his better moments he spoke of them with the warmest appreciation. "If you want to know," he continued, "how nearly a man can become a devil, I'll tell you now." There was no choice, and we rode up the canyon, and I listened to one of the darkest tales of ruin I have ever heard or read.
Its early features were very simple. His father was a British officer quartered at Montreal, of a good old Irish family. From his account he was an ungovernable boy, imperfectly educated, and tyrannizing over a loving but weak mother. When seventeen years old he saw a young girl at church whose appearance he described as being of angelic beauty, and fell in love with her with all the intensity of an uncontrolled nature. He saw her three times, but scarcely spoke to her. On his mother opposing his wish and treating it as a boyish folly, he took to drink "to spite her," and almost as soon as he was eighteen, maddened by the girl's death, he ran away from home, entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, and remained in it for several years, only leaving it because he found even that lawless life too strict for him. Then, being as I suppose about twenty-seven, he entered the service of the United States Government, and became one of the famous Indian scouts of the Plains, distinguishing himself by some of the most daring deeds on record, and some of the bloodiest crimes. Some of these tales I have heard before, but never so terribly told. Years must have passed in that service, till he became a character known through all the West, and much dreaded for his readiness to take offence, and his equal readiness with his revolver. Vain, even in his dark mood, he told me that he was idolized by women, and that in his worst hours he was always chivalrous to good women. He described himself as riding through camps in his scout's dress with a red scarf round his waist, and sixteen golden curls, eighteen inches long, hanging over his shoulders. The handsome, even superbly handsome, side of his face was towards me as he spoke. As a scout and as an armed escort of emigrant parties he was evidently implicated in all the blood and broil of a lawless region and period, and went from bad to worse, varying his life by drunken sprees, which brought nothing but violence and loss.
The narrative seemed to lack some link, for I next found him on a homestead in Missouri, from whence he came to Colorado a few years ago. There, again, something was dropped out, but I suspect, and not without reason, that he joined one or more of those gangs of "border ruffians" which for so long raided through Kansas, perpetrating such massacres and outrages as that of the Marais du Cygne. His fame for violence and ruffianism preceded him into Colorado, where his knowledge of and love of the mountains have earned him the sobriquet he now bears. He has a squatter's claim and forty head of cattle, and is a successful trapper besides, but envy and vindictiveness are raging within him. He gets money, goes to Denver, and spends large sums in the maddest dissipation, making himself a terror, and going beyond even such desperadoes as "Texas Jack" and "Wild Bill"; and when the money is done returns to his mountain den, full of hatred and self-scorn, till the next time. Of course I cannot give details.
The story took three hours to tell, and was crowded with terrific illustrations of a desperado's career, told with a rush of wild eloquence that was truly thrilling.
When the snow, which for some time had been falling, compelled him to break off and guide me to a sheltered place from which I could make my own way back again, he stopped his horse and said, "Now you see a man who has made a devil of himself! Lost! Lost! Lost! I believe in God. I've given Him no choice but to put me with 'the devil and his angel.' I'm afraid to die. You've stirred the better nature in me too late. I can't change. If ever a man were a slave, I am. Don't speak to me of repentance and reformation. I can't reform. Your voice reminded me of ——-." Then in feverish tones, "How dare you ride with me? You won't speak to me again, will you?" He made me promise to keep one or two things secret whether he were living or dead, and I promised, for I had no choice; but they come between me and the sunshine sometimes, and I wake at night to think of them. I wish I had been spared the regret and excitement of that afternoon. A less ungovernable nature would never have spoken as he did, nor told me what he did; but his proud, fierce soul all poured itself out then, with hatred and self-loathing, blood on his hands and murder in his heart, though even then he could not be altogether other than a gentleman, or altogether divest himself of fascination, even when so tempestuously revealing the darkest points of his character. My soul dissolved in pity for his dark, lost, self-ruined life, as he left me and turned away in the blinding storm to the Snowy Range, where he said he was going to camp out for a fortnight; a man of great abilities, real genius, singular gifts, and with all the chances in life which other men have had. How far more terrible than the "Actum est: periisti" of Cowper is his exclamation, "Lost! Lost! Lost!"
The storm was very severe, and the landmarks being blotted out, I lost my way in the snow, and when I reached the cabin after dark I found it still empty, for the two hunters, on returning, finding that I had gone out, had gone in search of me. The snow cleared off late, and intense frost set in. My room is nearly the open air, being built of unchinked logs, and, as in the open air, one requires to sleep with the head buried in blankets, or the eyelids and breath freeze. The sunshine has been brilliant to-day. I took a most beautiful ride to Black Canyon to look for the horses. Every day some new beauty, or effect of snow and light, is to be seen. Nothing that I have seen in Colorado compares with Estes Park; and now that the weather is magnificent, and the mountain tops above the pine woods are pure white, there is nothing of beauty or grandeur for which the heart can wish that is not here; and it is health giving, with pure air, pure water, and absolute dryness. But there is something very solemn, at times almost overwhelming, in the winter solitude. I have never experienced anything like it even when I lived on the slopes of Hualalai. When the men are out hunting I know not where, or at night, when storms sweep down from Long's Peak, and the air is full of stinging, tempest-driven snow, and there is barely a probability of any one coming, or of my communication with the world at all, then the stupendous mountain ranges which lie between us and the Plains grow in height till they become impassable barriers, and the bridgeless rivers grow in depth, and I wonder if all my life is to be spent here in washing and sweeping and baking.
To-day has been one of manual labor. We did not breakfast till 9:30, then the men went out, and I never sat down till two. I cleaned the living room and the kitchen, swept a path through the rubbish in the passage room, washed up, made and baked a batch of rolls and four pounds of sweet biscuits, cleaned some tins and pans, washed some clothes, and gave things generally a "redding up." There is a little thick buttermilk, fully six weeks old, at the bottom of a churn, which I use for raising the rolls; but Mr. Kavan, who makes "lovely" bread, puts some flour and water to turn sour near the stove, and this succeeds admirably.
I also made a most unsatisfactory investigation into the state of my apparel. I came to Colorado now nearly three months ago, with a small carpet-bag containing clothes, none of them new; and these, by legitimate wear, the depredations of calves, and the necessity of tearing some of them up for dish-cloths, are reduced to a single change! I have a solitary pocket handkerchief and one pair of stockings, such a mass of darns that hardly a trace of the original wool remains. Owing to my inability to get money in Denver I am almost without shoes, have nothing but a pair of slippers and some "arctics." For outer garments—well, I have a trained black silk dress, with a black silk polonaise! and nothing else but my old flannel riding suit, which is quite threadbare, and requires such frequent mending that I am sometimes obliged to "dress" for supper, and patch and darn it during the evening. You will laugh, but it is singular that one can face the bitter winds with the mercury at zero and below it, in exactly the same clothing which I wore in the tropics! It is only the extreme dryness of the air which renders it possible to live in such clothing. We have arranged the work better. Mr. Buchan was doing too much, and it was hard for him, as he is very delicate. You will wonder how three people here in the wilderness can have much to do. There are the horses which we keep in the corral to feed on sheaf oats and take to water twice a day, the fowls and dogs to feed, the cow to milk, the bread to make, and to keep a general knowledge of the whereabouts of the stock in the event of a severe snow-storm coming on. Then there is all the wood to cut, as there is no wood pile, and we burn a great deal, and besides the cooking, washing, and mending, which each one does, the men must hunt and fish for their living. Then two sick cows have had to be attended to.
We were with one when it died yesterday. It suffered terribly, and looked at us with the pathetically pleading eyes of a creature "made subject to vanity." The disposal of its carcass was a difficulty. The wagon horses were in Denver, and when we tried to get the others to pull the dead beast away, they only kicked and plunged, so we managed to get it outside the shed, and according to Mr. Kavan's prediction, a pack of wolves came down, and before daylight nothing was left but the bones. They were so close to the cabin that their noise was most disturbing, and on looking out several times I could see them all in a heap wrangling and tumbling over each other. They are much larger than the prairie wolf, but equally cowardly, I believe. This morning was black with clouds, and a snowstorm was threatened, and about 700 cattle and a number of horses came in long files from the valleys and canyons where they maraud, their instinct teaching them to seek the open and the protection of man.
I was alone in the cabin this afternoon when Mr. Nugent, whom we believed to be on the Snowy Range, walked in very pale and haggard looking, and coughing severely. He offered to show me the trail up one of the grandest of the canyons, and I could not refuse to go. The Fall River has had its source completely altered by the operations of the beavers. Their engineering skill is wonderful. In one place they have made a lake by damming up the stream; in another their works have created an island, and they have made several falls. Their storehouses, of course, are carefully concealed. By this time they are about full for the winter. We saw quantities of young cotton-wood and aspen trees, with stems about as thick as my arm, lying where these industrious creatures have felled them ready for their use. They always work at night and in concert. Their long, sharp teeth are used for gnawing down the trees, but their mason-work is done entirely with their flat, trowel-like tails. In its natural state the fur is very durable, and is as full of long black hairs as that of the sable, but as sold, all these hairs have been plucked out of it.
The canyon was glorious, ah! glorious beyond any other, but it was a dismal and depressing ride. The dead past buried its dead.
Not an allusion was made to the conversation previously. "Jim's" manner was courteous, but freezing, and when I left home on my return he said he hardly thought he should be back from the Snowy Range before I left. Essentially an actor, was he, I wonder, posing on the previous day in the attitude of desperate remorse, to impose on my credulity or frighten me; or was it a genuine and unpremeditated outburst of passionate regret for the life which he had thrown away? I cannot tell, but I think it was the last. As I cautiously rode back, the sunset glories were reddening the mountain tops, and the park lay in violet gloom. It was wonderfully magnificent, but oh, so solemn, so lonely! I rode a very large, well-bred mare, with three shoes loose and one off, and she fell with me twice and was very clumsy in crossing the Thompson, which was partly ice and partly a deep ford, but when we reached comparatively level grassy ground I had a gallop of nearly two miles which I enjoyed thoroughly, her great swinging stride being so easy and exhilarating after Birdie's short action.
This is a piteous day, quite black, freezing hard, and with a fierce north-east wind. The absence of sunshine here, where it is nearly perpetual, has a very depressing effect, and all the scenery appears in its grimness of black and gray. We have lost three horses, including Birdie, and have nothing to entice them with, and not an animal to go and drive them in with. I put my great mare in the corral myself, and Mr. Kavan put his in afterwards and secured the bars, but the wolves were holding a carnival again last night, and we think that the horses were scared and stampeded, as otherwise they would not have leaped the fence. The men are losing their whole day in looking for them. On their return they said that they had seen Mr. Nugent returning to his cabin by the other side and the lower ford of the Thompson, and that he had "an awfully ugly fit on him," so that they were glad that he did not come near us. The evening is setting in sublime in its blackness. Late in the afternoon I caught a horse which was snuffing at the sheaf oats, and had a splendid gallop on the Longmount trail with the two great hunting dogs. In returning, in the grimness of the coming storm, I had that view of the park which I saw first in the glories of an autumn sunset. Life was all dead; the dragon-flies no longer darted in the sunshine, the cotton-woods had shed their last amber leaves, the crimson trailers of the wild vines were bare, the stream itself had ceased its tinkle and was numb in fetters of ice, a few withered flower stalks only told of the brief bright glory of the summer. The park never had looked so utterly walled in; it was fearful in its loneliness, the ghastliest of white peaks lay sharply outlined against the black snow clouds, the bright river was ice bound, the pines were all black, the world was absolutely shut out. How can you expect me to write letters from such a place, from a life "in which nothing happens"? It really is strange that neither Evans nor Edwards come back. The young men are grumbling, for they were asked to stay here for five days, and they have been here five weeks, and they are anxious to be away camping out for the hunting, on which they depend. There are two calves dying, and we don't know what to do for them; and if a very severe snow-storm comes on, we can't bring in and feed eight hundred head of cattle.
The snow began to fall early this morning, and as it is unaccompanied by wind we have the novel spectacle of a smooth white world; still it does not look like anything serious. We have been gradually growing later at night and later in the morning. To-day we did not breakfast till ten. We have been becoming so disgusted with the pickled pork, that we were glad to find it just at an end yesterday, even though we were left without meat for which in this climate the system craves. You can fancy my surprise, on going into the kitchen, to find a dish of smoking steaks of venison on the table. We ate like famished people, and enjoyed our meal thoroughly. Just before I came the young men had shot an elk, which they intended to sell in Denver, and the grand carcass, with great branching antlers, hung outside the shed. Often while vainly trying to swallow some pickled pork I had looked across to the tantalizing animal, but it was not to be thought of. However, this morning, as the young men felt the pinch of hunger even more than I did, and the prospects of packing it to Denver became worse, they decided on cutting into one side, so we shall luxuriate in venison while it lasts. We think that Edwards will surely be up to-night, but unless he brings supplies our case is looking serious. The flour is running low, there is only coffee for one week, and I have only a scanty three ounces of tea left. The baking powder is nearly at an end. We have agreed to economize by breakfasting very late, and having two meals a day instead of three. The young men went out hunting as usual, and I went out and found Birdie, and on her brought in four other horses, but the snow balled so badly that I went out and walked across the river on a very passable ice bridge, and got some new views of the unique grandeur of this place.
Our evenings are social and pleasant. We finish supper about eight, and make up a huge fire. The men smoke while I write to you. Then we draw near the fire and I take my endless mending, and we talk or read aloud. Both are very intelligent, and Mr. Buchan has very extended information and a good deal of insight into character. Of course our circumstances, the likelihood of release, the prospects of snow blocking us in and of our supplies holding out, the sick calves, "Jim's" mood, the possible intentions of a man whose footprints we have found and traced for three miles, are all topics that often recur, and few of which can be worn threadbare.
A whisky slave—The pleasures of monotony—The mountain lion—"Another mouth to feed"—A tiresome boy—An outcast—Thanksgiving Day—The newcomer—A literary humbug—Milking a dry cow—Trout-fishing—A snow-storm—A desperado's den.
ESTES PARK, Sunday.
A trapper passing last night brought us the news that Mr. Nugent is ill; so, after washing up the things after our late breakfast, I rode to his cabin, but I met him in the gulch coming down to see us. He said he had caught cold on the Range, and was suffering from an old arrow wound in the lung. We had a long conversation without adverting to the former one, and he told me some of the present circumstances of his ruined life. It is piteous that a man like him, in the prime of life, should be destitute of home and love, and live a life of darkness in a den with no companions but guilty memories, and a dog which many people think is the nobler animal of the two. I urged him to give up the whisky which at present is his ruin, and his answer had the ring of a sad truth in it: "I cannot, it binds me hand and foot—I cannot give up the only pleasure I have." His ideas of right are the queerest possible. He says that he believes in God, but what he knows or believes of God's law I know not. To resent insult with your revolver, to revenge yourself on those who have injured you, to be true to a comrade and share your last crust with him, to be chivalrous to good women, to be generous and hospitable, and at the last to die game—these are the articles of his creed, and I suppose they are received by men of his stamp. He hates Evans with a bitter hatred, and Evans returns it, having undergone much provocation from Jim in his moods of lawlessness and violence, and being not a little envious of the fascination which his manners and conversation have for the strangers who come up here.
On returning down the gulch the view was grander than I have ever seen it, the gulch in dark shadow, the park below lying in intense sunlight, with all the majestic canyons which sweep down upon it in depths of infinite blue gloom, and above, the pearly peaks, dazzling in purity and glorious in form, cleft the turquoise blue of the sky. How shall I ever leave this "land which is very far off"? How CAN I ever leave it? is the real question. We are going on the principle, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," and the stores are melting away. The two meals are not an economical plan, for we are so much more hungry that we eat more than when we had three. We had a good deal of sacred music to-day, to make it as like Sunday as possible. The "faint melancholy" of this winter loneliness is very fascinating.
How glorious the amber fires of the winter dawns are, and how gloriously to-night the crimson clouds descended just to the mountain tops and were reflected on the pure surface of the snow!
The door of this room looks due north, and as I write the Pole Star blazes, and a cold crescent moon hangs over the ghastliness of Long's Peak.
ESTES PARK, COLORADO, November.
We have lost count of time, and can only agree on the fact that the date is somewhere near the end of November. Our life has settled down into serenity, and our singular and enforced partnership is very pleasant. We might be three men living together, but for the unvarying courtesy and consideration which they show to me. Our work goes on like clockwork; the only difficulty which ever arises is that the men do not like me to do anything that they think hard or unsuitable, such as saddling a horse or bringing in water. The days go very fast; it was 3:30 today before I knew that it was 1. It is a calm life without worries. The men are so easy to live with; they never fuss, or grumble, or sigh, or make a trouble of anything. It would amuse you to come into our wretched little kitchen before our disgracefully late breakfast, and find Mr. Kavan busy at the stove frying venison, myself washing the supper dishes, and Mr. Buchan drying them, or both the men busy at the stove while I sweep the floor. Our food is a great object of interest to us, and we are ravenously hungry now that we have only two meals a day. About sundown each goes forth to his "chores"—Mr. K. to chop wood, Mr. B. to haul water, I to wash the milk pans and water the horses. On Saturday the men shot a deer, and on going for it to-day they found nothing but the hind legs, and following a track which they expected would lead them to a beast's hole, they came quite carelessly upon a large mountain lion, which, however, took itself out of their reach before they were sufficiently recovered from their surprise to fire at it. These lions, which are really a species of puma, are bloodthirsty as well as cowardly. Lately one got into a sheepfold in the canyon of the St. Vrain, and killed thirty sheep, sucking the blood from their throats.
This has been a day of minor events, as well as a busy one. I was so busy that I never sat down from 10:30 till 1:30. I had washed my one change of raiment, and though I never iron my clothes, I like to bleach them till they are as white as snow, and they were whitening on the line when some furious gusts came down from Long's Peak, against which I could not stand, and when I did get out all my clothes were blown into strips from an inch to four inches in width, literally destroyed! One learns how very little is necessary either for comfort or happiness. I made a four-pound spiced ginger cake, baked some bread, mended my riding dress, cleaned up generally, wrote some letters with the hope that some day they might be posted and took a magnificent walk, reaching the cabin again in the melancholy glory which now immediately precedes the darkness.
We were all busy getting our supper ready when the dogs began to bark furiously, and we heard the noise of horses. "Evans at last!" we exclaimed, but we were wrong. Mr. Kavan went out, and returned saying that it was a young man who had come up with Evans's wagon and team, and that the wagon had gone over into a gulch seven miles from here. Mr. Kavan looked very grave. "It's another mouth to feed," he said. They asked no questions, and brought the lad in, a slangy, assured fellow of twenty, who, having fallen into delicate health at a theological college, had been sent up here by Evans to work for his board. The men were too courteous to ask him what he was doing up here, but I boldly asked him where he lived, and to our dismay he replied, "I've come to live here." We discussed the food question gravely, as it presented a real difficulty. We put him into a bed-closet opening from the kitchen, and decided to see what he was fit for before giving him work. We were very much amazed, in truth, at his coming here. He is evidently a shallow, arrogant youth.
We have decided that to-day is November 26th; to-morrow is Thanksgiving Day, and we are planning a feast, though Mr. K. said to me again this morning, with a doleful face, "You see there's another mouth to feed." This "mouth" has come up to try the panacea of manual labor, but he is town bred, and I see that he will do nothing. He is writing poetry, and while I was busy to-day began to read it aloud to me, asking for my criticism. He is just at the age when everything literary has a fascination, and every literary person is a hero, specially Dr. Holland. Last night was fearful from the lifting of the cabin and the breaking of the mud from the roof. We sat with fine gravel driving in our faces, and this morning I carried four shovelfuls of mud out of my room. After breakfast, Mr. Kavan, Mr. Lyman, and I, with the two wagon horses, rode the seven miles to the scene of yesterday's disaster in a perfect gale of wind. I felt like a servant going out for a day's "pleasuring," hurrying "through my dishes," and leaving my room in disorder. The wagon lay half-way down the side of a ravine, kept from destruction by having caught on some trees.